when storms come


Rabbi Nachman of Breslov taught: “It is a great mitzvah to be happy always.” And I must agree because, when we are happy, we are much more able to share our Light and Love with whomever we encounter each day.

But sometimes, Life brings us circumstances that make joyfulness difficult to maintain.  At those times, it can seem that no matter how hard we work to hold onto the Light, storm clouds roll in, surrounding us with a grey-green gloom that can make daily life a struggle…


I recently ran across a prayer that I thought was beautiful, and it seems appropriate for those moments when Life’s storms are getting us down. The prayer is from the Berditchever Rebbe, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, a great Hassidic leader who lived from 1740-1809. He prayed:

“Lord of the world…I do not beg you to reveal to me the secret of your ways–I could not bear it! But show me one thing; show it to me more clearly and more deeply; show me what this, which is happening at this very moment, means to me, what it demands of me, what you, Lord of the world, are telling me by way of it.”

In Nahum N. Glatzer, Ed., The Passover Haggadah, Schocken Books, Inc., 1979. 

with prayers for peace, jen

Colors can be like that too


Rabi’a al-Adawiyya, a Sufi mystic who lived in the Eighth Century of the common era, is credited with saying:

Oh G-d,
Whenever I listen to the voice of anything You have made–
     The rustling of the trees
     The trickling of water
     The cries of birds
     The flickering of shadow
     The roar of the wind
     The song of the thunder–
I hear it saying:
G-d is One!
Nothing can be compared with G-d!

Upton, Charles. Doorkeeper of the Heart: Versions of Rabi’a at 48. Threshold Books. 1988.

And, to Rabi’a, I would say: “Ah, yes, my friend.  I know what you mean.  Colors can be like that too . . . ”





praying that we all might more often be blessed with ears that hear and eyes that see, jen




How many days, years, events, or heartbreaks, had led up to this one moment?
Had it happened before?
How many times had she promised “Never again!”?
No doubt she had meant it every time.
But each time, life kept creeping back in and, in just the way life does, taunting her, telling her she may as well, because she was worthless anyway.

Absent father.
Addicted mother.
Abusive grandparents.
Teachers who didn’t care.
Ministers who preached shame.
Boys who forced sex too early (or were they men? and how many had there been??).
She probably hadn’t experienced all of those, but how many heartbreaks does it take to shatter a soul when she lives in a society that sees her as “less than” because of the color of her skin, the cadence of her speech, or the neighborhood where she lives?

Perhaps she had been born into poverty, with little hope of escaping the cycle of poverty and violence that traps far too many innocent souls in this country where we profess faith in God but routinely fail to protect the orphan, the widow, and the poor.

Perhaps she’d been sent to under-funded schools, where we unrealistically expect kids to succeed, insisting they can pull themselves out of poverty by their own bootstraps.
But how was she to learn if she hadn’t eaten since school lunch the day before and if she had been kept awake all night by cold, fear, and the gnawing pangs of hunger?
How old did she have to be to realize she’d never own the boots she was to use to pull herself out?
Surely she knew before she was a teenager that the odds of winning a lottery jackpot were better.
Why bother trying?

And so, in a hopeless place where most everything indicated she had no value to our society, she did the best she could.
She did what she had to do.
She struggled to get by.

And I, having not ever for even one millisecond stood in her shoes, I have no right to judge her as she walks home from the liquor store, drinking from the bottle in a brown paper bag, Thursday morning, 8:26.


shavua tov, jen

A Rebbi’s Proverb


If you always assume the one sitting next to you is the Messiah waiting for some simple human kindness–

You will soon come to weigh your words and watch your hands. 

And if the Messiah chooses not to be revealed in your time–

It will not matter.  

Danny Siegel (adapted from a Yiddish proverb). Kol Haneshamah: Prayers for a House of Mourning at 91.  (The Reconstructionist Press, Elkins Park, PA. 2001).