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Shabbos Chic Blog

Relgious Freedom To Keep The Sabbath In The United States

Moment Magazine published a thorough, scholarly article on the future of religious freedom this week. It includes segments from a variety of law professors and other authorities. I particularly liked this quote by Marc Stern, general counsel of the American Jewish Committee -

"There are substantial numbers of influential people who believe that a person ought not to be able to take religion very far into the public. This increasingly vocal secular cohort is no longer comfortable with accommodating religious practice in any way.

Some atheist groups are even challenging Sabbath observer accommodation, objections which we haven’t heard for a long time. Their view is that religion should be an entirely private affair, and that the government should take no notice of it. In part, these changes reflect a general secularizing trend in Western society."

Oh boy, this is surely an excellent description of what we can all see is going on. I'm not sure what else to say following Stern's comment, other than bring my passion for Shabbos to the world through my blog as Tikkun Olam.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis on Saying Thank You

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis said the perfect words in an email today. They spoke loudly to me, so here they are for you, too:

"Our sages give us insight. In Hebrew the word modeh, thank you, also means “to admit.”

In essence, saying “thank you” is an admission that we are in need, that we are vulnerable, that we cannot do it alone – and this is something we do not like to concede. We hate feeling beholden, especially if the favor extended to us is significant. Therefore the greater the kindness, the closer our relationship, the deeper is our reluctance to reveal our weakness by saying those two little words."

I have SO MUCH to be thankful for today, and her words are reminding me that it is not only OK, but it is a actually a requirement to feel and express gratitude, no matter how I may rebel inside myself , orhow others accept the thanks outside of me.

Saying thank you is not always popular, and I have experienced a lot of people telling me not to thank them in various situations. I have learned to remember that their reactions are not really my business. My business is between me and my Almighty God. I am saying thank you because it is pleasing to God, whether or not it is pleasing to people.

Thanks so much for the beautiful reminder, Rebbetzin!

Ruach (Spirit) vs Koach (Might) In Israel And In Us


Following is a quote from a special PDF provided by www.ARZA.org offering unique blessings for lighting each candle of your menorah in order to honor  Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel's Independence Day. This year - 2013 - it begins on Monday, April 15 and comes to a conclusion at sunset on Tuesday, April 16.

"In the book of Zechariah there is a description of the seven branched Menorah (candelabrum)with two olive branches on its sides. This description symbolizes the belief in Ruach (Spirit) over Koach (Might). “The angel who talked with me came back and woke me as one is wakened from sleep. He said to me, “What do you see?” And I answered, “I see a menorah all of gold, with a bowl above it.

The lamps on it are seven in number, and the lamps above it have seven pipes, and by it are two olive trees, one on the right of the bowl and one on its left. I, in turn, asked the angel who walked by me, “What do these things mean, sir?” “Do you not know what those things mean?” asked the angel who talked with me, and I said, “No, sir.” Then he explained to me as follows: : This is the word of The Eternal to Zerubavel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, said The Lord of Hosts.”(Zechariah, 4:1-6)

The national symbol of Israel is, of course, the menorah. The ARZA suggested blessings bring our present world circumstances into sharp focus as we celebrate, and the words of the blessings come directly from, "Israel’s Declaration of Independence issued in Tel Aviv on May 14, 1948 (5th of Iyar, 5708) – when David Ben Gurion and
his cabinet declared the establishment of the
State of Israel."



Jewish Women Inspiring My Life

Isn't it wonderful that we can read the words and hear the voices of women teaching Torah and sharing their knowledge and experience with us now? Today I want to share some connections with Jewish women inspiring my life.  Some are virtual friends (Skype, email and phone), and some are friends of my soul because their written words touch me deeply and change me forever.

Women of the Wall have been gathering on Rosh Chodesh since 1988, standing at the Western Wall and singing and praying together. These women come from all levels of observance and cultures over the years, and they have collaborated on a Rosh Chodesh Siddur that is available for sale on their website so we can all join in prayer.

