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Shabbos Chic Blog

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.

The Candle of the Lord

My weekly email from Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum provided these perfect words for us all on Shabbos this week -

"The candle, which symbolizes the words of Torah, is considered a guide to life, safeguarding us from stumbling.

Whoever performs a mitzvah sustains his soul, and is considered as if he lit a candle before G-d as it states:

 Ner Hashem nishmat adam
A candle of G-d is the soul of man.

The benefit of the candle is that it purifies the soul.

Candles differ from other goods in this world, which becomes reduced when shared with others. From one candle you can kindle thousands of candles without diminishing the light of the original candle.

In the same way, when we fulfill a mitzvah even if it seemingly comprises expense and effort, we do not get depleted but rather recharged with renewed spiritual energy."

Shabbos of Parshat Vaera

The days are finally getting longer now, so our Shabbos will arrive a minute or so later than last week.  I love this time of year because it is such a great time to remember to bring Light out of the darkness in our lives and in the world.

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's classic work called Sabbath - Day of Eternity is provided by OU.org online, and reading it will surely warm up this dark time of year for you as it does for me.  

Tour Midreshet B'erot Bat Ayin in Israel

Click photo for a delightful 5 minute tour of Midreshet B'erot Bay Ayin, an unprecedented holistic center for Jewish women to re-connect with their tribe and with their personal feminine relationship to Torah and to each other.

Growing Through Shabbos with Rabbi Labinsky

Enjoy the intelligent, compassionate teachings of Rabbi Yaakov Zalman Labinsky in his 20-part audio program on building our inner sanctuary in order to receive the Divine Presence on Shabbos.

Eighth Night of Hanukkah 2013 - Our Highest Prayers

ShabbosChicHanukkahLightInTheDarkness





















This inspirational message arrived by email just in time for our 8th night of Hanukkah tonight. May it inspire you and your final night of Hanukkah 2013 as well:

"The last night and day of Chanukah is called Zos Chanukah. It is a night where the gates of prayer are open for our heavenly requests. It is a time that encapsulates the power and holiness of all the preceding seven nights of Chanukah. Our Sages teach us that we still have one last opportunity for the judgment of Yom Kippur to be finalized which is the 8th day of Chanukah. One can accomplish on the 8th day of Chanukah requests that even great Tzadikim cannot accomplish during Neilah of Yom Kippur. Let us use this opportunity to strengthen our prayers Torah study mitzvos and tzedakah."

Rabbi Yisroel of theHineni Heritage Center

Happy 5th Night of Hanukkah!

Enjoy a very clear and accessible refresher article about "how to do Hanukkah" on The Jewish Magazine online.


The One and Only Thanksgivukkah This Week




















It's not only a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring light into the darkness, but it's a Once Ever time for us all to shine when we put the first candles in our hanukias this week on Wednesday night, the beginning of Hanukkah.

I, for one, am ready to shine brightly in this world!

What a privilege to know that people all over the world are lighting their Hanukkah candles with me, including many who are not in the USA where we are also celebrating Thanksgiving.

Turns out, the fact that the first night of Hanukkah coincides with the eve of Thanksgiving, November 28th this year is based on some pretty amazing calendar calculations that will not occur again for thousands of centuries.

So, essentially, we are very, very fortunate to be alive and celebrating Thanksgivukkah this year in the United States and all around the world.

From an email from Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz this week - "We Jews on the other hand realize that the imperative direction of our spiritual growth is to eventually bring the outer surrounding light inside ourselves to become an inner graspable light."

Fear and 'Seeing' of God




















See more creative Shabbat candle ideas

Shuli Kleinman shared the following in her blog this week:

"Hashem is unfathomable but He wants to have a relationship with us in this world.  Thus He creates something, a portion of light, a Name for Himself through which we can relate to something that He desires from us, which is that we love and fear Him and know that He is all there is."

And along the same lines, I read the following paragraph this week, and it answered some lingering questions for me. Here, see what you think -

ALL IS PREDETERMINED EXCEPT FOR
YIRAT SHAMAYIM [FEAR AND ‘SEEING’ OF G-D]

"Of course we have free will and we can trace things that happen in our lives to our actions and choices, but on a deeper level superceding our actions and choices there is predetermination happening in our lives. The only thing that is truly in our own realm of influence is our ability to see that G-d is doing it all, and to have awe and amazement at that fact."  Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz


And finally, this quote from my JewishAmerica email on Parashat Vayeshev this week, "Furthermore, when things look dark, G-D may drop clues to let us know that he is with us. Picking up on these clues can give us strength and encouragement to deal with crisis." 

It's the Season for Early Shabbos Lights

Selecting the candle holders to light up our Friday night goes on earlier in the day now since daylight savings time is no longer observed here in north Texas USA.

I was standing by the table, waiting in the dark when my husband suddenly came in the front door, returning from work. "Hold on," he said, "I'll be right there..."

Many families struggle to gather before sunset, and I am grateful it worked for us this first week of early Shabbos.

