If it can be broken, it can be fixed –
Editors note: This week the MLC ran its second of a
five- part interactive series, The Sound of Light: The Spiritual
Physics of Chanukah – Secrets to a Balanced Life,
led by Rabbi Simon Jacobson.
It was an electrifying evening. The dynamic interaction
that ensued was surprising both in its intensity and its
You are all invited to participate in the live programs,
which will be taking place during the next four Wednesday
nights in New York City, culminating in a powerful, multi-sensory
interactive Chanukah experience, with music, drums and Chanukah
lights (details follow below).
Here again we bring you some of Rabbi Jacobson’s
notes about the evening’s discussion, for the benefit
of our friends who were unable to attend these events. As
always, we welcome and invite your feedback. (Tapes are
also available of these workshops, details below).
Next week, in part three of this unique series, we look
forward to hearing Prof. Branover address the audience.
Prof. Branover is head of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic
Studies at Ben Gurion University, Israel. He will be discussing
Quantum Chanukah: Waves, Particles & Beyond, followed
by questions, answers and group interaction.
There is a natural rhythm to life. At some point in life
this rhythm gets disrupted. And the rest, as they say, is
history. The remainder of our lives we are in search of
regaining our rhythm.
This in essence is the story of life. No matter who you
are you are always going through cycles. Life is never a
plateau. It’s more like hills and valleys. If we are
blessed the cycle is symmetrical. If we are not, the crests
and troughs tend to the extremes.
This is also the story of the Torah. Constant movement
is the undercurrent of the entire Torah. Adam and Eve banished
from Paradise. Cain wandering the earth. Noah riding the
ark through the raging flood. Abraham’s Lech Lecho
– perhaps the single most defining journey in history.
Jacob’s leaving home, and his subsequent life of continuous
displacement (discussed below). The uprooting of Joseph
and his descent into Egypt. Only to be followed by Jacob
and his family, as they begin their lives in a foreign land.
And that’s only in the book of Genesis. Enter Exodus and
a new radical series of journeys begin. Starting with the
Egyptian exile and bondage, the story continues that even
after the Exodus (yet another journey), the journey is only
about to begin. For heaven’s sake: The Jewish people suffered
210 years under Egyptian oppression, why not let them go
home and live in peace?… But no, following the Exodus the
people begin their final journey related in the Bible: Their
forty years of wandering in the Sinai wilderness.
Indeed, the rest of the entire Torah takes place during
the journeys in the desert. A chapter is even named “Journeys”
(Massei), documenting their 42 journeys. The Torah concludes
with the end of the journey, as the people arrive to the
east bank of the River Jordan. No, it doesn’t tell
us about their entry into the Promised Land (that happens
only later in the book of Joshua). We never read about them
reaching their destination – the one aspired to by
Abraham and the people from the beginning of time.
And the story never ends. After the relatively brief respite
during the Temple period, the people are exiled once again,
and until this very day we are on the move, migrating from
land to land, escaping, running, expelled – anything
but quiet reprieve. The only sure stability is the fact
that we are always moving.
So, what is this thing about constant movement? It’s
the story of life’s rhythm. The Torah is telling us
that the secret to mastering your life is by learning to
navigate the waves and cycles.
The Ohr Hachaim, at the beginning of this week’s
Torah portion, explains the universal application of the
opening verse: “And Jacob left Beersheba and went
toward Charan.” “Jacob left Beersheba”
refers to the descent of each soul to Earth. First it leaves
and descends from the “fountain of seven” (Beersheba),
the seven emotional spheres in which the soul is rooted.
From there it descends and enters the world of wrath (Charan).
In other words: Life itself – from its very beginning
– is a journey. Its essential nature is one of movement
If life were perfect – which it is not, because what then
would be its point? – one could argue that we would be able
to remain standing statically still in one never changing
But we are not perfect. And besides, even true perfection
is not static. Humans see perfection as a destination: we
work toward achieving a goal, and when we reach that place,
we can retire. True, Divine perfection is an ever evolving
reality, constantly reinventing itself and seeking out new
expressions in a never ending infinite journey into the…
Movement then, is in essence life’s greatest blessing.
