al-Rawdah mosque

ב׳׳ה

al-Rawdah mosque (internet screenshot)

It’s been more than a week and I can’t stop thinking about al-Rawdah mosque in northern Sinai . . .

. . . about the hundreds of Sufi who died when they went to pray.

. . . about the unimaginable grief being experienced by that entire community (where undoubtedly everyone knew someone who died).

. . . about the fact that they were killed because religious extremists labeled them “heretics.”

A heretic is a person who maintains an opinion or doctrine at variance with the orthodox or accepted religious doctrine.

By that definition, I’m a heretic.

I’m a Jewish mystic . . . a Kabbalist, a neo-Hasid . . . who has many opinions at variance with orthodox doctrine . . . but who nonetheless is very attached to Gd and Torah.

And maybe that’s why the deaths of those praying Sufi have stuck with me — because I see myself in them and them in me. They held views different from the fundamentalists who killed them, but they were very attached to Gd and Quran.

A few days ago, after I prayed and thought about those who had died, I wrote this poem about Rabi’a al-Adawiyya, a Sufi Saint who lived more than a thousand years ago and whose writings never fail to open my heart to the Infinite Ocean of Love that is the Gd we share:

Rabi’a and me
Rabi’a al-Adawiyya, they’d allege, was a heretic like me. She a Sufi, me a Kabbalist, a distinction irrelevant to Thee. She’d “burn down Heaven and put out the fires of Hell” for there’s only this moment, so we better live it well. Look past the dogma to see the real Truth. Surrender to the Infinite and therein find proof. Swim in the Love that sets souls free, and share it with others, Rabi’a al-Adawiyya and me.

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May we each, in our own ways, find moments of connection with those who may appear different from us, so that speedily and soon our world might know greater peace between all peoples, jen

The Road to Damascus

ב׳׳ה

The Road to Damascus

The Road to Damascus passed my way. The Light was blinding, and I fell down to pray. But the vision I had was different from Saul, as for me there was no voice at all. Instead I could see that we are all Inside, connected by a web from which we can’t hide, and inside this web with me and you, are Jesus, Mohammed, and Buddha too. For Gd’s plan is bigger than one religion or people, so when your call comes –be it from minaret or steeple– kneel yourself down and take a few moments to pray, thank Gd for multiple paths to help us find our way, because part of the message to Saul was in the message to me — Don’t persecute others for how they find Thee!

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For those who don’t know the story of Saul, a devout Jew who persecuted early Christians, the text is available here.

May this be a week of peace between religions and peoples, jen

Shema Yisrael!

ב׳׳ה


This week’s Torah portion contains the central declaration of the Jewish faith —

Shema Yisrael: Hashem Eloheinu, Hashem echad. 

Hear O Israel: Hashem is our Gd, Hashem is one.  

Over the centuries, commentators have found multiple ways to interpret that declaration.   The command to hear could be to the entire community collectively or to individuals.    One could mean “our Gd is unique among the gods that are worshipped” or “there is only one Gd in all of creation.” 

Yet perhaps the most interesting word in the Shema is Eloheinu, which is translated “our Gd,” but is derived from eloheim — a plural noun meaning gods, such that the Shema could be interpreted to mean “Hashem is all our gods and is one.”  

And at this time in the history of human civilization, that seems to be an important lesson that humanity needs — whatever names we call, whatever language we speak, whatever our religious rituals… whether as individuals we most easily connect to The Sacred through music, art, prayer, study, acts of kindness, the beauty of nature, or relationship with others… we are all reaching for, and hopefully connecting with, the singular Unity that is the One mighty and awesome Gd of creation!

This weekend, through all of our experiences, in every moment, may we allow ourselves to connect to the One who hides behind the many.
Shabbat shalom, jen 

Or Hatzadik 

ב׳׳ה


 
Or Hatzadik means “The Light of the Righteous” and . . . it feels like an appropriate day to share a song that I’ve appreciated for a number of years — Or Hatzadik by Yosef Karduner.   

