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 

“Prayerless Prayer”

ב׳׳ה

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

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

And I wonder . . .

ב׳׳ה

The Lord is in me, the Lord is in you, as life is in every seed. O servant! put false pride away, and seek for Him within you.

A million suns are ablaze with light, The sea of blue spreads in the sky, The fever of life is stilled, and all stains are washed away; when I sit in the midst of that world.

Hark to the unstruck bells and drums! Take your delight in love! Rains pour down without water, and the rivers are streams of light. One Love it is that pervades the whole world, few there are who know it fully:

They are blind who hope to see it by the light of reason, that reason which is the cause of separation— The House of Reason is very far away!

How blessed is Kabîr, that amidst this great joy he sings within his own vessel. It is the music of the meeting of soul with soul; It is the music of the forgetting of sorrows; It is the music that transcends all coming in and all going forth.

Excerpt From: Kabir. “Songs of Kabir.” iBooks. 

And I wonder…

if I 

-raised a Baptist, Jew by choice- 

can find holiness in the words of Kabir 

-self-professed child of both Allah and Ram-

… why is there strife between Sunni and Shia??  Muslim and Jew??  any two people based on religious difference??

As Kabir said above, G-d is in all of us.  If we put away our false pride, we will see…

.

with prayers for peace, jen

The Holy G-d of Unity

ב׳׳ה

The Holy G-d of Unity
When the curtain was dropped,
‘I’ had to bow before ‘me,’
for ‘me’ lives eternally in
the One who was, is, will be.
No more of the rat race
–the quest for more things.
A simple life of contemplation
–the deep joy that it brings.
My books and a mattress
are all that I need.
Learning to ignore ‘wants’
so my soul is fully freed
to live as G-d directs
with love and not fear,
surrounded by others
to whom G-d is dear,
regardless their religion
or the name by which they call
The Holy G-d of Unity,
the One who animates us all.

.

b’shalom, jen

“all the ‘good books’ in the world agree…”

ב׳׳ה


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the Torah’s repeated instruction to care for (e.g., respect, love, leave corners of the field for, not oppress) the stranger because we were strangers in the land of Egypt.   

The Torah’s instruction sounds so simple.  In fact, I think it’s something most people who’ve ever read this blog would agree they aspire to do… care about and show respect for those who are different from whomever each of us is.  

But, as it turns out, being respectful of others can be really hard to accomplish consistently in the chaos of daily life.  Life is busy, and we are in a hurry, and things sure would be simpler if everyone thought about everything exactly as we do!!  Then, people wouldn’t be different from us, and we wouldn’t feel an urge to fear them.  

Maybe that’s why Torah kept repeating the instruction…

I found this song recently — Melissa Etheridge singing “A Little Bit of Me” — that’s been another reminder for me to have patience with others who are different from me.  If you listen carefully, you can find out what all the ‘good books’ agree about!   😃
what a different world it would be if we could all remember…jen

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5LZAUdS_Z9s