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Happy Chanukah Shabbat!
Just One Shabbat Can Change The World!
Temple Tiles for our Times
Exploring the Path of Free Will
Pre-Pesach Energy 5776

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Shabbos Chic Blog

Happy Chanukah Shabbat!


Just One Shabbat Can Change The World!

This inspiring talk by Rebbetzin Yemima Mizrachi will leap into your heart and motivate you to light Shabbos Candles this week, and every week. Enjoy!

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Rebbetzin Yemima Mizrachi: Just One Shabbos
We are the lights of Shabbat

Temple Tiles for our Times

I am so excited to share my little artistic rendering of Linda Gradstein's pro photo and article on TheMediaLine.org

This is a restored tile from the second Temple in Jerusalem, created by archaeologists from their actual discoveries. It's ancient Jewish patchwork flooring and I love it!  In my soul this design is so familiar and so satisfying... and now I know why.

Gradstein reports, "...about 600 colored stone floor tile segments have so far been uncovered, with more than 100 definitively dated to the Herodian Second Temple period. The style of flooring is the same as those found in other of Herod’s palaces in Masada, Herodian and Jericho. Snyder says the tile segments were perfectly inlaid next to each other.

"The tiles are part of the Temple Mount sifting project, an Israeli archaeological project begun in 2005."

May we all be so blessed to see the final Temple in person someday soon!

Exploring the Path of Free Will

Free will is a mystery to most of us, until we decide to press in and search for its meaning in our own lives. 

I did a search for quotes on free will, and the largest collection I found was on Goodreads. A total of 377 quotes (collected from authors) provides plenty of entertainment, but not much satisfaction, at least not for me. 

Then I heard Rabbi Alon Anava say, "The whole point of free will is not the path you walk on. It's how you walk on it. That's the point of free will."  Finally, I found a satisfying quote on the topic of free will. 

An article by Rabbi Noah Weinberg brings free will into sharper focus for me, in my daily life. Free will is a choice:

"Greatness lies in how we resolve conflicts – in using our free will to grow – not to quit. To face reality – not to escape. To live and not to die. When we escape problems, we escape the chance of becoming great. It's a constant battle every moment of our lives."
 
First, we have to use our free will to WANT to be great, in some way. That's exciting to me, so now I'm using my free will to see what's getting in the way of my achieving greatness.

Here is Rabbi Weinberg's list of 5 levels of achieving free will, which I LOVE:

Level One: Don't be a sleepwalker. 
Make decisions actively.

Level Two: Don't be a puppet of society's goals, 
or a slave to your old decisions.

Level Three: Be aware of the conflict between the cravings of your body 
and the aspirations of your soul.

Level Four: Identify with your soul, not your body.

Level Five: Make your will God's will.

Pre-Pesach Energy 5776

Rabbi Aryeh Nivin gave his annual Pesach Drasha for women this week, and it lit me up like a firecracker. He suggested we select just one, tiny change (not a big, huge one) and implement it every single day, from now through Shavuos.

Well, I'm doing it. I chose to make a slight but distinct attitude adjustment. It involves seeing myself from a different perspective, one that another person might immediately have, but I habitually NEVER have about myself.

Until now!  And I'm really doing it, because I made it fun.  I built a little blog for myself, and posted over a hundred photos to remind me of my new mindset. It's working!  I leave the blog tab open on my laptop as I'm working, and click on it whenever I need a boost back up and into my new mindset. 

Funny thing... I'm really good at boosting my clients' mindset, but haven't applied my coaching skills to myself. DUH! 

Thanks so much, Rabbi Nivin, for giving us such a simple, little Pesach blessing, for ourselves personally, and for women of Klal Israel! Here's a list that's true, in my experience, but I'd add one more word -  JOY!!!






Shushan Purim 5776

Sunset photo by Lilli Halley, Fairfield, Iowa USA

Today is known as Shushan Purim, the second day of Purim in some areas of Israel. I don't live in a walled city, but I am enjoying a second day of Purim in my own way today. For various reasons, I was led to Isaiah 57:14, and it's my privilege to share it with you:


"And he shall say, "Pave, pave, clear the way; remove the obstacles from the way of My people."

Shabbat Shalom to all, and may your way be cleared of obstacles, too!





Uplifting Purim Thoughts 5776

Yedidah Cohen translated from Hebrew on the topic of Purim during our class this week. It was a writing by Rabbi Gottlieb, Yehuda Lev Ashlag and Baruch Ashlag, not currently available in English.

"The way of Mordecai is the way of Emunah, of Faith. Faith is a profound form of giving, because it is giving Kingship to Hashem. 

"The way of Hamen is simply to receive. It does not involve giving Kingship to Hashem, the God of the Universe."

It's easy to see how these two personalities are constantly in a tug-of-war within each of us. Purim is a day to acknowledge it, and to surmount it, because we have a spiritual advantage. May we all surmount Hamen this year!

HAPPY PURIM 2016!

It's still winter, but I feel a ripening

The seasons of our lives don't match up perfectly with the seasons of the year, or the cyclical holidays in the Jewish calendar.  

We each have our own time line, and we don't really know what it is until we're living through it, or more likely, once we pass through it and see it with hindsight.

Oh, if we could only have our hindsight 'way in advance!

These words from my Interinclusion email this week express some of my reality now, in this phase of my growth:

"According to the Meam Loez which is a widely studied commentary from the 1700’s on the Hebraic Bible, the three foundations of a home are a field, a vineyard and a house. This verse refers to all three. 

