By Ariel Ben Avraham Ki Tisa: God’s Love The principle in the relationship between Israel and God is Love. We proclaim this principle twice a day before and after we say “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One [and Unique]”, because it defines our identity. What we are, have and do are founded on this relationship, for we recognize that what we are and have come from the Creator, including Love as our common bond with Him.
Being counted by Him reveals how precious we are for Him. As long as we are bound to Him by taking what we are and have to Him, nothing negative can happen to us amid the illusions of the material world. In this context we understand the beginning of this portion: “When you count (ki tisa) the head [the total sum] of the children of Israel according to their numbers, let each one give to the Lord an atonement for his soul when they are counted; then there will be no plague among them when they are counted.” (Exodus 30:12)
We must be aware that since the moment God chose us as His partners for His Divine Plan, our bond with Him is permanent. This partnership, as we said above, is based on Love because God’s Love makes it possible. In this sense our duty is to know God in all His ways revealed by Him to us in the Torah. Once we adopt His ways and attributes, not just as our guidelines and purpose but also as our Jewish identity, we fulfill our partnership with Him. This makes sense to “Know Him in all your ways” (Proverbs 3:6) because the point is to be always aware of our permanent bond with Him. This principle is fully realized in the Sanctuary God wants us to build for Him to dwell in our midst. Though the Sanctuary chronologically came after the transgression of the Golden Calf, the Torah mentions it earlier because before any transgression we may incur there is already a place in our consciousness where we are permanently connected with God. We belong to a house that He has built beforehand, and this house is His Love for us.
The principle we have been referring to is about making the choice to live, experience and enjoy our connection with God as a matter of fact. It is a fact because He is telling us so. Therefore it is not a matter of faith or even trust, because it is the truth. The Torah and our history prove that fact, and we know it is true because we have lived it and experienced it. How can we deny God’s Love? How can we deny Love as the best we are and have? Only by creating an illusion of denial, by choosing to live in ego’s false beliefs and feelings of lack. This beliefs and feelings build the Golden Calf and the idols we empower to enforce the illusion of separation from Love as the material manifestation of God’s Love. Our Sages say that the transgression in the Garden of Eden was repeated with the Golden Calf. When we adopt the false belief that God is not enough, that His Creation is not enough, and that nothing is enough, we fall by transgressing the matter of fact that God is enough, and that we are also enough because we come from Him.
In this sense we understand “The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than the half shekel, when they give the offering of the Lord to make atonement for your souls.” (Exodus 30:15) We have to elevate our consciousness to the awareness that in our bond with God we are and have all there is to live and manifest. God’s Love reestablish our connection with Him when we realize that. He atones for our souls, because once we are trapped in ego’s illusions of grandeur, being self-centered and self-sufficient, the only way out from them is by returning to the Truth. This Truth atones for our wrong choices. Our atonement and return to the Creator occur when we realize and adopt His ways and attributes: “And the Lord passed by before him [Moses], and proclaimed: ‘The Lord, the Lord, benevolent God, compassionate and gracious, patient, and abundant in loving kindness and truth; preserving loving kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and rebellion and sin; and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation’.” (34:6-7)
Should we have to explain further these ways and attributes? Let’s just say what we call them here in our blog: God’s Love. All comes from God and all is sustained by Him, and that is the greatest Love of all. The opposite to this is our illusion that we rather believe in our feelings of lack out of ego’s desire to be its own god. These feelings and beliefs of lack are the “nations” that invite us to covet, lust, envy and fall trapped in their indolence, indifference and negativity: “Beware lest you form a covenant with the inhabitant[s] of the land into which you are coming, lest it become a snare in your midst. But you shall demolish their altars, shatter their monuments, and cut down their sacred trees. For you shall not prostrate yourself before another god, because the Lord, whose Name is ‘the Exclusive One’, is an exclusive jealous God.” (34:12-14) Likewise, Love’s ways exclude anything different or oppose to its means and attributes: “You shall not make molten gods for yourself.” (34:17)
We are destined to know our Creator, from whom all come to exist. We are bound to know our Essence and true identity. We can’t settle for less and live in the illusions and fantasies of a false reality built out of ego’s agenda. We must have an existential approach to life and the material world, and ask the transcendental questions about who we are, from what we came from, and where are we going to. As Jews we have all the answers in the Torah, which defines our identity and delineates our purpose as God’s partners in His Creation. We can’t settle for less. Our lot and truth is Love as our common bond with God. That’s who we are and have, and that is quite enough.
- Ariel Ben Avraham
- Haifa, Southern Galilee, Israel
- Ariel Ben Avraham (f. Zapata) was born in Cartagena, Colombia in 1958. After studying Cultural Anthropology in Bogotá moved to Chicago in 1984 where he worked as a television writer, reporter and producer for 18 years. In the 1990’s he produced video documentaries related to art, music, history and culture such as “Latin American Trails: Guatemala” distributed by Facets.org. Most of his life he studied ancient spiritual traditions and mysticism of major religions, understanding the mystic experience as the individual means to connect with Divinity. Since 2004 he studies and writes about Jewish mysticism and spirituality mainly derived from the Chassidic tradition, and the practical philosophy of the teachings of Jewish mystic Sages. The book “God as Love” is the compilation of his last years studying and learning Jewish mysticism, and the messages of the book are part of the content, exercises and processes of a series of seminars, lectures and retreats that he facilitates in Israel.