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Reflections on Passover Morning 2017
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Just One Shabbat Can Change The World!
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Shabbos Chic Blog

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Temple Tiles for our Times

I am so excited to share my little artistic rendering of Linda Gradstein's pro photo and article on TheMediaLine.org

This is a restored tile from the second Temple in Jerusalem, created by archaeologists from their actual discoveries. It's ancient Jewish patchwork flooring and I love it!  In my soul this design is so familiar and so satisfying... and now I know why.

Gradstein reports, "...about 600 colored stone floor tile segments have so far been uncovered, with more than 100 definitively dated to the Herodian Second Temple period. The style of flooring is the same as those found in other of Herod’s palaces in Masada, Herodian and Jericho. Snyder says the tile segments were perfectly inlaid next to each other.

"The tiles are part of the Temple Mount sifting project, an Israeli archaeological project begun in 2005."

May we all be so blessed to see the final Temple in person someday soon!

Exploring the Path of Free Will

Free will is a mystery to most of us, until we decide to press in and search for its meaning in our own lives. 

I did a search for quotes on free will, and the largest collection I found was on Goodreads. A total of 377 quotes (collected from authors) provides plenty of entertainment, but not much satisfaction, at least not for me. 

Then I heard Rabbi Alon Anava say, "The whole point of free will is not the path you walk on. It's how you walk on it. That's the point of free will."  Finally, I found a satisfying quote on the topic of free will. 

An article by Rabbi Noah Weinberg brings free will into sharper focus for me, in my daily life. Free will is a choice:

"Greatness lies in how we resolve conflicts – in using our free will to grow – not to quit. To face reality – not to escape. To live and not to die. When we escape problems, we escape the chance of becoming great. It's a constant battle every moment of our lives."
 
First, we have to use our free will to WANT to be great, in some way. That's exciting to me, so now I'm using my free will to see what's getting in the way of my achieving greatness.

Here is Rabbi Weinberg's list of 5 levels of achieving free will, which I LOVE:

Level One: Don't be a sleepwalker. 
Make decisions actively.

Level Two: Don't be a puppet of society's goals, 
or a slave to your old decisions.

Level Three: Be aware of the conflict between the cravings of your body 
and the aspirations of your soul.

Level Four: Identify with your soul, not your body.

Level Five: Make your will God's will.

Pre-Pesach Energy 5776

Rabbi Aryeh Nivin gave his annual Pesach Drasha for women this week, and it lit me up like a firecracker. He suggested we select just one, tiny change (not a big, huge one) and implement it every single day, from now through Shavuos.

Well, I'm doing it. I chose to make a slight but distinct attitude adjustment. It involves seeing myself from a different perspective, one that another person might immediately have, but I habitually NEVER have about myself.

Until now!  And I'm really doing it, because I made it fun.  I built a little blog for myself, and posted over a hundred photos to remind me of my new mindset. It's working!  I leave the blog tab open on my laptop as I'm working, and click on it whenever I need a boost back up and into my new mindset. 

Funny thing... I'm really good at boosting my clients' mindset, but haven't applied my coaching skills to myself. DUH! 

Thanks so much, Rabbi Nivin, for giving us such a simple, little Pesach blessing, for ourselves personally, and for women of Klal Israel! Here's a list that's true, in my experience, but I'd add one more word -  JOY!!!






It's still winter, but I feel a ripening

The seasons of our lives don't match up perfectly with the seasons of the year, or the cyclical holidays in the Jewish calendar.  

We each have our own time line, and we don't really know what it is until we're living through it, or more likely, once we pass through it and see it with hindsight.

Oh, if we could only have our hindsight 'way in advance!

These words from my Interinclusion email this week express some of my reality now, in this phase of my growth:

"According to the Meam Loez which is a widely studied commentary from the 1700’s on the Hebraic Bible, the three foundations of a home are a field, a vineyard and a house. This verse refers to all three. 

"Clearly the verse mentions the field and the vineyard, but as was previously discussed, the Jewish woman represents the house. It is not that she belongs in the house but rather that she is the house. 

"Wherever she may be, that is home. This is even seen in the word for house itself, bayit, in that it is comprised of the letters bat (daughter) with a yud in the middle, referring to the daughter of G-d, meaning woman."

Home has always been important to me, even when I was the only one living in it, for many years. Having a strong sense of home, of making a home, I probably wouldn't have said, "I am the home," but now I've come to understand it's the truth. I AM the home.





Rosh Chodesh & Shabbos Vayeshev & Chanukah


Immersing myself in Chanukah teachings and also Rosh Chodesh teachings, I heard Eliza Bulow talk about how the Hellenists took away four privileges from the Jews, including celebration of Rosh Chodesh. The other three were 1) Shabbat, 2) Circumcison and 3) Torah study. 

