Tuesday, 9 September 2014

September Mini-Reviews

Jason just posted about keeping a balance between time, money, and attention. The way that I view it is that there are a number of plates that I need to keep spinning in my life: Family, work, studying, friends, meditation, finances, romance, parenting, etc (in no particular order). I can only focus on keeping a few of those well balanced and the others I just need to pick up and get spinning once in awhile.

Story reviews

Anyway, I digress before even getting in to the point of this post. Because my time is taken up with a lot of commuting (4 hours a day) and hence that is when my study time is... I don't have a lot of time for blogging. Therefore I am lumping a number of reviews all together. My apologies for the people whose work are mentioned - you deserve a more in-depth review.

1. Mechanicals by Jordan Stratford (5/5)
Starting with the best first. This book was my first Steampunk novel and I thoroughly enjoyed the journey that the protagonists took in their journey. Along the way they encountered a number of people whose name will ring a bell with those familiar with historical figures in the occult world. What I really loved were the descriptions of how one of the characters learned to operate a mechanical, when some others encountered a doll that was not all it appeared and how a demon made two weeks seemingly disappear. Really exhilarating adventure but it ended a little too abruptly. I hope a sequel is in the works.

2. Alice Adventures in Steamland: Clockwork Goddess by Wol-vriey (2/5)
Whilst the former novel had a character with a bit of a virgin theme, this novel's main character is a prostitute and there was plenty of sex. Now, I don't mind sex in a novel if it's done well - but this was not the case for this novel in my opinion. If you fancy a spunky (literally) heroine in a gore-filled version of Wonderland with steam, cake, icing, hatters, more icing, a clockwork goddess - this is the novel for you.

3. Joe Golem and the Copper Girl: A Short Story by Mike Mignola (5/5)
Having done the good and the bad, it's now the turn of the ugly. Except that the only ugly thing in this short story are the looks of the hero and the ugly side of human nature. Thoroughly enjoyable story set in the drowning city (reviewed here). Although the city was not described in as vivid detail as I might have liked (I find the setting to be as interesting a character as the protagonists or villains - for example my favourite character in Farscape if Moya) it was a beautifully written and moving short story.

Meditation Review

Getting back in to basic letter meditation. Going well so far. Considering that I am now reading through chapters 3 and 4 of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero's "Ohr Yaka" commentary on Sefer Yetzirah - I should hopefully get in to the more involved letter combination meditations in the coming months. Lots of exciting stuff on the horizon.

The Lions 

Unfortunately I will not be able to actively provide any aid to the Detroit Lions football team this year, seeing as I am currently a theoretical golem builder. However, there were two techniques that I used in the first year of the Lion Who Roared project that seemed to have a big impact. One was a meditation on the Divine Name of 72 triple letters. The other was refraining from certain activities.

In Judaism there was a number of positive and negative commandments. There are 613 in total and 248 positive (do something) and 365 negative (do not...) commandments.

So this year I will be putting special emphasis and focus on one of the "do not" commandments. Let's see if that has any passive boost to the performance of the Lions as I seem to have some level of entanglement with them. I call this not-a-project "An awesome lion, who dares rouse him?"

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Finally, chapter 3 It's about Time

Finally, I made it past chapters 1 and 2 in Sefer Yetzira (Book of Creation**). Here is a quick recap of the first few chapters in the form of a bullet list, the hot new way to convey esoteric material.

  • Chapter 1:
    • Introduced the Sefirot at length. I don't really have a good translation for Sefirot, they're all equally poor at conveying what the Esser Sefirot Beli-Mah are about. 
    • The Sefer Yetzira is the oldest Kabbalistic text to mention the Sefirot. They are only mentioned in the first chapter (and not all listed by name). 
    • After chapter 1 there is no further mention of the Sefirot
    • The author assumes that you've either understood and had experience of the Sefirot as outlined how to achieve this in first chapter - or not. 
    • Failure to achieve this in chapter 1, makes the remaining chapter (in my opinion) academic.
  • Chapter 2:
    • Now we get in to the detail of the division of the Aleph Bet series in to 3 mother, 7 double, and 12 elemental/simple letters.
    • This chapter explains various techniques of how to manipulate the letters as meditative exercises
    • These include (for want of a better translation on my part): engraving, carving, letter cycling, weighing, and refinement. 
    • Revealed in this chapter is the basis for creating a golem
    • Rabbi Moshe Cordovero at the end of this chapter's commentary spends a lot of time expounding the meaning of the shape of the letters
    • I have to respectfully respond to this by countering that the sound is more important that the shape.
  • Chapter 3: 
    • Well, I'm still part way through this chapter.
    • So far it's covered the 3 mother letters
    • What they represent in terms of space, time, and soul / consciousness / mind?
    • And how they map on to the 3 worlds, 3 elements, and how they fit in to the chain of emanation that we like to call Creation  of all the worlds.
This is not related to topic of Sefer Yetzira, but does have to do with sound. There are certain tunes that are frequently sung at the end of service to a prayer called Adon Olam. I'm hoping that this Happy tune will join the repertoire being sung in congregations around the world(s).