My coach and friend, Lynn Chapman [The Stress-Less Coach], shared in an email this week: "We’re bombarded by a constant flow of other people’s expectations: bosses that expect more from us than we can deliver, clients who don't return our calls and yet want us to drop everything when they do, loved ones who are disappointed by our lack of attention, and a constant barrage of email and social media tweets and twerps that we need to return."

That is a PERFECT description of modern life, and the PERFECT prescription to survive it is Shabbos, isn't it? Lynn's coaching catapaulted me into my writing and sharing career as we worked together on the phone.

I studied with Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum last spring, and she is offering another course on Emuna Healing this year. She has an amazing ability to bring the knowledge of Torah and Kabbalah into our lives for physical and emotional healing.  Rebbetzin Siegelbaum 's book, Women At The Crossroads: A Woman's Perspective On The Weekly Torah Portion is my constant companion each Shabbat, and I encourage you to read it weekly, too.

Our weekly shuirs with author  Dr Yedidah Cohen in Safed Israel are  very precious opportunities to study the works of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag in English. Yedidah has translated two books, and is working on a third one now.

We are studying A Tapestry For the Soul now, and I am amazed at the incredible value it adds to my life each week. Having the privilege to hear her translate from Hebrew directly into English when she brings additional materials into our classes is a priceless opportunity for spiritual growth. I wouldn't want to miss it!

Finally, this article by Cantor Wendy Haley Koblinsky links to several YouTube videos of Avinu Malkeinu. I enjoyed hearing different men and women singing the powerful prayer, Our Father Our King in different styles, with and without accompaniment, including folk and rock versions.

Wendy writes, "The text of Avinu Malkeinu can certainly be a dose of reality, one might even say a punch in the gut. It cuts through our empty promises, mistakes of the past, and uncertainty in our ability to do better. It returns us to square one: We are not perfect, we have not made the right choices, we firmly will ourselves to do better, and in the interim, ask for patience."

All I can say to that is AMEN.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis on Gratitude

I treasure my weekly emails from Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, the holocaust survivor who founded Hineni.org and continues to travel and work tirelessly to inspire Jews all over the world.

Today she included the following words that speak directly to my soul:

"People run here and there, dabbling in every available therapeutic program, but they fail to understand that happiness is waiting for them right in their own minds and hearts. They need only acquire the attribute of gratitude and learn to thank G-d for the many blessings of life."

Choosing gratitude is mandated for Jews, but it's still hard to remember. Creating happiness by choosing gratitude is not costly or hard to do. It is just hard to REMEMBER to do.

Our Souls Are Part of The Divine All The Time

What a difference a day makes! My inbox was overflowing with wisdom regarding my soul today. I love it when that happens as a result of my prayerful intention.

I am so grateful to Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz for sharing the following in an email to his list today. Such a perfect reply to the longings I expressed just yesterday in my blog post.

A Part of the Divine
"Only the lowest part of the Soul is inside of the body…

The great majority of the Soul reaches beyond the body up to the highest heights…

This explains the essential upward striving of the soul [as if it wants to escape from the body and return to its Heavenly Home]…

The Soul, prior to entering the body, was in a World of Souls–a very pure and sublime world—where the souls are as yet untested by the coarse and dark reality of the materialistically oriented body…

Besides the Soul’s memory of life prior to the body, the Soul also has a super-consciousness that draws from that part of itself that is presently not inside of the body [which comprises the great majority of it's makeup]…

Just like a candle flame that is constantly striving to reach beyond it’s limiting, grounding wick, the Soul strives to reach beyond the limiting mindset and consciousness that it is presently confined to inside of the body—a striving to grow, to go beyond itself and to somehow return to it’s Infinite Divine roots."

Coming to know my eternal soul is a big responsibility. It's easy to get too busy and distracted in this life, and miss the whole opportunity. Oh, I don't want to miss it!