There are too many other struggles in families and in the world, and the whole purpose of kindling the Shabbos lights is to welcome the peace of the Sabbath Day into our homes and into our crazy, busy lives.

Honestly, when my husband and I bond over Kiddush at the Shabbat table each week, it is a precious bond, a high point, a threshold into intentional peace we choose to share.

We both value this opportunity and genuinely welcome it, as it signals the end of the pressures of our work week and the beginning of our "real life" at home together.

The lack of a "real life" at home for families scattered by school and activities and work and shopping and sports and hobbies and caring for others is truly a source of trouble in this world. We are scattered and stressed so much of the time that it seems normal to us.

Kindling the lights of Shabbat each week reminds me what is normal to my Creator, and what is available to me, too - the light and the peace of the Sabbath, the Shalom Bayit, the peace at home. How I treasure it!

The Smoothness Factor - Do you wonder about it, too?

I often wonder about things that go very smoothly in my life, by contrast to other issues, events and relationships that seem to be awkward and difficult, even chaotic.

Do you wonder about the "smoothness factor" in your life, too?

Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz recently said the following, and I am taking it to heart this week:

"Get yourself back into the area of the smoothness factor. Put on your smoothness factor glasses.

See the ease or the dis-ease of various events in your life, relationships in your life and challenges in your life. See the pressures and the pleasures and see how smooth they are, or their lack of smoothness. See them in the light of smoothness, as an indication of business that has been accomplished in previous lifetimes, or not.

And then act upon it with that awareness, that understanding, that consciousness. Then you can re-frame your ability to cope and to respond to immediate challenges, and see them as rectification of previous lifetimes.

This will make your responses more primal and more profound."

Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz

The Golden Gate in Jerusalem for us all

The Golden Gate is on the east side of the wall around the old city of Jerusalem, and leads directly to the Temple Mount. It is the source of rich history, some of it rather speculative in nature.

But more importantly, it might possibly be the source point of our very rich future in Messiah. So, maybe these photos I post today will unite and ignite our attention on this important spot on earth right now. Can't hurt, can it?

As one blogger named Shalom Ben Issac writes, "Jews believe that the Mashiach (Messiah) will enter Jerusalem from the east through the Golden Gate and as he enters the Temple Mount he'll bring redemption to the Hebrew nation."

Naturally, Christians and Muslims have their own differing theories. Looks like we will all be watching what happens there soon enough.

Good week to listen to this talk on Forgiveness in Marriage

On her blog today, Shuli Kleinman shared the most wonderful, chabura talk by Rabbi Yaakov Zalman Labinsky called Forgiveness in Marriage.

Wow, what a timely topic! I'm pretty sure this is not a coincidence in my life... "The first years of marriage are for healing each others' souls."  Thank you, Shuli for your vigilant sharing of this deep teaching.

And now, a little further from Home Sweet Home in Texas, we have JERUSALEM, the IMAX 3-D movie. Another WOW for sure! I can't wait to see it soon.






Let There Be Light, This Shabbos and Always

To celebrate our beginning the Torah again this Shabbos, I've transcribed an excerpt from Rabbi Dr. Akiva Tatz speaking in 2011 on the  Kabbalah of  "the two lights."

What better time than now, in the energy of Bereshit, Genesis, the first book of Torah, and especially, "..let there be light."

"The first light must be strong enough to open up a space for all things to exist in later.

Not just to light up the darkness, but to even create the place where the darkness is in the first place.

And that's called the First Light, or in chasidic literature it's called Ohr Rishon, the First Light, and it is perfect, incredibly strong, but it's not destined to last.

It's destined to be there only long enough to open that space and then it goes away, and it leaves a tremendous aching emptiness, a longing for the light that was once there. But, it leaves a darkness.

The longing, the absence of the light, the feeling of what was once there brings in a second light.

But the second light is very, very faint, almost nothing compared to the first, but it's the one that lasts. It's the one the whole exercise was intended for, and although it's very small and only a faint echo of the first light, it what remains...

The second light becomes the soul and the residue [of the First Light] becomes the body,"

We are, all of us, body and soul, made of the light and made for the light.

What a great concept to consider this Shabbos Bereshit!



Hoshana Rabbah - Pedi Sukkahs For Succos 2013

Today is Hoshana Rabbah, and soon the Succos season will come to an end. I loved a photo posted on Chabad.org and just had to provide my artistic version of it here on Shabbos Chic for you today!

*****************
"Teshuvah repentance does not come to embitter life but to sweeten it."  Rav Kook 
*****************

Shabbat Sukkot

Sending Light To The Nations
on Shabbat Sukkot from London, England

Full Moon Succah

It's the first day of Succos, and this photo adapted from Joel Seshold's Flicker stream is a beautiful symbol , isn't it?

The full moon awakened me, just in time to see it emerging within heart-shaped clouds, like a divine embrace.

That's how I want to feel this season of joy. Spiritually, I am in a divine embrace that is tangible and undeniable, and it's my responsibility to remember this privilege as I move through my Succos days and nights, and also thereafter.

"Embrace is hinted at in the sukkah: Just as a person embraces his child in love, encircling him with his arms, and sheltering him with his head, so here for the joints of the arm there are the two walls according to their rule, plus a third wall at least as wide as a handbreadth, and the third, the handbreadth, is the hand, and all of it is a parable for the situation of being embraced, of our being drawn near to Hashem [God] in joy and purity."

Thanks to Rabbi David Seidenberg of NeoHasid.org for sharing this wonderful quote from Meshulam Feivush, Rebbe of Zbarazh, in Yosher Divrey Emet

Ushpizin - Succos Guests in My Spiritual Life

In our EmunaHealing class this week, Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum helped us understand that our Succah is representative of the Holy Temple.

We build it and we spend a designated time in it each year in order to remember and connect  with the past and future Temple, right where we live, right now.

And, no matter where we live, we can expect a special guest to visit us each day.  Our spiritual Succos guests are the Patriarchs of our faith, and they are here for us now if we are willing to receive them.

The Aramaic word for "guests" is pronounced Ushpizin, and that is what we call our special Succos guests each year.


Rebbetzin Chana Bracha shared the basic spiritual qualities represented by each of the Patriarchs, and also associated the particular Sephirot to this list I'm quoting from an Aish.com post by Rabbi Joel Padowitz as well:

  • Abraham represents love and kindness [Chessed]
  • Isaac represents restraint and personal strength [Gevurah]
  • Jacob represents beauty and truth [Tiferet]
  • Moses represents eternality and dominance through Torah [Netzach]
  • Aaron represents empathy and receptivity to divine splendor [Hod]
  • Joseph represents holiness and the spiritual foundation [Yesod]
  • David represents the establishment of the kingdom of Heaven on Earth [Malchut]

As an EmunaHealer, Rebbetzin included her understanding of the various parts of the human body represented by each of the Sephirot. 

Her sharing added another tangible, significant layer of understanding and possibility of healing  to the holiday of Succos for me this year.

See Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum's
Kosher Tube 3-part teaching on 
Torah of the Mothers

Jerusalem Gold 2013 and My Spiritual Treasure

Last week,  the Times of Israel posted Ilan Ben Zion's report of a real-life treasure trove of ancient gold discovered by archeologist Eliat Mazar.

"The find, unearthed in the area adjacent to the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount known as the Ophel, was dated to the early 7th century CE, in all likelihood the time of the brief Persian conquest of Jerusalem."

Mazar speculates that, "the hoard of gold and silver objects, found beneath the floor of a Byzantine-era house meters from the massive walls of the Temple Mount, was brought by Jews who returned to the city after the Persians conquered it from the Byzantines in 614 CE."

While reading about the Jerusalem treasure today, I found myself thinking about our Yom Kippur service yesterday. There were not very many people gathered in our little Temple to pray.

Apparently  many Jews do not treasure Yom Kippur as I do.

Now, this is not a comment about what other people should do on Yom Kippur, or how it should be done correctly. I am simply stating that Yom Kippur is true treasure to me in my life.

My annual opportunity to seek and find spiritual treasure during the whole month of Elul, on Rosh Hashana, during the 10 Days of Awe and of course on Yom Kippur is beyond monetary valuation. It is priceless. And I find it over and over, regularly, without fail.

I can count on finding spiritual treasure because it's already scheduled for me. It's right on my calendar every year!

Maybe the comparison between a fortune in ancient gold coins recently found near the Temple Mount and the value I place on the High Holy Days is politically incorrect in this world right now.

Mercifully, it's not this world that matters in the long run, other than seeing and knowing it as preparation for the World To Come.

To me, Yom Kippur is for Preppers of the World To Come!

And what could be more exciting than that? Well, possibly Succot, the Season of Joy that will soon be upon us. It starts this Wednesday evening, September 18th.

I love this quote from my JewishAmerica.com email today:

"Those who don’t stop growing come to happiness from being Jewish and from realizing a connection to One who is focused on giving us every opportunity to become great in ways we can’t imagine."

See Rita Brownstein's adorable DIY Sukkah lights and make some for yourself this year.

It's Shabbat and It's Yom Kippur - A Double Blessing

When Yom Kippur and Shabbos coincide, it's hard to imagine the great Light accessible to us all.  I honestly don't think it can be expressed any better than this quote from my FridayLight email today:

"Have you ever seen a flame leap back to its source, like when sparks ignite from a camp fire, and then fall back into the fire itself?

We each have a spiritual spark within. It is a spark that is purely a piece of our Creator, and it lives in each of us. Though it is usually covered in layers of spiritual and physical shells, on Yom Kippur that innermost spark shines out and comes close to its source.

Yom Kippur is the one day of the year when we have the power to access that spark. It is a day when we can truly be our most real spiritual and physical selves.

This Shabbat is Yom Kippur. When we light our candles today, we are welcoming the opportunity to access that truest, most pure part of yourself. Have a meaningful Yom Kippur and Shabbat Shalom from FridayLight!"

And also from me, Mia Sherwood Landau. May your life and your spiritual growth be immeasurably blessed this year and always.

