Love that binds


There is a Love that binds
me to You.
And in the Joy of this rapture,
in my submission complete,
I want only to be more tightly bound.
I want to sway in Your arms,
to bend to Your Will,
to rest secure in this unending Love.
I’ve no wish to flee
or chase material desires.
I can’t pretend that “rational = True.”
So I’ll study these texts
and complete tasks as assigned,
inside this Love that binds me to You.  

This Shabbat, may we all have moments when we are acutely aware of our connection to Gd, and may that awareness help us rest secure in Gd’s unending Love, so that we might offer compassion and peace to others.  
Shabbat shalom to all, jen

“Prayerless Prayer”


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

Dust and Ashes


Dust and Ashes
I’m just dust and ashes, but this world WAS made for me! When my fear is out of the way, I’m able to see the pattern in the process, the rhythm of the rhyme, Hashem bringing what I need when it’s truly time for me to grow or to “shed another skin,” so I’ll keep “digging this well,” until this body’s just dust again!!


Rabbi Simcha taught we should keep a strip of paper in each pocket of our pants — one to remind us (when we feel arrogant) that we are just dust and ashes, and the other to remind us (when we feel down) that the world was created just for us.  

This Shabbat, let’s imagine holding both of those strips of paper at once. Let’s each remain certain that we are only dust and ashes, while also having no doubt that we have a unique, infinitely important role to play in the miracle that is Creation’s unfolding… for there, balancing both, is where we can find holiness.  

shabbat shalom to all, jen

Giving Tzedakah



 As Jews, we are taught to give Tzedakah, commonly translated “charity,” meaning money, before each Shabbat and holiday, as a way of expressing our gratitude for all that we have.   

This week, I was reading a book of Chassidic stories as told by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, tzt”l, Lamed Vav: a collection of the favorite stories, adapted and illustrated by Tzlotana Barbara Mildo (2005/5765).  In it, I ran across a story that inspired me, so I want to share it with all of you, with hope that it will touch your hearts too:

Let’s say we’re walking down the street, and a [person] comes up to us.  He’s dirty and ragged, maybe he even smells.  He says, “Oy, Oy — I’m so hungry. I’m … at the end. Could you give me a couple of dollars?”  Or maybe he doesn’t say anything, he just holds out his hand.

So what do we do? We take out our wallet, and — trying not to look at him — we give him some money.  Then, without a word, we walk away.  And we feel so good because we think we’ve just fulfilled the holy mitzvah of giving charity to the poor.

That’s all cute and sweet. But it’s not enough.  Because maybe, with the charity we have given him, the [man] can feed his body.  But have we given him anything to feed his soul?

There’s a teaching from the Holy R. Yitzhak Vorker: G-d didn’t take us to Mount Sinai and give us the Torah just to tell us to give a beggar some dollars or shekels.  Yes, it’s important to give him money.  But we have to do more than that.  We have to give him back his pride, his self-confidence.  We have to revive his soul.  

This Shabbat, and every day, may we remember to open not just our wallets, but also our hearts.
  Shabbat shalom, jen



May we, might we, shall we dance? For I think Hashem’s playing our tune, the one that can carry us o’er clouds to the garden above, where all the world’s awash in Hashem’s Love, where we can dance and frolic, laugh and play, where even two seconds feel like a full day, for there is Eternity in the palm of our hand. So turn on some techno, find a Na Nach van; let go of the clutter and set your mind free; experience Joy today for tomorrow might not be. It might sound crazy, but give it a chance — whatever life throws at you, for the love of Gd, DANCE!!!



Hasidim of the shtetls shared wonderful tales of their Rebbes, “lofty souls” sent from Heaven to “illumine the darkness of exile*:”
Miracle workers
…who led other souls to Gd.
They didn’t just teach Torah,
they turned lives into Torahs,
and showed others to see
the divinity that infuses all things.

. . . I once met a Zaddik
who could set aside her ego.
She turned my life into Torah
and walked me back to Gd.

What a blessing it is to know
Gd still sends lofty souls
to illumine the darkness of exile**!

Shabbat shalom, jen



*Both of the phrases in quotations were taken from page 16 of Rabbi Louis Jacobs’ book Hasidic Prayer (Schocken Books 1972).
The ‘exile’ to which Rabbi Jacobs refers is the physical exile from Jerusalem.

**The exile to which I refer is spiritual exile from Gd and/or from one’s own soul (the root of which is Gd).

The photo is of a yarmulke or skull cap worn by Hasidim who follow the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who was the great-grandson of the Baal Sham Tov.

“find the good”


Two and a half years ago, a Rabbi explained to me that, if I wished to be a Hassid, my goal was to “find the good” in every circumstance that life brought my way — not just in the birth of my sons and moments on a mountain or a beach, but even in the calculation of my taxes.

I laughed and told her that I didn’t really think that would be possible. Yet, somehow, I’ve never forgotten her message, and I’ve continued looking for “the good,” even in the most unlikely of circumstances.

Last weekend, as I stood on a ten-foot ladder cleaning out gutters, the smell of the fermenting leaves activated a memory pathway in my brain, and I realized that rotting leaves smell strikingly similar to pig manure.  I wondered whether there might be a blog topic in the amazing way our neocortex attaches smells to memories or, better yet, in the way decomposing plant matter smells the same regardless the method of decomposition —

How’s that for a new twist on
“It’s All One!”???   🙂

I wasn’t sure I’d figure out a topic — after all, I told myself, either of those ideas might require some explanation about why this Jew spent days as a child shoveling manure out of a pig barn . . . but I decided that I’d take a picture just in case I wrote a post . . .

Why a picture? Because the week before, during lunch, a good friend joked with me: “I read your blog, but just for the pictures, so you should include more pictures.”  I was laughing about that conversation as I pulled out my phone to take a picture . . .

And, suddenly, there IT was . . . “the good”!! . . . I was standing on a ten-foot ladder putting my hands in wet leaves that smelled like pig manure and I was laughing at the infinite connections between my past and present; myself, the rabbi, and my friend; the leaves, the corn, the pigs, and the gutters. In that moment, I again could see so clearly that EVERYTHING is connected!!!

I’m still not consistently able to “find the good,” but I’ve come to understand that, for everyone, the goal is not as easy to accomplish as we might wish. Perhaps the point is that we just keep looking . . .

shavua tov, jen

ps. and for my dear friend who joked she just reads these posts for the pictures . . . for whom I am grateful because, by joking with me, she helped me remember not to take myself so seriously . . . here’s a picture of my clean gutter: