THEME: ANGER/PRIDE; GRATITUDE/PEACE
BODY: THE BODY FILTERS
QUOTE: There is a song that only my soul can sing.
PSALM 105: God-Who-is-our-Praise
CREATIVE EXPRESSION: Find ways to illustrate and express in your journal the theme and what you are learning and experiencing this month.
In reference to Psalm 105, Rabbi Maurice Lamm makes a very interesting statement: “If we are going to heal from illness need to break two kinds of spiritual gridlock. One paralyzes us so that we become passive and resigned; the other steals the very song from our throats, leaving us with only a groan [of despair].” The psalm teaches us that, no matter the circumstances – illness, troubles, challenges, “Don’t act like a victim!”
The first five verses of the psalm show us how to remain to remain positive and engaged with life. The first of ten calls to action is one of gratitude. In a troubling situation, to avoid reacting with passive resignation,or anger and despair, we need to maintain an ‘attitude of gratitude’ and “Give thanks to Adonai!” We can always find something to give our Father thanks for – a new day, every breath, a facet of beauty. Even facing death, we can give thanks that, due to His loving grace, we will enter a glorious eternity in His Presence.
Next, “call upon His Name.” He always is near to hear our prayers and to respond. Then, “Let all the nations hear about HIs deeds!” We must do all we can in whatever He has called us to do, and take every opportunity to share about His goodness and wonder. Be proud of Him. “Sing to Him!” When we sing praises our spirits soar above the mundane. The more we get to know Him the more our hearts rejoice. Search His Word, treasure His teachings.
Learn the ways of God. Long and search for His Presence always. And, finally, always remember “the wonders He has performed, His miracles, and the laws from His mouth.”
When we lay a foundation of gratitude in our hearts then we can sing and our souls will be filled with Shalom, even a peace that is beyond understanding. HalleluYah!
THE BODY FILTERS – LIVER, GALLBLADDER, SPLEEN
Last month, during Kislev, we explored the digestive system. Now, in Tevet, we will take a look at the organs that work together with the digestive system specifically in their role of filtering impurities from the body. These are: the liver, which is the largest organ, the gall bladder, and the spleen, which also plays a significant role in the circulatory and lymphatic systems. Let’s take a look at their physiological characteristics before we consider the spiritual application.
The liver is the largest single organ in the body and it has essentially two functions: 1) it produces and regulates chemicals for the body’s needs, and 2) it neutralises poisons and waste products. Once the blood absorbs nutrients from the food that is digested it passes through the liver and is filtered before returning to the heart. We can picture the liver as serving the heart. In addition, it serves the rest of the body in that it takes the raw nutrients from the food we eat and purifies them so that the body can absorb and utilize them.
It manufactures proteins and processes carbohydrates (sugars and starches) by converting them into glucose to supply energy for the body. And it stores some of the sugar for future use. The liver also processes fats and the waste products of the blood. The enzymes in the liver cleanse the blood of bacteria and neutralises any poisons that have entered the body. As the liver interacts mainly with the heart and blood, its essential color is red.
Next to the liver, also on the right side of the body, is a small pear-shaped organ – the gall bladder, which stores bile – a thick, bitter, yellowish-green fluid produced by the liver. Bile neutralizes acid and is necessary for the digestion of fats.
The spleen is situated on the left side of the stomach. It offers protection against any foreign matter in the body and against infection. It collects the surplus fluids from the body’s tissues and it filters and destroys any bad bacteria and breaks down any waste matter. The color of its fluid is milky-white. However, if it is overworked or weak, blood can become tainted and is described as “black” blood. Therefore the spleen is also associated with the black fluids in the body.
THE LIVER – THE BLOOD FILTER
In Hebrew the liver is called ka’ved, meaning ‘heavy.’ The liver serves the heart and the whole body, and if it is functioning well then all goes well. If it has problems, the negative effects are felt throughout the body.
An interesting connection is found in Exodus 8:28, where the well-known term is found – “Pharaoh hardened his heart.” The Hebrew word used here is also ka’ved. He livered his heart! Instead of serving the heart the liver took over and ‘hardened’ it. What does this mean? In Scripture, the heart and the kidneys are associated with wisdom, and should reign over the body. For example, in Psalm 16:7, “I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.” The main function of the kidneys is the processing and purifying of the fluids of the body. The two kidneys filter and retain what is good and excrete the waste. Likewise, we should cultivate the wisdom to choose and keep what is good and reject what is bad or evil.
