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Shabbos Chic Blog

Tikkun olam

Spiritual Ascent is for Everybody

I love this old postcard with a drawing of a street in Safed,  Israel. It draws me in and definitely makes me want to visit soon!

These words from a talk by Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz of ParadisePrinciple.com resonate with me today, looking out at the world and also looking into myself these days:

"There are a million subtle levels on which we fight our spiritual battles in life, and we have to understand that the pre-condition of our spiritual assent is actually a spiritual descent, an agreement to go down into the muck and to raise ourselves out of it."

Looking at my own challenges and the enormous global challenges we all face can be simply overwhelming. It can stop us in our tracks everyday, rendering us unable to move, or even think about moving. 

But we are put here on this earth to persevere, and to overcome both physical, material challenges and spiritual battles as well. 

This Shabbat I am thinking about being a spiritual warrior. 

And Rabbi Schwartz continues on that subject, "Our inner evil inclination, the Yetzer Hara tries to keep us away from being who we are, and doing what G-d wants us to do. 

"And as regards being a Spiritual Warrior, it tries to convince us that the only successful warrior is the one who can look back and see that everything is going smoothly."

Right!  Since when does fighting a battle go smoothly? That is generally not how battles go, is it? It is only my inner evil inclination trying to convince me that rough patches in my life, and in the world, are evidence of failure. 

Our battles are our tikkun, and tikkun is not failure. This is what we came here to do - to repair the world through our challenges.

Finally, Rabbi Schwartz says, " We have to know that the measure of success is not smoothness, with regard to a spiritual warrior. In fact, it’s the persistence and encouragement to not give up, no matter now difficult things are and how rough our lives may appear."

One of my favorite, most precious spiritual warrior friends is Yedidah Cohen in Safed.  Check out her translations of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag's work, and her wonderful podcasts.

Shabbat Shalom!! 

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.




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?




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 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

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?

Sights and Sounds of The Sabbath

Shabbat is set aside and there are many sights, sounds and tastes for us to enjoy at home, or wherever we may be. Right now I am inclined to share the English translation of one of my favorite sights and sounds.

Adon Olam is a powerful prayer, by sight (reading) and by sound (listening). It is available for us all, for all time.

This translation is from the Artscroll Children's Siddur by Shmuel Blitz, with precious illustrations by Tova Katz:

Master of the Universe,
Who was always King,
even before anything was created,

When nothing will exist anymore,
only He will rule.

Hashem always was here,
Hashem always is here,
and Hashem will always be here.

Hashem is the only One,
there is no other god.

Hashem has no beginning and no end,
Hashem is amazingly strong.

Hashem is my God, and my Redeemer,
He helps me in my time of trouble.

I am safe with Him,
He is there when I call to Him.

He watches over my soul when I go to sleep,
and when I wake up in the morning.

Hashem is always with me,
and I shall not be afraid.

and the following quote from page 10:

"The highest level of prayer
a person can reach is to
pray like a young child."



Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum on The Shema

"There is a spiritual pilot light, or Pintele Yid, in every Jew that never is extinguished, and the Shema is a spark that causes that hidden light to grow and strengthen. We suffer when we are not connected to this truth without understanding why. The perpetual presence of the Shema pilot light gets obscured by layers of worldly impurity that comes with exile, true exile: the distance from knowing Hashem. Every time we say the Shema, the light that is within us grows stronger, purifying us with the truth, connecting us to a wellspring of emunah (faith)."

from this week's blog post by

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

Hear the brief, stunning version of Shema Israel by Princess Yehudia on YouTube

And drop deep into meditation for a little over five minutes during this  Shema Israel chant by Michael Bayard and Ann "Sabra" Roach

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

Rebbetzin Siegelbaum's B'erot Bat Ayin Parshat Va'etchanan Newsletter this week also provides a powerful image in our minds when she writes:

"...I recite the Shema Yisrael daily, not only during our morning prayers but also in my spiritual healing practice, as the power of the Shema Yisrael - unifying Hashem expels darkness and negativity.

These six powerful words corresponding to the six points of the Magen David (Star of David), is a shield of protection from negative energy."

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יהוה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יהוה אֶחָד
  

Restoring the Jewish Glory

Three bits of wisdom from Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz and his YouTube video


...the goal of the Divine bridge traits referred to as the Sefirot, are to infinitize all processes and all structures, [including those of our own persona]...
 
...the goal of the Tikun [rectification] of cosmic brokenness, is to transform reality into a conduit and conductor and environment for infinity...
 
... the goal of all upper and lower  world interpersonal relationships is to tap into each other's infinite wellsprings and thereby unify with each other, and thereby reproduce infinite shefa [abundance] for all of the world to be nurtured from...

Dr . Yedidah Cohen on Tisha B'Av

The incomprehensible day of loss and mourning was put into perspective for me today when I received the following in an email from Dr. Yedidah Cohen, translator of the works of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag and others:

"Where is God? Why can’t I sense His presence?

Rabbi Ashlag teaches that we can’t sense God’s presence because we have put a rival in His place, we have placed our ego at the center of our focus and God is left in a corner.