"On this day, just one time per year, we are lifted collectively and individually above our past and given the opportunity to “whiten” and purify the toxic residue of the pain, disappointments and regrets that we have picked up throughout the year and even throughout our lives." Shifra Hendrie

Joan Nathan Making Challah for Shabbos and Rosh Hashanah

Watch Joan Nathan demonstrating how to make traditional braided challah, and special round loaves for Rosh Hashana... it's like having your own Jewish mother or grandmother showing you how it's done.

Still looking for a place to make a donation, your tzedaka this New Year?  Consider Project MOT, care packages to Jewish military personnel.

What is the essence of Rosh Hashana?

Although I was participating in the live Skype session as Dr Yedidah Cohen translated this section of Zohar  explained by Rabbi Yehudah  Lev Ashlag in the Perush HaSulam, it is very helpful to be able to listen to it again and again in her recording  posted as The Shofar: The Sound of Compassion.

"The twelve months of the year are the tikun of the Malchut, from its beginning to its end.

Since it is not completely finished until the Gemar HaTikun (the end of the Tikun) we need each year to come back and rectify it.

And therefore, on each Rosh Hashana we start the tikun of the Malchut again.

So, the word shanah, shin-nun-hey, is a cycle."

Yedidah's English translation of Rabbi Ashlag's explanation brought me around to understanding that the essence of Rosh Hashana is quite the opposite of harsh, critical judgment of my sins.

It is a day to relish the love and attention of my Creator's confident expectation in my process of perfection and the ultimate perfection of the world.

I am an intrinsic part of the cycle. My life and my teshuva are important and welcome; they are necessary and valuable.

I am not pitifully pleading for forgiveness, but acknowledging Hashem as my Beloved and crowning Hashem as King. I am doing my part.

This year I make teshuva with a new, improved attitude.  I am bringing the genuine love of my Beloved that is lavished upon me during this month of Elul to my Temple with me on Rosh Hashana in order to promote Tikun Olam. 

I am participating in the significant beginning of yet another year, yet another cycle in the rectification of the world.

And this year, with an expanded understanding of my own purpose and my relationship with my Beloved, I embrace the compassionate essence of Rosh Hashana  by joyfully participating in all three traditional expressions of  love and compassion:

Teshuva - it's our choice for personal bonding with God

Tefila - it's our job to pray for the tools to serve God

Tzedaka - it's our opportunity to give Charity or Justice

Join Rabbi Yossi Srugo, Rabbi Yakov Garfinkel and Rabbi Chai Amar in an eight-minute video reminder of these traditional Jewish observances of Rosh Hashana called Crowning the King.

Shana Tova & Happy Cycling!

Rabbi Aryeh Nivin's Chaburas This Elul


Participating in Rabbi Aryeh Nivin's Ladies Chabura 5774 is truly a blessing in this season of Elul. His live coaching/teaching by phone brings the essence of my life purpose into sharp focus for at least an hour per week,  infusing it more and more into my everyday life. Participating in the Ladies Chabura connects me with women all over the world, and it also connects me deeply with myself, with my soul.

Rabbi Nivin has a unique and very, very important message that has awakened my own Yeud, my life purpose, which is definitely reflected in my writings on this blog. My Yeud reveals my essence and and satisfies the longing of my neshama, my eternal soul.

"When you have a Yeud moment
it answers the question -
Is this what my life is all about?"


What a deeply satisfying pleasure to be able to say, "YES," and to watch the petals of my growing sense of purpose unfurl into a beautiful, blossoming thing. I am definitely blooming where I am planted in this life now. 

Baruch Hashem!  Here, listen to Rabbi Nivin's brief explanation of  your Yeud, ... "a light that ONLYYOU can bring into the world... The understanding of your life's purpose is like a lantern in the darkness."

By the way, you won't find much on the subject of Yeud on the web. Shuli Kleinman has a blog post on Yeud and Tikun. It is rather deep, and assumes a considerable knowledge of Hebrew concepts.

And you may find a few unfortunate associations with altered states of consciousness and musical groups and political parties, too. But this is not what the concept of Yeud really means.

That is why I connect to Rabbi Aryeh Nivin's authentic life coaching in the substance and potential available to us all when we discover and honor our Yeud in our daily lives.

His years of work with Aish.com and experience in life coaching put him in a unique position to help me, and many other people to find and to fulfill our unique contributions to the world. It's good to have a coach for what truly matters, and what seems so hard to find in life.

OK, I know we don't really get a a diploma, a degree or designation for our genuine spiritual growth. But I have to admit that receiving the certificate pictured below has been a precious reminder that I have made progress and that it's my responsibility to put my progress into practice each day.

It works for me!

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis at the Wall this Elul

Women praying at the Wall during Elul include Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis of the dynamic Jewish outreach organization,  www.Hineni.org and her timeless, infectious love and respect for all things Jewish.  She posted a poignant article about Weeping For Jerusalem on her blog while visiting Jerusalem recently:

"For thousands of years we prayed, wept and hoped for Yerushalayim. To see Yerushalayim again, to behold the rebuilt Beis HaMikdash, has always been the center of all our prayers...