That told me a lot about the importance of Rosh Chodesh! If the Jews were being punished by the removal of the most important rituals, what does that tell us about them today? 

Perhaps we don't understand intellectually because they are more important to our eternal soul than to our conscious mind.

I love this quote from the Embrace Shabbos email by Rabbi David Sutton, author of Living Shabbos:

"On Shabbat, we receive an extra soul - a soul that is loftier and more sacred than our ordinary souls. We have the responsibility to nurture and uplift this special soul, and we accomplish this by ensuring to speak properly throughout the Shabbat. And thus although calm, dignified speech is always important, it assumes special significance on Shabbat, when we are charged with the responsibility of caring for our special souls."   

I wonder if celebrating Rosh Chodesh is another way to care for our souls, as well as the historic way we mark time, and therefore establish the calendar and the holidays?


Happy Chanukah 5776

Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5776

This is literally the last rose of summer in my garden here in north Texas today. It's a Blue Girl, and the scent is divine. Honestly, I keep holding the vase up to my nose to enjoy every last whiff of it.

My Blue Girl rose is a lovely representation of the gifts of study and understanding I'm gaining about Rosh Chodesh now, with only 4 hours left of Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5776.

Besides being a woman's holiday and a day of historic importance each month long ago, when the new moon sighting established the first day of the new month on the Hebrew calendar, Rosh Chodesh is a wonderful opportunity for the Jewish people to reclaim the responsibility of sanctifying time.

Naturally, we usually think of Shabbos as a holy place in time. And it is, but so is Rosh Chodesh, as the head of each month. If the new moon is not recognized by the Children of Israel, the whole month and its Holy Days are not established spiritually.

BeingJewish.com puts it this way, "The holiness of the Holidays comes through us. Hashem makes us holy, and we bring holiness to the world, but the holiness of the Sabbath comes directly from Hashem, not through us." 

I am contemplating my relationship to Hashem, the Holy Days and Shabbos today, with a few hours left of Rosh Chodesh Kislev, before Shabbos begins.

And I'm looking forward to the next lesson in the EmunaHealing course I'm taking with Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum on Sunday 11/15/15. What a privilege to study healing from a Torah perspective, with other women all over the world!

Finally, I'm contemplating the appearance of mustard and kale greens my husband planted 3 full months ago, after weeks of flooding, followed by weeks of drought.

Here's our Rosh Chodesh/Shabbos green harvest today, in this significant miracle month of Kislev when Chanukah occurs. Shabbat Shalom!


What is Teshuva All About?

I love Elul!  The feel of fall is in the air, most obvious in the early mornings since daytime temps are still reaching up to and over  100 degrees here in north Texas now.  

I want to share what Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz wrote about Teshuva, It gives me a sense of hope and encouragement to consider the power of return to humility and forgiveness during the High Holy Days each year.

"Teshuva involves different kinds of intentions and different levels of intentions, on a scale of higher to lower. Probably the highest level of intention is Teshuva from love, meaning a person doesn’t change ways because he’s afraid of punishment, of hell (which is another level of Teshuva), but because he feels bad that he didn’t take advantage of his relationship with G-d. This type of Teshuva elicits results which are much higher, raising up the sins a person commits to become merits instead."  
Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz,  ParadisePrinciple.com

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!

Shabbat Shalom Pinchas

This week, Shabbos Pinchas, I'm taking note of some big changes in my perception of my life and business challenges.

Hashem has given me an opportunity to step back and see how my lack of focus is costing me in many ways, some are tangible and measurable in this world, and some are for The World To Come.

I need to put my focus on what I ALREADY HAVE, what I've been given and what I've developed in my life.  The keys to appreciating and realizing my success are forged by my recognition of these gifts. My challenges are, in fact, my gifts. In my challenges I grow and identify my focus.

My dear friend Rae Shagalov's beautiful calligraphy, created especially for Shabbos this week, reminds me that I have a special day (each week) to remember that my life is complete and my purpose is already fulfilled.

What a relief!  What a totally wonderful reality to believe, accept and remember.   Shabbat Shalom!

My Creator Is An Overflowing Source

An email from Praying With Passion ignited my enthusiasm today,just  after meeting on the web with a group of women talking about  spirituality.

Here is my favorite part of the email:

"Like this underground spring, G-d is a boundless, overflowing source of sustenance for us. Everything we rely upon draws its existence from Him. When we recite the words in the blessings, we trace our sustenance back to its Source and acknowledge that there would be nothing if G-d did not provide it."

