Monthly Archives: October 2017

36 Righteous Souls, Lamed Vav Tzadikim

“Mommy, are you one of the 36?”

I bowed my head and said quietly, “No one knows who the 36 are, not even the 36 themselves.”

There is a teaching from the Babylonian Talmud that every generation has “not less than” 36 righteous souls living on earth. Without these souls, the belief is that the world will end. My base understanding is that the purpose of the 36 is to save the world through acts of righteousness.

There are many rituals of all religions, which I find to be somewhat superstitious in nature, but I often do them anyway (i.e., dip my apple in honey for good look on Rosh Hashanah). I treat religious stories with the same deference: whether they are truth or myth, I find value in consideration.

The more chaotic the outside world becomes, the more time we as a family spend strengthening our inner world through our spiritual beliefs.

We practice meditation, and raising our frequency, but we also read stories (legends) such as Tzadikim Nistarim, those about the 36, Lamed Vav Tzadikim. I can’t think of any time in my life when the notion of being saved has been more desired than now.

I told my daughter, “I really believe that the story of the 36 righteous souls is to inspire us all to act as if we are one of the 36.”

Act as if. The fact of the matter as to who is, or is not part of the 36, is not as important as is the choice to act as if everyone is a righteous soul.

“What does it mean to be righteous?” My 10-year-old daughter asked.

I read her the definition of the word, but as always, she is more interested not in what Merriam-Webster believes a thing to be as what her parents believe a thing to be. In order to offer my own definition, I find myself succumbing to the Socratic method of asking more questions.

Is righteousness a life of perfection? I don’t believe in human perfection beyond being perfect in our inherent imperfections. I think at the core, righteousness is awareness. It is living life with an awakened mindfulness of everyone in the world, versus living a life of sleep walking apathy and self-focused, reactionary defensiveness.

I think to be righteous is to live a life of ethical virtue and morality, or more literally, to simply do what’s “right.”

The question of course is, what is “right?” And that is where imperfections and the notion of sin enter. “Right” can be a complex construct that is context dependent. Perhaps, “right” is merely: not doing “wrong.”

While we might not always know what the right thing to do is, we almost always know in our hearts when we do something wrong. We feel a twinge of guilt, we find ourselves justifying our choice or claiming to “not care” about what others think. Whereas, when we are heart centered, we care about everything, to some extent.

Many people today seem to live disconnected from the heart. When we do something that lacks righteousness, it is usually from a place of being in reactive mode, from fear, ego, and anger.

Righteousness puts those feelings aside and asks, “If I were coming from a state of grace, and a place of unconditional love, how would I handle this situation?”

When I was younger, I believed that the 36 were the people I saw asking that aforementioned question and they included Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, and Gandhi. In recent years, I have often wondered if Oprah and Malala might be part of the 36. Now, I make eye contact with every homeless person I see. Anyone can be one of the 36.

We teach by example, we learn through inspiration. When we can touch the hearts of others through simple acts of kindness, compassion, and unconditional love, we ignite the light of righteousness in ourselves and others.

Perhaps, to be righteous, is to simply stay grounded by standing our moral ground. In this way, may the 36 righteous souls be a symbol for our own righteousness the way we look to lady liberty’s torch to symbolize enlightenment.

In the end, the path of enlightenment and righteousness, may be the ultimate freedom from oppression; and it’s the freedom from oppression I think all beings seek.

 

 

Men, Speak Up!

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein news, I am disheartened to see so many of my male friends going into silent mode on social media.

I get it, you are afraid that you will say the wrong thing and be attacked.

Rise up anyway.

Start with an acknowledgment of the pain and suffering all women feel each time any woman is assaulted.

Commit to protecting women and all people from harassment.

Ask what you can do and how you can help.

Saying nothing at all is cowardly and hurtful.

If you have never degraded a woman, tell us why. Let other men learn from you, your integrity, your values. Tell us how in the face of peer pressure, frat houses, work culture, etc. you somehow escaped that fall from grace. Use this as a teaching moment.

If you have ever degraded a woman with a cat call, or an ass grab, or any assault whatsoever, come clean now and apologize. Admit that you see the error in your ways and stop blaming bro culture, drinks, drugs, or whatever lame excuse you might have used in the past. Take responsibility that regardless of your reason for doing so, you were wrong and you will never do it again.

If you have already apologized, apologize again. Part of why sexual acts of aggression are perpetuated is because the consequences for doing so are not high enough. One apology is not enough and it never will be. Own that this is part of the punishment for the crime. This is not an act to publicly shame males, rather an opportunity to deepen one’s compassion for the shame that females often carry for life, from even a single assault.

Every man who assaults a woman (by assault, I mean any gesture that is not consensual), should feel the weight of publicly apologizing for it over and over again. Using each new public outing of an assailant as an invitation to confess and make amends again and again.

These men should be forced to sit in on trauma groups where women who have been sexually assaulted process their pain. They should be forced to hear the stories of how they have played a role in the pain and sexual trauma that most women will face in their lives (often repeatedly). This should be part of their time served: day after day, month after month, year after year, having to witness and listen to women whose lives have been marked by male privilege and abuse.

An apology is more than an “I’m sorry.” It is a statement of regret or remorse followed with a plan of action for what you would and will do next time. Don’t just say, “I will do better.” Tell us how you will do better. Give an example. Have a plan. Because if you don’t work that out now, you will likely fall back to past action or inaction in the future.

I believe in the concept that we are one. But we cannot heal through our similarities until we can acknowledge our differences, and the abuse of power and privilege that perpetuate such crimes against humanity. This is why Black Lives Matter. This is why Feminism matters.

I’m disappointed in every man I know who is silent on this subject. I implore you to speak up, now!