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Levi Ben-Shmuel

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The Festival of Sukkot: 7 Nights, 7 Guests, 7 Inspirational Ways of Seeing

Posted: 09/21/10 08:42 PM ET

People's creativity is a remarkable thing. From the wonders of smart phones, medical technology, and the arts (to name a few), these creations point to a vibrant life force pulsing within us that yearns to express itself in myriad ways.

This creative force can also be used for dark purposes; we are creative in how we torture, oppress, and destroy. As with much of life, any wisdom we can bring to our thoughts and actions is a critical component to help direct our creative impulse. The Biblical holiday of Sukkot, celebrated this and next week, contains wisdom that can help us learn to use our creative impulse for the highest good.

The Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chasidic movement, taught that one of the major themes of the sukkah, the booth Jews dwell in during the holiday, is divine inspiration. (The root of the word sukkah is related to seeing.) We can change our vision from a narrow, self-centered view of the world and ourselves to a divinely inspired one using Chochmah, a wisdom connected to our deepest selves.

Traditionally one of seven Ushpizin, exalted spiritual guests who visit the sukkah, is honored each night of the holiday. Each one has something to teach us about divine inspiration and seeing. The seven correspond to Biblical archetypes that according to Kabbalah embody different qualities of the Divine within us.

Abraham is honored the first night of Sukkot. In Genesis, he is commanded by the Divine to leave behind everything he knows and journey to an unknown place and life. As he encountered different lands and peoples, Abraham learned to see with the eyes of love and kindness. He had a deep knowing that all of us are passing through this world. We can choose to see our fellow travelers with kindness as we journey on. Can you see someone you have difficultly with as a fellow traveler this week?

The second night honors Abraham's son Isaac. His Hebrew name, Yitzhak, means "he who laughs." Isaac was an internal man. Through his deep meditations, he was able to see beyond duality, the world of comparison and judgment, to a higher level of reality. He was able to laugh in a hidden, quiet way at the drama of his own life. Isaac found great strength in this ability. Can you take some time this week to laugh at yourself?

Jacob, honored the third night, is characterized in Genesis as an "ish tam." The direct translation is a "simple man." His simplicity is related to purity and wholesomeness. Jacob's purity allowed him to see beauty in everything around him. Seeing in this way kept his heart open. Can you open your heart and see beauty in something in your life with new eyes?

Moses is honored the fourth night. One of his challenges was to learn to see with eyes of faith. Through his trials and experience at the burning bush, he overcame his doubts about himself and the Divine to go on to become a model of living faith regardless of what the outside world threw at him to challenge it. Any of us who have had the experience of persevering to follow a vision, in particular against all odds and logic, knows the role faith played in manifesting that vision. Can you catch yourself when in doubt about something and replace it with faith?

Aaron, Moses' brother, is honored the fifth night. One of Aaron's challenges was to learn to be a peacemaker. He developed eyes that saw the potential for peace ahead and then took action to create it. Instead of avoiding "bad" people, he sought them out to greet them warmly with the intention to bring them back to their good nature. Can you think and act on one deed that would bring more peace into your world?

Joseph, honored the sixth night and characterized as a dreamer in the Bible, saw with the eyes of vision. He learned to leave his past behind to create space for a greater vision of who he could become. To be able to see a different kind of future, you must be willing to let go of the past. Can you pay attention to your dreams this week and look forward instead of backward?

The final exalted guest is David. He did not have an easy life. More than once he had to literally run for his life to avoid death. Even when faced with difficult circumstance, David was able to find a way to praise the Divine. Seeing with the eyes of praise elevated him out of despair into a higher consciousness. Can you find something to praise in everyone you meet this week? (Note: the essence of praise is genuine compliments.)

Seeing as these Biblical archetypes saw opens a gateway within ourselves to creativity that uses the best within us. It opens us to our divine nature and the inspiration that can flow from it. As we embrace solving our personal, societal and global problems, the wise thing to do is dig deep within to create a world that works for all living beings.

 
 
 

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