There were several women in the group today who chose not to acknowledge the Creator of the Universe as the source of their spiritual experiences, or their very lives. I'm SO GLAD to be able to express gratitude to Hashem each day, knowing  who made me, who made this universe, and who knows why. 


Our Prayers Are Never Lost

Years ago I remember reading, "Not one precious drop of love is ever wasted."  And I was deeply impressed.

That statement has formed a theme for my life, for several decades so far.

Today I read these words in a Praying With Fire email, from the book by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman:

"Prayers are stored and answered in the manner and at the time that Hashem deems best. All sincere prayers are answered with good."

So, I started thinking about love and prayer, and how much they are the same, or they can be the same.  Love and prayer are intense expressions of emotion, or they can be if we let them.

Lag B'Omer 5775

Tonight marks the passing of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the eve  of the day called Lag B'Omer, which means the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. 

Rabbi Yizchak Schwartz tells the story of Rabbi  Shimon's passing in an unforgettable way, including the following:

"They carried his body out, lifted the bed he was lying on, and after the bed emerged from the house it rose and a fire blazed before it. They heard a voice saying, “Come and enter. Assemble for the wedding celebration of Rabbi Shimon. They shall come to peace. They shall rest on their couches.” [Isaiah 57\2]

A student of Kabbalah hears and understands a little bit more about Lag B'Omer each year, because there is so much to know, so much to comprehend, it cannot be grasped all at once. 

Thanks to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his students, to Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag and his decision to share the knowledge of Kabbalah with the world, and to my own teachers now. I am blessed to move towards understanding of his day, not only as history but as the future.

"This is the depth of the redemption. It is to reveal the unknown. It will be a total revelation of “What was, will be.” It will show that really all is hidden, because everything is unified with Hashem."  from Bilvavi.net

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Kabbalah, Souls and Candles | Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz | Kabbalah Me Documentary
http://kabbalahme.com/

Pesach thoughts this year 5775

As the sun sets tomorrow night we'll be starting Shabbos and Pesach at the same time. 

And Moshe said to the people, “Remember this day that you left Egypt from the House of Bondage, for G-D took you out from it with a Mighty Hand.” (Exodus 13:3)

My personal Pesach theme this year has to do with understanding Freedom and Exile in my own life. I want to go forward into Freedom, and I can only do that when I truly understand there are things enslaving me.

Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz of ParadisePrinciple.com said, "We have to be open to being redeemed, personally and globally. And we have to be open to it, and understand what it really means to be redeemed."

That's what set me on a course of thinking about Freedom in a new way this year, and asking myself if I'm really open to Freedom in parts of my life.

I also heard a quote on a podcast this week, "If you don't emotionally feel like you can do something different, then you don't really have a choice." Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Shimona Tzukernik asked us a good question in her Rosh Chodesh workshop this week, and I'm still pondering it. She simply asked, "Are you teachable?"

FridayLight.org included a wonderful reminder in my weekly Shabbos reminder email, "...let us embrace the power of the Jewish woman. The Talmud says that it was 'in the merit of righteous women that the Jews were redeemed from Egypt.'

With our special light, we have the power to usher in the redemption from our modern-day exile and spiritual slavery..."

And finally, I saw this wisdom in a Facebook thread, "If you don’t think something is new when you hear it, if you're always thinking 'I get it' when you hear or read something or listening to a coach... you're not always open to other ways to do something." Shawn LeBrun

May we all be open to Freedom tomorrow night, that's "different from all other nights"
Chag Pesach Sameach!

It's Spring, And It's Parshas Vayikra

This week we begin the book of Vayikra, with the Torah portion of the same name.

It's about sacrifices, and that's something very foreign to us today, unless we look at it spiritually.

Rabbi Akiva Tatz provided a little booklet for those of us in his weekly class through Jewish Workshops, and he wrote: "If there is no difficulty, there is no sacrifice." That is another way to look at the whole concept of sacrifice, very different from the Temple sacrifices in the past.

The difficulties in our lives (and we all have PLENTY of them) are our opportunities for sacrifice. We can choose to see them as a way to give up our selfishness and small view of ourselves and of the world (which of course includes other people), and in that choice we are sacrificing other viewpoints.

Choosing a higher view and following through with higher actions is making a sacrifice of everything we are not thinking and not doing instead.

I am thinking and posting about sacrifice this Shabbos, and will undoubtedly be wrestling with the concept the rest of my life!

The Hidden Meaning of Purim Influences Shabbos

Learning about the hidden meaning of Purim this year is showing me a deeper way to understand my experience on Shabbos.

It's all about my soul, the levels or layers in the life of my soul that I may not understand, and it's exciting. I love knowing there's more going on inside me, a bigger picture, a greater awareness I have yet to explore.