** There are two words in Hebrew about creation, the first Barah is generally used in Kabbalistic writing that I have come across to refer to creation of Something from Nothing. The other word Yotzer means creating Something from Something. Hence the Sefer Yetzira, book of formation is about the 3rd 'world' in the chain of world emanations (Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzira, Assiah... we're mostly conscious of the latter).

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Mix of Ideas, Part 1

This post is a mix of ideas, none of which are fully developed. Please think of them as seed ideas, do with them as you will...

Jason recently wrote about  eclecticism part 1, part 2, and part 3. Really good articles and advice that I heartily recommend. It got me thinking about the fact that certain types of problems that face are very common and we come up with very similar solutions to them each time. In software development terms we call them Design Patterns.

There is however the idea of anti-Patterns, which in brief refers to the applying the wrong Design Pattern (common tried and tested approaches to solving problems). I can't really think of a decent example of this in a magical context...

Keep Your Head Off the Mat
I recently started attending a weekly Aikido class. Inspired by Scribbler's post, I finally got organised enough to attend four weeks in a row. In the class a new person joined and I initially made the mistake of thinking that he was a novice like me... boy was I wrong. Turns out he learned from O-Sensei's last pupil and he ended up running that evening's class.

One of the things the guest Sensei taught is to keep your head off the mat. It's hard to explain how different it feels to let your head rest on the floor when someone is trying to grapple you - compared to how you feel in the same situation but you make an effort to keep your head off the floor. In the former your body feels like it has at least partially given up. In the latter you feel stronger, as if you can struggle for longer.

Sometimes on your magical path you feel like life gets the upper hand and you end up on the floor so to speak. Even if you end up in such a situation, remember to keep your head up Mr. Black and you've got a fighting chance of getting back in the game.

Ecology of Spirits and Lands
Today the Digital Ambler posted a call to arms: Get Off Your Ass and Work: Magic and Politics. I commend his desire to better the world, if we don't at least try to leave the world as a better place for the generations to come... what are we really here for?

Here are three things that I have learned in my brief forays in to this area:
  1. Geopolitics is like studying ecology. You can look at only one aspect, for example 'follow the money', religion, etc in the same way that a biologist might only focus on the water cycle, carbon cycle, etc. But oversimplifying it leads to (more) flawed analysis and hence I recommend looking at it as a complex system of constantly interacting and changing organisms and environments. Embrace the complexity. If you've read Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams you'll know that by saving the coelecanth, the dodo died out.
  2. Analysis of Spell Patterns. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson does a really good job of explaining that if you cannot decipher communication, that by studying when and where signals are being sent - you can learn something about who is sending messages and  speculate about why. I think that the same idea could be applied to trying to map the influence other mages have in the realm of geopolitics. You may not be able to work out how they're doing it. But you could see patterns emerge in how various political figures behave and when they start 'acting out of character'. Then again, this could be an anti-pattern of what Stephenson describes...
  3. You're playing with the big boys now. The politics of nations, which the Book of Daniel mentions each has an angelic prince representing them is not an arena to wonder in to, dabble a bit and then go back to your day to day life. This is not re-tweeting your 20 seconds of emotional outburst about one of the many, many conflicts going on the world. Dreamworks even has a song about it. 
Anyway, I had another couple of topics to add to this post. But it's too long already of under-developed ideas and it's late in the evening for me. Sleep tight.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Not enough golems to hold the centre

Holding the Centre

Yeats wrote the poem Second Coming in 1918 after the First World War which starts with:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
I first came across the line "the centre cannot hold" in Babylon 5. Both in Yeats' time and in G'Kar's fictional time-line in B5, a great war came along soon afterwards. I'm quoting this because I believe that the centre can hold, I am optimistic for the future...

