AWAKENING PEKUDEI: TORAH MUSSAR MINDFULNESS, 23rd SITTING

March 6, 2022 — Adar II 3 5782

Building Holiness in Space, the Mishkan, While Honoring Holiness in Time, Shabbat, Enables God to Dwell Among the People

Welcome to Awakening: Torah Mussar Mindfulness, where we at The Institute for Holiness: Kehilat Mussar meet weekly at 15:00/3pm EST on Sundays to learn from the Torah/Hebrew Bible portion that we just observed on the Jewish Sabbath/Shabbat from the unique lens of Mussar Mindfulness and then apply what we learn to our seated Insight Meditation and Mindfulness practice. You may join us on Zoom (link here) or LIVE on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. All sessions are recorded and can be found at our website (www.kehilatmussar.com) in the Blog section.

Before we begin delving into the weekly Torah/Hebrew Bible portion/parasha, this week being Pekudei, we pray that our Intention/Kavannah be of learning Torah, Mussar, and the Dharma together and practicing Mussar Mindfulness. We commit to learn and practice together once a week to strengthen our Middot/soul-traits and souls, to be of service to others and God/Hashem; indeed, to bring God’s Good to others.

We always begin our practice with our Kavanah/Intention for today’s practice: to do this type of practice and care as an act of self-care and to connect us with the Divine, and ultimately, to other people. So, before doing this engagement of learning and practice together we say: this is something I am doing to strengthen my own soul in order to be of benefit to others in the future; and then our last paragraph: this is something that I’m doing to strengthen my relationship with the Creator so that I can be a better conduit of God’s Good to others when they need me. (See below)

We use the first and third Kavanot/Intentions listed below for today’s learning and practice:

We begin our investigation of Pekudei with curiosity as to why we are told in this parasha/portion that the people did exactly as God had commanded and that Moshe did exactly as God had commanded not once but 19 times. Were it just one time we might have just accepted this statement and phraseology as a simple statement of confirmation. However, when something is repeated 19 times, it is meant to call our attention to something of importance.

So what does it mean to do exactly as God commanded? What are the implications? What goes into that performative act that would merit this confirmation 19 times? The people and Moshe did their contributions with head, heart, and hands. We are even told as such when people of wisdom (Chochmat Lev) with generosity (Nadiv Lev) bring gifts, build and make the necessary objects, furnishing, and equipment with their hands. That unification of mindful, present head, heart, hands create the conditions necessary to allow the Kavod Adonai (the Presence of God) to manifest. Indeed, they are what only enables the invisible visible.

The potential of the Presence of God is being made manifest only when we meet the conditions commanded.

Recall in Ki Tisa when our ancestors wanted to connect with Moshe and God and did so with great intentions. Their impact, the golden calf, was not received well by neither Moshe nor Hashem/God. Some people either did not understand and/or did not respect the boundaries of the relationship, what God wanted and commanded. And thus, they built something for themselves from the gold earrings of their family members: their heads (wisdom) and hearts (generosity) were not united with their hands. We are even told from witness account of Aharon, Moshe’s brother and future High Priest, that the golden calf simply popped out of the fire molding. No intention, no mindfulness, no bringing of multiple gifts from all segments of the population (the gold earrings were only from the children and wives of the men who had children and wives), no shared wisdom and labor to build something to benefit the whole community and to enable the Presence of God to dwell among them.

Let’s complicate this a little for our own lives and practice. What we are witnessing are two extremes: 1) the Ki Tisa model that shows the ramifications of applied attachment/desire: a coveting for a leader to replace Moshe since he didn’t come down the mountain when the people wanted or expected. This model is impulsive, reactionary, and only leads to harm and suffering for all parties involved. And the other extreme, 2) Pekudei where the people and Moshe follow God’s every command down to the last stitch and God’s Presence fills the Tabernacle: a model that may be possible in the short-term, but not one for long-term sustainability. Life is more complicated than a Pekudei model: life is messy; we are messy as human beings and thus, we are going to be somewhere in between demanding the building of golden calves from our leaders and following every command of God perfectly and completely. Because we cannot maintain either extreme model as part of our daily existence, God’s Presence will be made less visible.

Indeed, this is part of our life-long practice: to accept the limitations of our applied mindfulness and what we can demand from ourselves and cause to manifest with the unification of our head, hearts and hands. This acceptance of life as it is and the changing boundaries and strengths of the human being as they are are not unlike the acceptance of suffering and impermanence in our Buddhist wisdom traditions.

We are witnesses to what our Israelite ancestors do not know yet: that God is creating a framework to manifest the invisible in the visible, the Presence of God, but also create a structure where they can seek and manifest individual and communal joy and teshuva/repentance for the messiness of their daily lives as humans created in the likeness and image of the Divine. The Mishkan will not just be a temple to worship a god from afar in fear. What we will witness in the coming book of Leviticus/Vayikra is that the Tabernacle will be turned into a community center where our ancestors will mark holiness in time and they will engage in ritualized deeds to seek forgiveness and atonement. Applied mindfulness and applied teshuva will be practiced in the Israelites’ inner sanctuary of their very hearts to seek God’s presence, compassion, and love.

Thank you to God, our ancestors, our Mussar teachers, and the wisdom of the Buddha and Buddhist traditions for enabling us to share this Torah, this Awakening of Torah through Mussar Mindfulness. May we merit that our learning and awakening of Pekudei bring comfort and wisdom to all beings and to alleviate the suffering of all beings. Thank you. Shalom, Namaste, Peace.

Join us at The Institute for Holiness: Kehilat Mussar to begin this beautiful, holy, life-long journey in the practice of Mussar Mindfulness. For the those who are already practitioners, come make your spiritual home with us. Learn and practice Mussar Mindfulness, taking refuge in our community, in God and the wisdom of the Dharma, in the teachings of the Torah and Mussar and the Buddha. Membership information here: https://kehilatmussar.com/membership/

Please subscribe to our free mailing list here: https://kehilatmussar.com/newsletter/

Any questions, comments, or concerns, please do be in touch at rabbichasya@kehilatmussar.com. We value hearing from you about how this practice is going for you: of what benefit is this learning and practice to you.

Podcast Audio Below:

Awakening Nitzavim: Torah Mussar Mindfulness, 52nd Sitting Mussar Mindfulness with Rabbi Chasya of The Institute for Holiness: Kehilat Mussar

Jump into this awesome practice of learning Torah from the perspective of Mussar Mindfulness with Rabbi Chasya, Director of The Institute for Holiness: Kehilat Mussar. This is our 52nd sitting this year (and the first of the New Year). A guided mindfulness meditation follows the talk. All Hebrew translated to English. All are welcome.
  1. Awakening Nitzavim: Torah Mussar Mindfulness, 52nd Sitting
  2. Awakening Ki Tavo: Torah Mussar Mindfulness, 51st Sitting
  3. Affectionate Body Scan
  4. Awakening Ki Teitzei: Torah Mussar Mindfulness, 50th Sitting
  5. Awakening Shoftim: Torah Mussar Mindfulness, 49th Sitting

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