Casting Shadows: a Shabbat Shuva reflection

ב׳׳ה


Sometimes bodies made of water become so dense and dark that they cast shadows in the light that could have passed through them. 


The goal of a spiritual life (while living in these bodies that are 3/4 water) is to not cast shadows.  Instead, we must work every day to let the Light and Love pass through us to all those we encounter.  

Shavua tov, jen

wandering, not lost!

ב׳׳ה


“My father was a wandering Aramean”

but he was not lost

He had heard the call 

Lech Lecha!” 

and was traveling to a place he would be shown, 

from which he could hear another call

Ayeka?” 

and would have a new response

Heneini!

May we all be as blessed as our father!!

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This Shabbat, may we each wander toward our Self, so that we might be ready to answer “Heneini!”
shabbat shalom, 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 

Love that binds

ב׳׳ה


 
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.  
 
 
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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”

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

Dust and Ashes

ב׳׳ה

Dust and Ashes
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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!!
 

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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

ב׳׳ה

 

 
 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