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Shabbos Chic Blog

Kabbalah

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!

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.

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!

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?




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.

Eighth Night of Hanukkah 2013 - Our Highest Prayers

ShabbosChicHanukkahLightInTheDarkness





















This inspirational message arrived by email just in time for our 8th night of Hanukkah tonight. May it inspire you and your final night of Hanukkah 2013 as well:

"The last night and day of Chanukah is called Zos Chanukah. It is a night where the gates of prayer are open for our heavenly requests. It is a time that encapsulates the power and holiness of all the preceding seven nights of Chanukah. Our Sages teach us that we still have one last opportunity for the judgment of Yom Kippur to be finalized which is the 8th day of Chanukah. One can accomplish on the 8th day of Chanukah requests that even great Tzadikim cannot accomplish during Neilah of Yom Kippur. Let us use this opportunity to strengthen our prayers Torah study mitzvos and tzedakah."

Rabbi Yisroel of theHineni Heritage Center

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

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!



Shabbat Sukkot

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

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!

Shabbat Shalom To One And All


Shabbat is universally about family, and about our relationship to our ultimate, lasting and forever family relationship with Hashem.

Even if we find ourselves alone when we begin the Sabbath, we are not alone. We are part of an enormous and enduring family, and our candle lighting celebrates our family relationship that never ends.

Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz sent an email to commemorate the 5th Yartzeit of his mother today, and he said:

" Our 'FATHER-IN-HEAVEN' [who is also portrayed as 'IMA' or 'Mother' in certain Providential situations according to the Kabbalah], is Someone that we, His children, can always turn to for help and guidance in any and every situation that we find ourselves in. "

May the enduring love of our Creator and Heavenly Father, Hashem, wrap us up in the beauty and safety and warmth of his love, and may we all be blessed.

Rabbi Yosef B. Friedman on The Shema

Thanks to Rabbi Yosef B Friedman of Kehot Publication Society for his interesting email on The Kabbalah of Shema that arrived this morning.

Ruach (Spirit) vs Koach (Might) In Israel And In Us


Following is a quote from a special PDF provided by www.ARZA.org offering unique blessings for lighting each candle of your menorah in order to honor  Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel's Independence Day. This year - 2013 - it begins on Monday, April 15 and comes to a conclusion at sunset on Tuesday, April 16.

"In the book of Zechariah there is a description of the seven branched Menorah (candelabrum)with two olive branches on its sides. This description symbolizes the belief in Ruach (Spirit) over Koach (Might). “The angel who talked with me came back and woke me as one is wakened from sleep. He said to me, “What do you see?” And I answered, “I see a menorah all of gold, with a bowl above it.

The lamps on it are seven in number, and the lamps above it have seven pipes, and by it are two olive trees, one on the right of the bowl and one on its left. I, in turn, asked the angel who walked by me, “What do these things mean, sir?” “Do you not know what those things mean?” asked the angel who talked with me, and I said, “No, sir.” Then he explained to me as follows: : This is the word of The Eternal to Zerubavel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, said The Lord of Hosts.”(Zechariah, 4:1-6)

The national symbol of Israel is, of course, the menorah. The ARZA suggested blessings bring our present world circumstances into sharp focus as we celebrate, and the words of the blessings come directly from, "Israel’s Declaration of Independence issued in Tel Aviv on May 14, 1948 (5th of Iyar, 5708) – when David Ben Gurion and
his cabinet declared the establishment of the
State of Israel."



Jewish Women Inspiring My Life

Isn't it wonderful that we can read the words and hear the voices of women teaching Torah and sharing their knowledge and experience with us now? Today I want to share some connections with Jewish women inspiring my life.  Some are virtual friends (Skype, email and phone), and some are friends of my soul because their written words touch me deeply and change me forever.

Women of the Wall have been gathering on Rosh Chodesh since 1988, standing at the Western Wall and singing and praying together. These women come from all levels of observance and cultures over the years, and they have collaborated on a Rosh Chodesh Siddur that is available for sale on their website so we can all join in prayer.

My coach and friend, Lynn Chapman [The Stress-Less Coach], shared in an email this week: "We’re bombarded by a constant flow of other people’s expectations: bosses that expect more from us than we can deliver, clients who don't return our calls and yet want us to drop everything when they do, loved ones who are disappointed by our lack of attention, and a constant barrage of email and social media tweets and twerps that we need to return."

That is a PERFECT description of modern life, and the PERFECT prescription to survive it is Shabbos, isn't it? Lynn's coaching catapaulted me into my writing and sharing career as we worked together on the phone.

I studied with Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum last spring, and she is offering another course on Emuna Healing this year. She has an amazing ability to bring the knowledge of Torah and Kabbalah into our lives for physical and emotional healing.  Rebbetzin Siegelbaum 's book, Women At The Crossroads: A Woman's Perspective On The Weekly Torah Portion is my constant companion each Shabbat, and I encourage you to read it weekly, too.

Our weekly shuirs with author  Dr Yedidah Cohen in Safed Israel are  very precious opportunities to study the works of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag in English. Yedidah has translated two books, and is working on a third one now.

We are studying A Tapestry For the Soul now, and I am amazed at the incredible value it adds to my life each week. Having the privilege to hear her translate from Hebrew directly into English when she brings additional materials into our classes is a priceless opportunity for spiritual growth. I wouldn't want to miss it!

Finally, this article by Cantor Wendy Haley Koblinsky links to several YouTube videos of Avinu Malkeinu. I enjoyed hearing different men and women singing the powerful prayer, Our Father Our King in different styles, with and without accompaniment, including folk and rock versions.

