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Shabbos Chic Blog

Elul

The Whole Point of Elul

For me, this Elul 5775 is all about The King is in The Field of Lemon Verbena.

My crop doesn't look like this in real life, but in my vision of the future it's quite a crop! 

And, to me, that's the whole point of Elul... Seeing our lives in perspective, seeing ourselves in perspective, dealing with what we want to change about our lives and having a new vision for the future of profuse growth of consciousness, with no interference. 

That's how I see it anyway. And I was incredibly inspired by Mrs. Shira Smiles' teaching called How Elul Is The Month of Relationships. Oh, that topic truly hits home for me this year. 

My favorite part is when Mrs. Smiles describes our human tendency to "pour cement on our Neshama."  That's such a great visual, isn't it? It's a picture of what we do when we draw conclusions about what we do (and don't do) and what other people do (and don't do) and we draw conclusions about our own failings, resulting in a big mess. 

Pouring wet cement on our tender, Neshama, a part of our eternal soul. Nobody intends to pour wet cement on their own living soul; certainly not if they understand how precious it is. 

But we do it, nevertheless. We dump on ourselves often, making a bigger and bigger pile over who we really are, which makes it impossible to do what we are here on earth to do. Which is not good.

My goal for 5776 is simple now - No More Wet Cement! I want to grow without the weight upon my Neshama now.

For me, the whole point of Elul this year is to learn to recognize old cementy thoughts and actions so I can avoid them, and so I can set my Neshama free!

I Love Elul!

When our Temple president asked me to lead the services last Shabbat I was so thrilled to say, "Sure!" It was Rosh Chodesh Elul!  I just love having a month-long assignment from Hashem to become introspective for my own spiritual growth each year.

It's not a selfish distraction or an obsessive compulsion to read real books and online materials, and to listen to audio and watch video teachings many, many hours a week. It's my assignment this month!

And what's the purpose of Elul (as I understand it now, in this final month of 5775?)  The purpose of Elul is not abject repentance only. Yes, repentance is part of it. But first comes self-assessment, from which we naturally discover the need to repent. And then what?

What comes next is the renewing and refreshing of ourselves, our hopes and dreams and goals and desires. These are all food for the Rosh Hashanah, the New Year coming up and the end of the month of Elul.

Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz posted the following on his site, ParadisePrinciple.com, "… look at all the portions in the Torah we read during Elul. We see that Moses is doing a review in all of them. 

Moses is reviewing all the episodes the Jews experienced in their stay in the desert. And his review corresponds to what we are meant to be doing. We are meant to be reviewing our year and all the highlights of our year, sort of an inventory of what we did right and wrong, and what we need and want to do."

It's a recap and a planning period, that's my Elul. I'm so glad to have this month to grow before 5776 arrives this September!

Rosh Hashanah 5775

Each year I strive to learn more and more, and that makes each Rosh Hashanah incredibly exciting.  This year I learned something truly profound from Rabbi Yaakov Zalman Labinsky of BecomingDivine.com and it has changed my perspective on the month of Elul and its culmination in Rosh Hashanah, the head of the year.

Teshuva, returning, turning again, means we redirect ourselves back to our tender beginnings, before we collected life experiences that tainted our perception of ourselves and others. Especially in our marriages.

It's about getting back to our more idyllic state, before we became fragmented, when we were one with Hashem. We can choose to see our marriage as it was in the beginning, and see ourselves as we were in our embryonic state.

We are not perfect; our marriages are not perfect. But at this important time of year, especially at Rosh Hashanah we are charged with the opportunity to be human and to bring the tender newness of our oneness with Hashem into our personal lives and into our marriages once again.




Teshuva this Elul 5774

Rae Shagalov inspires our Teshuva this year in a lovely way on her beautiful art blog, and also her YouTube video.

Four words beginning with the letter R make it easier to remember what we think about this month of Elul, but not necessarily easier to DO, right?

But remembering is truly the first step. We are so busy and distracted that simply remembering to consider Teshuva during Elul is a big deal.

I have so grown so much this Elul 5774  in membership classes offered by Jewish Workshops and led by Rabbi Akiva Tatz.  Here's a wonderful Elul teaching by Rabbi Tatz where you'll find world-class Jewish teaching at no cost, 24/7.

In a special Rosh Hashana webinar today Rabbi Tatz said, "Teshuva works because it removes your will from the sin... You disowned it, detached your name from it."

Sounds good to me!  L'Shanna Tova 5775 to one and all!

Tiny House for Shabbat?