Should we not ask again and again and still again, “Where is the Beis HaMikdash?” I miss it so. I’m in Jerusalem but the shinning crown of the Holy City is absent and my joy cannot be complete until I see its glory restored."

"This Rosh Hashanah has to be different. It just cannot  be another Rosh Hashanah. It has to be different.

You and I, we could bring redemption to our people.

So, how do we do it?  First, we have to find out who we are, what we are, what we represent...

Every person, every individual is a special, unique creation of God. We are not mass-produced.

God created each and every one of us, custom-made, with a unique purpose.

Before we are ever born, Hashem makes a magnificent portrait of us, and it's hanging in the Heavenly galleries. And it portrays that which Hashem hopes that which we will achieve in this world...

So, this year we have to make a difference, we MUST make a difference, for ourselves, for our families, for Am Israel and for the world."

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, fromA Nation Blessed As One

Rabbi David Aaron on Emunah - Faith is a state of being

Back in 2005, Rabbi David Aaron of www.Isralight.org recorded several hours of audio teaching he called an Emunah Seminar, and his words are enlivening my studies this Elul 5773. 

Here are are few quotes from his teaching called The State of Being, which describes our faith as who we are, as part of our core essence we can tap into when we are willing to set aside distractions:


"Faith is not a collection of ideas,
faith is a state of being."

"Rav Kook explains that faith is the revelation of the Self, of yourself. It is the basic self-revealing of your inner essence.

It is not something that you achieve, that you accomplish in the sense of adding more information, amassing more knowledge.

It's actually something that you need to release from yourself, in essence."

"Emunah is the basic self-revealing
of the essence of the soul."

Rabbi David Aaron

Contemplating Parashat Kitavo - First Things First

It isn't just the first fruits of the land we contemplate this Shabbos reading Parashat Kitavo... no, it's our first thoughts and actions each day.

Rebbetzin Chana Brach Siegelbaum posts the following on her Women At The Crossroads blog this week:

"Knowing that the holy Torah is eternal; as we learn from the Thirteen Principles of Belief: “This Torah will never be exchanged;”* then, how do we fulfill the mitzvah of Bikurim today when we have neither a worshipping  Kohen, nor a Temple, or an altar?

Even today we can fulfill the mitzvah of Bikurim by dedicating the beginning of every matter to Hashem. The body follows the head."

* Rambam, the Thirteen Principles of Emunah, #9.

When am I happy?

"I am happy when I am not constantly asking myself if I am happy."Andrew Lustig on Jewels of Elul IX,  Day 10

Prayer for Elul, Shabbos and Always

I am touched by words in two inspiring emails today. The first quote is from Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz on the topic of Prayer:

"Every word of prayer makes an impression and isn't wasted. Sometimes much later their effect is felt, sometimes in a very different way than was intended. The principle is that there is nothing ever lost. 

However , there are many levels of  impact. Just as each person's life outlook is different, as is reflected by the fact that no two faces look alike---so too , no two prayers impact are alike."

And the other quote is on the topic of Prayer, too.  It is from my weekly FridayLight.org email, always so welcome as I prepare for Shabbos each week:

"In Jewish mysticism, there is a concept of two ways of relating to our Creator. One way is for our Creator to reach down to us with help or inspiration. Another way is for us to do our work here on the ground and to reach up to him to ask for help.

It's rare for our Creator to just make changes for us. However, according to mystical sources, when we do everything in our power to bring this redemption for ourselves in combination with asking our Creator for help, that's when the He will generally meet us in the middle. We reach up and He reaches down (metaphorically speaking.)"

Chana Bracha Siegelbaum on Elul

In her Parshat Ki Tetze Magazine that arrived by email today, Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum confidently announced:

"Now, when the "King is in the Field" let us renew our emunah and pull ourselves out of whatever difficulty we may be going through and really ask Hashem from the depth of our pain to fulfill our needs, hopes, and aspirations, to redeem us NOW!" 

I agree!

Women of the Wall "...has announced that it will hold a special Selichot service at the Western Wall on Sept. 1.

Selichot are the penitential prayers and liturgy recited each night starting in the Jewish month of Elul and up until the High Holy Days."

from Haaretz article just posted today, 8/14/2013

Is it any coincidence that this week's Parshat is about spiritual enemies?  May the Almighty Creator of the Universe give us all the strength and wisdom to stand in the midst of changes, which surely include a woman's equal right to pray at the Western Wall.

Craig Taubman and his Jewels of Elul 5773

Once again this year, 2013 and 5773 in the Hebrew calendar of the world, Craig Taubman and his team are posting wonderful inspiration each day of Elul. You honestly don't want to miss it...

I especially loved reading Quincy Jones' words today, "...when we don’t get the welcome we feel we deserve, it’s important to not sit back and wait for it. It likely will never come.

You’ve got to look for it in other ways and other places. Just keep looking until you find a door of welcoming that’s opening up. You may have to do some pushing to get it to open all the way. Then walk on through."