Disappearing Centre

In my community and in similar communities across the United Kingdom, there has been a shift happening away from the centre for the past few decades. Reform and conservative Judaism are drifting away (from my viewpoint) from the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox communities and the middle(-ish) ground of Modern Orthodox is shrinking. People are either choosing to assimilate and leave their Jewish heritage behind or making a sustained effort to engage deeper with their Jewish heritage.

When challenged on this viewpoint (which should certainly be challenged as it is my very biased opinion), I ask: "How many fourth generation Reform Jews do you know?" and on the other side I ask "How many people do you know who have become frum (observing of religious law) through Aish or other Jewish outreach organizations?"

However, despite the erosion of the middle ground I believe that the centre can hold, I am optimistic for the future...


Back in the day when I was at University a couple of decades ago, it was possible to have a civilized conversation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - be critical of both sides and have a creative debate on various resolutions. Now it seems that there is such cognitive bias and so much of an "us versus them" mentality, that I wonder if those University days were just a dream.

Anyway, this part of the post is about discernment... as I believe that it is a crucial skill for any aspiring warlock or witch to develop. Especially given the variety of books, blogs, lectures, etc available in this age of connectivity.

For example, regarding the current conflict between Hamas and Netanyahu government.. did you know that there is a special United Nations aid agency for the Palestinians? Every other refugee in the world gets refereed to the UNHCR. The latter has "..As of April 2008, the UNHCR employed a staff of 6,351 people in 117 countries..." Whilst the former has "...employing over 25,000 staff, 99% of which are locally recruited Palestinians..." The reason why I am highlighting UNWRA is that they are not the neutral party the media might like you to think, here is a less positive view.

OK, so what about all the civilians who were killed in the last few weeks in Gaza? Again I recommend continuing development in the area of discernment to work out exactly who was killed. But Simon, all this is an extremely biased view of what happened... you might say and you would be correct. Don't believe me. But please do question the reporters who show Syrian photos and attribute them to Gaza and the same reporters who after the conflict admit to harassment and intimidation, as well as the fact that rockets were fired from civilian areas.

OK, last video and it's a long one. But it's important in my opinion as it's the words of a man who has fought in the Middle East and know how wars are conducted in this part of the world.


I would like to say that I am hopeful about the future, but I'm not so sure about that future for my family in Europe. Arguments such as these for legitimate protest against Israel have one glaring hole. The lack of protests around the Ukraine conflict is deafening.

The legendary Golem of Prague was originally created to prevent blood libels. As a trainee golem builder, I am not sure that I could ever build enough golems to counter the reporting that would have you believe that the Israeli army deliberately target women and children.

Discernment and dialogue are the two means by which I believe the centre could hold... and with those in mind I can retain my optimism for the future.

DISCLAIMER: I wrote this article in a sleep-deprived state. I will edit it in the coming days...

Monday, 11 August 2014

This is not a reivew: Merkabah Rider by Edward M Erdelac

This is not a review of Edward M Erdelac's four books of short stories, but if it was it would be effusive with praise shouted from the rooftops. I bought the first book awhile ago and did not get around to reading it right away... and then to break up the monotony of reading project management books I decided to try reading the first book. In just under 2 weeks I had read all four books.
For those unfamiliar with Merkava Mysticism, it was a set of techniques used by Jewish mystics in the early centuries of the common era (and possibly before) that used Ezekiel's vision as a means of Heavenly ascent. The teachings of Ma'aseh Merkava ("Workings of the Chariot") made their way from the Near East to Germany and then on to Spain.

The last of an ancient order of Jewish mystics capable of extraplanar travel, The Merkabah Rider roams the demon haunted American West of 1879 in search of the renegade teacher who betrayed his enclave. But as the trail grows fresher, shadows gather, and The Hour Of The Incursion draws near...

The Merkabah Rider stories weave together the Merkava mystical ascent narrative in to the Wild West setting. It combines so many elements of Jewish Magic, Myth, and Mysticism that I was glad to have my copy of The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism by Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis on hand for cross-referencing of terms.

If that was not enough of a reason to read the stories, they are all really well written and I just couldn't stop reading them. The fact that it combined Jewish mythology with Cthulhu mythology was just a cherry on top of the icing of this excellent series.