This is my idea of a perfect little Shabbat cabin... where I would relax and read and scoop food from the Crockpot in complete peace.  Can you see it, too?

In real life this cabin is located at the Clearwater Gallery in Sisters, Oregon and it is available for rent to artists.

This precious little cabin made me realize that Shabbat is always and forever an artistic expression for me. It's the ultimate opportunity to sit back and watch my Creator's handiwork in my life. Every week. And what a perfect little place for Elul reflection, too.

How To Reveal Light (It's not what you think...)

My friend Shuli Kleinman posted this important idea today :

"Yet the darkness can be turned into light, but not by investing talent and goals to it. Darkness becomes light when the mask over the light is taken off, meaning that there is an inherent understanding of the falsehood of the darkness and that appealing to the light behind it will lift us out of it."

Eikev & High Holy Days 5775

I'm really enjoying Devarim (Deuteronomy) this year.  As I read I feel connected to Moses's words to the Israelites in Parashat Eikev this week, including these:

"At the end of the forty days and forty nights, God gave me the two stone tablets as tablets of the covenant. But God then said to me, "Get moving and hurry down from here!

The nation that you brought out of Egypt has become corrupt. They have been quick to turn aside from the path that I prescribed for them, and they have made themselves a cast statute." Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, The Living Torah

(Seen on a T-shirt lately)
Don't Give Up! Moses Was Once A Basket Case

But seriously, woe unto us when we make idols of anything, which of course includes important things and people in our lives, such as our smart phones and our grandkids. It's really true....

Elul is coming soon, and then the High Holy Days.  How I love Shuli Kleinman's generous post that provides easy access to Rabbi Doniel Katz' four videos presented to help us prepare deeply for Yom Kippur this year.  

Here's Rabbi Doniel Katz' formula explained in his first video. Curious? I'll be posting more in my preparation process this year, for sure.

And here's a wonderful, useful prayer from my Breslov Research Institute (Rebbe Nachman) email today-

Dear G-d! Please show me that the very traits which cause me such distress are actually the path to true connection and purity.

Help me keep patiently yearning until You enable the slight adjustments of attitude and action and transform my negatives to advantages.

Ushpizin - Succos Guests in My Spiritual Life

In our EmunaHealing class this week, Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum helped us understand that our Succah is representative of the Holy Temple.

We build it and we spend a designated time in it each year in order to remember and connect  with the past and future Temple, right where we live, right now.

And, no matter where we live, we can expect a special guest to visit us each day.  Our spiritual Succos guests are the Patriarchs of our faith, and they are here for us now if we are willing to receive them.

The Aramaic word for "guests" is pronounced Ushpizin, and that is what we call our special Succos guests each year.


Rebbetzin Chana Bracha shared the basic spiritual qualities represented by each of the Patriarchs, and also associated the particular Sephirot to this list I'm quoting from an Aish.com post by Rabbi Joel Padowitz as well:

  • Abraham represents love and kindness [Chessed]
  • Isaac represents restraint and personal strength [Gevurah]
  • Jacob represents beauty and truth [Tiferet]
  • Moses represents eternality and dominance through Torah [Netzach]
  • Aaron represents empathy and receptivity to divine splendor [Hod]
  • Joseph represents holiness and the spiritual foundation [Yesod]
  • David represents the establishment of the kingdom of Heaven on Earth [Malchut]

As an EmunaHealer, Rebbetzin included her understanding of the various parts of the human body represented by each of the Sephirot. 

Her sharing added another tangible, significant layer of understanding and possibility of healing  to the holiday of Succos for me this year.

See Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum's
Kosher Tube 3-part teaching on 
Torah of the Mothers

What is the essence of Rosh Hashana?

Although I was participating in the live Skype session as Dr Yedidah Cohen translated this section of Zohar  explained by Rabbi Yehudah  Lev Ashlag in the Perush HaSulam, it is very helpful to be able to listen to it again and again in her recording  posted as The Shofar: The Sound of Compassion.

"The twelve months of the year are the tikun of the Malchut, from its beginning to its end.

Since it is not completely finished until the Gemar HaTikun (the end of the Tikun) we need each year to come back and rectify it.

And therefore, on each Rosh Hashana we start the tikun of the Malchut again.

So, the word shanah, shin-nun-hey, is a cycle."

Yedidah's English translation of Rabbi Ashlag's explanation brought me around to understanding that the essence of Rosh Hashana is quite the opposite of harsh, critical judgment of my sins.

It is a day to relish the love and attention of my Creator's confident expectation in my process of perfection and the ultimate perfection of the world.

I am an intrinsic part of the cycle. My life and my teshuva are important and welcome; they are necessary and valuable.