"Clearly the verse mentions the field and the vineyard, but as was previously discussed, the Jewish woman represents the house. It is not that she belongs in the house but rather that she is the house. 

"Wherever she may be, that is home. This is even seen in the word for house itself, bayit, in that it is comprised of the letters bat (daughter) with a yud in the middle, referring to the daughter of G-d, meaning woman."

Home has always been important to me, even when I was the only one living in it, for many years. Having a strong sense of home, of making a home, I probably wouldn't have said, "I am the home," but now I've come to understand it's the truth. I AM the home.





Taking Time To Be A Light

Light in the darkness... Since Chanukah I've been thinking deeply about that concept, and what it means in my own life.. 

Today I listened to a broadcast by Rabbi Akiva Tatz, and he said something so powerful about the dark side, and how it successfully holds us back from shining as the distinct light each of us is meant to be. 

Rabbi Tatz talks about the condition of being "busy in the heart." That hit home for me, for sure.

Here's Rabbi Tatz' commentary:

"The evil inclination's strategy is to burden you with work, constantly, on your heart.

"Your heart is constantly burdened.

"By keeping you busy, you are distracted from purposefulness and mindfulness.

"When you're too busy all the time, you don't have time for considering. 

"It's a new dimension - "busy in the heart."

The strategy of the dark side is to keep you occupied, to keep the heart occupied with constant work."

Yipes...  I have been consumed with the need to be busy, to remain occupied and to appear productive throughout my life. Today I am standing back and looking at my habit, and my attachment to being busy. 

Suddenly, I feel as though I've been tricked all these years. 

And the more diligently I study and pursue Jewish learning, in some ways I am even more susceptible to the trick of the dark side, luring me to study more, do more, be more.  I never feel as though I'm doing enough. Never, ever.

That's the dark side distracting me... I finally get it now. 

What a relief!

Rosh Chodesh & Shabbos Vayeshev & Chanukah


Immersing myself in Chanukah teachings and also Rosh Chodesh teachings, I heard Eliza Bulow talk about how the Hellenists took away four privileges from the Jews, including celebration of Rosh Chodesh. The other three were 1) Shabbat, 2) Circumcison and 3) Torah study. 

That told me a lot about the importance of Rosh Chodesh! If the Jews were being punished by the removal of the most important rituals, what does that tell us about them today? 

Perhaps we don't understand intellectually because they are more important to our eternal soul than to our conscious mind.

I love this quote from the Embrace Shabbos email by Rabbi David Sutton, author of Living Shabbos:

"On Shabbat, we receive an extra soul - a soul that is loftier and more sacred than our ordinary souls. We have the responsibility to nurture and uplift this special soul, and we accomplish this by ensuring to speak properly throughout the Shabbat. And thus although calm, dignified speech is always important, it assumes special significance on Shabbat, when we are charged with the responsibility of caring for our special souls."   

I wonder if celebrating Rosh Chodesh is another way to care for our souls, as well as the historic way we mark time, and therefore establish the calendar and the holidays?


Happy Chanukah 5776

Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5776

This is literally the last rose of summer in my garden here in north Texas today. It's a Blue Girl, and the scent is divine. Honestly, I keep holding the vase up to my nose to enjoy every last whiff of it.

My Blue Girl rose is a lovely representation of the gifts of study and understanding I'm gaining about Rosh Chodesh now, with only 4 hours left of Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5776.

Besides being a woman's holiday and a day of historic importance each month long ago, when the new moon sighting established the first day of the new month on the Hebrew calendar, Rosh Chodesh is a wonderful opportunity for the Jewish people to reclaim the responsibility of sanctifying time.

Naturally, we usually think of Shabbos as a holy place in time. And it is, but so is Rosh Chodesh, as the head of each month. If the new moon is not recognized by the Children of Israel, the whole month and its Holy Days are not established spiritually.

BeingJewish.com puts it this way, "The holiness of the Holidays comes through us. Hashem makes us holy, and we bring holiness to the world, but the holiness of the Sabbath comes directly from Hashem, not through us." 

I am contemplating my relationship to Hashem, the Holy Days and Shabbos today, with a few hours left of Rosh Chodesh Kislev, before Shabbos begins.

And I'm looking forward to the next lesson in the EmunaHealing course I'm taking with Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum on Sunday 11/15/15. What a privilege to study healing from a Torah perspective, with other women all over the world!

Finally, I'm contemplating the appearance of mustard and kale greens my husband planted 3 full months ago, after weeks of flooding, followed by weeks of drought.

Here's our Rosh Chodesh/Shabbos green harvest today, in this significant miracle month of Kislev when Chanukah occurs. Shabbat Shalom!


Rosh Chodesh - 12 New Moons For 5776

It's a new year now, 5776 in the counting of the Jewish calendar.  This year I am exploring Rosh Chodesh, for myself and for Jewish women all over the globe.

Rosh Chodesh is the tiny sliver or invisible new moon each month, and it is significant for many reasons.

In this, my first post on Rosh Chodesh, which occurs with four weeks and four days to honor Shabbos between each new moon, I'd like to share this quote from Rabbi Manis Friedman because he has a Rosh Chodesh Network with monthly videos, which I love to watch: 

"... of course women don't work on Rosh Chodesh, it's their holiday..." 