My Shabbat candles remind me that I am also striving to "reach beyond my grounding, limiting wick." I wrote a song about this. Maybe I can record it soon. I will remember when I light my Shabbos candles this week for sure.

Body and Soul - Two Extremes In Us All


"The human being is composed of two parts: body and soul. Paradoxically, they represent two extremes, and, miraculously, they seem to co-exist. One side of the human, the body, is driven toward materialism and has little interest in spiritual concepts, including, and sometimes especially, G-d. The soul, on the other hand, ONLY cares about G-d and His will. Like parent and child, they seem, much of the time, to occupy the same space, but with opposite goals."

Rabbi Pinchas Winston posted those words on Torah.org in his article on this week's Torah portion, Tazria. It is refreshing to think about our inner challenges as a parent/child relationship, which always involves conflict based on perceptions of age and personal desires.

I have a goal to remember and listen to my soul more often now. All the distractions in the world tend to seem much more important and pressing than the cry of my eternal soul, and the depth of longing for connection inside me.

I want my "soul goals" and my "body goals" to match up in order to achieve balance and grace in my spiritual growth. More significantly, I want my soul to prevail.

Shabbat Shemini

Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz sent out this message in an email this week -
SHABBAT ASCENT OF WORLDS

"Kabbalah teaches that on Shabbat we ascend to a higher world. In a higher world we realize, as in all higher worlds, that the real factor, the only factor is G-d. The causative factor is G-d. So, on Shabbat we go up and we realize that everything that I did during the weekdays is really G-d doing it through me. G-d is the causative factor."

His words echo, over and over in my mind. I notice that it's easier to remember God as the causative factor in my life when I feel good and things are going well.

Whenever I am NOT HAPPY or even REALLY MAD about something, I am so distracted by my emotion that I rarely think about God as the causative factor of my life lessons.

Nope, I'm just mad and I'm missing the opportunity to grow. When the anger passes I eventually think about what I learned from the situation. Oh, how I wish I could move through that process faster now.


Rabbi Steve Bernstein posted about Parshat Shemini this week, asking, " How do we approach that which is holy in our lives? When do we concern ourselves with the details and instructions of ritual? When are we more concerned with the words of our hearts? Both paths can lead to meaning and holiness."

FREE Shabbos Candles With Lots of Love

Every Friday morning I get an email reminder with the candle lighting time in my area from FridayLight.org, and it always makes me smile in the midst of my busy work day. Yes!  It's almost Shabbos!

This morning I read, "We are all psyched up about seeing a worldwide movement of Jewish women bringing all of our unique and powerful lights into the world.

When lighting our candles this Friday, let's 'lean in' to our Shabbos lighting experience. Dare to make it more meaningful; dare to make it better!  Shabbat Shalom from FridayLight!"

FridayLight.org offers FREE candles and plenty of encouragement when you're just getting started with Shabbat candle lighting. Lighting instructions are available in English, Hebrew, French, Russian and Spanish. Get some and tell your friends all over the globe!

Saving European Jewish Cemeteries

My little Temple in north Texas and my small congregation does not face the same problems faced by European Jews in many countries.

Yes, we have a cemetery. But we don't have many thousands of aging grave sites requiring enormous investments of time and money to reconstruct, maintain and protect. Old European Jewish cemeteries are deteriorating, leaving many small congregations with  very expensive and emotional issues. Jewish populations have declined dramatically , and at the same time their cemeteries are crying for attention.


The JTA article mentions legislation requiring governments to contribute to repair and maintenance:

"Last year, the Council of Europe adopted a nonbinding resolution placing responsibility for the care of Jewish cemeteries on national governments.

The resolution was based in part on a report by the special rapporteur for Jewish cemeteries, Piet de Bruyn, who wrote that Jewish cemeteries are “probably” more vulnerable because of the small size of the communities.