Oh yeah, and it's especially true on Shabbat.

Rabbi Shais Taub on Shabbos, Men, Women and Idolatry

I just listened, and now
I guarantee that your understanding of human relationships and of our  enduring relationship with Shabbos can change forever  right now, too. 

Just click and listen to Rabbi Shais Taub as he tells us how it can work out, if we choose.

Yes, it's a choice. We can see ourselves as men and women, and we can see the Shabbos in a new way, and a way that actually works.

Enjoy this beautiful 3-minute audio of  Shir HaMa'alot Shabbat Shalom

The Precious, Predictable Opportunity of Elul

Here we are again this year... How blessed to have a Creator who gives us, year after year, an opportunity to look at our lives and see where we could make some improvements.

And then he says, in a genuine and loving way, "Please take some time to see how much better it can be with Me. Look and see, and simply ask."

That is not a translation of anything written in Hebrew. It is the simple expression of my love in this season of Elul, this special time of introspection and forgiving myself, so that I can forgive others and grow.

Elul has been a big part of my growth for many years, and this year of 5773 is fixin' to be spectacular!  Care to join me?

Sights and Sounds of The Sabbath

Shabbat is set aside and there are many sights, sounds and tastes for us to enjoy at home, or wherever we may be. Right now I am inclined to share the English translation of one of my favorite sights and sounds.

Adon Olam is a powerful prayer, by sight (reading) and by sound (listening). It is available for us all, for all time.

This translation is from the Artscroll Children's Siddur by Shmuel Blitz, with precious illustrations by Tova Katz:

Master of the Universe,
Who was always King,
even before anything was created,

When nothing will exist anymore,
only He will rule.

Hashem always was here,
Hashem always is here,
and Hashem will always be here.

Hashem is the only One,
there is no other god.

Hashem has no beginning and no end,
Hashem is amazingly strong.

Hashem is my God, and my Redeemer,
He helps me in my time of trouble.

I am safe with Him,
He is there when I call to Him.

He watches over my soul when I go to sleep,
and when I wake up in the morning.

Hashem is always with me,
and I shall not be afraid.

and the following quote from page 10:

"The highest level of prayer
a person can reach is to
pray like a young child."



Shabbat Shalom To One And All


Shabbat is universally about family, and about our relationship to our ultimate, lasting and forever family relationship with Hashem.

Even if we find ourselves alone when we begin the Sabbath, we are not alone. We are part of an enormous and enduring family, and our candle lighting celebrates our family relationship that never ends.

Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz sent an email to commemorate the 5th Yartzeit of his mother today, and he said:

" Our 'FATHER-IN-HEAVEN' [who is also portrayed as 'IMA' or 'Mother' in certain Providential situations according to the Kabbalah], is Someone that we, His children, can always turn to for help and guidance in any and every situation that we find ourselves in. "

May the enduring love of our Creator and Heavenly Father, Hashem, wrap us up in the beauty and safety and warmth of his love, and may we all be blessed.

Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum on The Shema

"There is a spiritual pilot light, or Pintele Yid, in every Jew that never is extinguished, and the Shema is a spark that causes that hidden light to grow and strengthen. We suffer when we are not connected to this truth without understanding why. The perpetual presence of the Shema pilot light gets obscured by layers of worldly impurity that comes with exile, true exile: the distance from knowing Hashem. Every time we say the Shema, the light that is within us grows stronger, purifying us with the truth, connecting us to a wellspring of emunah (faith)."

from this week's blog post by

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Hear the brief, stunning version of Shema Israel by Princess Yehudia on YouTube

And drop deep into meditation for a little over five minutes during this  Shema Israel chant by Michael Bayard and Ann "Sabra" Roach

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Rebbetzin Siegelbaum's B'erot Bat Ayin Parshat Va'etchanan Newsletter this week also provides a powerful image in our minds when she writes:

"...I recite the Shema Yisrael daily, not only during our morning prayers but also in my spiritual healing practice, as the power of the Shema Yisrael - unifying Hashem expels darkness and negativity.

These six powerful words corresponding to the six points of the Magen David (Star of David), is a shield of protection from negative energy."

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יהוה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יהוה אֶחָד
  

Rabbi Yosef B. Friedman on The Shema

Thanks to Rabbi Yosef B Friedman of Kehot Publication Society for his interesting email on The Kabbalah of Shema that arrived this morning.

Restoring the Jewish Glory

Three bits of wisdom from Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz and his YouTube video


...the goal of the Divine bridge traits referred to as the Sefirot, are to infinitize all processes and all structures, [including those of our own persona]...
 
...the goal of the Tikun [rectification] of cosmic brokenness, is to transform reality into a conduit and conductor and environment for infinity...
 
... the goal of all upper and lower  world interpersonal relationships is to tap into each other's infinite wellsprings and thereby unify with each other, and thereby reproduce infinite shefa [abundance] for all of the world to be nurtured from...

