In May, I attended one morning of a four-day festival of faiths. The session I chose to attend began with a Shaikh teaching about Sufi practice and then leading prayer for all those in attendance.   

Sufism is the inner, spiritual, mystical dimension of Islam. The goal of Sufism is to help individuals develop the ability to be present in the current moment and to love unconditionally, and the path to developing those qualities is a form of meditation that encourages the remembrance of Gd with every breath.  

As I listened to the Shaikh speak, I began to see many, many similarities between Sufism and my Jewish beliefs and practice… which includes meditation and devekut, the constant awareness of Gd’s presence… and I began to intellectually understand why my heart was drawn to the writings of Sufi poets like Jelaluddin Rumi, Shams Tabriz, and Rabi’a al-Adawiyya.  

Outside the auditorium where the Shaikh spoke was a book fair. There, I found a book entitled “Shalom/Salaam: A Story of a Mystical Fraternity” by Thomas Block (Fons Vitae 2010). Block spent more than a decade gathering research about historical accounts of Sufis and mystical Jews studying together, and his book attempts to share those accounts beginning with Medieval Egypt. 

My day at the festival, finding Block’s book, beginning to have a better intellectual understanding of Islam, being moved by prayer with a shaikh . . . all of it reminded me of the lesson I received nearly a decade ago on the Temple Mount, when the Muslim man from East Jerusalem talked with me and prayed that Muslims and Jews would return to seeing one another as family and living in peace, because we have more that unites us than divides us. 

My summer schedule, and then the fall Jewish holidays, have kept me too busy to read as much as I had wanted of Block’s book, but now I’m ready to settle in for the winter.  I’ve got Block’s book and a Qur’an, and I’m really excited to see what I learn in this next leg of my Jewish Journey!!  

shavua tov, a good week, to all, jen

Live with Joy NOW


We’ve been celebrating Sukkot, the Jewish fall harvest festival.  It is a time when we build a sukkah, or temporary shelter, in which we dwell for seven days.  The sukkah reminds us both of the ancient Israelites who wandered the desert and of the Jewish farmers in Canaan who dwelled in temporary shelters near their fields during the fall harvest.  

But, as Rabbi Alan Lew explains, the sukkah has another purpose — to remind us of “the illusory nature of all houses” and the fact that “Nothing can save us from death.”   This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation at 270 (Little, Brown 2003).   

And what is it we Jews are to do as we dwell in this reminder of our mortality?   Invite our family, friends, and neighbors to join us, and celebrate with a joy greater than at any other holiday.   

Because there’s nothing like death to remind us to live today — NOW, at this very moment — with JOY — and SHARE that joy with others!!

shavua tov, a good week, to all, jen

Sunset over a synagogue 


Ten days ago on Kol Nidre as I was headed to services, the western sky was putting on a show of its own, so I parked my car and spent a few minutes watching the beauty of Creation’s unfolding.   The awesomeness of this world that was entrusted to us never ceases to amaze me!!  

Shabbat shalom to all, jen

…any spot…


…any spot…

Glistening again and calling to me,
sunlight in the dew on the grass.
Reminding me Gd is creating us anew,
each breath,
each moment,
each thought.

You might think it’d be
a quaint little patch,
with bunnies and flowers,
but it’s not.

It’s an empty lot
on a busy street
in a run-down part of town.

And yet there I see
signs pointing to the Eternal,
whose holiness sanctifies any spot
where we find a portal,
a clearing of the veil,
and slip back into Gd’s Great Love.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

I wrote that reflection two weeks ago about the lot in the picture above. There was no sunshine (or dew) this morning when I stopped to take the picture, but perhaps their absence makes the lesson even clearer . . . We can find The Sacred in any spot, if the conditions (both within us and around us) allow us to open ourselves . . .  

For more about Sacred Space, check out “What is Sacred Space?” by Rabbi Ruth Adar, The Coffee Shop Rabbi, at

Chag Sukkot Sameach, jen

“Create me, then, anew”


With but a single ray of light from You, I am penetrated by Your aura,
but a single word uttered by You, and I arise again to life,
but a single stir from Your eternal life, and I am saturated with the dew of youth,
for do You not create anew all that is?
Create me, then, anew, O my parent — me, Your child, life renewed!

Portion of a prayer “From Anew,” written by Hillel Zeitlin, translated to English by Joel Rosenberg, published at p. 195 of Hasidic Spirituality for a New Era: The Religious Writings of Hillel Zeitlin (Paulist Press 2012).

* * * * * 

shavua tov –a good week– to all, jen

The Chord


What is this moment?
From whence does it come?
Did Gd herself play
the chord that was strummed?
The chord that now resonates
inside of me.
The vibration evidencing
The Great Unity.
I’m nothing.
I’m everything.
Tiny part, yet the whole.
Reminded I’m eternal
when Gd’s chord shakes my soul.

. . . 

Shabbat shalom to all, jen