The report also noted instances of cemeteries in Eastern Europe that have been turned into “residential areas, public gardens, leisure parks, army grounds and storage sites; some have been turned into lakes.”

The article also describes the efforts of one American to ease the burden on European Jewish congregations:

"In New York, Michael Lozman, an orthodontist whose parents were born in Belarus, founded the Restoration of Eastern European Jewish Cemeteries Foundation, which has brought hundreds of American college students to restore cemeteries in Belarus and Lithuania with money raised from private donors. The students spend two weeks restoring one or more Jewish cemeteries along with non-Jewish local students."

Lozman's foundation accepts donations via PayPal on his website, or by check to his listed address.

Precious Family Shabbos Blessings - Video

This YouTube video of a young family teaching their toddlers to recite the Shabbos blessings over candles, wine and challah will touch your heart.
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis posted a thank you letter from a young man to his parents on the occasion of his wedding. It will also touch your heart forever.

Shabbat Clusters on Shabbos Pesach 2013

I love the idea of Shabbat Clusters promoted by Entry Point DC, set up for young Jews in the DC area. "Shabbat Clusters are small groups, usually about 10-12 people, organized by EPDC.  They’re peer-led and meet once a month for a pot-luck Shabbat dinner. "

Organizing pot-lucks and sharing with each other is such a great Shabbos-sharing idea. Young singles are not the only ones who can benefit, of course. LOTS of people of all ages are single, facing the weekly Shabbat alone at home or on the road. 

Could you organize a Shabbat Cluster to share Shabbos where you live?

My readers are my Shabbat Cluster here on The Shabbos Chic Blog! But reading a blog cannot compare to sitting and sharing the candlelight and the blessings and the meal and the conversation with other people, does it?

*******************

Rabbi Richard N. Levy posted a great article on ReformJudaism.org this week that brings light on Pesach and the counting of the Omer from the wisdom of the Kabbalists. He takes us straight into our own deep appreciation of this time of year when he says,

"The process is called S'firat HaOmer, the Counting of the Omer. S'firah is the Hebrew word for counting, which the mystics of the Kabbalah identified with the name for each of the manifestations of God in the world...

The s'firah period is thus a period of tikkun, "correction," of the raw selves that were exploded out of Egypt into the pure n'shamot, "souls" who deserved to be given the mitzvot of the Torah."

Thinking of myself as a "raw self" in the process of correction is a good image for me. Knowing that I have an opportunity to accept and embrace my pure soul this time of year is at once a privilege and a responsibility.  It connects me to the souls of my ancestors and to the future of the world as well.

Women Lead In Our History And On Shabbat

Women defied Pharoh's decree of death, resulting in Moses' opportunity to live and serve as leader of the Hebrew people. Women also led the joyous celebration after the miracle of crossing the Red Sea.  Many times women are called and naturally step up with courage to change the course of human history.

But this is not only an historical reality.  It happens every week in each home where a woman (or a man if a woman is not present) chooses Sabbath candle lighting as a conscious act honoring life, creation, peace and rest.

Dr Jacob Wright and Dr Tamara Cohn posted an article on Fox News this week called, The Passover Story Begins With Women. They write, "Miriam’s world is one in which social, political, and economic structures are all designed to oppress the body and crush the spirit. It is a dehumanizing world. But the abuse fails to vanquish her faith in humanity." 
The authors are writing about Miriam, the sister of Moses, who accompanied the little basket carrying himalong the river when she was young. She stayed with her brother until he was found by the daughter of Pharoh, and lifted out of the water to begin his new life in Pharoh's palace.  Miriam's courage contributed greatly to the history of the Hebrew people when she was just a child.

But the quote also applies to Miriam as an adult, at the time she led the women in joyous celebration and song after the sea parted, allowing the Hebrew people safe passage into their new life of freedom. She raised her timbrel, a tambourine with bells on it, and led the women in song and dance. Once again, Miriam set an example for us all to follow.