I am not pitifully pleading for forgiveness, but acknowledging Hashem as my Beloved and crowning Hashem as King. I am doing my part.

This year I make teshuva with a new, improved attitude.  I am bringing the genuine love of my Beloved that is lavished upon me during this month of Elul to my Temple with me on Rosh Hashana in order to promote Tikun Olam. 

I am participating in the significant beginning of yet another year, yet another cycle in the rectification of the world.

And this year, with an expanded understanding of my own purpose and my relationship with my Beloved, I embrace the compassionate essence of Rosh Hashana  by joyfully participating in all three traditional expressions of  love and compassion:

Teshuva - it's our choice for personal bonding with God

Tefila - it's our job to pray for the tools to serve God

Tzedaka - it's our opportunity to give Charity or Justice

Join Rabbi Yossi Srugo, Rabbi Yakov Garfinkel and Rabbi Chai Amar in an eight-minute video reminder of these traditional Jewish observances of Rosh Hashana called Crowning the King.

Shana Tova & Happy Cycling!

Rabbi Aryeh Nivin's Chaburas This Elul


Participating in Rabbi Aryeh Nivin's Ladies Chabura 5774 is truly a blessing in this season of Elul. His live coaching/teaching by phone brings the essence of my life purpose into sharp focus for at least an hour per week,  infusing it more and more into my everyday life. Participating in the Ladies Chabura connects me with women all over the world, and it also connects me deeply with myself, with my soul.

Rabbi Nivin has a unique and very, very important message that has awakened my own Yeud, my life purpose, which is definitely reflected in my writings on this blog. My Yeud reveals my essence and and satisfies the longing of my neshama, my eternal soul.

"When you have a Yeud moment
it answers the question -
Is this what my life is all about?"


What a deeply satisfying pleasure to be able to say, "YES," and to watch the petals of my growing sense of purpose unfurl into a beautiful, blossoming thing. I am definitely blooming where I am planted in this life now. 

Baruch Hashem!  Here, listen to Rabbi Nivin's brief explanation of  your Yeud, ... "a light that ONLYYOU can bring into the world... The understanding of your life's purpose is like a lantern in the darkness."

By the way, you won't find much on the subject of Yeud on the web. Shuli Kleinman has a blog post on Yeud and Tikun. It is rather deep, and assumes a considerable knowledge of Hebrew concepts.

And you may find a few unfortunate associations with altered states of consciousness and musical groups and political parties, too. But this is not what the concept of Yeud really means.

That is why I connect to Rabbi Aryeh Nivin's authentic life coaching in the substance and potential available to us all when we discover and honor our Yeud in our daily lives.

His years of work with Aish.com and experience in life coaching put him in a unique position to help me, and many other people to find and to fulfill our unique contributions to the world. It's good to have a coach for what truly matters, and what seems so hard to find in life.

OK, I know we don't really get a a diploma, a degree or designation for our genuine spiritual growth. But I have to admit that receiving the certificate pictured below has been a precious reminder that I have made progress and that it's my responsibility to put my progress into practice each day.

It works for me!

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis at the Wall this Elul

Women praying at the Wall during Elul include Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis of the dynamic Jewish outreach organization,  www.Hineni.org and her timeless, infectious love and respect for all things Jewish.  She posted a poignant article about Weeping For Jerusalem on her blog while visiting Jerusalem recently:

"For thousands of years we prayed, wept and hoped for Yerushalayim. To see Yerushalayim again, to behold the rebuilt Beis HaMikdash, has always been the center of all our prayers...

Should we not ask again and again and still again, “Where is the Beis HaMikdash?” I miss it so. I’m in Jerusalem but the shinning crown of the Holy City is absent and my joy cannot be complete until I see its glory restored."

"This Rosh Hashanah has to be different. It just cannot  be another Rosh Hashanah. It has to be different.

You and I, we could bring redemption to our people.

So, how do we do it?  First, we have to find out who we are, what we are, what we represent...

Every person, every individual is a special, unique creation of God. We are not mass-produced.

God created each and every one of us, custom-made, with a unique purpose.

Before we are ever born, Hashem makes a magnificent portrait of us, and it's hanging in the Heavenly galleries. And it portrays that which Hashem hopes that which we will achieve in this world...

So, this year we have to make a difference, we MUST make a difference, for ourselves, for our families, for Am Israel and for the world."

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, fromA Nation Blessed As One

Rabbi David Aaron on Emunah - Faith is a state of being

Back in 2005, Rabbi David Aaron of www.Isralight.org recorded several hours of audio teaching he called an Emunah Seminar, and his words are enlivening my studies this Elul 5773. 