I especially love knowing I am connected to deeper parts of myself, and at the same time I am connected to Hashem.


In a little ebook published by Bilvavi.net, titled Purim Wine, I am drawn deeper into more understanding of Purim and more understanding of myself:

"If we reflect into what we said before, we can see that Purim is totally different than all other auspicious times of the year. We will not get into now what each Yom Tov reveals for us; but what we will say is something general, that each Yom Tov serves to reveal a special power of our soul. Purim is not like any other Yom Tov; Purim reveals the very root of our soul, a point that is way above our conscious state."

Purim is not mentioned in Torah because the historic events it commemorates happened long after Torah was given to the Israelites. And the Book of Esther read on Purim was the last  book included in the twenty-four books of Tanach established by The Great Assembly.

Honestly, the Purim story told in the Book of Esther and the customs associated with the holiday of Purim can be very confusing because they don't make sense. 

What makes sense to me is this - I am connected to parts of myself that are deeper and possibly darker than I want to believe. And at the same time I am connected to the incomprehensible perfection of the Creator of the Universe.

That is something I choose to explore more than once a year on Purim.

Once again (from Bilvavi.net) "Purim reveals the very root of our soul..." which is something I long to explore every week on Shabbos, too, when my soul is connected, "... way above our conscious state."

Shabbos is Not Just One Day

This week I began to explore the idea of Chatzos, which means getting prepared for Erev Shabbos by noon on Friday.

It's a wonderful goal, and once it becomes a habit I know I'll be more peaceful and enjoy the menucha or peace of Shabbos easily at candle-lighting time.

It's a bit tricky during the winter months when sunset comes early...


"When all of the ideologies that were supposed to redeem us from our troubles have visibly and miserably failed, the Shabbat remains a beacon of light and hope for Israel and a symbol of our eternal covenant with our Creator."

The idea of preparing in advance is lovely, but often seems impractical, until we make it a priority. I WANT to make it a priority now. It's a way to show respect for the Sabbath, but also for myself.

When the food is prepared and the table is set by noon, or at least several hours prior to candle-lighting time, and I have bathed and put on fresh clothing, that is showing respect in all ways. It brings Shabbos all the way into Friday, making it last more than one day each week.

Chatzos is Shalom Bayit in action.

"The more the mental anticipation and actual preparation for Shabbos, the more one will taste Shabbos.

The more one will treasure it, will center one's life around it, the more one will be at ease on Shabbos.

Parasha Beshalach 5775 - Song of The Sea

"A confident person may have mastery over his environment. A person with great self-worth, on the other hand, has mastery over himself.

What does it take to have self-control? The answer is being in touch with our souls." Rabbi David Aaron

I am exploring what it means to be in touch with my soul this year on Shabbat Shirah, the Sabbath of Song, because there's a deep, undeniable connection within me. I don't have to understand it completely, but I do choose to acknowledge and respect it.

Like an explosion of worshipful energy in my soul, I'm plugged-in and humming along.  I'm ready and eager to serve.  A good place to be while preparing for Shabbos, yes?

"Not only is Shabbos special in a spiritual sense. Even in a physical sense, Shabbos is a magnificent treasure."
Rabbi Mordechai Rhine

The following quote from The Jewish Virtual Library encourages us to feed the birds outside our homes on Shabbat Shirah. We just bought some  prepared birdseed called "birdola," which looks just like granola made especially for birds!

ShabbosChicShabbatShirah

Good wisdom for Parashat Bo 5775


It's late January/early Shevat right now. That means our New Year's resolutions may be wearing off.  Our fervent plans and goals made at the beginning of the calendar year seem to take a backseat when life gets in the way.

Reaching for a goal is such a human thing to so, a classic and respected exercise of the strength of our human will.

These wise words in a blog post by Shuli Kleinman this week remind me that it's not my own plans and goals that take precedence anyway:

"Taanug, the pleasure of the soul, is also above will, but we may not have ever experienced real pleasure of the soul.

Instead we experience comfort, satisfaction, gratification, and other things related to the accomplishment of our goals based on will.

Yet one thing is beyond refute - this type of happiness does not last and there is no guarantee that what works today will have the same outcome the next time.

Why?  We are simply not in control of the world."

It's a challenge to balance the reality of God's sovereignty with our own healthy enthusiasm for prosperity and growth. For enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment in our lives.

I loved a post by Marnie Pehrson, sharing her tender but powerful personal growth in the ability to receive (kabel in Hebrew) as a woman. Oh yes, I can relate when she says, "Over the last couple years, I’ve felt myself being reprogrammed to receive. Through a series of setbacks, life has put me in positions where I HAVE to receive. I have to ask for help."