I say that every one of us who lights Shabbos candles to welcome the Sabbath on Friday night is also showing great faith in humanity, and in our Almighty God who made us.

Rabbi Wayne Dosick on Shabbos and Kabbalah

This photo is an old, pitted, silver Shabbat tray, having seen many a challah in its day, I'm guessing. It is still quite beautiful and it still stands for Shabbos, no matter how worn its surface may be.

I love vintage and antique Judaica and have a small collection of a few, funky old pieces that come out to grace our Shabbos table weekly. Not every piece every week, just a couple sets of candle holders, and a different challah tray, mixed and matched with abandon.

Here's a quote from Rabbi Wayne Dosick, and a link to his YouTube video of a short Kabbalah teaching. Don't miss the whole class singing together at the end of it!

"When understood and performed with its original spiritual intent, the lighting of the Sabbath candles can be a sublime moment, a moment of supreme holiness."

The original spiritual intent of kindling the lights has been a subject of much debate over the centuries, but it is YOUR intent and MY intent each  Friday night on Shabbos Eve that matters. We have a fresh, new opportunity to connect to the tradition, the past and the future in the simple act of lighting candles and reciting the blessing. What a privilege!

What Passover Can Mean For Us Today

"What was demanded of the children of Israel in the face of impossible odds, was a response of supernatural proportions. As we've discussed a few times, Divine Providence reflects our behavior.

Here the impossible challenge demanded of us to react with an impossible response and thereby draw down in turn a miraculous Divine display, the likes of which have yet to be experienced by mankind.

In human terms, this would be expressed as unleashing from deep within yourself a power only displayed by the rarest of people in the rarest of situations."

I received these words in an email from Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz of ParadisePrinciple.com who gave me permission to share them freely.

Since our annual Pesach Seders take place on Monday, March 25th this year, I offer his perspective to open our minds and hearts to more freedom from oppression now.

It is our privilege and our challenge, as individuals and as a People to dig deep inside ourselves and draw upon our personal relationships with The Almighty, wherever we may be, and whatever we may do. Especially at Passover this year when the world needs a greater focus on freedom.

This Shabbat Tsav is THE BIG ONE

Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum on ShabbosChicThree voices I follow online had some really powerful words to share on their blogs this week, so here they are linked in my blog - Read Jodi's post about Jewish values and entitlement programs, and Sarah's post about hard work as part of a healthy lifestyle. Jodi and Sarah have the courage to comment, now it's your turn. We all welcome your comments.

So, why do I call this week's Shabbat THE BIG ONE?

The energy of the Torah portion Tsav is particularly suited to overcoming negativity in our own lives. It's not about getting on a pedestal and pointing fingers at others, but about looking deep within and identifying qualities we need to change.

Both Jodi and Sarah, the bloggers mentioned earlier are trying to repair the world in their own unique ways. They are doing so publicly, by blogging and doing their part to encourage others. I guess you could say that is what I am doing, too.

Today I am calling Shabbat Tsav THE BIG ONE because one of my mentors, Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum also posted powerful words this week in her PDF teaching on Shabbat HaGadol which deeply inspired me this week.

It also motivated me to change, not just to talk about changing.  Her book, Women At The Crossroads, is a weekly inspiration each Shabbos, since it looks at each Parasha from a woman's perspective. Very refreshing.

But looking into myself, and being willing to see the areas where I really need to change, that's another thing entirely. It's a tug-of-war in my soul, and it's between pleasure and  will.

Here are some words from Rebbetzin Siegelbaum's Shabbat HaGadol teaching. May they inspire you to change and grow on Shabbat this week, too:

"Rav Raphael Luria explains that the holiness of Shabbat is beyond time since the worlds rise on Shabbat through the revelation of the root of emanation.

The holiness of all the holidays derives from the power of Shabbat that precedes it.

