Elul arrives again


The circling months have brought us back to Elul, the time to prepare for the Days of Awe that fall in the first ten days of next month, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

To “prepare” is to ask ourselves difficult questions about the past year; to acknowledge our mistakes, faults, and shortcomings; and to come to terms with the ways in which we may have –intentionally or unintentionally– hurt others due to our own ignorance, callousness, thoughtlessness, arrogance, jealousy, selfishness, greed, etc.

Once we have completed our internal assessment, then we must “make right” the things that “went wrong” — we must ask forgiveness of, and make amends to, those we wronged; we must say the things we didn’t say that needed to be said; and we must do acts of tikkun (repair) to create goodness in the world.

Only after we have made things right in “this world” (i.e., with those around us) may we atone “in the spiritual world” on Yom Kippur.

And what, one might ask, is the point of all this preparation, repair, and atonement?

The Hassidic Masters analogized our souls to panes of clear glass that we make “dirtier” with every mistake. Dirt gets added each time we misrepresent the truth to ourselves or to someone else; withhold compassion; feel hatred; gossip; belittle ourselves or another; borrow and forget to return; lack gratitude for what we have; pass judgment against others without knowing all the facts; ignore the still small voice as it coaxes us to spread goodness, light, and love throughout this world; etc.

The dirtier the glass becomes, the harder it is for our souls to help us live each moment from our Truth (which is that we exist to share G-d’s Infinite Love with others) — kind of like the way it gets harder to drive a vehicle with a dirty windshield. Over time, lots of little mistakes make it harder to see thru the glass, making it harder for our souls to prevent us from making the bigger mistakes that can happen when we fail to act from Love.

And not only does dirty glass make it harder to see clearly, but we spend time and energy dealing with our emotions about the dirt — managing our guilt and frustration about our past mistakes, or trying to cover them up —  which can distract us from focusing on how we could best go about repairing and sharing G-d’s Love today.

Finally, trying to atone in the spiritual realm on Yom Kippur without first understanding the mistakes we’ve made or without making repairs in this material realm is like trying to clean a dirty windshield without washer solution — the dirt gets smeared around, but it can’t be removed!!

So, our internal assessment helps us determine where repairs are necessary in this world, and the repairs in this world spray on cleaning solution, so that on Yom Kippur we can clear away all the dirt from, and every last smudge and smear on, the pane of glass that is our soul.

This Elul, may G-d help all Jews have a better understanding of the mistakes for which they need to atone and the strength to make the repairs necessary, so that we all might enter the New Year better able to share G-d’s Love with others . . . because that, my friends, is what it means “to choose life that you may live” and “to have a sweet New Year.”

with Love,

The folly of humanity (as I’ve come to understand)


The folly of humanity
(as I’ve come to understand)
We humans picked a date
when summer becomes fall,
but our calendar can’t determine
when a bird will hear “the call.”
States and nations were divided
by the water that was seen
but rivers move and tidal waves
wash land into the sea.
Life’s not concerned with logic,
never stands frozen or perplexed.
It just continues creeping on
from one moment to the next.
While we humans look for reasons,
Life keeps going where it will.
We can swim against the current,
but Life controls our movement still.
Staying present in each moment
is all that we can do,
or Life will slip away before
you’ve comprehended YOU.
And the folly of humanity
as I’ve come to understand?
That we control when or if
Life takes us where we’ve planned!


praying you all find peace in the flow of Life,
shavua tov, jen


these things remind me



these things remind me

The sun
The moon
The first star at night
The pitch black of winter
The blinding summer light

The trees
The grass
The first flower of spring
The tiny little silkworm
That hangs from its string

The hummingbird
The chipmunk
The migrating mallard’s call
The tracks left by deer in
The first snow of fall

The mountain
The beach
The waves on the sea
The color-changing leaves
That drop from the tree

My family
My friends
The early morning dew
Everything in life, HaShem,
Reminds me of You.


may shabbat bring shalom, jen



“Through ALL . . .”