And I'm SO looking forward to the new book on Eshet Chayil by Sara Esther Crispe, scheduled for publication soon.

Every Shabbos is New

Shabbos candlelightingI love having two New Years celebrations each year. Rosh Hashanah and January 1st are both opportunities to start over anew, to focus on fresh, new goals and go deeper in my spiritual practices. 

Even better though, I love Shabbos each week. It's the culmination of one seven-day period of my achievements when I stop and  honor God's ultimate achievement - Creation. It's my connection to the past and the future. It's on beyond celebrating a new year. It's timeless and yet it's frequent.

Jews all over the world are honoring the seventh-day Sabbath with me, so I'm not really alone, even if lighting my Shabbat candles is a solitary activity for me in my home.  But the intimacy of candlelighting cannot be described. You just have to do it to understand it for yourself.

Will you join me?  Will you take the weekly opportunity to fill your home and your heart with the light of Shabbos?

We can get started having Shabbos fun today watching this video about braiding Challah, the traditional bread used (and enjoyed!) each Shabbos eve following Kiddush.

Watch a true Challah Artist in action! (HERE is another video showing how to make the delicious egg bread Challah dough for a crowd.)

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Challah Braiding
Different ways to braid dough for challah or any other bread.

Shabbos for The Reluctant

Preparing Shabbos for reluctant family members and friends is truly a gift for them, even if they don't react with enthusiastic glee.

Shabbos is its own reward, inside each of us.

Shabbos is for our soul, and our soul is having a relationship with Shabbos, whether our mind knows it or not.

Or whether we observe Shabbos or not, strange as that may seem.

The Sabbath Day happens each week, and we get to be in it. Or not. It's our choice.

Our lights are poised and ready to shine, together.


Lech Lecha 5775

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Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz Lech Lecha 5775
Join me in a mystical, musical exploration of our Torah portion this week - Lech Lecha.

Precious Yom Kippur Perspective


Big thanks to Jewish Workshops and and Dr. Miriam Adahan for this screenshot that uplifts and inspires us this week on our Yom Kippur, which is also Shabbat.

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.

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.

Light in the Midst of Darkness

When I sing the candle lighting blessings each week on Friday night it fills my home with a tangible sense of peace.  I love it, and look forward to it all week.

My husband and I absorb the peace on behalf of our family members and our friends, and on behalf of the whole world.

We welcome the Sabbath in song, because that takes our mind away from this world in an unmistakeable way.

Singing on Shabbos is a precious expression, but so is singing prayers and blessings every day of the week.

The following words woke up my deep, personal relationship with singing, "unto the Lord," which is something that I've done much more in the past than in the last few years.

"Singing to G-d fixes the broken tablets. The book of Psalms was actually King David’s transcriptions of his Torah-healing songs. Each of the five books of Psalms corresponds to one of the five books of Moshe." 
From a Breslev.org email today

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No words can express the sorrow of the loss of three Yeshiva boys, but somehow, miraculously, the mother of Eyal Yifrach has words of faith for all Mothers in this incredible letter on JewishMom.com
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Jewish Coach Deborah Riegel posted on THE important question we can ask to truly hear others' feelings and deep needs-  "How is this for YOU?"

And Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis posted inspiration from her experience as a Holocaust survivor, giving her a unique perspective on our times -  "But despite it all, the pintele Yid, the Jewish spark, was never extinguished. And if kindled, that spark can burst forth and become a brilliant flame. I know because I have witnessed it again and again. We have never forgotten You."

AMEN and AMEN, Father, May we never forget You.
"

People Of The Desert

"It is written in the memories of the ancient peoples that one who chooses the desert for his enemy has chosen a bitter foe, but he who accepts it as a friend, who will seek to understand its moods and whims, shall feel also its mercy, shall drink deep of its hidden waters, and the treasures of its rocks shall be opened before him. Where one may walk in freedom and find water in the arid places, another may gasp out his last breath under the desert sun and mark the sands with the bones of his ending." From The Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour, Volume I

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So, I'm packing for my continuing trip to the Promised Land. I'm grateful to be set free from captivity each year at Passover, and fully equipped during the important time leading up to and after Shavuot.

My symbolic trip through the desert has been VERY valuable to my spirit this year.

Before we enter the month of Av this year I want to make sure all the gleanings from the month of Sivan and Tammuz are coming along with me then. May we all be blessed and equipped in Spirit, this month and always.

Rabbi Aryeh Nivin said it so beautifully in his email newsletter today, so here are his words for you to enjoy, too:

"...look at what you’ve accomplished all year long, and see which of your goals still need to be achieved. You still have all of Tammuz and Av to realize them. Ask yourself in a practical, measurable way, 'What do I want to achieve before the end of the year?' Stay focused so you don’t get distracted by the myriad temptations at this time of year, so you can complete these goals.At this time of year we have the greatest power to achieve...