Dr . Yedidah Cohen on Tisha B'Av

The incomprehensible day of loss and mourning was put into perspective for me today when I received the following in an email from Dr. Yedidah Cohen, translator of the works of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag and others:

"Where is God? Why can’t I sense His presence?

Rabbi Ashlag teaches that we can’t sense God’s presence because we have put a rival in His place, we have placed our ego at the center of our focus and God is left in a corner.

Yet we are commanded to build Him a sanctuary, and then He will dwell within us. A sanctuary in our heart, making God a living presence in our lives. Then the outer sanctuary will be rebuilt."   Dr. Yedidah Cohen

Amen and yet again, Amen.

Shabbat of Vision


"...this Shabbat is called "Shabbat Chazon" after the first word of the book of Isaiah which is the Haftorah for this Shabbat.

Chazon means 'vision' or 'seeing'.

This Shabbat, if observed with joy and concentration, maximizes the possibility
for unity with G-d.

One may benefit from this state of unity and be granted an opportunity for unique and penetrating vision into not only his personal spiritual status, but also into that of the entirety of the Jewish people as well." 


"Shabbat is a special day when our inherent eternal connection with Hashem is activated. There is never any mourning on Shabbat. On Shabbat we all rise up from mourning to delight in eating, drinking, festive clothes and new fruits. Therefore, the Shabbat preceding the 9th of Av is especially suitable for the kind of repentance of 'doing good' through visualizing the Temple. The purpose of the vision is not just to comfort us, but to inspire us and elevate us to turn the vision of the Third Temple into physical reality."

Birkat ha-Gomel for Summer Travel and Everyday

Summer is a good time to remember Birkat ha-Gomel, the Prayer for Traveling, although it is really an all-purpose prayer for surviving all types of dangerous situations.

The following Birkat ha-Gomel is provided by Ritualwell.org

Traditional prayer of thanks to be recited by one who has survived a dangerous situation.

(Masculine) Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha'olam, ha-gomel l’hayavim tovot sheg’malani kol tov.

(Feminine) Brucha At Ya Eloheinu Ruach ha'olam, hagomelet l’hayavim tovot, sheg’malani kol tov, selah.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, ruler of the Universe, who bestows kindness on those who are committed, and who has granted to me all kindness.

(Masculine) Amen. Mi she g’malcha kol tov, hu yigmalcha kol tov, selah.

(Feminine) Amen. Mi she g’maltaich kol tov, hee tigmalaich kol tov, selah.

May the One who has granted you all kindness always grant kindness to you, selah.

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Click photo for a delightful Wilderness Torah video.
And enjoy some precious  songs recorded by Wilderness Torah campers, and start to dream about your own summer travel and camping as you listen here.

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Nine yr-old Molly Mittman, camper at Greene Family Camp in Texas, climbed the 40 foot high ropes course this summer, despite the fact that she uses crutches to walk on the ground.
You go, Molly!
These final inspiring words are courtesy Judy M. Ford


Shabbat Words To Live By

Let's consider these words I received in an email from Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz this week: 
 
"Shabbat is a mindset that is patterned after a future era when there will be nothing lacking, not in people or in anything else.  All will be experienced as being whole and perfect just as it is, and there will be no need to rectify anything or anyone else including ourselves."

Successful People Just Do It Anyway

"When you wake up in the morning you get to choose which route to take. As one wise person said: The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that smart people hate doing the same things that unsuccessful people hate doing-but successful people do it any way."

Sean D'Souza is a smart guy who helps people write well. I enjoyed this quote from his email today.

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"When we look for rejection and reasons to hold back, that’s exactly what we will find. On the other hand, if we seek possibility and look for people that need us as much as we need them, there they are." Seth Godin
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Like a diamond in the rough


When we are challenged, our consciousness has to shift.

It's not about the other person changing to please us.

It's about how much we can change.


All our frustrations are there to give us the opportunity to change ourselves.

Everything that gives me an opportunity to change and grow, to elevate my consciousness, is a gift to me.

These are the diamonds that our soul is here to collect.
Yehuda Sivan, 10/2011, Dallas TX

Shabbat Shalom from FridayLight.org and from me!


Top 10 Reasons Why Lighting Shabbat Candles is Awesome (From my FridayLight .org email today 6/7/2013):

10. Your grandma probably did it, and so did her grandma.
9. It gives your two minutes to yourself.
8. Candles look pretty!
7. Since G-d created light first, when we light Shabbat lights we bring forth the first light that G-d created. Deep!
6. The candles brings honor and joy to Shabbat!
5. They bring peace into our home and into the world.
4. The act of lighting brings Torah into our homes.
3. As women, it helps us to bring a feeling of Shabbat
into the house.
2. G-d especially loves this mitzvah!
1. It is a mitzvah for women, and it gives us a special connection to G-d and to the Jewish People.
What are your Top Reasons?


Shabbat Shalom from FridayLight.org and from me!

