Grateful to the angel

ב׳׳ה

Rabbi Simon said,  

“There is no plant without an angel in Heaven tending it and telling it, ‘Grow!'”

Genesis Rabba 10:7. 

A couple of months ago, there was a small thistle plant near the back gate of my patio.  And I was going to pull it out, as my boys and I use the back gate to access community green space and tennis courts.  But then, one morning, I noticed a rabbit eating the thistle plant’s leaves, and I decided we humans could step around the little thistle.  

Rabbit leaving after a thistle snack

Then, as the thistle grew and we began to get scratched on thorns when we used the door, baby rabbits began to visit, so I absolutely could not remove the “weeds” that were attracting them!!!  

Baby rabbit

After much rain and sun, and the urging of its angel in Heaven, the thistle now covers most of the walkway and is five feet (1.5 m) tall!  

And it blooms really beautiful purple flowers that attract hummingbirds and bees to drink from them…

And a rabbit still visits regularly, although I’m not sure if it’s the original adult or a grow-up baby…


My lease requires me to “maintain” my patio area, so I’m expecting my landlord to stop by one of these days and demand that I remove the thistle.  I doubt she would be swayed by my story of rabbits and the thistle’s angel in Heaven… but until it’s required, I’ll going to keep thanking the angel who grew the thistle that has brought so much beauty and life to our patio this summer!

shavua tov, a good week, to all, jen

And the message is??? 

ב׳׳ה


 

I took that picture last weekend in Florida, and I’ve been drawn back to it nearly every day this week, almost as if I’m waiting for it to tell me… something…

But every day that I look, the picture seems to bring me a slightly different message about Life — about the cycle of life and death, about the interconnection of all existence, about finite matter “standing” at the edge of infinity and eternity, about the holiness and beauty inherent in moments of transition… 

So I decided that, this Shabbat, instead of telling you what I see, I’d post the picture and invite all of you to tell me what you see in it.   I’d love to hear what messages you see — please leave a comment and let me know!!   🙂  Thanks!

Praying Shabbat brings more shalom to all, jen 

Today

ב׳׳ה 

 

 
I woke this morning to gray skies and, as I walked out the door for work, there was a cold drizzle that prompted me to mutter, “blech!”  I turned to lock the door and then saw that the shrub outside my door was flowering.  The little waterlogged flowers brought a smile to my face and reminded me of another quote from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks —
 

There is … no place without a fragment of G-d’s light waiting to be discovered and redeemed; no situation without its possibility of sanctification; no moment without its call.  

 
 
Today, may we hear the Call, sanctify moments, and redeem fragments of Light, jen

Gut Chodesh 

ב׳׳ה

a sliver of moon rises with the sun (2-24-17)


  
 
My second grader has been studying the phases of the moon at school, so we’ve been watching the moon more intently for a couple of weeks. He was happy to tell me that Friday morning’s sliver was a “waning crescent.” The waning crescent means the new moon is only a couple of days away, and then the moon will get brighter again.  

After he shared his knowledge with me, I asked if he knew what the new moon brought with it. He didn’t, and when I told him the new moon brought the new Jewish month with it, he was SO excited at this news!!  

And, I must admit, I find it rather exciting too… so I decided to look up and share the official blessing for the new month… and what I found was more intriguing than even I expected!!! 

You see, the “celebration of the new month” to which I’m accustomed is a pronouncement in synagogue on the last erev Shabbat of the month.  The pronouncement tells us the day in the next week on which the new month will begin and, as translated in the Mishkan T’filah siddur, includes this prayer: 

Our Gd and Gd of our ancestors, may the new month bring us goodness and blessing. May we have long life, peace, and prosperity, a life exalted by love of Torah and reverence for the divine; a life in which the longings of our hearts are fulfilled for good. 

Mishkan T’filah: A Reform Siddur (Shabbat) at 261 (CCAR 2007).  

However, as I looked up the specific language of that prayer to provide in this post, I found out that custom of announcing when the new month would begin did not originate until the 9th century… and Halakah (Jewish law) actually prescribes a different and much more meaningful custom!!

According to the Talmud, we are to stand outside some night between the third and fourteenth day of the month, looking at the waxing moon that is growing in brightness and recite a prayer praising Gd for Creation.  Ideally we will observe this custom in the company of friends, because then we can share our joy at the moon’s renewal, which gives us hope for our own renewal and growing brightness with the Light of Gd.  The Talmud explains:  

Said Rabbi Aha bar Hanina in the name of Rabbi Asi in the name of Rabbi Yohanan: Reciting the blessing over the moon at the proper time is like greeting the Shekhinah [indwelling presence of Gd] personally… Said Abaye: Therefore we should say the blessing standing up (as though greeting Gd). Meremar and Mar Zutra went so far as to climb up on one another’s shoulders while saying the blessing. 