As long as we keep the ta’ava and ga’ava in check, this is the time to make things happen."

Basking in the afterglow of Shavuot 2014


Listening to the lovely, hypnotic songs of Shauli on Soundcloud this Friday evening, preparing for our Shabbat Eve....

I am filled with gratitude for the precious revelations and answers to prayers during Shavuot this week.

I am thankful to be a Jew and to have these Holy Days to remember how thankful I am to be a Jew.


Parashat Beha'alothekha opens with the following (from The Living Torah, translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan):

"God spoke to Moses, telling him to speak to Aaron and say to him, 'When you light the lamps, the seven lamps shall illuminate the menorah."

May we all be blessed with illumination this Shabbos and always!

SHABBAT SHALOM
TO MY PEOPLE EVERYWHERE

Shabbat - A Spa For The Soul

My FridayNightLight.org email today really filled me with enthusiasm for lighting my candles this weekend:

"Magical things happen when we rest. The mind quiets itself. The body lets go of tension.

That feeling of perpetual motion and not being able to keep up dissolve.

Shabbat, thanks to our Creator, is a weekly opportunity to rest and to recharge. When we take advantage of the profound opportunity for revitalization that Shabbat offers, we give ourselves the gift of self care.

Even if trips to a spa resort are beyond our means, Shabbat is always there as a spa for the soul and a rest for the body."


On Free Will - Rabbi Akiva Tatz

Rabbi Akiva Tatz has a new book, and those of us learning with him through Jewish Workshops' incredible e-learning program received a copy of it by email today.

One sentence struck me so deeply, and I wanted to share it today -

"The tension between the elevated and the fallen creates the space in which free choice can exist."

Wow, that puts our opportunity as humans into sharp perspective, doesn't it?




The Light of Shabbos and Purim

This Shabbos, which culminates in the beginning of Purim on Saturday night, let's consider these words of Rabbi Akiva Tatz, with whom I have the privilege of studying in a live class on the web through JewishWorkshops.com:

"There are many ideas in Shabbos, but perhaps the most basic is that it represents an end-point, the tachlis of a process.

The week is a period of working, building; Shabbos is the cessation of that building, which brings home the significance and sense of achievement that building has generated.

It is not simply rest, inactivity. It is the celebration of the work which has been completed."

Who among us cannot relate to celebrating the end of our work week and the beginning of our two days of joy? Let's do it together!

Here's another idea I learned this week, shared by Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz from his counseling experience, and it fits perfectly into my life and my coaching practice:

"In order to think positively, a person should contemplate every situation they are in and see it as good, and consider how it can become even better. It’s important to understand that every little bit helps.

A person needs to understand that little, tiny, baby steps are like giant strides and leaps in personal growth. They are accomplishments that can go a long way in their life and the lives of others as well."

Shabbat is a time to remember and Purim is a time to forget. Having the maturity to know WHAT TO REMEMBER and WHAT TO FORGET is a spiritual practice of great value. What a privilege it is to have teachers to help me grow in wisdom now.

Welcome to the Tribe, David!

It's a joy to celebrate with my friend David today, his first Shabbos as a member of the Tribe.

We welcome you with open arms, David!




Shabbos Blessings For Our Children

"My parents created a profound tradition when we were very young: addressing one child at a time, they would recite the traditional Hebrew blessing and then each of them would gift an impromptu personal blessing from the heartsoul"

These words by Ilana Lerman in her post on Ritualwell.org began her story called Building Blessing Muscle. She recalls how her parents placed their hands on the shoulders of each child in turn and spoke individual blessings upon each of the three of them every Shabbat Eve.

Such a beautiful picture for us all this Shabbos as we light our candles with our children present in the room with us, or in our hearts. We can always bless them with our "heartsoul" as did Illana's parents.

The Candle of the Lord

My weekly email from Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum provided these perfect words for us all on Shabbos this week -

"The candle, which symbolizes the words of Torah, is considered a guide to life, safeguarding us from stumbling.

Whoever performs a mitzvah sustains his soul, and is considered as if he lit a candle before G-d as it states:

 Ner Hashem nishmat adam
A candle of G-d is the soul of man.

The benefit of the candle is that it purifies the soul.

Candles differ from other goods in this world, which becomes reduced when shared with others. From one candle you can kindle thousands of candles without diminishing the light of the original candle.

In the same way, when we fulfill a mitzvah even if it seemingly comprises expense and effort, we do not get depleted but rather recharged with renewed spiritual energy."

