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 week of January 14 - 20, 2018:

(Exodus 10:1-13:16)

A meeting of past and present

One of my favorite spiritual teachings has to do with our birth portion, the section of Torah that is read during the week of our birth. Like the position of stars, our birth portion can reveal significant aspects of the path before us. Because Torah is one of the world's spiritual texts, it reflects the limitless depths of the beings through whom it took shape.

This week's parashah is my birth portion. For me, it's a spiritual responsibility to continue to open to fuller meanings in the text than I have perceived before. Engaging in Torah study means entering a dialogue, a meeting of past and present, in which deeper levels of meaning are always waiting to unfold.

In the Torah cycle, we are still enslaved in Egypt. Moses has come to challenge Pharaoh to release us, but so far has not been successful. Several plagues have already befallen the Egyptians, but to no avail.

But look at the very first verse of this portion in which Moses hears God say,

Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his advisors, so that I will be able to demonstrate these miraculous signs within them. (10:1)

This is the standard translation, but the Hebrew actually says, "Come" to Pharaoh, not "Go." The implication is that Pharaoh is not just an external reality but an internal one as well. When we try to deal with the Pharaoh outside ourselves without first meeting the Pharaoh within, we are doomed to simply deepen our enslavements.

And Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, and said to him, Thus said the Eternal One, God of the Hebrews, How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? (10:3)

The outer and the inner Pharaoh repress our freedom through the power of their authority. In the outer world, an authoritarian presence can squelch opposition; within ourselves, it is the unbridled ego, craving control, that attempts to overshadow the fuller and more inclusive consciousness which it was meant to serve. To humble ourselves means to relieve our ego-self of the responsibility it has usurped, and open ourselves to the wisdom, the love, and the compassion of our greater Self.

Meet the Pharaoh within

So what of this inner Pharaoh? Is this the critical voice that judges everything we do? Is it our self-definition that inhibits our awareness of a Greater Self? Is Pharaoh the voice of hopelessness and despair that we might try to deny but whose energy often floods our awareness?

The inner Pharaoh, of course, is represented by all of these, and that inner aspect of ourselves is often so rock-solid that we might fear it will never be moved.

Torah presents us with the paradigm where deep inner awakening can follow from the awareness of deep inner stuckness. It is the Pharaoh within who keeps us enslaved to our old definitions of self, our favorite fears, our well-practiced patterns. We are, after all, our own worst enemy. So how are we to confront that inner Pharaoh? From where does deep change awaken?

Deep change unfolds naturally from a space of more profound awareness. When we become more conscious of our inner Pharaoh and choose, not to fight it, but rather to engage in the far more productive act of accepting and embracing that part of ourselves, something surprising occurs. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the spiritual path is always one of love, and these parts of self are very much in need of love. We must meet our inner Pharaoh with the most convincing of miracles: the compassionate embrace of deep acceptance.

Our inner plagues of fear, despair, hopelessness, our beliefs in our own worthlessness, not being quite good enough — all the voices of Pharaoh can be healed through more active acceptance and loving embrace. We must meet our inner Pharaoh and welcome back that disowned part of ourselves so it no longer needs to fight us.

Come in to meet the Pharaoh. And enter that meeting with compassion and acceptance. Embrace all parts of self most in need of embrace, that we might translate old enslavements into our next miracle of awakening.

Writing Prompts

My Inner Critic convinces me that. . .
When I imagine embracing my old fears, I discover. . .
If I were truly free now, I would. . .

Focus Phrases

I open-heartedly meet and embrace old critical voices within me.
I accept all parts of myself.
Embracing my wholeness, I awaken to my freedom.

Photo: Mark Reden