That puts Rosh Chodesh right up there with Shabbos and some of the High Holy Days, doesn't it?

This is what I will be exploring this year, 5776. Thanks for joining me!

What is Teshuva All About?

I love Elul!  The feel of fall is in the air, most obvious in the early mornings since daytime temps are still reaching up to and over  100 degrees here in north Texas now.  

I want to share what Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz wrote about Teshuva, It gives me a sense of hope and encouragement to consider the power of return to humility and forgiveness during the High Holy Days each year.

"Teshuva involves different kinds of intentions and different levels of intentions, on a scale of higher to lower. Probably the highest level of intention is Teshuva from love, meaning a person doesn’t change ways because he’s afraid of punishment, of hell (which is another level of Teshuva), but because he feels bad that he didn’t take advantage of his relationship with G-d. This type of Teshuva elicits results which are much higher, raising up the sins a person commits to become merits instead."  
Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz,  ParadisePrinciple.com

The Whole Point of Elul

For me, this Elul 5775 is all about The King is in The Field of Lemon Verbena.

My crop doesn't look like this in real life, but in my vision of the future it's quite a crop! 

And, to me, that's the whole point of Elul... Seeing our lives in perspective, seeing ourselves in perspective, dealing with what we want to change about our lives and having a new vision for the future of profuse growth of consciousness, with no interference. 

That's how I see it anyway. And I was incredibly inspired by Mrs. Shira Smiles' teaching called How Elul Is The Month of Relationships. Oh, that topic truly hits home for me this year. 

My favorite part is when Mrs. Smiles describes our human tendency to "pour cement on our Neshama."  That's such a great visual, isn't it? It's a picture of what we do when we draw conclusions about what we do (and don't do) and what other people do (and don't do) and we draw conclusions about our own failings, resulting in a big mess. 

Pouring wet cement on our tender, Neshama, a part of our eternal soul. Nobody intends to pour wet cement on their own living soul; certainly not if they understand how precious it is. 

But we do it, nevertheless. We dump on ourselves often, making a bigger and bigger pile over who we really are, which makes it impossible to do what we are here on earth to do. Which is not good.

My goal for 5776 is simple now - No More Wet Cement! I want to grow without the weight upon my Neshama now.

For me, the whole point of Elul this year is to learn to recognize old cementy thoughts and actions so I can avoid them, and so I can set my Neshama free!

I Love Elul!

When our Temple president asked me to lead the services last Shabbat I was so thrilled to say, "Sure!" It was Rosh Chodesh Elul!  I just love having a month-long assignment from Hashem to become introspective for my own spiritual growth each year.

It's not a selfish distraction or an obsessive compulsion to read real books and online materials, and to listen to audio and watch video teachings many, many hours a week. It's my assignment this month!

And what's the purpose of Elul (as I understand it now, in this final month of 5775?)  The purpose of Elul is not abject repentance only. Yes, repentance is part of it. But first comes self-assessment, from which we naturally discover the need to repent. And then what?

What comes next is the renewing and refreshing of ourselves, our hopes and dreams and goals and desires. These are all food for the Rosh Hashanah, the New Year coming up and the end of the month of Elul.

Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz posted the following on his site, ParadisePrinciple.com, "… look at all the portions in the Torah we read during Elul. We see that Moses is doing a review in all of them. 

Moses is reviewing all the episodes the Jews experienced in their stay in the desert. And his review corresponds to what we are meant to be doing. We are meant to be reviewing our year and all the highlights of our year, sort of an inventory of what we did right and wrong, and what we need and want to do."

It's a recap and a planning period, that's my Elul. I'm so glad to have this month to grow before 5776 arrives this September!

Spiritual Ascent is for Everybody

I love this old postcard with a drawing of a street in Safed,  Israel. It draws me in and definitely makes me want to visit soon!

These words from a talk by Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz of ParadisePrinciple.com resonate with me today, looking out at the world and also looking into myself these days:

"There are a million subtle levels on which we fight our spiritual battles in life, and we have to understand that the pre-condition of our spiritual assent is actually a spiritual descent, an agreement to go down into the muck and to raise ourselves out of it."

Looking at my own challenges and the enormous global challenges we all face can be simply overwhelming. It can stop us in our tracks everyday, rendering us unable to move, or even think about moving. 

But we are put here on this earth to persevere, and to overcome both physical, material challenges and spiritual battles as well. 

This Shabbat I am thinking about being a spiritual warrior. 

And Rabbi Schwartz continues on that subject, "Our inner evil inclination, the Yetzer Hara tries to keep us away from being who we are, and doing what G-d wants us to do. 

"And as regards being a Spiritual Warrior, it tries to convince us that the only successful warrior is the one who can look back and see that everything is going smoothly."

Right!  Since when does fighting a battle go smoothly? That is generally not how battles go, is it? It is only my inner evil inclination trying to convince me that rough patches in my life, and in the world, are evidence of failure. 

Our battles are our tikkun, and tikkun is not failure. This is what we came here to do - to repair the world through our challenges.

Finally, Rabbi Schwartz says, " We have to know that the measure of success is not smoothness, with regard to a spiritual warrior. In fact, it’s the persistence and encouragement to not give up, no matter now difficult things are and how rough our lives may appear."

One of my favorite, most precious spiritual warrior friends is Yedidah Cohen in Safed.  Check out her translations of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag's work, and her wonderful podcasts.

