A Guest Posting From "Space Cadet"
Below is an e-mail I received from "Space Cadet". I am posting it since it truly reveals his poetic soul.
Clouds (Apologies to Joni Mitchell)
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev states that it is a segulah to gaze at the sky (Sefer HaMidos, "Segulah" I, 2). (A segulah is something that has some sort of mysterious power, although we may not understand how it works.) He does not exactly say what this is a segulah for, but it seems to be for wisdom.
The other day, feeling that I could use some wisdom, I sat down on a bench in front of my friend's house and gazed at the sky for about twenty minutes. The blue expanse was especially clear and luminous, within which ephemeral masses of clouds like continents slowly sailed and swelled and dispersed.
It occurred to me that all heavenly bodies hover in space and are just as evanescent as the clouds: coming into being, changing, and ultimately disintegrating.
It also occurred to me that the sky is like the white space around the letters on a Sefer Torah, within which the letters float, waiting to be read. If only we could read the clouds!
And it occurred to me that thoughts are like clouds, massing in the open space of the mind, even taking over, magnetizing all of our attention, but still constantly changing, rearranging like the glass fragments of a kaleidoscope. Yet the open expanse remains the same.
Spiritual obstacles are also like clouds. Rebbe Nachman states that all obstacles are illusory (Likutey Moharan II, 46), but the main obstacles are those of the mind. They may seem to be the most insubstantial, but not when a person stares them in the face. Oh, no! The Baal Shem Tov gave a mashal, a parable about a king who magically created a fortress surrounded by many thick walls. Only a great sage could recognize that the entire structure was really an illusion, and walk through the walls and discover the king. The walls were like clouds, covering up the true essence of things, which is HaShem, Who rules over all that transpires.
In another teaching (Likutey Moharan I, 234), Rebbe Nachman suggests that the essence of reality is actually the "World of Thought" (Olam HaMachshavah): the cosmic mind. Everything comes from there, and returns there, and in truth -- although this is hard for us to grasp -- everything constantly remains there. We experience a physical universe, but it emerges from the divine thought: "kulam b'chokhmah 'asisah . . . You created everything with wisdom." Thus, all existence is like the clouds. Each created thing appears to be solid and firm, but in truth it is insubstantial and transitory. As we say on Rosh Hashanah at the end of U'nesaneh Tokef, "Like a broken shard, like withering grass, like a fading flower, like a passing shadow, like a dissipating cloud, like a gust of wind, like a swirl of dust, like a fleeting dream..."
Rebbe Nachman said: "My entire mission is Rosh Hashanah." I guess that's why he had to teach us to gaze at the sky.