Shabbos of Parshat Vaera

The days are finally getting longer now, so our Shabbos will arrive a minute or so later than last week.  I love this time of year because it is such a great time to remember to bring Light out of the darkness in our lives and in the world.

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's classic work called Sabbath - Day of Eternity is provided by OU.org online, and reading it will surely warm up this dark time of year for you as it does for me.  

Tour Midreshet B'erot Bat Ayin in Israel

Click photo for a delightful 5 minute tour of Midreshet B'erot Bay Ayin, an unprecedented holistic center for Jewish women to re-connect with their tribe and with their personal feminine relationship to Torah and to each other.

Happy 5th Night of Hanukkah!

Enjoy a very clear and accessible refresher article about "how to do Hanukkah" on The Jewish Magazine online.


Fear and 'Seeing' of God




















See more creative Shabbat candle ideas

Shuli Kleinman shared the following in her blog this week:

"Hashem is unfathomable but He wants to have a relationship with us in this world.  Thus He creates something, a portion of light, a Name for Himself through which we can relate to something that He desires from us, which is that we love and fear Him and know that He is all there is."

And along the same lines, I read the following paragraph this week, and it answered some lingering questions for me. Here, see what you think -

ALL IS PREDETERMINED EXCEPT FOR
YIRAT SHAMAYIM [FEAR AND ‘SEEING’ OF G-D]

"Of course we have free will and we can trace things that happen in our lives to our actions and choices, but on a deeper level superceding our actions and choices there is predetermination happening in our lives. The only thing that is truly in our own realm of influence is our ability to see that G-d is doing it all, and to have awe and amazement at that fact."  Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz


And finally, this quote from my JewishAmerica email on Parashat Vayeshev this week, "Furthermore, when things look dark, G-D may drop clues to let us know that he is with us. Picking up on these clues can give us strength and encouragement to deal with crisis." 

The Smoothness Factor - Do you wonder about it, too?

I often wonder about things that go very smoothly in my life, by contrast to other issues, events and relationships that seem to be awkward and difficult, even chaotic.

Do you wonder about the "smoothness factor" in your life, too?

Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz recently said the following, and I am taking it to heart this week:

"Get yourself back into the area of the smoothness factor. Put on your smoothness factor glasses.

See the ease or the dis-ease of various events in your life, relationships in your life and challenges in your life. See the pressures and the pleasures and see how smooth they are, or their lack of smoothness. See them in the light of smoothness, as an indication of business that has been accomplished in previous lifetimes, or not.

And then act upon it with that awareness, that understanding, that consciousness. Then you can re-frame your ability to cope and to respond to immediate challenges, and see them as rectification of previous lifetimes.

This will make your responses more primal and more profound."

Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz

The Golden Gate in Jerusalem for us all

The Golden Gate is on the east side of the wall around the old city of Jerusalem, and leads directly to the Temple Mount. It is the source of rich history, some of it rather speculative in nature.

But more importantly, it might possibly be the source point of our very rich future in Messiah. So, maybe these photos I post today will unite and ignite our attention on this important spot on earth right now. Can't hurt, can it?

As one blogger named Shalom Ben Issac writes, "Jews believe that the Mashiach (Messiah) will enter Jerusalem from the east through the Golden Gate and as he enters the Temple Mount he'll bring redemption to the Hebrew nation."

Naturally, Christians and Muslims have their own differing theories. Looks like we will all be watching what happens there soon enough.

Let There Be Light, This Shabbos and Always

To celebrate our beginning the Torah again this Shabbos, I've transcribed an excerpt from Rabbi Dr. Akiva Tatz speaking in 2011 on the  Kabbalah of  "the two lights."

What better time than now, in the energy of Bereshit, Genesis, the first book of Torah, and especially, "..let there be light."

"The first light must be strong enough to open up a space for all things to exist in later.

Not just to light up the darkness, but to even create the place where the darkness is in the first place.

And that's called the First Light, or in chasidic literature it's called Ohr Rishon, the First Light, and it is perfect, incredibly strong, but it's not destined to last.

It's destined to be there only long enough to open that space and then it goes away, and it leaves a tremendous aching emptiness, a longing for the light that was once there. But, it leaves a darkness.

The longing, the absence of the light, the feeling of what was once there brings in a second light.

But the second light is very, very faint, almost nothing compared to the first, but it's the one that lasts. It's the one the whole exercise was intended for, and although it's very small and only a faint echo of the first light, it what remains...

The second light becomes the soul and the residue [of the First Light] becomes the body,"

We are, all of us, body and soul, made of the light and made for the light.

What a great concept to consider this Shabbos Bereshit!