Shabbat Shalom!! 

Shabbos Before Tisha B'Av 2015

What a lovely poster by Rae Shagalov, posted in her inspiring Facebook group called Nurture Your Jewish Soul.  I love it (and her) so much!

Shabbat Shalom Pinchas

This week, Shabbos Pinchas, I'm taking note of some big changes in my perception of my life and business challenges.

Hashem has given me an opportunity to step back and see how my lack of focus is costing me in many ways, some are tangible and measurable in this world, and some are for The World To Come.

I need to put my focus on what I ALREADY HAVE, what I've been given and what I've developed in my life.  The keys to appreciating and realizing my success are forged by my recognition of these gifts. My challenges are, in fact, my gifts. In my challenges I grow and identify my focus.

My dear friend Rae Shagalov's beautiful calligraphy, created especially for Shabbos this week, reminds me that I have a special day (each week) to remember that my life is complete and my purpose is already fulfilled.

What a relief!  What a totally wonderful reality to believe, accept and remember.   Shabbat Shalom!

My Creator Is An Overflowing Source

An email from Praying With Passion ignited my enthusiasm today,just  after meeting on the web with a group of women talking about  spirituality.

Here is my favorite part of the email:

"Like this underground spring, G-d is a boundless, overflowing source of sustenance for us. Everything we rely upon draws its existence from Him. When we recite the words in the blessings, we trace our sustenance back to its Source and acknowledge that there would be nothing if G-d did not provide it."

There were several women in the group today who chose not to acknowledge the Creator of the Universe as the source of their spiritual experiences, or their very lives. I'm SO GLAD to be able to express gratitude to Hashem each day, knowing  who made me, who made this universe, and who knows why. 


Our Prayers Are Never Lost

Years ago I remember reading, "Not one precious drop of love is ever wasted."  And I was deeply impressed.

That statement has formed a theme for my life, for several decades so far.

Today I read these words in a Praying With Fire email, from the book by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman:

"Prayers are stored and answered in the manner and at the time that Hashem deems best. All sincere prayers are answered with good."

So, I started thinking about love and prayer, and how much they are the same, or they can be the same.  Love and prayer are intense expressions of emotion, or they can be if we let them.

Shabbos And The Power of Visualization

Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, author of Praying with Fire, posted the following insight on Jewish visualization and prayer: 

"The technique of visualization is so powerful that it can help a person overcome a great many obstacles...

"Visualization is a means through which a person can see himself as he wishes to be — as he can be. It’s not just wishful thinking, it’s purposeful thinking that helps a person establish high expectations for himself, and then fulfill them...

"... it is difficult for us to internalize the fact that we are standing before the Creator. To overcome this impediment, visualize a telephone conversation; although you cannot see the person to whom you are speaking, you know that he is listening. Summon this image to perceive the sense that Hashem listens to you when you pray.

The ultimate visualization takes place during prayer, in my opinion. It is the time we are consciously connected mentally, emotionally and spiritually with our Creator, and it is a good time to ask to see things the way Hashem sees them.

Actually, I often ask for this blessing. I say, "Father, I don't know what to do, so I need your help. Please help me see this situation as you see it, so I can behave in accordance with your will and your way."

But, I don't ask often enough. Rabbi Kleinman's words really inspired me today, and I am renewed with enthusiasm to remember to ask to see situations as Hashem sees them now, and I want to remember especially on Shabbos.

Lag B'Omer 5775

Tonight marks the passing of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the eve  of the day called Lag B'Omer, which means the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. 

Rabbi Yizchak Schwartz tells the story of Rabbi  Shimon's passing in an unforgettable way, including the following:

"They carried his body out, lifted the bed he was lying on, and after the bed emerged from the house it rose and a fire blazed before it. They heard a voice saying, “Come and enter. Assemble for the wedding celebration of Rabbi Shimon. They shall come to peace. They shall rest on their couches.” [Isaiah 57\2]

A student of Kabbalah hears and understands a little bit more about Lag B'Omer each year, because there is so much to know, so much to comprehend, it cannot be grasped all at once. 

Thanks to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his students, to Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag and his decision to share the knowledge of Kabbalah with the world, and to my own teachers now. I am blessed to move towards understanding of his day, not only as history but as the future.

"This is the depth of the redemption. It is to reveal the unknown. It will be a total revelation of “What was, will be.” It will show that really all is hidden, because everything is unified with Hashem."  from Bilvavi.net

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Kabbalah, Souls and Candles | Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz | Kabbalah Me Documentary
http://kabbalahme.com/

Counting the Omer 5775

"An act of faith is the test of trust."  Rabbi Akiva Tatz

This statement comes back into clear focus each year during Pesach, but we have a responsibility to recall it in our own lives all year.


This Shabbos Eve is the 14th day of counting the Omer 5775.  And so this is a good time to consider the words in a Breslov.org email received today, "Pesach taught us that sometimes we need to just 'skip' or pass over the questions that would otherwise paralyze us and instead do our utmost to connect to G-d any way we can..."

And it continues, "Rebbe Nachman offers practical advice, as always: 'When one has doubts about emunah [faith], say out loud, ‘I believe with complete faith that He is One, First and Last.’ As the verse states, “I believed because I spoke.” The affirmation of emunah can help us even when our faith feels like it’s wavering."

Rabbi Josh Weinberg posted on RJ.org, "During this week of Chesed let us not only count the days, but make our days count."