For two reasons: As long as we live in a broken world, where
injustice and cruelty reign, the status quo is unhealthy.
Movement is our only salvation. The soul’s restlessness
is our healthiest response to a world that just doesn’t
But movement is not just about getting away from the unhealthy.
The nature of healthy perfection is distinguishable by its
mobility. To be alive is to be awake. Every live thing moves,
our theologians teach us.
This is the story of rotzo and shuv – the inner rhythm
that characterizes all life forces. Our breath and pulse
express this flow on a microcosmic level. The same is true
about all of existence, which, in the words of the mystics,
is essentially cosmic breath, throbbing, pulsating energy.
This is the story of all the travels and travelers in the
Torah. Jacob’s journey in particular, which embodies
the soul’s journey to earth, captures the paradox.
Jacob represents the ultimate harmony of tiferet, yet of
all the Patriarchs he was the one that was displaced most
of his life. Harmony is not a static, passive state. It
is the ability to navigate the rough and unpredictable terrain.
Though Jacob suffered in his life, he had this strength,
and his journey infused his children with the ability to
ride through every challenge they would face.
In our latest workshop one thing that struck me was that
many of the participants identified the rhythm of tension
and resolution with breakage and repair. I never quite thought
of it this way. But in truth, the yearn and return of rotzo
and shuv, the tension and resolution is a form of breaking
When you are tense about something, your feelings should
motivate you healthily to change your situation, to get
away from the things that cause you anxiety. You “break”
away from the past, and open yourself up to build a new
In search of identifying rotzo and shuv parallels, one
of our friends presented an art form called pique assiette,
in which shattered plates are used to create new images
with the newly aligned broken pieces.
Kabbalistically speaking, the “shattering of the
containers” (shevirat ha’keilim) in the primordial
explosion in the world of Tohu (chaos), is a result of the
disparity between the “containers” and “light.”
One can say that this “shattering” is a form
of “market correction.” Since existence is not
in sync with its purpose, “shevirat ha’keilim”
is the inevitable result of a misaligned world, with the
objective of “tikkun,” to repair the fissure
and reunite the “light” and the “containers,”
spirit and matter.
The challenge is learning to dance – a dance to the
true rhythms of life. Each of us has the rhythm within.
We are born with it. Observe the perfect rhythm of a breathing
newborn. Seamlessness and innocence are the virtues of a
child. But then our human experiences begin to disturb our
rhythms. Like a stranger’s hand holding us down, our
first disappointments, lies and deceptions throw our pendulum
off course. As we are invalidated, abandoned and our dignity
wounded, our outer selves become unsynchronized from our
The rest of our lives we are in pursuit of discovering
our seemingly lost balance and harmony. Every time we feel
anxious we really are sensing that our outer clock is not
in synch with our inner one. The next healthy step would
be to synchronize the two.
The problem lies in the fact that we may not know the rhythm
of our inner clocks. That’s why we need to observe
and study the rhythms of rotzo and shuv in nature and science,
in the arts and music, in business and finance, in every
possible area of life. This allows us a backdrop –
context with which to compare the misaligned rhythms in
As we learn to train ourselves to see the rhythms all around
us it gets increasingly easier to identify our own discrepancies.
Another good idea would be to monitor our own levels of
tension and resolution. To facilitate this process, we created
a “rotzo and shuv index” (don’t laugh,
it actually works), which can help you determine your own
levels, and then see what your cycles look like. If you
would like to receive this index, please e-mail us, and
we’ll be happy to send it to you, together with instructions
on how to use it.
To be alive is to feel alive. What does “alive”
feel like? It actually has no sensation. But one thing is
for sure: Being alive is never static, never still, never
inert. No one wants to see a flat line on a cardiogram G-d
forbid. You want to see fluctuations, ebbs and flows –
rotzo and shuv.
Fluidity, movement, mobility, flux – are all the
vital signs of life. Don’t fight your restlessness;
figure out how to dance the dance.