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Vayechi

Vayechi

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Wine-Red Eyes and Milk-White Teeth

 

His eyes are red with wine, and his teeth white with milk

(Jacob's blessing to Judah, Genesis 49:12)

The body is a magnificent creation. Each limb and organ works in perfect harmony. Kabbalah teaches that the body is in the shape of the cosmos and that every body part has a cosmic counterpart. Like the limbs of the body, every element of the cosmos works in a state of relationship and interdependence.

We often refer to the head and the heart as metaphors for creation. The "mind" of the cosmos is the innate intelligence of creation -- both the collective "unconscious" that we draw on, as well as the Divine intelligence that guides its workings. The "heart" of the universe is the innate compassion, Chessed, which the Torah notes as the primary energy of existence.

But what about "lesser" physiological parts -- like the teeth? What are the teeth's universal analogues?

Chassidic master Rabbi Shneur Zalmen of Liadi explains the wider implication of teeth in the following way. Teeth are used to reduce the bulk and consistency of food to a level that enables the digestive system to cope it with optimally. In fact, without the teeth, not only would eating not be a pleasure, but be literally a "belly-ache."

The spiritual parallel to the teeth's function is our capacity to use the food of thoughts and feelings appropriately for absorption within the soul. We are asked to dissect, discern, and digest our inner consciousness, to separate that which needs to be discarded and to internalize that which is truly soul-food.

That process of introspection includes deep consideration at the end of the day of our decisions, our thought patterns, our emotions, our expressed feelings -- noting those that were up to par, and those that should be removed and discarded from our future repertoire.

One of Jacob's sons received the blessings of "redness of eyes from wine, and whiteness of teeth from milk." Just as wine promotes the expansion of veins in the eyes, it also allows the inner person to feel more at ease and also more pensive. "Wine" thus refers to the level of Torah where the "inner secrets" are located. Hence the teaching in the Talmud: "When wine enters, secrets are released.” Whiteness of teeth refers to the process of clarity (whiteness) of mind and emotion, refining these to conform with the Chessed (compassionate) nature of the universe. This involves the "chewing over" of one's day or year at the appropriate moments, daily and annually.

True introspection allows growth to reach immense heights of success-mastery and wisdom.


 

MASTERY: Chew your food slowly and deliberately during one meal today. As you do, allow your mind to chew over the thoughts you have been thinking and the feelings you have been experiencing. Allow the motion of your teeth to lead you through an analysis of your behavior. In so doing become aware of your capacity to bring consciousness into your daily interpersonal responses and to live a higher life tomorrow than today.

MEDITATION: Rest in an easy chair and engage the following contemplation: Associate your various behaviors today with colors. White can be associated with truth, altruism, compassion, while black means a distinct lack of these qualities when they were called for. Allow other pastel colors to become the intermediate range. As you think back over whom you encountered today and how you responded, allow a color to surface into your consciousness. And, if possible, when you have finished, mix all the colors together and determine what was the shade that you produced this day.

 

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