Shevii Shel Pesach 5775


Pesach thoughts this year 5775

As the sun sets tomorrow night we'll be starting Shabbos and Pesach at the same time. 

And Moshe said to the people, “Remember this day that you left Egypt from the House of Bondage, for G-D took you out from it with a Mighty Hand.” (Exodus 13:3)

My personal Pesach theme this year has to do with understanding Freedom and Exile in my own life. I want to go forward into Freedom, and I can only do that when I truly understand there are things enslaving me.

Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz of ParadisePrinciple.com said, "We have to be open to being redeemed, personally and globally. And we have to be open to it, and understand what it really means to be redeemed."

That's what set me on a course of thinking about Freedom in a new way this year, and asking myself if I'm really open to Freedom in parts of my life.

I also heard a quote on a podcast this week, "If you don't emotionally feel like you can do something different, then you don't really have a choice." Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Shimona Tzukernik asked us a good question in her Rosh Chodesh workshop this week, and I'm still pondering it. She simply asked, "Are you teachable?"

FridayLight.org included a wonderful reminder in my weekly Shabbos reminder email, "...let us embrace the power of the Jewish woman. The Talmud says that it was 'in the merit of righteous women that the Jews were redeemed from Egypt.'

With our special light, we have the power to usher in the redemption from our modern-day exile and spiritual slavery..."

And finally, I saw this wisdom in a Facebook thread, "If you don’t think something is new when you hear it, if you're always thinking 'I get it' when you hear or read something or listening to a coach... you're not always open to other ways to do something." Shawn LeBrun

May we all be open to Freedom tomorrow night, that's "different from all other nights"
Chag Pesach Sameach!

It's Spring, And It's Parshas Vayikra

This week we begin the book of Vayikra, with the Torah portion of the same name.

It's about sacrifices, and that's something very foreign to us today, unless we look at it spiritually.

Rabbi Akiva Tatz provided a little booklet for those of us in his weekly class through Jewish Workshops, and he wrote: "If there is no difficulty, there is no sacrifice." That is another way to look at the whole concept of sacrifice, very different from the Temple sacrifices in the past.

The difficulties in our lives (and we all have PLENTY of them) are our opportunities for sacrifice. We can choose to see them as a way to give up our selfishness and small view of ourselves and of the world (which of course includes other people), and in that choice we are sacrificing other viewpoints.

Choosing a higher view and following through with higher actions is making a sacrifice of everything we are not thinking and not doing instead.

I am thinking and posting about sacrifice this Shabbos, and will undoubtedly be wrestling with the concept the rest of my life!

The Hidden Meaning of Purim Influences Shabbos

Learning about the hidden meaning of Purim this year is showing me a deeper way to understand my experience on Shabbos.

It's all about my soul, the levels or layers in the life of my soul that I may not understand, and it's exciting. I love knowing there's more going on inside me, a bigger picture, a greater awareness I have yet to explore.

I especially love knowing I am connected to deeper parts of myself, and at the same time I am connected to Hashem.


In a little ebook published by Bilvavi.net, titled Purim Wine, I am drawn deeper into more understanding of Purim and more understanding of myself:

"If we reflect into what we said before, we can see that Purim is totally different than all other auspicious times of the year. We will not get into now what each Yom Tov reveals for us; but what we will say is something general, that each Yom Tov serves to reveal a special power of our soul. Purim is not like any other Yom Tov; Purim reveals the very root of our soul, a point that is way above our conscious state."

Purim is not mentioned in Torah because the historic events it commemorates happened long after Torah was given to the Israelites. And the Book of Esther read on Purim was the last  book included in the twenty-four books of Tanach established by The Great Assembly.

Honestly, the Purim story told in the Book of Esther and the customs associated with the holiday of Purim can be very confusing because they don't make sense. 

What makes sense to me is this - I am connected to parts of myself that are deeper and possibly darker than I want to believe. And at the same time I am connected to the incomprehensible perfection of the Creator of the Universe.

That is something I choose to explore more than once a year on Purim.

Once again (from Bilvavi.net) "Purim reveals the very root of our soul..." which is something I long to explore every week on Shabbos, too, when my soul is connected, "... way above our conscious state."

Shabbos is Not Just One Day

This week I began to explore the idea of Chatzos, which means getting prepared for Erev Shabbos by noon on Friday.

It's a wonderful goal, and once it becomes a habit I know I'll be more peaceful and enjoy the menucha or peace of Shabbos easily at candle-lighting time.

It's a bit tricky during the winter months when sunset comes early...


"When all of the ideologies that were supposed to redeem us from our troubles have visibly and miserably failed, the Shabbat remains a beacon of light and hope for Israel and a symbol of our eternal covenant with our Creator."

The idea of preparing in advance is lovely, but often seems impractical, until we make it a priority. I WANT to make it a priority now. It's a way to show respect for the Sabbath, but also for myself.

When the food is prepared and the table is set by noon, or at least several hours prior to candle-lighting time, and I have bathed and put on fresh clothing, that is showing respect in all ways. It brings Shabbos all the way into Friday, making it last more than one day each week.

Chatzos is Shalom Bayit in action.

"The more the mental anticipation and actual preparation for Shabbos, the more one will taste Shabbos.

The more one will treasure it, will center one's life around it, the more one will be at ease on Shabbos.

