Dear newcomers, Sanghabrahams, curious travelers of the Way and courageous wanderers of the astray, I’m Natalie, a striving author and a bible teacher from Jerusalem, somewhere in the middle of the holy land, a condemned seeker of meaning and a devout diver for Life. I wish to welcome you to my space of creative bible explorations, which, if you have reached here, is exactly where you ought to be at this moment of time. ברוכים הבאים.
♦ What do I mean by “Bible”?
Before anything else, a clarification is called for: When I say “bible” I currently mean the old testament, which is my field of Searching, never-ending revelations and interminable passion. This is where I dig for a living, and this is where I constantly Find. “Expertise” is a word that does not belong here. When we get to know each other better you will understand exactly what I mean (Maybe you already do?).
Even though the old testament is rooted in the the Jewish religion, the guided readings here will not be tied to any particular religious stream of thought (believe me, it’s possible), but instead they will aim to reach the deeper unnamed, unchained layers – the questions that pulse in each one of us, and possible paths we could take from there, following our own path, in the current moment of our reading.
The bible is not “theirs” (meaning any “them” you can think about), it’s ours, it’s yours, close and within reach, even though it is also far and mysterious, for other reasons we will touch upon during our courses. Not many realize that the Jewish tradition of interpreting the bible is in fact innovative, daring and rule braking, allowing unexpected voices to be heard and contribute their own grain to the pile of infinite insight. Anything can be heard as long as the statement is made as a possible answer to a question truly asked. This point is significant, and will be mentioned numerous times during our lessons. No question can be asked by a chained heart.
♦ The Art of Reading
When we read, any text whatsoever, we most often think that understanding how x went to a certain place, talked to y, felt a certain way, left to a different place etc. means we understood the story. That is, that we understood The Story. This kind of reading, though confident and stabling, bores us to the gut. Events might occur in the story, but we, this way, reach nowhere and encounter no one (mainly, we do not encounter our own thoughts while reading, because it is not necessary to think when everything is so obvious).The sinful reader is the one who reads quickly and moves on without looking back.
This, if you choose to join me, is about to change.
The readings here will be present readings. That is to say, they shall, in the spirit of zen, relate to both the known, the conscious and immediate understanding, and the unknown, the subconscious knowledge and the relentless seeking of a new discovery, which is common to us all. The aim of every reading will be to meet the text as if it was read (better yet: experienced) for the first time. A worthy teacher would meditate on a lesson before class until a revelation – the new factor – appears before him. Nothing supernatural here, but merely a purposeful defiance of automatic thinking, automatic understanding, automatic erasing of the moment.
Read with wonder, listen, and be present, this might be the only commandment of any reading here. This ability is usually practiced better upon second reading, and more often when a good question is daringly asked. I myself am more of a determined asker than a determined answerer. And in no time you will be that, too.
♦ How will Zen be a part of this site?
The aforementioned point referred to the reading practice, which is fundamentally zen-inspired: Learning how to read, devoting ourselves to the art of reading, even though we were certain that we have already mastered it. Slow attentive reading is an act which can be powerfully enlightening. Don’t worry if these words sound too abstract right now, it’ll all be clearer along our path.
In addition to the form, the contents will also pull towards inspiring, and at times utterly frustrating (and therefore – mercilessly activating), East Asian scriptures and thinkers, geographically or spiritually the same. The motivation for this uncalled for montage is not proving that everything is one and the same (though we might reach this conclusion at times), but to disregard the strict and artificial exclusion of Buddhism when referring to non-Buddhist texts, and ponder out loud through the mental and spiritual landscape I, Natalie, reside in. This will be, I guarantee, beautifully fruitful.
I will introduce texts which will connect to the biblical texts associatively and meaningfully. Throughout life and my academic path in particular I found that these two edges, east and west, accompany me wherever I go. Filling up the spaces between them and letting them “meet” can spark a richer understanding of whatever it is that came to mind while reading a certain text. I believe that even after completing one course, you shall fall inlove with the two as well and start making these connections on your own. If that happens I will know my work has been completed. Temporarily at least.
♦ Just a touch of Hebrew
The Hebrew language will be a guest of honor during our readings, even if the lessons themselves will be given in English. The reason is simple, yet not many acknowledge it in the beginning: English translations are interpretations, sort of pillow covers or sleeping pills, preventing us from the beautiful ambiguousness and original vibration of the Hebrew text, which encourages wonder and active reader participation. Examples will follow, every single time. We will read the English translations but question them as well. Always a thrilling comparison, I assure you.
Enjoy the read and the ride for what it has and not for what it does not have. This might be a good lesson for life as well actually.
The Genesis for the Hopefulost journey begins right here>
I shall part with a word I invented, a combination of “See you” (“lehitraot“) and “light” (“or“), in Hebrew, –
להתראור, Lehitraor, See you soon, recognized by the seeker’s light in your hand,
[The photo on top: Hildegard von Bingen, The Universe]