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 June 24, 2017: Korach

(Numbers 16:1 - 18:32)

The failure of power

Torah speaks the language of human being, and we are invited to discover ourselves through story. The fear of the scouts had already added 40 years to the wilderness journey, and as we continue on, that fear did not abate. The most significant rebellion of the wilderness years erupts in this week's parashah when a Levite leader named Korach gathered men and directly confronted Moses and Aaron.

And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said to them, You take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Eternal is among them. Why then do you lift up yourselves above the congregation of the Eternal? (16:3)

A few sections earlier in Torah, Moses supported the continued prophesying of Eldad and Medad, and wished that all the people might be moved to such ecstatic praise. He showed no need to reserve such gifts for himself. But he responded to this rebellion in a very different manner, perhaps because of the severity of the threat to his leadership. Not only Korach and his followers, but two other Levite leaders, Dathan and Abiram, launched their own attack against him:

Is it a small thing that you have brought us out of a land that flows with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you also make yourself a prince over us? (16:13)

Moses's authority was once again called into question. And this time, there was no discussion, just dramatic punishment.

And Moses said, Hereby you shall know that the Eternal has sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of my own mind. If these men die the common death of all men, or if they are visited by the fate of all men; then the Eternal has not sent me. But if the Eternal creates a new thing, and the earth opens her mouth, and swallows them up, with all that belongs to them...then you shall know that these men have provoked the Eternal. (16:28-30)

The rest of the community was warned to distance themselves from these Levite leaders, whereupon this seriously "new thing" wreaks immediate punishment upon those who challenged Moses and Aaron.

And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men who belonged to Korach, and all their goods. (16:32)

Nor were the group that had followed Korach spared, for there came out a fire from the Eternal, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who offered incense. (16:35)

We might have imagined that such a dramatic punishment would have quelled further challenge to their leadership, but on the very next day, all the congregation of the people of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, You have killed the people of the Eternal. (17:6)

Beyond power plays

If even such dramatic acts could not quell peoples' fears and distrust, that may well be the point of the story. Perhaps we are to learn that we can never effectively control people for very long with either an exertion of power or miraculous events.

Power plays lead to more power plays. In our ancient Scripture, both God and Moses seem to have trouble learning the lesson that those in authority can only temporarily control through power. Perhaps it's the same with us today, as societally we continue to try to control with the threat of punishment.

If we know that power really doesn't heal the fears and the conflicts that arise whenever human beings are together, why are we still so power hungry? Why do we think that being powerful means that we must be able to exercise control over others? Haven't we learned how little we ourselves enjoy such authoritative attempts to control us?

Reclaiming our authentic personal power

The one who rebels, as well as the one in authority, lives within. As we grow, many of us learn to deeply bury that rebellious part of ourselves, since it is frequently discouraged. But that old suppression and punishment, even when self-inflicted, diminishes the energy we have to creatively express ourselves. We often limp through life bereft of the very energy we need to function more effectively and more creatively.

Authentic personal power requires our willingness to accept all parts of self. As we unearth aspects once a threat to outer "authorities," we discover strengths long forgotten. Personal power does not impose itself in authoritarian ways, but allows us to discover, to express, and to celebrate our own wholeness.

The Meditation: Reclaiming ourselves

As always, find a comfortable place where you will not be interrupted for at least 20 minutes and, to avoid any sounds from notifications, make sure your cell phone is on airport mode. Take your time, and read slowly and thoughtfully.

Guiding yourself into the meditation

I set aside this time for meditation, taking a break now from the regular activities of my day. I know that meditation gives me the opportunity to release deep layers of tension arising from the world situation, as well as the regular demands and challenges of my life.

I take a full breath now and hold it for a moment before releasing it. And I pay close attention to how my body feels as I breathe deeply. I notice that I become more relaxed as I exhale more slowly. Taking a full breath, and letting it out through pursed lips as gently as possible....