Yet we are commanded to build Him a sanctuary, and then He will dwell within us. A sanctuary in our heart, making God a living presence in our lives. Then the outer sanctuary will be rebuilt."   Dr. Yedidah Cohen

Amen and yet again, Amen.

Like a diamond in the rough


When we are challenged, our consciousness has to shift.

It's not about the other person changing to please us.

It's about how much we can change.


All our frustrations are there to give us the opportunity to change ourselves.

Everything that gives me an opportunity to change and grow, to elevate my consciousness, is a gift to me.

These are the diamonds that our soul is here to collect.
Yehuda Sivan, 10/2011, Dallas TX

Period of Counting The Omer And My Growth

"Our emotional makeup, including that of our human/animal souls, derives from the emotional attributes through which G-d created the world and continues to relate to it."   Rabbi Yosef  B. Friedman

This quote from Rabbi Friedman's email made me think about the levels or layers of my soul, and how they are all being cultivated, whether I know it and understand it.

Everyday I have new opportunities to grow, and I am learning to welcome them.  But first, I have to genuinely see my opportunities clearly. That is the first step, and perhaps the most difficult. Irritations and aggravations don't seem like precious opportunities at all, but they are. 

The period of counting the Omer is a good time to see my opportunities to grow now, and to recognize them as a big part of my Tikkun Olam, my personal contribution to repair the world.

Relgious Freedom To Keep The Sabbath In The United States

Moment Magazine published a thorough, scholarly article on the future of religious freedom this week. It includes segments from a variety of law professors and other authorities. I particularly liked this quote by Marc Stern, general counsel of the American Jewish Committee -

"There are substantial numbers of influential people who believe that a person ought not to be able to take religion very far into the public. This increasingly vocal secular cohort is no longer comfortable with accommodating religious practice in any way.

Some atheist groups are even challenging Sabbath observer accommodation, objections which we haven’t heard for a long time. Their view is that religion should be an entirely private affair, and that the government should take no notice of it. In part, these changes reflect a general secularizing trend in Western society."

Oh boy, this is surely an excellent description of what we can all see is going on. I'm not sure what else to say following Stern's comment, other than bring my passion for Shabbos to the world through my blog as Tikkun Olam.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis on Saying Thank You

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis said the perfect words in an email today. They spoke loudly to me, so here they are for you, too:

"Our sages give us insight. In Hebrew the word modeh, thank you, also means “to admit.”

In essence, saying “thank you” is an admission that we are in need, that we are vulnerable, that we cannot do it alone – and this is something we do not like to concede. We hate feeling beholden, especially if the favor extended to us is significant. Therefore the greater the kindness, the closer our relationship, the deeper is our reluctance to reveal our weakness by saying those two little words."

I have SO MUCH to be thankful for today, and her words are reminding me that it is not only OK, but it is a actually a requirement to feel and express gratitude, no matter how I may rebel inside myself , orhow others accept the thanks outside of me.

Saying thank you is not always popular, and I have experienced a lot of people telling me not to thank them in various situations. I have learned to remember that their reactions are not really my business. My business is between me and my Almighty God. I am saying thank you because it is pleasing to God, whether or not it is pleasing to people.

Thanks so much for the beautiful reminder, Rebbetzin!

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."



Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis on Gratitude

I treasure my weekly emails from Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, the holocaust survivor who founded Hineni.org and continues to travel and work tirelessly to inspire Jews all over the world.

Today she included the following words that speak directly to my soul:

"People run here and there, dabbling in every available therapeutic program, but they fail to understand that happiness is waiting for them right in their own minds and hearts. They need only acquire the attribute of gratitude and learn to thank G-d for the many blessings of life."

Choosing gratitude is mandated for Jews, but it's still hard to remember. Creating happiness by choosing gratitude is not costly or hard to do. It is just hard to REMEMBER to do.

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.

Saving European Jewish Cemeteries

My little Temple in north Texas and my small congregation does not face the same problems faced by European Jews in many countries.

Yes, we have a cemetery. But we don't have many thousands of aging grave sites requiring enormous investments of time and money to reconstruct, maintain and protect. Old European Jewish cemeteries are deteriorating, leaving many small congregations with  very expensive and emotional issues. Jewish populations have declined dramatically , and at the same time their cemeteries are crying for attention.


The JTA article mentions legislation requiring governments to contribute to repair and maintenance:

"Last year, the Council of Europe adopted a nonbinding resolution placing responsibility for the care of Jewish cemeteries on national governments.

The resolution was based in part on a report by the special rapporteur for Jewish cemeteries, Piet de Bruyn, who wrote that Jewish cemeteries are “probably” more vulnerable because of the small size of the communities.

The report also noted instances of cemeteries in Eastern Europe that have been turned into “residential areas, public gardens, leisure parks, army grounds and storage sites; some have been turned into lakes.”

The article also describes the efforts of one American to ease the burden on European Jewish congregations:

"In New York, Michael Lozman, an orthodontist whose parents were born in Belarus, founded the Restoration of Eastern European Jewish Cemeteries Foundation, which has brought hundreds of American college students to restore cemeteries in Belarus and Lithuania with money raised from private donors. The students spend two weeks restoring one or more Jewish cemeteries along with non-Jewish local students."

Lozman's foundation accepts donations via PayPal on his website, or by check to his listed address.
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