Praying righteous people of every race, nation, and religion shine Light that will help us all find our way to lasting peace and prosperity that can be shared by all people, jen 
 

“Prayerless Prayer”

ב׳׳ה

The other day, when I read “Prayerless prayer,” a post by Didi, I was reminded of a saying attributed to Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vorki (1819-1868), who practiced silence and didn’t always answer questions. When he was asked how “true Jews” should behave or could be recognized, Rabbi Menachem Mendel replied: “upright kneeling, silent screaming, motionless dance.”

“Upright kneeling” reminds us that, wherever we are standing and whatever we are doing, we remain in the presence of Gd, and therefore our hearts should be kneeling humbly before our Creator.

“Silent screaming” reminds us that we need not scream aloud for Gd to hear our cries in the face of injustice or agony, because Gd hears our crying, and can bring us comfort, even when we make no sound. All we need do is think the thoughts, and Gd has heard them!

Finally, “motionless dance” is the idea that life is meant to be celebrated, and we should be grateful, happy, and enjoying the goodness that continues to exist, even when life’s details aren’t perfect. So although our bodies may be still, our hearts constantly should be dancing in celebration of our presence in the miracle that is Creation.

Like Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vorki, Didi juxtaposes an act and its opposite to remind us where the spiritual path can lead us — to a place where our every action is a offering to The One, before whom our hearts are kneeled, as we silently celebrate the mystery and grandeur of our Gd.

Please take a look at Didi’s post.

This Shabbat, may Didi and Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vorki inspire us to new depths of service to The One.

Shabbat shalom to all, jen

the physical life of another

ב׳׳ה

 

“Spiritual life is superior to physical life. But the physical life of another is an obligation of my spiritual life.”

            —-Rabbi Israel Salanter
 
 

 

Saint Francis

He stands there on the corner again with the sign that says he’s homeless. But today, today is different. Today he’s got a crutch and a cast on his left foot.
 
I wonder if he remembers when I’ve given him granola bars. I wonder why he remains homeless. But I play with my phone, hoping he won’t stop at my open car window, as I have no granola bars and I don’t hand out money on the street.
 
“Hey, girl, how are you today?” he asks. As I look up into his smiling face, I can’t help but tell him he’s wearing a beautiful smile for someone with a banged-up foot. His smile broadens at being seen, and he tells me he’s trying to get a couple of dollars to get some food and catch the bus back to the shelter. I make small talk about how he ended up so far from the shelter, and then the light changes so that I can drive away.
 
I turn the corner, feeling proud of myself for sticking to my rule about not handing out money. But my pride is short-lived because, despite the music from my earbuds, from far away and yet so near, Saint Francis scolds me: “He’s an image of Gd — feed him!!”
 
So tomorrow, tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow I’ll bring him dinner.

 
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This year I’m directing my tzdakah to organizations that help feed those who do not have the resources to feed themselves.  If you don’t already have a charitable cause that is dear to you, I invite you to join me by donating to a food bank in your area.
     praying a day arrives when every person has an access to nutritious food,  jen


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Why Saint Francis? 

The stories I’ve read about Saint Francis and the quotes attributed to him suggest he saw holiness in every creature and person.  And, as a young man, Francis got into trouble for giving his rich father’s money to poor people.  So, when my conscience berated me for not feeding a hungry man, I immediately thought of Saint Francis. 

I understand that Francis’s motivation for helping the poor was that Francis wanted to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, while my motivation comes from the Torah’s commands to pursue justice and to leave the corners of the fields for those without food.  

But I feel no need to quarrel about the theological specifics that motivated Francis’s behavior. Instead, I think of him as a man who tried to do Gd’s will. 

Weaving with Kabir

ב׳׳ה


Weaving with Kabir
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Fiber spun from words
into tapestries of praise
worthy of adorning our Gd.
Am I fiber, loom, or weaver?
Perhaps none of them?
For is not the One beneath all?
Surely I’m just a lamb
who grew a little wool,
shepherded by wiser faces of Gd.
Or some kind of robot
programmed to weave fabric
by The Greatest Engineer of them all.
On bad days I’m a loom,
unaware of The Weaver,
distracted by my need for control.
All I know is these words
pour from me into phrases
that I pray are found befitting our Gd.
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shavua tov, a good week to all, jen