Monday, June 9, 2014

Shelach 74- Mindfulness and the Mitzvah – Commandment of Tzitzit.

The beginning of our Parasha-portion Shelach deals with the mission of the meraglim-spies and the national crisis of faith caused by their negative report. The end of the parasha-portion Numbers 15:38  concludes with the commandment/mitzvah to wear Tzitzit-fringes on the corners of our clothes. The Mitzvah of tzitzit comes to repair the spiritual damage done by the spies and is a constant reminder to us, to be mindful and aware of our duty towards God – being holy and performing all his commandments. The spies were told -  וראיתם את הארץ    and you shall SEE the land and God commands us – וראיתם אתו and that you may SEE it= the tzitzit. The problem of the spies was not what they saw, but ' how ' they looked at the land, what color lenses were they wearing. In light of the spies' sin, we are warned ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם אשר אתם זונים אחריהם, and 'do not explore after your heart and eyes after which you stray.' Here, the heart and the eyes are the spies for the body –the material, animal and negative emotional side of us.

There are 2 problems which distort and interfere with a person being in the present and having clear perception and insight. We look at things with a personal bias and self interest , often colored with our fears, anxieties, insecurities or other negative emotions. Secondly, we often operate as automats, without any thinking and our bodies totally in control. In this way our seeing and subsequent actions are rote and automatic - מצוות אנשים מלומדה.

Mindful awareness or simply Mindfulness gives us a ' way of looking' that helps ' being in the present ' without bias or the emotions directing the way we look and see. We need to become impartial spectators that look, see and notice   without any judgment. But first we need just to learn to stop and be in the present. We just need to notice and be aware of the outer world and be aware of where our attention is and then choose where to focus and then see with intention in a purely objective way. We may need to quieten our inner world – our emotions by simply being aware of how we are feeling and then put it aside.  Once we have made our observations, we can then make a decision how to act in the world connected to our inner core and values such as caring, compassion and courage. Mindfulness supports a person's need for autonomy and self-direction.

If we look at the mitzvah of Tzitzit, we see that the Torah is using a Mindful Awareness technique. We first need to stop and intently notice the Tzitzit. We need to be aware of our biases, our emotions that are seated in the ' heart' and then put them aside so that we do not stray after our eyes and hearts. We notice the Te'cheilet, the blue color which reminds us of the sea and then the sky – who both serve God – and then we are reminded of God's throne of Glory representing God's sovereignty over man to obey him and perform all his commandments. We can also notice the knots. Tying a knot is often a useful way to remind us of something. So the knots remind us something about Tzitzit , that the numerical value of the word is 600 and there are 8 threads and 5 knots make a total of 613 , the number of the Biblical commandments. And this leads to us performing the commandments and being holy.

The spies went on their mission with a negative view of the land fuelled by their fears, anxieties and insecurities about the future. They had an internal need to justify this view and so their hearts directed the way their eyes would see the land.

Mindful awareness is a great tool to help all kids and not only the ones with attention difficulties or emotional regulation problems to be in the present and become more caring, compassionate and courageous people in their learning, service of God and making a contribution to society.

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