Hoshana Rabbah - Pedi Sukkahs For Succos 2013

Today is Hoshana Rabbah, and soon the Succos season will come to an end. I loved a photo posted on Chabad.org and just had to provide my artistic version of it here on Shabbos Chic for you today!

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"Teshuvah repentance does not come to embitter life but to sweeten it."  Rav Kook 
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Shabbat Sukkot

Sending Light To The Nations
on Shabbat Sukkot from London, England

Full Moon Succah

It's the first day of Succos, and this photo adapted from Joel Seshold's Flicker stream is a beautiful symbol , isn't it?

The full moon awakened me, just in time to see it emerging within heart-shaped clouds, like a divine embrace.

That's how I want to feel this season of joy. Spiritually, I am in a divine embrace that is tangible and undeniable, and it's my responsibility to remember this privilege as I move through my Succos days and nights, and also thereafter.

"Embrace is hinted at in the sukkah: Just as a person embraces his child in love, encircling him with his arms, and sheltering him with his head, so here for the joints of the arm there are the two walls according to their rule, plus a third wall at least as wide as a handbreadth, and the third, the handbreadth, is the hand, and all of it is a parable for the situation of being embraced, of our being drawn near to Hashem [God] in joy and purity."

Thanks to Rabbi David Seidenberg of NeoHasid.org for sharing this wonderful quote from Meshulam Feivush, Rebbe of Zbarazh, in Yosher Divrey Emet

Jerusalem Gold 2013 and My Spiritual Treasure

Last week,  the Times of Israel posted Ilan Ben Zion's report of a real-life treasure trove of ancient gold discovered by archeologist Eliat Mazar.

"The find, unearthed in the area adjacent to the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount known as the Ophel, was dated to the early 7th century CE, in all likelihood the time of the brief Persian conquest of Jerusalem."

Mazar speculates that, "the hoard of gold and silver objects, found beneath the floor of a Byzantine-era house meters from the massive walls of the Temple Mount, was brought by Jews who returned to the city after the Persians conquered it from the Byzantines in 614 CE."

While reading about the Jerusalem treasure today, I found myself thinking about our Yom Kippur service yesterday. There were not very many people gathered in our little Temple to pray.

Apparently  many Jews do not treasure Yom Kippur as I do.

Now, this is not a comment about what other people should do on Yom Kippur, or how it should be done correctly. I am simply stating that Yom Kippur is true treasure to me in my life.

My annual opportunity to seek and find spiritual treasure during the whole month of Elul, on Rosh Hashana, during the 10 Days of Awe and of course on Yom Kippur is beyond monetary valuation. It is priceless. And I find it over and over, regularly, without fail.

I can count on finding spiritual treasure because it's already scheduled for me. It's right on my calendar every year!

Maybe the comparison between a fortune in ancient gold coins recently found near the Temple Mount and the value I place on the High Holy Days is politically incorrect in this world right now.

Mercifully, it's not this world that matters in the long run, other than seeing and knowing it as preparation for the World To Come.

To me, Yom Kippur is for Preppers of the World To Come!

And what could be more exciting than that? Well, possibly Succot, the Season of Joy that will soon be upon us. It starts this Wednesday evening, September 18th.

I love this quote from my JewishAmerica.com email today:

"Those who don’t stop growing come to happiness from being Jewish and from realizing a connection to One who is focused on giving us every opportunity to become great in ways we can’t imagine."

See Rita Brownstein's adorable DIY Sukkah lights and make some for yourself this year.

It's Shabbat and It's Yom Kippur - A Double Blessing

When Yom Kippur and Shabbos coincide, it's hard to imagine the great Light accessible to us all.  I honestly don't think it can be expressed any better than this quote from my FridayLight email today:

"Have you ever seen a flame leap back to its source, like when sparks ignite from a camp fire, and then fall back into the fire itself?

We each have a spiritual spark within. It is a spark that is purely a piece of our Creator, and it lives in each of us. Though it is usually covered in layers of spiritual and physical shells, on Yom Kippur that innermost spark shines out and comes close to its source.

Yom Kippur is the one day of the year when we have the power to access that spark. It is a day when we can truly be our most real spiritual and physical selves.

This Shabbat is Yom Kippur. When we light our candles today, we are welcoming the opportunity to access that truest, most pure part of yourself. Have a meaningful Yom Kippur and Shabbat Shalom from FridayLight!"

And also from me, Mia Sherwood Landau. May your life and your spiritual growth be immeasurably blessed this year and always.

"On this day, just one time per year, we are lifted collectively and individually above our past and given the opportunity to “whiten” and purify the toxic residue of the pain, disappointments and regrets that we have picked up throughout the year and even throughout our lives." Shifra Hendrie

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

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