Celebrating the Spiritual Levels of Torah

Torah is a teaching that continues to unfold, guiding us to appreciate the text more fully
as our awareness evolves.

Torah Portion for the Shabbat of March 25, 2017: Vayakhel-Pekudei

(Exodus 35:1 - 40:38)

Offerings from willing hearts and spirits

In an ancient wilderness, we were invited to contribute materials needed for the construction of the Sanctuary, and we were told exactly what was needed. Precious metals, dyes, fabrics — all kinds of materials for the rather elaborate tabernacle that was to be.

Although we were told what specific items were needed, there was no quota required of any individual. Instead, we were to bring whatever was right for us, whatever our heart urged us to contribute.

And Moses spoke to all the congregation of the people of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the Lord commanded, saying, Take you from among you an offering to the Eternal; whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the Eternal; gold, and silver, and bronze, blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair. . . (35:4-6)

The response was immediate and it was plentiful. So even though there must have been those whose hearts were not willing, whose hearts did not prompt them to bring their offerings for the work honoring the Eternal Presence, there was no dearth of materials.

And they came, every person whose heart prompted them, and everyone whose spirit made them willing, and they brought the offering for the Eternal One for the making of the Tent of Meeting, and for all its workings, and for the holy garments. And they came, both men and women, as many whose hearts were willing, and brought bracelets, and ear rings, and rings, and bracelets, all jewels of gold; and every person who offered brought an offering of gold to the Eternal. (35:21-22)

In fact, the gifts kept pouring in, until all that was needed had been provided, and it was necessary to curtail any further offerings.

And they [the workmen] spoke to Moses, saying, The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the Eternal commanded to make. So Moses gave the command, and they proclaimed it throughout the camp, saying, Let no man or woman bring any more for the offering of the sanctuary. (36:5-6)

Perhaps congregations throughout history would wish for such a response to calls for membership dues, for building funds, and for support for social action projects! Most such communities are supported by freewill offerings, and most do not have the luxury of telling their members to curtail their gifts because there is already more than enough.

Of course, such issues represent the surface level of this text relating to the ancient tabernacle and the generalizations of this process relating to all later communities. But there are more profound implications of this process of bringing offerings to the Eternal to be utilized in shaping our inner Sanctuary.

What shall we bring at a time like this?

The Presence within us is the Consciousness in which we are held and through which we hold all that we experience. That Consciousness lives within us and we live within that Consciousness. We might understand that Consciousness to be the Ultimate Reality.

Each of us is an individual expression of a Universal Consciousness. When we forget this, we close off our connection to the Consciousness greater than our individual separate self, and experience ourselves locked within this separate shell of our individual identity.

When we are invited to bring an offering to the Eternal, our offering does not consist of outer treasures, but of those that arise within ourselves. And the truth is, we are always bringing our offerings to the Eternal; we are always gifting the greater Consciousness with everything we consistently hold in our individual awareness. That which we bring becomes the building blocks of our Sanctuary; we are contributing to that inner tabernacle continually.

And what are we bringing? Certainly, at such a time as this, many of us are bringing considerable parcels of confusion, unclarity, anxiety, anger, and fear. This is a time that inspires a discomfort and insecurity that we freely offer to be held in the greater Consciousness. What is critical is that we neither deny these feelings nor suppress them. We need to offer the authenticity of our separate self, even when uncomfortable. But that is not all that we must bring should we wish a Sanctuary able to provide us personal peace and adding to the peace of the Whole.

The precious gifts we need to freely and fully bring to the Consciousness flowing to us so generously are the gold of Love, the silver of Unconditional Acceptance, the gems of Compassion and Kindness. Our Sanctuary needs to be constructed with these sacred energies, energies that can embrace even our fears, accept all the uncomfortable parts of self, and allow us to actualize the inner world that can bring greater hope to the world we share.

The Meditation: Bringing gifts for our inner Sanctuary

Please feel free to copy this meditation and carry it with you for those moments when you can devote time and energy to being consciously available for an inner awakening. You can record these words, leaving spaces of silence where appropriate, so that your own voice can support you.

Begin by remembering your Meditative Space

Take care to turn off your mobile phone or put it on airplane mode. Do what you can to protect yourself from interruptions, then find a comfortable place to sit. As you begin to settle in, you might tell yourself that there is nothing else you need to do now. Sit so that you can breathe freely and easily. Be as comfortable as possible.

