Encountering WHAT IS

ב׳׳ה

This week’s Torah portion contains the story of Jacob’s Ladder. After reading the text of Genesis 28, my chevrah and I studied a wonderful commentary by Rabbi Aryeh Ben David about Hashem responding “to perhaps the first existential crisis of a Jew” by showing Jacob that he was not, and would never be, alone on his life’s journey. The commentary was from Rabbi Ben David’s book– Around the Shabbat Table (Jason Aronson 2000) –which I highly recommend!

But the verses that have stayed with me over the past two days are the first two of the parsha:

Jacob left from Beer-Sheba and went toward Haran. He encountered the place and stayed the night because the sun had set.

Genesis 28:10-28:11.

As odd as it may seem, Jacob received his revelation of Hashem’s Presence and of the ladder connecting the Divine and material worlds at –literally– “The Place,” an unnamed location where Jacob just happened to be when the sun set. The Place was neither where Jacob had departed (Be’er Sheva), nor was it where he was going (Haran). Jacob, very simply, just was where he was!

And … wherever The Place was, Jacob “encountered” it. Interesting word, encountered, because it implies more than simple physical presence in a location. It suggests an awareness that allows us to meet, or engage with, a situation, place, or person. Thus, it seems, Jacob was not just physically, but also mentally and spiritually present at The Place. His heart and mind were exactly where is body was.

So, all of Jacob was present in The Place… which is not defined as any place in particular … and there, Jacob met Hashem.

For those who have learned about meditation, these details of Jacob’s story sound familiar! The ability to be fully present is what practitioners of meditation are attempting to attain — a state in which the mind is not dwelling in the past or racing into future, but rather the heart and mind are exactly where the body is, so that the entirety of a person can engage with a moment, can encounter every detail of WHAT IS in this moment, in The Place …

And being fully present to where one is at any moment in time, according to Jacob and experienced meditators, is precisely how one finds Holiness … the undefinable, unfathomable, Infinite and Eternal Presence . . . which Jews know as the Tetragrammaton (which we pronounce “Hashem”).

Jacob may not have been his father’s favorite son, but as Isaac was the one who meditated in the field each evening (Genesis 24:63), the first two verses of this parsha have me thinking the two of them might have been closer than we have been led to believe . . . . What do you think??

Happy Thanksgiving and Shabbat Shalom, jen

look deep

ב׳׳ה

look deep

I might look like I’m nothing.

But I was created for something.

Won’t you please look deep inside me?

Perhaps there you’ll find

a reason to believe

I’m more than the nothing I seem.

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Friends — Our brains are wired to look at Creation and make judgments about the things we see — Are they dangerous or safe? Are they edible? Are they useful for a task we must complete? — and, evolutionarily speaking, it was good to be able to make such decisions quickly and decisively!

But today, in our modern world, we must be mindful of our brain’s impulse to assign value to creatures based on how they look or where we find them. We ought not “judge every book by its cover” but instead offer ourselves the blessing of learning more about those we encounter.

And, perhaps, if we can all learn to see others as more than the simplistic categories into which our brains instinctively assign them, we can find a way past the anger and divisiveness that plagues our country . . .

Perhaps, then, we can teach all those who would use guns, bombs, and cars as weapons of death that the lives of others are too precious to ever justify such actions . . .

Praying Shabbat brings abundant shalom to all Earth’s inhabitants, jen

Boat of Eternity

ב׳׳ה


Boat of Eternity
I close my eyes and
there I find You —
my Passion, my Spirit, my Song.
You carry me through,
one day to the next,
Boat of Eternity gently slipping along.
Some days there are big waves,
other days rocky shores,
but I’ve learned to just hold fast to You,
for then, come what may,
I can be Dancing,
I can laugh at the wind and the rain,
knowing there’s no love
as unfailing as Your Love,
and after my death,
We’ll still have infinite days.

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shabbat shalom to all, jen

sacred communion

ב׳׳ה

sacred communion
When I open my soul
and allow my eyes to truly see,
nothing in this world is not You.
The sunrise, the mosquito,
the joy, and the heartache,
all of it leads back to You.
I can embrace without judgment,
I can love without doubting,
in eternal moments of sacred communion,
when You look at You
through eyes that are mine,
and feel my rapture at Your brief reunion.

a question we can ask

ב׳׳ה

If every end is a beginning
and every beginning an end,
then, really, we are always in the middle.

“In the middle of WHAT?”
is a question we can ask
to become fully aware of No End.

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“No End” is used here as a name of Gd and is similar in form to a Hebrew name of Gd, Ain Sof, which means “without end.” 
shavua tov, jen

as galaxies unfurl

ב׳׳ה

as galaxies unfurl
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As day turns into night
and night back into day,
The Mystery is there
if we choose to be aware.
If we open our hearts
to the possibility of The Unity,
we can stand at the edge of infinity
as we watch galaxies unfurl.

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1:23 pm CST (thru eclipse glasses)


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1:36 pm CST (thru eclipse glasses)


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1:58 pm CST (thru eclipse glasses)


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2:21 pm CST (thru eclipse glasses)


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2:27 pm CST (thru eclipse glasses)


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2:28 pm CST (unfiltered total eclipse)


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2:28 pm CST (unfiltered sun returns)


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2:30 pm CST (thru eclipse glasses)


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Friends–  These photos that I took yesterday with my cell phone in Bowling Green, Kentucky, are not meant to inspire you with their accuracy, clarity, or quality.  They are simply my attempt to share with you the experience of waiting and watching the unfolding of a natural phenomenon that was truly awe inspiring!!  

That Science has explained to us the “how” and “why” of eclipses does not, in my mind, make them any less a “religious” experience. Not very often, in this country flooded with light-pollution, am I able to show my sons the Milky Way or a star-filled sky.  But yesterday, we could stand together with a large crowd of mostly strangers and be reminded how very small we are, how dependent we are on the sun, how miraculous it is that moon is the right size and distance from the Earth to completely block the light from the sun, how lucky we are to be alive and able to witness such amazing moments . . . and that we are truly blessed and most surely ought to be grateful!! 

If you ever have a chance to witness a total solar eclipse, I highly recommend it!!  

And may we all find more moments that inspire awe and remind us to express gratitude to The Miraculous Mystery that is always there, hiding within and behind the rational answers provided by science, 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