Merkabah rider series gets 5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Project Update 20 July 2014

It's been awhile since I last reviewed my projects... so here goes:
  • Project TARDIS-AS
    • On hold for next 5 years, due to advice given not to advance practical side of learning with young family.
  • Hebrew Immersion Study Course 
    • Completed. However, the Nevi'im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings) parts was not done. Also, the scope was expanded to include studying Mishnah on a daily basis. I am now half way through studying Nashim and hence on-track for completing the 6 year cycle in 5 years time.
  • Finding a Teacher
    • Recently I was sitting on the bus studying Sefer Yetzirah commentary by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, when upon completing chapter 2... I asked if it would be possible to find someone else with whom I could share my experiences and learning. "Who did you ask?" would be a sensible question and the truth is: I don't know.
    • However, as a dear friend said recent 'the Universe blinked' and through a series of events whose probability is rather small - I ended up finding a group of like minded people. Let's see if this goes somewhere interesting after my recent attempt to form a group never really got off the ground...
Whilst on the subject of finding a teacher... I just want to take this opportunity to plug Josephine McCarthy's and Frater Achers' new free magic training course: Quareia, a Magical School for the 21st Century. If you find the initial teachings useful, I recommend that you show your support by helping fund the creation of the course if you are able.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Revealing Light, Responsibly

The past couple of weeks have been very painful. As my Rabbi put it... when our extended family are killing each other - killing children - something is very wrong. The question is what can we do?

I stumbled across the answer last week when watching a pod-cast on PMI.org about Agile thought leadership. You can find the slides here, in particular slide 18. It talks about the journey that a person goes through from:
  1. Denial
  2. Lay Blame
  3. Justify
  4. Shame
  5. Obligation
  6. Responsibility
I've personally been stuck feeling "trapped" in stage 5. and it's something that RO touched on recently. To move to the last stage - the author of the Ideosphere posted on this recently - it's about taking responsibility for your own success and investing in learning.

The action that I'll be taking is to learn more Mishna (Oral Law) and Nach (Prophets and Writing). How is that going to help you may ask? Well simply reading with understanding by itself has a transformative effect on my surrounding and the world in general.

But it is also a plea for the Divine not to "hide itself" in the world. There is a level at which Divinity operates that is within the natural order of things, where the laws of cause and effect prevail. This is symbolized by the name Elohim. On the other hand there is the level of Divinity that transcends nature. This is symbolized by the four letter name of the Divine.

Taking responsibility is in my mind making a choice to actively engage with the Divine on the level of the four letter name that is beyond nature as well as the name of the Divine within nature. Hence my decision to put more emphasis on study, it elevates and connects transmission of Divine flow from the latter in to the former.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Healing from Shrapnel

A colleague of mine told me how at the weekend she pulled out a piece of glass from her arm that was as large as her nail. Apparently she'd been in a collision with a bus thirteen years ago whilst riding a bike. Whilst the doctors were able to remove most of the glass from her body, they missed this (rather large) piece. For the last thirteen years her body had slowly and steadily been working on ejecting the glass shrapnel from her body.

Her story reminded me of the emotional shrapnel that I have been working to remove. I've managed in recent years to overcome my addition to computer gaming, but that has been in large part to reconfiguring my life to leave little or no room for gaming. Rather than locate and adjust the root cause of my addiction. It was perhaps a rather extreme solution, but it worked.

Whilst on the subject of shrapnel, Gordon raises an interesting point about what percentage of population needs to be convinced of an idea (regardless of its validity) for it to take root.
Another quote, this time from Dr Robert Schoch.
A study carried out at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (see Xie et al. 2011) indicates that when 10 percent of a population holds strongly and unshakably a certain belief, this belief will be adopted by the majority. Thus, to gain widespread acceptance for an idea actually only requires convincing 10 percent of the group under concern (such as the community of scientists). But of course this is a double-edged sword. The initial 10 percent (with the majority following in its wake) may be convinced of an idea independent of whether that idea is valid or not.
The take-away that I derive from this quote is that the beliefs of the silent majority are irrelevant. As seen in China, Germany, Russia, Cambodia, and Congo. When the portion of the population with malevolent intent gains power, the outcome is tragic beyond words.

And then there is the shrapnel that comes with the fall-out. For years the world has ignored what has been going on in Syria and suddenly when Iraq is being carved up the world audience perks up. But not yet, it seems, to make any significant move to avoid tragedy. Right now the news in the UK is focusing on the shrapnel. Think it is much ado about nothing? Some people in Belgium might think differently.

