sacred communion


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.

Shema Yisrael!


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 

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

even in the midst of our storms


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

being, and becoming, holy


This week’s Torah portion is Kiddoshim, which begins at Leviticus 19:1. The first two verses of the portion are in the photograph above and, in them, we are commanded to be holy because G-d is holy. The pronunciation of the Hebrew words for “be holy” is “kiddoshim tihiyu,” with kiddoshim being the plural form of kadosh, which means holy.

Interestingly, the Hebrew verb tihiyu can have two meanings. First, it can be a command in the present tense, telling us to “be holy right now!” Second, it can be future tense, telling us that we “shall be” holy. Thus, our Torah portion simultaneously tells us to “be” and “become” holy.

Also this week, coincidentally (Baruch Hashem!), I happened to purchase and read Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World (Crossroad Publishing 1992), by Henri J.M. Nouwen (1932-1996), who was a Catholic priest. The book is written as a letter, because a secular Jewish friend of Nouwen asked Nouwen to explain what he believes it means to live a spiritual life.

Nouwen writes that living a spiritual life entails both:
(1) “Being the Beloved,” and
(2) “Becoming the Beloved.”

To “be” the Beloved, Nouwen explains, is to have heard the still, soft voice whispering from within us that we are loved, that we are G-d’s own, that wherever we go and whatever we face, G-d will be there with us.  It is, in essence, to accept one’s place as a child of G-d.

To Nouwen, “becoming the Beloved” means:

letting the truth of our Belovedness become enfleshed in everything we think, say, or do. . . . What is required is to become the Beloved in the commonplaces of my daily existence and, bit by bit, to close the gap that exists between what I know myself to be and the countless specific realities of everyday life. Becoming the Beloved is pulling the truth revealed to me from above down into the ordinariness of what I am, in fact, thinking of, talking about, and doing from hour to hour.

Life of the Beloved at 45-46. 

I think Nouwen’s description provides a rather nice conceptualization of what this week’s Torah portion might mean when it tells us both to be and to become holy.  Nouwen’s book includes a few more short chapters about practical ways to develop and act on one’s Belovedness, and I recommend it for those who may be interested.  🙂

May the peace of this Shabbat provide moments of quiet in which each and every human might hear the still, small voice calling us to claim our birthright as Beloved children of the One, infinite and eternal, G-d…


“desecration of the covenant”


The Biblical account of the original sin is the story of man of faith who realizes suddenly that faith can be utilized for the acquisition of majesty and glory and who, instead of fostering a covenantal community, prefers to organize a political utilitarian community exploiting the sincerity and unqualified commitment of the crowd for non-covenantal, worldly purposes.

Excerpt From: Joseph B. Soloveitchik. “The Lonely Man of Faith.” THREE LEAVES PRESS DOUBLEDAY.

Rabbi Soloveitchik notes the history of organized religion is filled with examples of such “desecration of the covenant.”

So how, one might ask, do we distinguish between a person of faith who is building a covenantal community and a person of faith who is building a community for worldly purposes?

We can distinguish those people by the way they treat others . . .

To a person building a covenantal community, every individual has infinite value, while to the person striving for worldly majesty, a person’s value depends on that person’s wealth or influence over others.

When building a covenantal community, every person’s voice is worthy of being heard, and decisions are based on open dialogue and respectful discussion of disagreements.   But when building a worldly community, voices are to be heard or respected only if they support “the party line,” which was determined by those who have (and want to keep!) the power and control.

When building a covenantal community, a person of faith understands that Gd is present at all moments** and that knowledge of Gd’s presence always determines the way to behave toward others. But, for someone building a worldly community, Gd and holiness are things to be reached for at “religious events,” while, at all other times, the community is “just a business.”

People who run religious movements and institutions continue to ponder why so many Americans are unaffiliated with organized religion, or why many of those who are affiliated have no interest in investing the time and energy to connect meaningfully to a religious institution . . .

I know that not every religious institution is controlled by people who desecrate the covenant by failing to value, respect, and honor the holiness in every other person who enters the institution, but when examples exist in so many religious organizations . . . across religions, across cultures, and across centuries . . . it’s hard not to lose faith . . . in organizations run by people . . .

shalom aleichem, jen


**Knowledge of Gd’s constant presence could arise from (1) a person’s faith in such a Gd, or (2) a rational decision to look for the image of Gd in every other person. Either path can, I believe, lead to a frame of mind that requires us to treat others with more respect and dignity.


“living inside”




Your existence and your nonexistence
are entirely that.
What makes you happy, what makes you cry,
all this is the friend.
But your eyes do not see the beauty.
Otherwise, you would realize that,
head to foot, you are living inside
the one you ask about.

Excerpt From: Barks, Coleman. “Rumi: Soul Fury.” HarperCollinsPublishers. iBooks.  (emphases in original).



praying we all practice looking with our hearts, rather than our eyes, jen