Peniel

ב׳׳ה

Peniel
Dark night of the soul
brings unending struggle
with Gd, self, and man;
Who’ll prevail?
I’d been in that place
for so many years,
I’d become the place of the struggle:
Peniel.
But dawn finally broke,
an angel released me,
I understood how to live:
digging wells.
And though I was limping,
I emerged from the night
ready to Journey at the pace of
my Self.

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

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!!

.

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.  
 
 
  ****************************

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