Rabbi Friedman On Shabbat Parshat Behaalotecha


I absolutely LOVED this quote from Rabbi Yosef B. Friedman in an email from The Kehot Publication Society this week. It speaks to my soul in such a deep way, and reminds me of a song I wrote years ago about being a lamp stand. We are all lamp stands, really, and life is all about the light we reflect around us:

"Speak to Aaron and say to him: 'When you kindle the lamps, be sure to place the wicks in these spouts so the seven lamps shine toward the central shaft of the candelabrum.' "
(Chumash Bamidbar 8:2) 
 
When you kindle the lamps: This phrase can be read to mean "When you ascend with the lamps."

In the book of Proverbs, King Solomon compares the G-d's commandments to an oil lamp: "For a commandment is a lamp." The lamp-apparatus comprises several parts: the vessel, the oil, the wick, and the flame. Nonetheless, the essence and purpose of the lamp is not its physical apparatus but the light that shines from it."

These are the opening words and hidden meanings in our weekly Torah portion, and they are special to me.

And here are a few additional words from LChaimWeekly.org, also from an email this week:

"The commandment to kindle the menora is symbolic of every Jew's obligation to involve himself with others and exert a positive influence on everyone with whom he comes in contact. All of us are commanded to ignite the Divine spark in our fellow Jews and light up our surroundings."

Let's all do it with our Shabbos candles tonight - let's exert a positive influence in the world by igniting light in our surroundings.

Thinking About Shavuot This Shabbat

One of my teachers, Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz, shared the following with me:

"Kabbalah teaches a version of the Relativity Factor. The idea is that the perspective of a person is dependent upon whether he is looking up or looking down.

When people are looking beyond themselves to something that is more or greater than they are right now, they feel themselves to be small, and that what waits for them is very big.

Whereas, if they are looking at something that is smaller than they are, then they feel themselves to be very big."

We always have a choice, an opportunity to ourselves and to see others in perspective. The only way I know how to do that is to ask God for help. I ask God to show me other people, situations and myself the way he sees me.

And Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum, always my weekly inspiration with her Women At The Crossroads: A Woman's Perspective on the Weekly Torah Portion, adds to my personal lessons this Shabbos Bamidbar, when she writes:

"Thus, we affirm our belief that rather than competing for importance and power, the energy we receive from the Divine source must be circulated equally among us."

She is talking about the arrangement of the tribes around the Mishkan, as well as the social hierarchies we find ourselves immersed in today. Keeping in mind that we are here with the continual challenge to see things the way they really are, meaning the way God sees them, we can stand back and pray for an attitude adjustment to our perspective when necessary.

I must say, that opportunity presents itself to me MANY times every day!

Finally, Rabbi Yisroel Jungreis sent the following to me in an email this week:

"Midbar can be defined as wilderness or desert; the word bamidbar means “in the Wilderness”, teaching us that if we wish the Torah to impact on us and elevate us, we have to make ourselves like a desert. Even as a desert is barren, so too must we divest ourselves of all pre-conceived notions and allow the Torah to re-shape us. Even as in a desert there are no diversions, so we cannot allow anyone or anything to distract us from our Torah study."

10 More Days Counting the Omer

It is so inspiring to me as I begin to understand that counting the Omer is an opportunity to enhance my growth, in this season of new growth each year.

One of my teachers, Rabbi Aryeh Nivin said these words in an email lately:

"Practically speaking, all you need to do is identify yourself with the Jewish people, with the goals of Har Sinai, with the idea of mamleches kohanim v’goy kadosh—a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  You need to choose a small action, a miniature practice, to do every day that represents your willingness and desire to make a positive change."

So, that is what I am doing now. I am endeavoring to make ONE positive change in order to glue myself to my people and to the goals of Mount Sinai.

What are you doing during this Omer period that will have lasting impact on your relationship to the Jewish people and to Torah?

Oh, I also spoke to a woman on the phone today who is not Jewish, and when I happened to mention that I am Jewish, because we were discussing spiritual matters, she said, "Well, whatever your grandmothers gave you, I respect that."  Gee, that's an interesting thing to say, isn't it?

I know that my "grandmothers" go back to Sinai and she probably has no idea what she really said, in that regard.

How fortunate I am this Shabbat Eve, in considering my relationship to my people and to Torah!

The FridayLight.org email this week echoed Rabbi Nivin's sentiments, as well as my phone call, in a different way:

"Did you ever get to know your great-grandmother? If you're reading this, there's a good chance she emigrated with her family from the "old world" to the "new world"...

So what has changed since your family emigrated? Did your family continue the tradition of lighting Shabbat lights? For lots of us, we are the first generation of women, since our great-grandmothers emigrated, to light Shabbat lights every Friday. And it's something to be really proud of...

First and foremost, we fulfill a commandment when we light Shabbat lights. But on a personal level, lighting Shabbat lights is a way to bring the lights of our great-grandmothers to life."

Please feel free to share in the comments for us all to enjoy.

Shabbat.com Eshet Chayil Video - Lovely!

Shabbat.com Video Shabbat Shabbos Candlelighting Shabbat Candle lightingClick photo for a short, lovely video by Shabbat.com, the world's largest social network for Jewish people offering and looking for a place to spend Shabbos.
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