Greed-I-tude: Parsha Terumah & Rosh Hodesh Adarby Aviva Melissa Frank on Jan 30, 2014 • 3:30 pm No Comments
The Parsha or Torah portion for this week focuses on the glory of the mishkan (tabernacle) a portable sacred place where the children of Israel could come to atone for sins, pray, celebrate, sing and be in gratitude. G-d asked such a place be built for his presence to dwell, to be a home for the Shechinah or divine feminine sparks. The children of Israel excitedly donated many objects for the creation of this sacred space. Materials and wares collected from their Egyptian neighbors upon their departure out of slavery, mirrors used by the women to beautify themselves for the wash basin and even acacia trees planted by Jacob hundreds of years prior. The anticipation for this sacred moment had been far in advance, materials of great value were donated and the thrill of a place of beauty to hold the divine pulsated through camp. Gratitude was immense. Abundance overflowed. Greed was in full force! Greed?
The Sutras speak of non-attachment, for both the positive and the negative: We should not be attached to our success or averse to our suffering. Both shall change. Instead we are to find ourselves as vessels, to allow the universe or divine to flow through us, to be in harmony with the present and our present situation, good or bad. The Torah and Kabbalah focuses on this concept of non-attachment as well. Abundance comes from the divine and is not ours to own or become attached. Tzedek (jusice) or Tzedekah (charity) is sharing of these gifts from the divine awarded through us as vessels, to the rest of the community. Since we do not own our abundance, we cannot get attached to our happiness or sadness, for it is constant motion and change, and does not belong to us. As King Solomon’s famous ring read: This Too Shall Pass.* The hard emotional work of non-attachment in fact leads to total surrender and thus total freedom. We learn to avoid the emotional roller coaster of our ups and downs of happiness and sadness, of successes and suffering. We instead earn and learn to be totally and completely in the present moment.
Now contrast this with desire: I desire beauty.
Judaism asks that we beautify our mitzvot or connections to G-d, and does not this beautification require attachment and money? In addition, my yoga practice requires money, yoga clothes, mats and classes require money, and I want the best for my practice. I like to beautify my yoga practice. How can I have greed and gratitude? Is it possible? How should I celebrate and indulge in the upcoming Jewish holiday of Purim without greed? There is the Purim Suedah (feast), costumes, Mishloach Manot (gift baskets), synagogue costs, charity to be given and much more associated with this wonderful holiday. How do I give and receive in beauty? How do I give and receive in gratitude? How do I give and receive to become a dwelling place for the divine, to be that vessel for the divine to flow through me? Can I bring beauty to my greed? Just as the children of Israel were asked to beautify a dwelling place for their practice of gratitude to the divine in the desert, creating an external physical place as a mirror for the internal physical place they creating within their minds, bodies and souls so too can we carve spaces of gratitude in our lives built on the beauty of being in the present moment and not controlling it. Yoga too celebrates the gratitude and the beauty of the unity (yoga means unity) of the world and the divine within each of us. We become that beautiful dwelling place of gratitude.
Question: I am the beautiful dwelling. I desire beauty and money. I am in gratitude. How do I reconcile this greed-I-tude?
Yoga Pose: This week in your baby cobra pose, try to lift your chest 2 inches higher than usual. Hold for nine breaths. Notice how this uplifting opens your heart space as well as puffs your chest up and out. Take note of the rush of love, grace and pride. Notice the contradiction and the actual needed weaving of these seemingly opposite qualities as you lie on your mat, on the floor, down on the ground as a snake, low of the low. Notice as you are low to the ground, you are also royal like the cobra.
Meditation: Meditate on how you mix gratitude and greed in your life. Meditate on how honest you are with your gratitude. Ask yourself: When I give gifts of time, favors, or presents to others, do I expect anything in return? Am I attached to the outcome? How about when I give to humanity, the universe or G-d? Do I expect anything in return? Do I ever exclaim when things do not go the way I want, “But I am a good person!” If I am attached to the outcome is this a true gift? A true gratitude.
Mantra 1: I practice gratitude for the present moment and non-attachment to the outcome of each moment. I enter with joy the new month of Adar, and for the joy of the over-indulgent Jewish holiday of Purim. In my over-indulging I meet the divine, as too I meet the divine in my constriction. For my practice of gratitude Yom Kippur (Yom Ke-Purim)** and Yom Purim are one in the same.
Mantra 2: I am in gratitude. Abundance flows through me. I do not seek to control it. I do not seek to control others. I am in joy with the new month of Adar. I appreciate and celebrate the beauty in my life. I share the beauty of my soul with the world. I give without expecting anything in return. I receive with grace and gratitude. I am a beautiful dwelling for the divine.
** In the Torah Yom Kippur is written in the plural or as Yom Ha-Kippurim. Kippurim can be read as Ke-Purim, a day like Purim.
* One day King Solomon said to his minister, “Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for the festival, which gives you six months to find it.”
“If it exists anywhere on earth, your majesty,” replied Benaiah, “I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?”
“It has special powers,” answered the king. “If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy.”
Months passed and still Benaiah had no idea where he could find the ring. On the day before the festival, he decided to take a walk in one of the poorest quarters of Jerusalem. He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day’s wares on a shabby carpet. “Have you by any chance heard of a special ring that makes the happy wearer forget his joy and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?” asked Benaiah.
He watched the elderly man take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave something on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile.
That night the entire city welcomed in the holiday with great festivity. “Well, my friend,” said King Solomon, “have you found what I sent you after?” All the ministers laughed and Solomon himself smiled.
To everyone’s surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, “Here it is, your majesty!” As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweler had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: Gimel, Zayin, Yud, which begin the words “Gam zeh ya’avor – This too shall pass.”
At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, for one day he would be nothing but dust. He also realized his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were not of his merits but rather gifts of G-d.