The first holiday that we celebrated as a people is Pesach. Since Pesach is the head of all our holidays, the other holidays receive their sustenance from it."

Now you know why I call this Shabbat Tsav THE BIG ONE. It is truly our big window of opportunity to change and grow.

Pesach Poetry By Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz

My People are like the stars and  the dust

When we ascend, we ascend to the highest heights

When we descend, we descend to the lowest depths

My People are like the Thorn bush on Mt. Sinai

We may sometimes be burned, but we are never consumed


Visit JewishMag.com to see this recipe for a
Simple Seder and over 15 years of
stories and ideas for Passover.

Rabbi Aryeh Nivin's Chaburas for Life Purpose

I graduated from Level 1 of Rabbi Aryeh Nivin's Chabura this week. Here is my certificate. Of course it's not the piece of paper that's important, but my personal understanding of my life's purpose and my particular, unique responsibility to repair the world.

Rabbi Nivin calls these two soul imperatives by their Hebrew names - Yeud and Tikkun.

I learned how to identify who I am, what I have brought to this world to accomplish (that nobody else can), and how to stay on track in my busy life.

What a precious, much-needed gift for my eternal soul!

Rabbi Nivin's courses are taught by teleseminars that can be accessed live on your cell phone, and the recordings are posted online for access 24/7.

Here's a short, powerful audio sample of Rabbin Nivin's teaching that will enliven your understanding of your own soul's purpose and encourage you forever!

Fair Trade Chocolate For Your Passover Seder

Slave labor, primarily children who lose their childhood, their education and their health are working in the cocoa fields of West Africa right now. The commercial chocolate we eat at Passover and all year long is the product of helpless children used as slave labor.

Please, please take a moment to connect with Fair Trade Judaica to see the truth and to bring it to the attention of guests at your seder table.  And please serve them kosher Equal Exchange pareve chocolates (from Whole Foods and other natural food stores) to help bring an end to child slavery in the cocoa fields, the dark side of dark chocolate.

Sober Seder - A Great Idea This Pesach


Looking for a Sober Seder? Just want to know what it is? Check out Gil Shefler's article on JTA this week. Great news about a new trend - alcohol free seders. They represent true freedom for anybody who needs or chooses to avoid wine. Torah does not command us to harm, and it's time for our family and community seders reflect that freedom of choice, too.

Sounds of Shabbos All Week Long!

Making Matzah for Pesach - Inner Meaning

ShabbosChicMatzah1
Handmade matzah is not just the traditional loaf of unleavened bread. It is also symbolic of our opportunity to choose to be simple and serviceable in our lives, not puffed-up with self-importance and
false pride.


ShabbosChicMatzah2
Baking the matzah is a perfect picture of a trial by fire, our experience of learning to relinquish the old beliefs and behaviors that do not add to our life, our growth and our contributions to the world.

ShabbosChicMatzah3

Handmade matzah portrays our annual opportunity to remember, especially on  Seder night, that we are being set free from bondage, in our real lives, right now. Matzah portrays Freedom!

Shabbos Va'yakhel Pekudei & Pesach Prep

ShabbosChicoldcandleholder

Shabbat empowers us to stop, chill out, beat the rush and be at peace now.
Rabbi David Aaron

This week's Torah portion includes Exodus 35:2, a  commandment regarding the Sabbath - "On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your settlements on the sabbath day."

These words are quite plain in Torah, but their meaning for us today is not as clear. We do not put people to death for working on Shabbos, as is increasingly common in our 24/7 world. We expect hospitals and hotels and transportation services to be working, at the very least.  And many Jews choose to shop as well. Contemplating the meaning of Exodus 35:2 and what it means to me today is not easy.