Then take a few deep breaths. Even as you read this, you can notice how the breath fills your body, and how it feels to release the air freely and fully. Be aware of the fullness as you inhale, and then the release as you exhale.

And simply breathe easily. Focusing gently on your breathing naturally brings you into a quieter and calmer place. Focus on your breath now, and notice how you feel.

When you are ready, begin a gentle scan of your body. Start at your feet and notice how they feel right now. Direct your attention to your toes and slowly move up to your ankles. Take your time to slowly allow your awareness to explore your feet. Then move your attention upward through your legs. So slowly and gently. Moving your attention up through your thighs. And then your hips. Your abdomen and lower back. Your stomach and middle back. And then up and into your breath.

Rest in the breath for a moment, then begin again at the tips of your fingers, and move slowly up through your hands. Slowly and gently exploring your hands from the inside. Then move into your wrists. Your forearms, upper arms, and into your shoulders. No rush. Gently and easily moving all the way up and into your breath. And be with the breath for a few moments.

Then begin at the crown of your head and explore the sensations in your scalp. Become aware of your forehead, your eyebrows and your eyes. Your ears. Your nose. And then move into your jaw. Notice how your jaw feels, then focus on your mouth, your tongue, and your lips. And then move slowly down through your neck. Move all the way down into your breath. Take some time to simply rest in the space of your breath. In the quiet center of your body.

As your body relaxes, you can become more aware of the activity of your mind. You might notice the voice of your mind reading or repeating these words. You might hear that inner voice commenting on other aspects of your current experience. You might notice how thoughts simply rise in the mind continually. When you simply witness those thoughts, you will find them rising and falling away. Notice how the mind tends to reach back into a remembered past or project itself into concerns for an imagined future.

As you become conscious of the mind's voice, you can gain a greater appreciation for your more inclusive awareness. This awareness contains the mind but is not limited to it. From this more inclusive space, you realize that you have a mind, but you are more than your mind. You have a body, but you are more than your body. It becomes easier now to appreciate both body and mind, simply allowing them to be exactly as they are. Accepting them exactly as they are.

There is no need to change anything in this moment. You rest in the place of the witness. Your place of expanding calmness and deep security.

Bringing our offerings

In this place of deepening calmness, it is possible to drift behind the stories of the mind, and behind the dramas of the body. It is easy to simply rest in the calmness of the witness within us. And as we do so, it becomes so natural to simply allow the mind to wander as it does, without resistance. There is no need to change anything. The fears, the confusion, the upset within us — those are the very aspects of our separate self that need to be loved as they are.

From this more peaceful place, it is easier to understand that those responses of our separate self, those challenges of the voice of that separate self that we call our mind, those difficult voices yearn to simply be accepted as they are. The mind may bring negative judgments, and those, too, simply need to be accepted. Even loved. Just as they are. Because love frees, and the resistance to our own negative judgments keeps us stuck.

In this quiet space, allow yourself to open to the natural flow of Loving Acceptance that is the gift that Consciousness continually offers us. Our responding gratitude awakens the authentic gifts which we bring in return.

Awareness of the profound Love flowing to us always, ready to embrace all parts of ourselves, opens our own hearts to share the precious gifts of praise for the wonders of existence. We offer up our perception of the beauty of the natural world in which we live. We bring the wonder of committed relationships, of deep friendships, and of supportive communities.

And we have no worries that we will offer more than is required, because all that we offer is always received. All that we offer is always honored. And offering the authenticity of our being, of our entire being, allows us to more consciously receive the Love and the Compassion of Consciousness, and become channels for that Love, expressing that Compassion through our words and our actions in the world.

Resting in this profound and unconditional Love. Allowing the blessing of that Love flow through every cell and every level of our being. This is the natural yearning of our hearts. This is what we are here for.

But we do not live only in meditation. As you prepare to conclude this quiet time, breathe in the greater Consciousness, allowing it to embrace the fears as they arise in the mind. As you move back out into the world, you might find yourself more able to support others who find themselves caught up in the anxieties and fears of our time.

Breathe deeply and fully as you return to wakeful awareness.

Photo: Mark Reden