We are continuing to post some of the pieces from the latest Contemplative Writing workshops.
More workshops will be coming shortly after Chanukah, IyH. Please sign up to receive emails via this blog (see the right sidebar for sign up) and/or to the whatsapp group where you will receive timely updates and daily Breslov audio mini-lessons click to join.
Gut Shabbos Chanukah
Reflections on the Story of Kaptzin Pasha
There is a lot of depth and ambiguity in this story and I am sure I am scratching the surface. To me, the Sultan represents our desire to be accepted, to have chein bestowed onto us by others. Even if only emotionally, it is possible to feel completely “burned up” by non-acceptance of others in our lives. Kaptzin Pasha represents the yetzer hara, particularly as it comes in the guise of low self-esteem and self-consciousness. The Mohel represents our struggle as Jews in this world- between conformity and maintaining our uniqueness. The Jew could have let his fear and desire to please the Sultan completely take over and not fulfil the mitzvah to which he was totally committed. He chose not to and that ultimately saved him in the end.
This struggle is highlighted by the concern around “bad breath”. Unlike body odor, bad breath can be controlled by not talking- basically containing oneself. Interestingly, Kaptzin Pasha does not tell the Jew to not speak. He tells him to cover his mouth with a handkerchief. The can allegorically refer to the pull Jews may feel to “cover up,” pass and assimilate. Interestingly, this strategy, which often resonates with many Jews, is foiled in the story by Kaptzin Pasha, who makes it a liability for the Jew. It is through being proud and steadfastly Jewish and maintaining observance of mitzvos, even when pressured by the Sultan, which ultimately saves the Jew.
I find it interesting that only after Kaptzin Pasha is killed, the Jew and the Sultan can attain a rapprochement and actually communicate with each other. I think it is a powerful lesson about the need to move past our insecurities in order to communicate with others when we are uncertain where things stand. As a therapist, I can tell you that nothing good comes from triangulating communication between people!
I think the ultimate message of the story is to give chizuk to us by reminding us that by holding on to mitzvos and our identity as Jews not only will be saved but the whole world will benefit and recognize Hashem.
The Mitzvah of Candle Lighting
Lighting candles each week is the mitzvah I am committed to. It speaks to me because it’s an unspoken connection to the divine light, the spark that lights up inside and around me and connects to Hashem. It is way bigger than me, yet so subtle and reminds me that I am divinely loved and part of the great symphony of life itself. It is a light of hope and unity. Just the fact that fire can be created by striking two objects together is awe inspiring in itself. It helps save me from my own inner executioner by reminding me what is truly real – the light of Hashem. So much negativity, challenge and temptation lies in the material world and it’s easy to get caught up in fear and doubt. The mitzvah of actually creating fire, breathing, praying and welcoming the day of the soul is enough to bring me back to the true ‘life’ within and remind me of what is truly important. I’ve always felt connected to fire, the color, the beauty of the flames, the organic movement. It feels like something is speaking through the fire, through the flame. This beauty is always awe inspiring and mesmerizing, a true testament to Hashem’s glorious light. Candles mark the beginning of breaking up the mundane in order to align with glory, something I value and cherish.