Celebrating the Spiritual Levels of Torah

Torah Portion for the week of Aug. 31 - Sept. 6: Shoftim

(Deuteronomy 21:10 - 25:19)

Even though many laws in the Torah are no longer relevant because the ancient Temple no longer exists, and others are not practiced because of cultural changes over the centuries, the more profound principles behind the laws still guide our spiritual path. But when we meet only the surface meaning of the text, we miss much of the richness it contains.

One of the regulations in this week's parashah is my favorite example of what can be missed without deeper reading. Torah instructs us concerning the care of the ox that is grinding our grain:

You shall not muzzle an ox while it is threshing. (25:4)

Of course, the image that comes to mind is clearly from another time. We wouldn't think of muzzling our ox because we have no ox and most of us do no threshing. But the principle is far greater than the specific image. The principle reminds us to care for the animals in our lives, and also speaks to the need for workers to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Reading a little more deeply, we realize that the principle has to do with freeing ourselves from the "muzzling" of old patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting.

So much of the time we are so narrowly focused on our work, and even on our play, that we are oblivious to the great beauty around us. We muzzle our awareness and keep ourselves from enjoying the richness of our lives. Too often, without even knowing it, we miss the fullness of the moment. The urgent concerns that demand our attention too often eclipse our enjoyment of what is really important in our lives.

We inhibit our own evolution by muzzling our creative consciousness that can naturally support greater meaning and purpose in our lives. Our consciousness is the most potent creative force we possess -- our intentions and our images can shape our experiences in the world. Yet when we muzzle a greater future beneath the weight of our already-patterned past, we deny that profound creative potential.

So this ancient principle can awaken us to ways in which we have been restricting our vision. We are called this week to once again take ownership of our creative energies and open to fuller possibilities awaiting us in each moment.

The wonders of this world we share are always calling to us, urging us to cast off our blinders. The Universe yearns to be celebrated in and through us all.

Focus Phrases

I awaken to the profound wonders of this moment.
I celebrate renewed visions of the life I seek.
My world is alive with energies of Life and Love.

Writing Prompts

My favorite way of "muzzling" myself has been. . .
When I release myself to this moment, I realize. . .
If I were to envision the life I seek, I would find. . .

“Torah is the book with no end, supporting our understanding of what it means to be a vehicle for the Spirit of Creation.”

Photo: Mark Reden