I used to obsess about world news and geopolitics. Now I realize that's pretty pointless. Blogos gives some brilliant advice on how to deal with the darker side of Chesed, i.e. obsession, and that is become a Healer.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Theoretical Golem Builder

Over the weekend I got some unexpected advice about practicing magic around young children. The long and the short of it is: don't do it.

Having had some unwanted exposure to magic in my childhood, I'd rather not see history repeated. Anyway, this means that I'll continue my study of Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation) and translation work. Plus I'll be able to spend more time on writing projects.

On the subject of Sefer Yetzirah, I've making good headway in chapter 2 of Rabbi Moshe Cordovera's commentary. This is large part due to my daily commute increasing from an hour each way to two hours. Tipping a situation from the pan of liability to the pan of merit is often easier than you might think :-)

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Clouds, Lens, and Magic in the Blood

This is a brief update about the past week. I learned two things, one from one of my kids and the other from the land.

The first lesson was how to stop the rain. Whilst making it rain (and become overcast in general) works for me both in England and abroad - I have had limited success in stopping the rain. That is until quite by chance my kid told me of a simple incantation to break up the clouds. My approach had been to use sunlight to burn away the clouds, but encouraging them to de-congregate seems a gentler and more efficient approach.

The second thing is a lesson that I am still trying to grasp. It's very simply that the world appears to have (at least) one eye. The phrase 'eye of the world' - meaning attention on a global scale - may be more literal than I had previously thought. It was rather disconcerting going to sleep away from home for several nights and feeling each time as though I was lying on the lends of an eye the size of a country... just below me.

The third thing (rule of three) that I learned is that an interest in magic appears to be hereditary. My wife tolerates my interest in magic and it's not something that I share with my kids, but it looks like at least one of them may be following me some distance down this path...

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Next Gen Golem Builder

Recently I sat down for a meal with some friends and one of the other parents who is a teacher in a very orthodox school asked: “Do you teach your children about dinosaurs?” I paused, slightly shocked by the question and the answered very firmly. “But of course!”

You see, as this article’s sources show, there is a lot of discussion amongst the sages over the centuries about pre-Adamic human civilizations. The question about dinosaurs did get me thinking though about the question: “Do you teach your children metaphysics? If so, at what age?”

Well, as I have already mentioned a year ago… I am in the process of obfuscating my library to make it less obvious to my children that I have an interest in golem building, Sefer Yetzirah, metaphysics, mysticism and magic. When it comes to the law of unintended stakeholders, children may or may not be planned – but how much and how soon to expose them to metaphysics can be planned (at least to some extent).

Since in all the five years of studying Kabbalah and reporting progress on this blog I have had a grand total of three questions, I consider myself an expert at not being taken seriously. It's important to me that I don't get taken too seriously if at all... I’m hoping that my children will thus not take my interest in metaphysics seriously and pass it over. But in case they don’t, I have a plan B based on The Guide to the Perplexed by Maimonides.

As Maimonides wrote in the 12th century, there are a number of reasons for not teaching someone metaphysics before they are ready. Here is a link to the text translation, and the summary of the top few reasons:

  • First Reason--The subject itself is difficult, subtle and profound, "Far off and exceeding deep, who can find it out?" (Eccles. vii. 24).
  • Second Reason--The intelligence of man is at first insufficient; for he is not endowed with perfection at the beginning, but at first possesses perfection only in potentiĆ¢, not in fact. Thus it is said, "And man is born a wild ass" (Job xi. 12)
  • Third Reason.--The preparatory studies are of long duration, and man, in his natural desire to reach the goal, finds them frequently too wearisome, and does not wish to be troubled by them.
  • The Fourth Reason is taken from the physical constitution of man. It has been proved that moral conduct is a preparation for intellectual progress, and that only a man whose character is pure, calm and steadfast, can attain to intellectual perfection: that is, acquire correct conceptions.
  • Fifth Reason.--Man is disturbed in his intellectual occupation by the necessity of looking after the material wants of the body, especially if the necessity of providing for wife and children be superadded: much more so if he seeks superfluities in addition to his ordinary wants, for by custom and bad habits these become a powerful motive.

In the third reason, Maimonides lists various areas of study that a person should pursue:
“...Consequently he who wishes to attain to human perfection, must therefore first study Logic, next the various branches of Mathematics in their proper order, then Physics, and lastly Metaphysics... As regards the privileged few, "the remnant whom the Lord calls" (Joel iii. 5), they only attain the perfection at which they aim after due preparatory labour. The necessity of such a preparation and the need of such a training for the acquisition of real knowledge, has been plainly stated by King Solomon in the following words: "If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: and it is profitable to prepare for wisdom" (Eccles. x. 10); "Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end" (Prov. xix. 20).