I had a chance to spend about 20 minutes in the garden yesterday, and I ran across a really large slug who decided to be especially photogenic!!   😉

slug-1 slug-2 slug-3 slug-4

Our masters said:

Even those creatures you hold superfluous in the world, such as flies and fleas and gnats, even they are part of the creation of the world.

Through all does the Holy One, blessed be he, make manifest his mission, even through the serpent, even through the gnat, even through the frog.

In Time and Eternity: a Jewish Reader, 1946, Nahum N. Glatzer, ed., p.23 (Schocken Books, N.Y.).

Praying you see the Holy One becoming manifest through those around you, jen






BaYom HaHu (“On that day”)


Placing things in boxes is just what humans do.  We ignore examples that don’t fit; tell kids categories are true.  Focusing on distinctions, we draw lines, separate, then we use those rigid boxes to justify hate.

But must one box end before another begins? If I stand in six boxes, would that be a sin?  If words touch my soul, why should I care, if it was Rumi or Rashi who put them out there? Jesus, Confucius, Buddha, Lao Tzu, those men all used words to share G-d’s Love too!!

So here’s my idea — starting today — let’s all break down our boxes and let love lead the way!   We can sit in small circles discussing how we’re the same, transforming every “other” into a friend with a name.   Once we’re feeling G-d’s love, and there’s no more hate, we’ll have arrived at a day the whole world could celebrate!

Inspired by Zachariah 14:9, which says: “G-d will reign over all the lands, and on that day, G-d will be One and G-d’s name will be One.”

shavua tov, jen



Tish’a B’Av


From sunset last night to tonight was Tish’a B’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, on which we commemorate the destruction of both Jewish Temples — the First by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and the Second by the Romans in 70 CE. The day, for traditional Jews, is one of mourning and fasting. However, as a devout Jew who: (a) has no interest in rebuilding a Temple for sacrificing animals, and (b) believes the Dome of the Rock Mosque is one of the most beautiful buildings ever built (and thus I have no interest in seeing it removed from the Temple Mount!!) . . . I’m never quite sure what to do with of this holiday!

Being an empathic person, I am sad for the Jews whose “world” was destroyed when each of those Temples fell, for the lives that were lost to war, and for the people who were dragged into exile by a conquering army or dispersed amongst the nations from the homeland they had known.  But I can’t mourn the buildings themselves, and I certainly can’t mourn the loss of a version of Judaism that I don’t care to practice!!

Given my conundrum, I was thinking this morning about how I could honor this holiday.  Generally, I believe the goal of all Jewish holidays is the same — we are to find in each of them a way to re-connect ourselves both to G-d and to people throughout history, so that we might remember that though we are but a speck of dust in the eternity of time, we simultaneously are infinitely valuable as part of G-d’s Creation at this very moment . . .

This afternoon, I realized the best way for me to honor this holiday is to ask all of you to do two things with me:

(1) Please think about all the people throughout the course of history who have lost a house of worship or a religious community due to religious intolerance, political upheaval, hatred, and war — not just the Jews of ancient Jerusalem, but Jews during the Spanish Inquisition and under Hitler’s Nazi Empire . . . and not just Jews, but also Muslims during the Crusades, Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, Christians in China and the Near East, Buddhists in Tibet, etc., etc., etc. There are so many examples, and I’m sure each of you knows of examples that I do not know.

2) Once you have thought of eight or ten examples, you’ll probably realize, as I did, that:   “It’s enough already!!”   But, rather than simply get disgusted at what we humans have done to one another through the course of history, please join me in pledging to yourself that you will, when the opportunity arises, speak out in your local communities on behalf of others whose form of worship may look different from yours.

We may not ever agree on all the theological and philosophical details regarding G-d and religion, but surely we all can agree that G-d would want us both to support one another in our attempts to lead holy lives and to protect one another from religious intolerance, political scapegoating, and the hate that can so easily be bred by ignorance and fear.

Thank you for reading, jen