Here are are few quotes from his teaching called The State of Being, which describes our faith as who we are, as part of our core essence we can tap into when we are willing to set aside distractions:


"Faith is not a collection of ideas,
faith is a state of being."

"Rav Kook explains that faith is the revelation of the Self, of yourself. It is the basic self-revealing of your inner essence.

It is not something that you achieve, that you accomplish in the sense of adding more information, amassing more knowledge.

It's actually something that you need to release from yourself, in essence."

"Emunah is the basic self-revealing
of the essence of the soul."

Rabbi David Aaron

Contemplating Parashat Kitavo - First Things First

It isn't just the first fruits of the land we contemplate this Shabbos reading Parashat Kitavo... no, it's our first thoughts and actions each day.

Rebbetzin Chana Brach Siegelbaum posts the following on her Women At The Crossroads blog this week:

"Knowing that the holy Torah is eternal; as we learn from the Thirteen Principles of Belief: “This Torah will never be exchanged;”* then, how do we fulfill the mitzvah of Bikurim today when we have neither a worshipping  Kohen, nor a Temple, or an altar?

Even today we can fulfill the mitzvah of Bikurim by dedicating the beginning of every matter to Hashem. The body follows the head."

* Rambam, the Thirteen Principles of Emunah, #9.

When am I happy?

"I am happy when I am not constantly asking myself if I am happy."Andrew Lustig on Jewels of Elul IX,  Day 10

Prayer for Elul, Shabbos and Always

I am touched by words in two inspiring emails today. The first quote is from Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz on the topic of Prayer:

"Every word of prayer makes an impression and isn't wasted. Sometimes much later their effect is felt, sometimes in a very different way than was intended. The principle is that there is nothing ever lost. 

However , there are many levels of  impact. Just as each person's life outlook is different, as is reflected by the fact that no two faces look alike---so too , no two prayers impact are alike."

And the other quote is on the topic of Prayer, too.  It is from my weekly FridayLight.org email, always so welcome as I prepare for Shabbos each week:

"In Jewish mysticism, there is a concept of two ways of relating to our Creator. One way is for our Creator to reach down to us with help or inspiration. Another way is for us to do our work here on the ground and to reach up to him to ask for help.

It's rare for our Creator to just make changes for us. However, according to mystical sources, when we do everything in our power to bring this redemption for ourselves in combination with asking our Creator for help, that's when the He will generally meet us in the middle. We reach up and He reaches down (metaphorically speaking.)"

Chana Bracha Siegelbaum on Elul

In her Parshat Ki Tetze Magazine that arrived by email today, Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum confidently announced:

"Now, when the "King is in the Field" let us renew our emunah and pull ourselves out of whatever difficulty we may be going through and really ask Hashem from the depth of our pain to fulfill our needs, hopes, and aspirations, to redeem us NOW!" 

I agree!

Women of the Wall "...has announced that it will hold a special Selichot service at the Western Wall on Sept. 1.

Selichot are the penitential prayers and liturgy recited each night starting in the Jewish month of Elul and up until the High Holy Days."

from Haaretz article just posted today, 8/14/2013

Is it any coincidence that this week's Parshat is about spiritual enemies?  May the Almighty Creator of the Universe give us all the strength and wisdom to stand in the midst of changes, which surely include a woman's equal right to pray at the Western Wall.

Craig Taubman and his Jewels of Elul 5773

Once again this year, 2013 and 5773 in the Hebrew calendar of the world, Craig Taubman and his team are posting wonderful inspiration each day of Elul. You honestly don't want to miss it...

I especially loved reading Quincy Jones' words today, "...when we don’t get the welcome we feel we deserve, it’s important to not sit back and wait for it. It likely will never come.

You’ve got to look for it in other ways and other places. Just keep looking until you find a door of welcoming that’s opening up. You may have to do some pushing to get it to open all the way. Then walk on through."

Oh yeah, and it's especially true on Shabbat.

The Precious, Predictable Opportunity of Elul

Here we are again this year... How blessed to have a Creator who gives us, year after year, an opportunity to look at our lives and see where we could make some improvements.

And then he says, in a genuine and loving way, "Please take some time to see how much better it can be with Me. Look and see, and simply ask."

That is not a translation of anything written in Hebrew. It is the simple expression of my love in this season of Elul, this special time of introspection and forgiving myself, so that I can forgive others and grow.

Elul has been a big part of my growth for many years, and this year of 5773 is fixin' to be spectacular!  Care to join me?
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