Wendy writes, "The text of Avinu Malkeinu can certainly be a dose of reality, one might even say a punch in the gut. It cuts through our empty promises, mistakes of the past, and uncertainty in our ability to do better. It returns us to square one: We are not perfect, we have not made the right choices, we firmly will ourselves to do better, and in the interim, ask for patience."

All I can say to that is AMEN.

Our Souls Are Part of The Divine All The Time

What a difference a day makes! My inbox was overflowing with wisdom regarding my soul today. I love it when that happens as a result of my prayerful intention.

I am so grateful to Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz for sharing the following in an email to his list today. Such a perfect reply to the longings I expressed just yesterday in my blog post.

A Part of the Divine
"Only the lowest part of the Soul is inside of the body…

The great majority of the Soul reaches beyond the body up to the highest heights…

This explains the essential upward striving of the soul [as if it wants to escape from the body and return to its Heavenly Home]…

The Soul, prior to entering the body, was in a World of Souls–a very pure and sublime world—where the souls are as yet untested by the coarse and dark reality of the materialistically oriented body…

Besides the Soul’s memory of life prior to the body, the Soul also has a super-consciousness that draws from that part of itself that is presently not inside of the body [which comprises the great majority of it's makeup]…

Just like a candle flame that is constantly striving to reach beyond it’s limiting, grounding wick, the Soul strives to reach beyond the limiting mindset and consciousness that it is presently confined to inside of the body—a striving to grow, to go beyond itself and to somehow return to it’s Infinite Divine roots."

Coming to know my eternal soul is a big responsibility. It's easy to get too busy and distracted in this life, and miss the whole opportunity. Oh, I don't want to miss it!

My Shabbat candles remind me that I am also striving to "reach beyond my grounding, limiting wick." I wrote a song about this. Maybe I can record it soon. I will remember when I light my Shabbos candles this week for sure.

Shabbat Shemini

Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz sent out this message in an email this week -
SHABBAT ASCENT OF WORLDS

"Kabbalah teaches that on Shabbat we ascend to a higher world. In a higher world we realize, as in all higher worlds, that the real factor, the only factor is G-d. The causative factor is G-d. So, on Shabbat we go up and we realize that everything that I did during the weekdays is really G-d doing it through me. G-d is the causative factor."

His words echo, over and over in my mind. I notice that it's easier to remember God as the causative factor in my life when I feel good and things are going well.

Whenever I am NOT HAPPY or even REALLY MAD about something, I am so distracted by my emotion that I rarely think about God as the causative factor of my life lessons.

Nope, I'm just mad and I'm missing the opportunity to grow. When the anger passes I eventually think about what I learned from the situation. Oh, how I wish I could move through that process faster now.


Rabbi Steve Bernstein posted about Parshat Shemini this week, asking, " How do we approach that which is holy in our lives? When do we concern ourselves with the details and instructions of ritual? When are we more concerned with the words of our hearts? Both paths can lead to meaning and holiness."

Shabbat Clusters on Shabbos Pesach 2013

I love the idea of Shabbat Clusters promoted by Entry Point DC, set up for young Jews in the DC area. "Shabbat Clusters are small groups, usually about 10-12 people, organized by EPDC.  They’re peer-led and meet once a month for a pot-luck Shabbat dinner. "

Organizing pot-lucks and sharing with each other is such a great Shabbos-sharing idea. Young singles are not the only ones who can benefit, of course. LOTS of people of all ages are single, facing the weekly Shabbat alone at home or on the road. 

Could you organize a Shabbat Cluster to share Shabbos where you live?

My readers are my Shabbat Cluster here on The Shabbos Chic Blog! But reading a blog cannot compare to sitting and sharing the candlelight and the blessings and the meal and the conversation with other people, does it?

*******************

Rabbi Richard N. Levy posted a great article on ReformJudaism.org this week that brings light on Pesach and the counting of the Omer from the wisdom of the Kabbalists. He takes us straight into our own deep appreciation of this time of year when he says,

"The process is called S'firat HaOmer, the Counting of the Omer. S'firah is the Hebrew word for counting, which the mystics of the Kabbalah identified with the name for each of the manifestations of God in the world...

The s'firah period is thus a period of tikkun, "correction," of the raw selves that were exploded out of Egypt into the pure n'shamot, "souls" who deserved to be given the mitzvot of the Torah."

Thinking of myself as a "raw self" in the process of correction is a good image for me. Knowing that I have an opportunity to accept and embrace my pure soul this time of year is at once a privilege and a responsibility.  It connects me to the souls of my ancestors and to the future of the world as well.

Rabbi Wayne Dosick on Shabbos and Kabbalah

This photo is an old, pitted, silver Shabbat tray, having seen many a challah in its day, I'm guessing. It is still quite beautiful and it still stands for Shabbos, no matter how worn its surface may be.

I love vintage and antique Judaica and have a small collection of a few, funky old pieces that come out to grace our Shabbos table weekly. Not every piece every week, just a couple sets of candle holders, and a different challah tray, mixed and matched with abandon.

Here's a quote from Rabbi Wayne Dosick, and a link to his YouTube video of a short Kabbalah teaching. Don't miss the whole class singing together at the end of it!

"When understood and performed with its original spiritual intent, the lighting of the Sabbath candles can be a sublime moment, a moment of supreme holiness."

The original spiritual intent of kindling the lights has been a subject of much debate over the centuries, but it is YOUR intent and MY intent each  Friday night on Shabbos Eve that matters. We have a fresh, new opportunity to connect to the tradition, the past and the future in the simple act of lighting candles and reciting the blessing. What a privilege!

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