There is still another urgent reason why the preliminary disciplines should be studied and understood. During the study many doubts present themselves, and the difficulties, or the objections raised against certain assertions, are soon understood, just as the demolition of a building is easier than its erection: while, on the other hand, it is impossible to prove an assertion, or to remove any doubts, without having recourse to several propositions taken from these preliminary studies. He who approaches metaphysical problems without proper preparation is like a person who journeys towards a certain place, and on the road falls into a deep pit, out of which he cannot rise, and he must perish there: if he had not gone forth, but had remained at home, it would have been better for him...”
My apologies for the lengthy quote, but I wanted to draw your attention to how seriously Maimonides takes the preparation for learning metaphysics. Although my children are too young to start formally learning Logic, Mathematics, and Physics – they are able to learn about the natural world: animals, plants, etc. This will hopefully inspire them and others to do more work for the conservation of the biosphere and gain a deeper connection to Nature.

Using this as a foundation - Plan B is to see how far they progress along Maimonides’ schedule. If and only if they complete the majority of the schedule, then I’ll sit down with them and start going through Sefer Yetzirah with a commentary… Until then the library remains hidden in plan sight.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Heh, Returning the Call

“Tet, Aleph, Aleph” he says immediately upon answering my call. “Oh, it’s you.”

“Yes, it’s me,” I reply somewhat sheepishly. “We need to talk.”

“So nu… talk already!”

“Uh,” I pause - caught off guard by his usual bluntness - “Listen Rabbi Bar-zel Arieh Tzion, what does it mean ‘to become a Ba’al Shem you must first become a Ba’al Teshuv-Heh’?”

“It always amazes me,” the Rabbi sighs “how small the steps are that you are taking…”

I cut him off before he goes into another rant about how slow I am to learn, or complaining about my irregular meditation practice, or even worse my lack of spiritual diary.

“Sorry Rabbi, I just want a quick answer.”

There is silence on the other end of the line. The silence drags on and for a moment I have visions of great Old Ones waiting patiently for the last few suns in the Universe to burn out and die. Finally I crack and the words spill out so fast that I have trouble keeping up with my own stream of consciousness.

“OK, so a I understand that a Ba’al Shem refers to a Master of Name. In other words someone who is able to use Divine names to alter the natural flow of things in this world. And that a Ba’al Teshuvah refers to a person who has returned to a life of religious observance having come from a lifestyle of little to no observance through ignorance or choice. However I have trouble with the term Ba’al as it implies mastery and who can master repentance completely?”

I pause for a deep breath. There is no sign that the Rabbi wants to jump for which I am both grateful and rather concerned about what he has prepared.

“But what does Teshuv-Heh mean? I understand that the word teshuvah is the same as teshuv with the letter Heh pronounced separately at the end. But there is no such word as Teshuv-Heh, it’s meaningless. It literally means to return the Heh and the point of the word teshuva is that means to return to the Divine source by means of religious observance. So what is the significance of returning the letter Heh in the general context of trying to turn one’s life around and return to a path that is striving to connect with the Divine?”

I gulp some more air, and hear the Rabbi clear his throat.

“Perhaps the Heh belongs to another word,” he says slowly and quietly. “A name.”

It takes awhile for the penny to drop.

“You mean the four letter name of G-d, right? Yud, Heh, Vav, and Heh.”


“OK. I understand that being a Ba’al Teshuvah, or as you call it a Ba’al Teshuv-Heh is about rectification of a Divine name…. and in order to become a Ba’al Shem… I need to be able to rectify the name. This is beginning to make sense as to why chapter one of Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation) refers to the letters Yud, Heh, and Vav but not an additional Heh. Creation as described in the first chapter is incomplete.”

“You are getting there,” he says sounding bemused. “Slowly.”

“Thank you, I think that I am beginning to understand.”

“No you don’t,” he states firmly. “But you may understand it soon enough. And in case you’re wondering why the tune ‘He’s a bit of a fixer upper’ has been in your head this past week - it’s because the tune is referring to rectification of self in order to be of service. Get it? Teshuvah. Return to the Source.”

He hangs up. As usual I am left with more questions than answers, the main one being how comes he knows what songs have been in my head. Followed by, how do I get this tune out of my head...