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 

even in the midst of our storms

ב׳׳ה


This morning, after the rain had started but a few minutes before the lightning and downpour began, the morning sun peeked out between the trees and the clouds for about one minute to produce a beautiful rainbow in the rain approaching from the west.  

Seeing it, I was reminded that Gd’s presence is with us, even in the midst of our storms… but we must remember to be looking, for Gd’s presence often appears in a quiet, subtle way that is easily missed by those who are too busy to stop and breathe in a moment.   

Praying we all find Gd’s presence with us on our good days and our bad days, jen

HaMakom (“the place”)

ב׳׳ה



HaMakom
(“The Place”)

How can I express
what it is to experience
floating in “The Place” with no words,
where all discord harmonizes
into one perfect Unity and
The Mystery calls me its own Name?

To be in HaMakom
where there is only breathing
(and the One breathing is not mortal-me)
is to be transported
beyond time and space,
to where souls once were and will be.

There’s no need for signposts.
Past and future irrelevant,
transfixed in the Eternity of Now.
No directions to wander
when diffused through Infinity.
Nor feet that could touch solid ground.

There I’m forever,
no beginning or ending,
Eternal-Infinite breathing The Name.
I return awestruck and giddy,
with joy and peace overflowing,
mortal-me again forever changed.
 
 

***********************

 

HaMakom
is Hebrew and literally means “the place.”  However, it is also a name for Gd.  And, as there is no place without Gd, any place can be The Place, if we are willing to open our hearts so that our eyes might see and our ears might hear. 

shavua tov, jen

Shalom/Salaam

ב׳׳ה


 
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

…any spot…

ב׳׳ה

…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 https://coffeeshoprabbi.com/2016/10/16/what-is-sacred-space/

Chag Sukkot Sameach, jen