Parasha Beshalach 5775 - Song of The Sea

"A confident person may have mastery over his environment. A person with great self-worth, on the other hand, has mastery over himself.

What does it take to have self-control? The answer is being in touch with our souls." Rabbi David Aaron

I am exploring what it means to be in touch with my soul this year on Shabbat Shirah, the Sabbath of Song, because there's a deep, undeniable connection within me. I don't have to understand it completely, but I do choose to acknowledge and respect it.

Like an explosion of worshipful energy in my soul, I'm plugged-in and humming along.  I'm ready and eager to serve.  A good place to be while preparing for Shabbos, yes?

"Not only is Shabbos special in a spiritual sense. Even in a physical sense, Shabbos is a magnificent treasure."
Rabbi Mordechai Rhine

The following quote from The Jewish Virtual Library encourages us to feed the birds outside our homes on Shabbat Shirah. We just bought some  prepared birdseed called "birdola," which looks just like granola made especially for birds!

ShabbosChicShabbatShirah

Good wisdom for Parashat Bo 5775


It's late January/early Shevat right now. That means our New Year's resolutions may be wearing off.  Our fervent plans and goals made at the beginning of the calendar year seem to take a backseat when life gets in the way.

Reaching for a goal is such a human thing to so, a classic and respected exercise of the strength of our human will.

These wise words in a blog post by Shuli Kleinman this week remind me that it's not my own plans and goals that take precedence anyway:

"Taanug, the pleasure of the soul, is also above will, but we may not have ever experienced real pleasure of the soul.

Instead we experience comfort, satisfaction, gratification, and other things related to the accomplishment of our goals based on will.

Yet one thing is beyond refute - this type of happiness does not last and there is no guarantee that what works today will have the same outcome the next time.

Why?  We are simply not in control of the world."

It's a challenge to balance the reality of God's sovereignty with our own healthy enthusiasm for prosperity and growth. For enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment in our lives.

I loved a post by Marnie Pehrson, sharing her tender but powerful personal growth in the ability to receive (kabel in Hebrew) as a woman. Oh yes, I can relate when she says, "Over the last couple years, I’ve felt myself being reprogrammed to receive. Through a series of setbacks, life has put me in positions where I HAVE to receive. I have to ask for help."

And I'm SO looking forward to the new book on Eshet Chayil by Sara Esther Crispe, scheduled for publication soon.

Every Shabbos is New

Shabbos candlelightingI love having two New Years celebrations each year. Rosh Hashanah and January 1st are both opportunities to start over anew, to focus on fresh, new goals and go deeper in my spiritual practices. 

Even better though, I love Shabbos each week. It's the culmination of one seven-day period of my achievements when I stop and  honor God's ultimate achievement - Creation. It's my connection to the past and the future. It's on beyond celebrating a new year. It's timeless and yet it's frequent.

Jews all over the world are honoring the seventh-day Sabbath with me, so I'm not really alone, even if lighting my Shabbat candles is a solitary activity for me in my home.  But the intimacy of candlelighting cannot be described. You just have to do it to understand it for yourself.

Will you join me?  Will you take the weekly opportunity to fill your home and your heart with the light of Shabbos?

We can get started having Shabbos fun today watching this video about braiding Challah, the traditional bread used (and enjoyed!) each Shabbos eve following Kiddush.

Watch a true Challah Artist in action! (HERE is another video showing how to make the delicious egg bread Challah dough for a crowd.)

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Challah Braiding
Different ways to braid dough for challah or any other bread.

Shabbos for The Reluctant

Preparing Shabbos for reluctant family members and friends is truly a gift for them, even if they don't react with enthusiastic glee.

Shabbos is its own reward, inside each of us.

Shabbos is for our soul, and our soul is having a relationship with Shabbos, whether our mind knows it or not.

Or whether we observe Shabbos or not, strange as that may seem.

The Sabbath Day happens each week, and we get to be in it. Or not. It's our choice.

Our lights are poised and ready to shine, together.


Lech Lecha 5775

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Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz Lech Lecha 5775
Join me in a mystical, musical exploration of our Torah portion this week - Lech Lecha.

The Shabbat Project This Weekend

What a joy to know that millions of people all over the world are choosing to honor Shabbos this weekend - October 24th and 25th, 2014. The Shabbat Project is the answer to prayer for me and for many Jews all over the world. Will you join us?

Precious Yom Kippur Perspective


Big thanks to Jewish Workshops and and Dr. Miriam Adahan for this screenshot that uplifts and inspires us this week on our Yom Kippur, which is also Shabbat.

Rosh Hashanah 5775

Each year I strive to learn more and more, and that makes each Rosh Hashanah incredibly exciting.  This year I learned something truly profound from Rabbi Yaakov Zalman Labinsky of BecomingDivine.com and it has changed my perspective on the month of Elul and its culmination in Rosh Hashanah, the head of the year.

Teshuva, returning, turning again, means we redirect ourselves back to our tender beginnings, before we collected life experiences that tainted our perception of ourselves and others. Especially in our marriages.

It's about getting back to our more idyllic state, before we became fragmented, when we were one with Hashem. We can choose to see our marriage as it was in the beginning, and see ourselves as we were in our embryonic state.

We are not perfect; our marriages are not perfect. But at this important time of year, especially at Rosh Hashanah we are charged with the opportunity to be human and to bring the tender newness of our oneness with Hashem into our personal lives and into our marriages once again.