We know that life is in the blood. The liver is the primary filter that purifies the body’s blood. All blood passes through the liver. If it is properly nourished it functions well, but if, for example, we overeat, or have an unhealthy diet, it becomes overworked and returns impurities into the blood. These accumulate and the blood becomes polluted causing negative effects in the body. Blood is red, which can symbolize heat, anger, and violence. The Sages connect this with Esau, who, at birth “…came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau” (Genesis 25:25). His characteristics are pride, anger, and accusations. On the other hand, King David was also red-haired and, positively, red represents strength of character and fear, or reverential awe, of God. When a person desires godliness, and, in the awe of God, longs to serve Him properly and to worship Him alone, he will be free of the influence of Esau and will live in gratitude and peace. His heart will rule his liver and he will be set free from the traits of pride, envy, and anger.
The lust for power and wealth is a major negative force of our times. When this is driven by a materialistic desire, anger, envy and hatred will be the outcome. Rebbe Nachman observes:
A by-product of the fire of pride [which is tantamount to idolatry for man puts himself on the throne in place of God] is anger. Because of his haughtiness, a person is quick to anger when his desires are not satisfied as he wishes. A humble person is more capable of exercising restraint. Therefore haughtiness and anger stand together as two of man’s worst characteristics.
A fool or angry person as described in Proverbs!
A related danger is false humility, which is a more disguised form of pride. A person realises that arrogance is bad, so they adopt an appearance of humility. Often fooling themselves, they act as though they are modest and not wanting to accept any honor or recognition. Deep down, however, they crave notice from others and chase after honor. True humility does not require that you hide yourself, or act as though you are worthless. You should know the extent of your full worth, and yet be humble, knowing that you are not perfect and are on a spiritual journey that is not yet completed. Humility leads to repentance, a quality that is vital on our life’s journey; for, God says, “…this is the one to whom I will look: he/she who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2b).
THE GALL BLADDER is alongside and works together with the liver. We are reminded in the Psalm for the month of the Exile in Egypt. In slavery the Israelites became weakened, both physically and spiritually, by the suffering they endured. They became embittered. In Hebrew, the gall-bladder is called ma’rah from the root mar – meaning bitter. Usually, it serves to cool and balance the liver, but If this organ gets out of sync it becomes stoney, hardens as it were, and can cause pain, fever and illness.
THE CONNECTION OF 70
The Sages consider that there are seventy basic facets of Torah (God’s Word/Teaching), that correspond with the seventy aspects of a person’s character. Seventy also relate both to the seventy souls of the Children of Israel who went down to Egypt and to the seventy nations. The Children of Israel are rooted in the Torah – the will and ways of God, which guide one on the spiritual path. When a person distances himself from God and the spiritual light of His Word, then the darkness and negative characteristics of the nations – including materialism, lust, anger, and violence, take root in him/her and result in wicked or immoral behavior. Interestingly, the liver has seventy major blood vessels. Therefore, a person can choose to connect him/herself to the good source of Jacob, which is following God and His Word with all one’s heart, resulting in joy and peace; or to the materialistic, evil source of Esau that results in anger and despair.
THE SPLEEN – THE SEAT OF DEPRESSION
The role of the spleen is to eliminate impurities found in the body. The more excesses, the harder it must work. A damaged spleen, if overworked by an unhealthy diet, or over-eating, can result in a general sluggishness, which leads to indifference, laziness, and sadness. Traditionally, the spleen has been associated with melancholy.
The spleen is called t’chol in Hebrew. The word for sand is chol. Rebbe Nachman taught that “…the main bite of the Serpent is sadness and sluggishness. This is because [even in the New Heaven and New Earth] the Serpent is cursed with, “Dust shall be the Serpent’s food” (Isaiah 65:25). In Genesis, Adam, too, was cursed concerning the earth and eating, “And to Adam [God] said, “…cursed is the ground because of you; in pain [sorrow] you shall eat of it all the days of your life” (3:17).
We are advised in the Word of God to distinguish between Kodesh ve’Chol – Holiness and Materialism – spiritual and earthly. Bounty and wealth are not evil in and of themselves. Wealth, when achieved and used correctly, is a great blessing and can be a powerful tool for the advance of spirituality and God’s Kingdom. When, however, greed and lust separate the material from the spiritual, wealth becomes like dust. If a person becomes obsessed with materialism and wealth, “all the days of his life” will be consumed and ultimately it will be like eating dust, and will result in delusion, sadness, and depression.
All bounty, goodness, and true wisdom, come through our faith and trust in our Father God. Knowing that our lives are in His hands, we can trust Him to provide for our every need. This understanding fills our lives with balance, joy, and great peace.