*************
This is a good time for remembering to stop, chill out and beat the rush in this busy season of cleaning and preparations for Seder Night on March 25, 2013. Take a few minutes to listen to Dr. Yedidah Cohen of Nehora School reading and sharing the writings of Rabbi Yehuda Lev Ashlag on the deep, inner meanings of Passover. It's a recording of our live weekly class on Skype, and you are welcome to drop in and join us. It is truly inspiring! See Dr. Yedidah Cohen's books and Nehora School website, too.

ShabbosChicSederPlate
Toward the end of this recorded class you'll hear a fascinating description of the Seder plate and how it represents the lower seven Sepherot. In addition, the Seder table and the three matzot resting on the table are addressed, to enliven all our Seders this year.

Thoughts On Spiritual WorldsThis Week

ShabbosChicUniverseLooking out into night sky, we can see that there are other planets and other galaxies far beyond our own. They are in the physical world, and we can actually see them through high-powered telescopes. There is logical, rational, scientific evidence of the existence of other worlds, and we can rely on that.

But in the spiritual world we cannot be so sure, since we cannot see or understand different spiritual worlds with a telescope. We have our own soul to guide us, as well as the teachings of many sages throughout recorded time. But we don’t have an instrument, a tool to provide logical, rational, scientific evidence of spiritual worlds, so that’s what makes it completely different and rather intimidating. 

For millennia, Torah scholars have studied the reality of spiritual worlds and written about them, mostly in the Hebrew language. These writings were only accessible to their students and their peers, not to common people.

Over time, little by little, more and more of the ancient teachings have become available, and now we have the great privilege of reading and studying ideas that were hidden for many centuries, now translated into English and other languages. It is the first time in history that common people have the advantage of deep spiritual understanding about other spiritual worlds.

Here is a brief summary of four spiritual worlds, based on teachings of revered Torah scholars and Sages who taught only in Hebrew, and the four names are English transliterations of Hebrew words:

Atzilut – We are accessing the spiritual world of Atzilut when we see, in a moment, that we are unable to successfully navigate a difficult situation without God’s help. We admit it silently or even out loud, and we have confident expectation that God will provide us with exactly what we need.

Whenever we feel tension or lack, we know God has everything required, and so we also have everything required by opening up to receive it from God. We acknowledge our lack, we acknowledge God as the ultimate Source and we humbly ask for help. 

That’s it. That’s when we are operating in another spiritual world, right where we are on this planet now. And that’s how we co-create solutions with our Almighty God.

Beriyah– We are accessing the spiritual world of Beriyah when we pose a question and confidently expect a response from God, not necessarily in a difficult moment. In other words, we are not desperate and lacking.

It’s easier to ask God for help when we’re worried and hurting. To access Beriyah, we choose to reach out and ask for help in order to grow spiritually. That takes a little more maturity than waiting for desperate moments to ask.

Yetzirah – We are accessing the spiritual world of Yetzirah when we begin to see that every situation and circumstance we face in life is carefully designed by the mighty hand of God to promote our spiritual growth. We look for opportunities to grow in every moment, every day.

We become excited and fascinated by this process, unlike our former preoccupation with solving problems and asking for guidance. We understand that our guidance is flowing in every moment already, and begin to appreciate and even look forward to new, fresh guidance as a moment-to-moment reality.

Asiyah – We are accessing the spiritual world of Asiyah when we can bring our reality in the world of Yetzirah into action to accomplish things in this world. We fulfill the longings of our soul to repair the world, just as we were designed to do.

We can see the tangible results, and so can other people. This is where the physical world and the spiritual worlds meet, in us, in a moment, forever. This is what we were born to do, and we can rely on that. We can see the evidence of other spiritual worlds in our own lives.  

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"The animal never desires to transcend its own nature. It is content to follow its instincts, to conform to its original programming. On the flip side, that which is truly human constantly strives to outdo the self, to push beyond, to redefine what it means to be human."