Teshuva this Elul 5774

Rae Shagalov inspires our Teshuva this year in a lovely way on her beautiful art blog, and also her YouTube video.

Four words beginning with the letter R make it easier to remember what we think about this month of Elul, but not necessarily easier to DO, right?

But remembering is truly the first step. We are so busy and distracted that simply remembering to consider Teshuva during Elul is a big deal.

I have so grown so much this Elul 5774  in membership classes offered by Jewish Workshops and led by Rabbi Akiva Tatz.  Here's a wonderful Elul teaching by Rabbi Tatz where you'll find world-class Jewish teaching at no cost, 24/7.

In a special Rosh Hashana webinar today Rabbi Tatz said, "Teshuva works because it removes your will from the sin... You disowned it, detached your name from it."

Sounds good to me!  L'Shanna Tova 5775 to one and all!

Tiny House for Shabbat?

This is my idea of a perfect little Shabbat cabin... where I would relax and read and scoop food from the Crockpot in complete peace.  Can you see it, too?

In real life this cabin is located at the Clearwater Gallery in Sisters, Oregon and it is available for rent to artists.

This precious little cabin made me realize that Shabbat is always and forever an artistic expression for me. It's the ultimate opportunity to sit back and watch my Creator's handiwork in my life. Every week. And what a perfect little place for Elul reflection, too.

How To Reveal Light (It's not what you think...)

My friend Shuli Kleinman posted this important idea today :

"Yet the darkness can be turned into light, but not by investing talent and goals to it. Darkness becomes light when the mask over the light is taken off, meaning that there is an inherent understanding of the falsehood of the darkness and that appealing to the light behind it will lift us out of it."

Eikev & High Holy Days 5775

I'm really enjoying Devarim (Deuteronomy) this year.  As I read I feel connected to Moses's words to the Israelites in Parashat Eikev this week, including these:

"At the end of the forty days and forty nights, God gave me the two stone tablets as tablets of the covenant. But God then said to me, "Get moving and hurry down from here!

The nation that you brought out of Egypt has become corrupt. They have been quick to turn aside from the path that I prescribed for them, and they have made themselves a cast statute." Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, The Living Torah

(Seen on a T-shirt lately)
Don't Give Up! Moses Was Once A Basket Case

But seriously, woe unto us when we make idols of anything, which of course includes important things and people in our lives, such as our smart phones and our grandkids. It's really true....

Elul is coming soon, and then the High Holy Days.  How I love Shuli Kleinman's generous post that provides easy access to Rabbi Doniel Katz' four videos presented to help us prepare deeply for Yom Kippur this year.  

Here's Rabbi Doniel Katz' formula explained in his first video. Curious? I'll be posting more in my preparation process this year, for sure.

And here's a wonderful, useful prayer from my Breslov Research Institute (Rebbe Nachman) email today-

Dear G-d! Please show me that the very traits which cause me such distress are actually the path to true connection and purity.

Help me keep patiently yearning until You enable the slight adjustments of attitude and action and transform my negatives to advantages.

Light in the Midst of Darkness

When I sing the candle lighting blessings each week on Friday night it fills my home with a tangible sense of peace.  I love it, and look forward to it all week.

My husband and I absorb the peace on behalf of our family members and our friends, and on behalf of the whole world.

We welcome the Sabbath in song, because that takes our mind away from this world in an unmistakeable way.

Singing on Shabbos is a precious expression, but so is singing prayers and blessings every day of the week.

The following words woke up my deep, personal relationship with singing, "unto the Lord," which is something that I've done much more in the past than in the last few years.

"Singing to G-d fixes the broken tablets. The book of Psalms was actually King David’s transcriptions of his Torah-healing songs. Each of the five books of Psalms corresponds to one of the five books of Moshe." 
From a Breslev.org email today

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No words can express the sorrow of the loss of three Yeshiva boys, but somehow, miraculously, the mother of Eyal Yifrach has words of faith for all Mothers in this incredible letter on JewishMom.com
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Jewish Coach Deborah Riegel posted on THE important question we can ask to truly hear others' feelings and deep needs-  "How is this for YOU?"

And Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis posted inspiration from her experience as a Holocaust survivor, giving her a unique perspective on our times -  "But despite it all, the pintele Yid, the Jewish spark, was never extinguished. And if kindled, that spark can burst forth and become a brilliant flame. I know because I have witnessed it again and again. We have never forgotten You."

AMEN and AMEN, Father, May we never forget You.
"

People Of The Desert

"It is written in the memories of the ancient peoples that one who chooses the desert for his enemy has chosen a bitter foe, but he who accepts it as a friend, who will seek to understand its moods and whims, shall feel also its mercy, shall drink deep of its hidden waters, and the treasures of its rocks shall be opened before him. Where one may walk in freedom and find water in the arid places, another may gasp out his last breath under the desert sun and mark the sands with the bones of his ending." From The Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour, Volume I

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So, I'm packing for my continuing trip to the Promised Land. I'm grateful to be set free from captivity each year at Passover, and fully equipped during the important time leading up to and after Shavuot.

My symbolic trip through the desert has been VERY valuable to my spirit this year.

Before we enter the month of Av this year I want to make sure all the gleanings from the month of Sivan and Tammuz are coming along with me then. May we all be blessed and equipped in Spirit, this month and always.