Sanhedrin 42b (as quoted on My Jewish Learning ). 

And The Complete Artscroll Siddur (Ashkenaz) explains that greeting the moon is like greeting the Shekhinah because 

the only way we can recognize the existence of Gd is through [Gd’s] works. … In nature it is seen through the orderly functioning of the enormously complex heavenly bodies. … This phenomenon is most apparent in the cycles of the moon, because its changes are more visible than those of any other body. Thus, when we greet the moon, we greet its Maker and Guide. 

Artscroll Siddur at 612 (citing Rabbeinu Yonah, Berachos 4).  

I took the liberty of “updating the prayer”** that is to be said outside with the moon between the 3rd and 14th of the month, and I provide it here for others to use and share: 

Praised are You, Hashem, our Gd, Ruler of the Universe, whose word created the universe and whose breath created the celestial bodies. Gd gave them appointed times and roles, and they never miss their cues, doing their Creator’s bidding with gladness and joy. Gd, the true and faithful Creator, commanded that the moon would renew itself as a beautiful crown in the sky. May we renew ourselves and proclaim the beauty of Gd’s glorious universe. Praised are you, Hashem, who renews the months. 

Tonight begins the new Jewish month … so next weekend, grab a friend and head outside to appreciate the moon, Creation, Gd, and our ability to renew our own lives!!!  

Shavua Tov (a good week!)
and Gut Chodesh (a good month!)

may we all be blessed, jen
 
 

**”updating the prayer” means that I removed language referring to Gd as male and language suggesting the moon was a crown for Israel (rather than humanity). 

Shabbat & Tu Bishvat

ב׳׳ה


I had a grand plan this morning!!!   I was going to work at my paid job until 4:30, and then write a post in the spare hour I’d have after driving to the synagogue.   The post was to be about a commentary by the Berdichever Rebbe on a verse from this week’s Torah portion — specifically Exodus 15:2, which says:  “Gd is my strength and might; this is my salvation.” 

And then, as the Yiddish proverb tells us about when humans make plans… “Gd laughed”… 

The Rabbi of my synagogue called me at 1:30.   He’s sick and needs someone to lead Shabbat service and the Tu Bishvat Seder tonight . . . Might I be willing?  

So, the hour for writing a post became an hour to prep for leading service… and I cobbled this post together in my ten minute walk from office to car because I wanted to say:

Shabbat shalom and… it’s Tu Bishvat, so be nice to trees, they clean our air!!   😊 jen

Creation on display

ב׳׳ה

As I flew home from Florida on Tuesday afternoon, the magnificence of Creation was truly on display!   

The wind coming off the water in Ft. Lauderdale required that we take off flying east, sending us up over the beach. 


Out over the water, we made a 180* left turn . . . 


. . . which brought us back over land north of Ft. Lauderdale. 


 Before I knew it, we were over the swamps of the Everglades. 


.


About 30 minutes later, I began to have a great view of the west coast of Florida, all the way from Sanibel Island . . . 


. . . past Tampa Bay . . . 


. . . up to the Panhandle . . . 


. . . where the Gulf water slowly disappeared from sight. 

.

And there was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day. 

The Heaven and the Earth were finished, and all their array.  On the seventh day Gd finished the work that Gd had been doing, and Gd ceased on the seventh day from all the work that Gd had done.  And Gd blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it Gd ceased from all the work of creation that Gd had done.

Genesis 1:31 -2:3. 

shabbat shalom, jen

SNOW!!!!

ב׳׳ה

I LOVE snow!!    I love the way it crunches under shoes, creates a special silence as it falls, and packs into globs that can be thrown at friends and family… 
But I especially love when it lands on my windshield and lets me see the details of its crystalline structure . . . the little “limbs” protruding off each branch . . . I can’t help but stop and stare (and take a few pictures!!!).   



When I look at the delicate beauty of those tiny creations, I can’t help but feel wonder and awe about this miraculous world in which we live!  Hopefully you also feel wonder when you look at the pictures.  

Praying Shabbat brings us all some moments of peace in which we my relax and enjoy the tiny miracles of Creation, jen