And, breathing easily and freely, I attend to my body. I focus on my feet, and just let them go, as if they are melting upon the ground beneath them.... I slowly bring my attention through my feet to my ankles.... and then to my lower legs.... And I practice letting go.... I move my awareness to my knees and thighs.... Letting go.... Aware of my hips, and how it feels to be supported as I sit. Letting go.... Moving my attention to my belly and my lower back.... And then, so gently, to my upper back and my chest.... Letting go....

Everywhere I focus in my body now, I find a quieting. A slowing down. It's as if my body is beginning to enter into its own meditation. I focus on my fingers, and my hands, and my wrists.... My awareness naturally moves up through my forearms, elbows, upper arms, and into my shoulders. Taking time now to let this be.... Until I focus again on my breathing....

I now begin at the very top of my head, and begin the journey downward. My scalp, my forehead, my eyes.... I practice releasing tension as I read this, and I feel a deepening calm. My jaw, my mouth.... my lips, my chin.... There is deepening calm. Then, moving down through my neck.... and once again into my breath. For a few minutes now, I simply stay with my breath. That's all I need to do....

And in this quiet space, in this calm place, it becomes easier for me to allow things to be just as they are. To let my body and my mind to simply be as they are....

In this quiet space, I realize that I am the one aware of my body, but I am more than my body. I hold the body in my awareness, an awareness not limited to this body. And I am the one aware of my mind, and all its various thoughts and judgments.... I am the one who has this body; I am the one who has this mind....

I rest in this place of witness, aware that I am reading these words, aware that I am moving into a deepening meditative mindfulness, an expanding consciousness, welcoming the deeper teaching unfolding through this meditation....

Welcoming our hidden resources

In this state of calmness, it's easy to release myself from my attachment to this moment and drift into the land of memory. And there are so many memories. Sometimes I replay favorite scenes of accomplishment, and sometimes I find myself reliving less happy times. It's interesting to simply invite memories, and to notice what arises....

(Take a little time in silence. You might find repeating the memory prompt, "I remember," and then pausing to discover what comes to mind.)

All kinds of memories. Sometimes those that grab the most attention carry energies of remorse, of failure, of pain, even of shame. Sometimes old guilts come to mind. Sometimes I imagine conversations as I try to heal something in the past....

I might find memories of moments when I realized that expressing certain feelings and thoughts was discouraged. Perhaps I felt that there were things I had to hide...thoughts and feelings that I had to push down...things I had to pretend were not there...

(Allow some time in silence to consider energies, thoughts, and feelings that were not welcomed by those who counted most in your life. You might even remember learning to bury those responses, hiding them, pretending they were not there. Your awareness itself naturally unearths those precious parts of self now.)

I am on a journey of reclaiming my wholeness. I am reclaiming all aspects of myself, even those that I once thought were unacceptable. As I bring once denied parts into the field of my awareness, I simply accept them, just as they are. I accept all parts of myself because I know they are meant to support my wholeness....

I no longer need to hide from myself. I open my heart to all memories now. I embrace especially those aspects of myself that I had been afraid to embrace. As I hold all parts of myself with unconditional acceptance, I feel a renewal of strength and clarity....

I know that as I reclaim old rebellious parts of myself, new possibilities present themselves. I am more available for the wonders of my life-journey. I feel a new sense of completeness as I welcome all aspects of my personal self. I am grateful for all of me now....

As I move toward the conclusion of this time of meditation, I know a deep realization of expanding inner resources. All the parts of me that I am welcoming contribute to a renewed sense of authentic personal power.

As I focus now on my breath, I breathe this realization of wholeness into every cell and every level of my being. I celebrate my mind, just as it is in this moment. I celebrate my body as it is right now. I look forward to exploring my life with the fuller integrity of my being....

And I take some time now to reclaim my normal wakeful awareness, and to appreciate these precious moments of meditation. I enjoy gentle whispers of curiosity about the ways the renewal of wholeness will actualize in my world.

Photo: Mark Reden