Rabbi Aryeh Nivin said it so beautifully in his email newsletter today, so here are his words for you to enjoy, too:

"...look at what you’ve accomplished all year long, and see which of your goals still need to be achieved. You still have all of Tammuz and Av to realize them. Ask yourself in a practical, measurable way, 'What do I want to achieve before the end of the year?' Stay focused so you don’t get distracted by the myriad temptations at this time of year, so you can complete these goals.At this time of year we have the greatest power to achieve...

As long as we keep the ta’ava and ga’ava in check, this is the time to make things happen."

Blessings Come in Many Forms

Blessings come in many shapes and forms, but this image captures the gratitude in my heart today.

Sometimes the blessings are so very obvious that we cannot miss the fact the the mighty hand of Hashem is in fact moving us through our lives like chess pieces on a chess board.  We can feel the love and intention.


Basking in the afterglow of Shavuot 2014


Listening to the lovely, hypnotic songs of Shauli on Soundcloud this Friday evening, preparing for our Shabbat Eve....

I am filled with gratitude for the precious revelations and answers to prayers during Shavuot this week.

I am thankful to be a Jew and to have these Holy Days to remember how thankful I am to be a Jew.


Parashat Beha'alothekha opens with the following (from The Living Torah, translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan):

"God spoke to Moses, telling him to speak to Aaron and say to him, 'When you light the lamps, the seven lamps shall illuminate the menorah."

May we all be blessed with illumination this Shabbos and always!

SHABBAT SHALOM
TO MY PEOPLE EVERYWHERE

Shabbat - A Spa For The Soul

My FridayNightLight.org email today really filled me with enthusiasm for lighting my candles this weekend:

"Magical things happen when we rest. The mind quiets itself. The body lets go of tension.

That feeling of perpetual motion and not being able to keep up dissolve.

Shabbat, thanks to our Creator, is a weekly opportunity to rest and to recharge. When we take advantage of the profound opportunity for revitalization that Shabbat offers, we give ourselves the gift of self care.

Even if trips to a spa resort are beyond our means, Shabbat is always there as a spa for the soul and a rest for the body."


On Free Will - Rabbi Akiva Tatz

Rabbi Akiva Tatz has a new book, and those of us learning with him through Jewish Workshops' incredible e-learning program received a copy of it by email today.

One sentence struck me so deeply, and I wanted to share it today -

"The tension between the elevated and the fallen creates the space in which free choice can exist."

Wow, that puts our opportunity as humans into sharp perspective, doesn't it?




Our Sacred Brain Functioning

Today I'll start by quoting my friend Cari Alter's email, "I've come to learn this: If you don't listen when Guidance starts telling you something, knowing actions speak louder than words, they'll get louder and louder until you run out of choices. And then the message will take over your life and smack you in the face."

Sound familiar? 

Well, I am getting messages in my life about brain functioning, and one example is this truly amazing photo provided by Jenna Forster and Greg Styles of CoachingCrucible.com -

Doesn't this photo look like a tree without leaves against a cold night sky?

Well, it's not a tree at all.

It's a microscopic photo of the actual structure that conducts nerve impulses.

The thicker trunk-like portion is the Axon and the branches are Dendrites, which comes from the Greek word meaning "tree."


I'm thinking about The Tree of Knowledge, are you? Isn't it amazing to think that it's been living inside us all along?

I am getting inner guidance on this idea now, and must not ignore that guidance. So, here you go, it's a blog post now!

The Light of Shabbos and Purim

This Shabbos, which culminates in the beginning of Purim on Saturday night, let's consider these words of Rabbi Akiva Tatz, with whom I have the privilege of studying in a live class on the web through JewishWorkshops.com:

"There are many ideas in Shabbos, but perhaps the most basic is that it represents an end-point, the tachlis of a process.

The week is a period of working, building; Shabbos is the cessation of that building, which brings home the significance and sense of achievement that building has generated.

It is not simply rest, inactivity. It is the celebration of the work which has been completed."

Who among us cannot relate to celebrating the end of our work week and the beginning of our two days of joy? Let's do it together!

Here's another idea I learned this week, shared by Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz from his counseling experience, and it fits perfectly into my life and my coaching practice:

"In order to think positively, a person should contemplate every situation they are in and see it as good, and consider how it can become even better. It’s important to understand that every little bit helps.

A person needs to understand that little, tiny, baby steps are like giant strides and leaps in personal growth. They are accomplishments that can go a long way in their life and the lives of others as well."

Shabbat is a time to remember and Purim is a time to forget. Having the maturity to know WHAT TO REMEMBER and WHAT TO FORGET is a spiritual practice of great value. What a privilege it is to have teachers to help me grow in wisdom now.

Welcome to the Tribe, David!

It's a joy to celebrate with my friend David today, his first Shabbos as a member of the Tribe.

We welcome you with open arms, David!




Shabbos Blessings For Our Children

"My parents created a profound tradition when we were very young: addressing one child at a time, they would recite the traditional Hebrew blessing and then each of them would gift an impromptu personal blessing from the heartsoul"

These words by Ilana Lerman in her post on Ritualwell.org began her story called Building Blessing Muscle. She recalls how her parents placed their hands on the shoulders of each child in turn and spoke individual blessings upon each of the three of them every Shabbat Eve.

Such a beautiful picture for us all this Shabbos as we light our candles with our children present in the room with us, or in our hearts. We can always bless them with our "heartsoul" as did Illana's parents.
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