Rabbi Asher Crispe, from his awesome blog, Interinclusion

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"According to Jewish philosophy, there is no present; rather, we exist in a state of constant transition between the past and the future. Man is not meant to be static. His existence is one of perpetual re-creation, in which he is charged with the often overwhelming task of transmuting the lessons of experience into the choices that will define the person he will become. His goal is to transform himself, over the course of a lifetime, from an animalistic creature of the flesh into a divine being guided by the promptings of his soul."

Rabbi Jonason Goldson, from an article on Jewish World Review

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Personal Prayer on Shabbos and Every Day

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Women, and men if there are no women present when it's time to light candles, have the precious privilege of kindling the flames prior to The Sabbath. Watch and listen to a mom and daughter lighting candles together for a couple minutes and you'll be truly inspired this week.
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Special prayers for each child and family member are always welcome on Shabbos, but what about our personal prayers everyday? I commented on Jonathan Slater's article, How Do Jews Pray? and invite you to do the same.

Shabbos Chic personal prayer lute angel

King David is our example, and so we have all the permission we need to sing and cry out from our hearts and our very souls. I know I do! Are you hesitant to make personal prayers in your own life?

Comments welcome below.


ShabbosChicRabbiYitzchak
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by Rabbi H. Rafael Goldstein, CJC

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Happy Shabbos Purim!!!

shabboschicpurimbasketI am set to enjoy the fascinating annual celebration of light out of  darkness this week, and do just what it says in this email I received from FridayLight.org:
This weekend (Saturday night and Sunday) is the festival of Purim. Why do we dress up on Purim? We're commemorating the miracle of Purim, which was hidden in nature. On Purim, what's inside turns outside, and what is outside turns inward. The whole world is upside down! To add more meaning to your Purim, try dressing up as something that evokes the internal dimensions of your soul. What positive aspects of yourself are concealed? Let them out to play on Purim!  This afternoon, when you light your Shabbat lights, take a minute to meditate on the aspect of yourself that is hidden, but that you'd like to bring to the surface, on Purim.

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Here's a precious picture of Mishloach manot, the traditional Purim gift basket. This one is a stylized photo from the lushness of Joy Of Kosher's recipes and gifts. Yum!

Shabbat Shalom Terumah!

One of my teachers, Chana Bracha Siegelbaum, posts this week about the mikdash (sanctuary) in our hearts, a fitting study for the Torah portion this week, Terumah.
Her post is called

                      "Making a Sanctuary in our Heart
We know that all the mitzvot of the Torah are eternal, but how is it possible to fulfill the mitzvah of building the mikdash today? A person is like a mini-cosmos. Therefore, the command “make me a sanctuary” implies that we all are charged to perpetually make a sanctuary in our heart, in order to prepare a place for the Divine presence to dwell. When G*d dwells in the heart and soul of every one of us, the continuation of the verse: “that I may dwell among them” is fulfilled."

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Although I try to remember everyday,  the day I remember my responsibility to be a sanctuary is usually Shabbos.  On weekdays I know that there is a flame burning in my heart, but on Shabbos it becomes my primary activity to remember and uphold the sacred space I occupy.

Good Shabbos Mishpatim!

fiddlerThis minute-and-a-half YouTube video with the sound of A Sabbath Prayer from Fiddler On The Roof and the sight of Jewish art and photos will inspire you today. Made by mother for her two daughters, it captures the essence of Shabbos for us. 

Taste of Shabbos Yitro - Cholent Forever!

Enjoy listening to the acoustic folk song Shabbos Kodesh from  Shemesh Music in Beit Shemesh Israel while you're reading...

There's no doubt that the traditional Shabbos stew called Cholent is a favorite all over the world. Devorah Klein Lev-Tov shares her stories, saying, "Cholent is one of a small number of dishes that are intrinsically Jewish. Because Jews have been scattered all over the world for generations, however, there is no single recipe: The flavors have been refined according to each region’s tastes, resulting in a large variety of cholents."

ShabbosChiccholent
Get your own Cholent started this week with a half dozen recipes, and send me your own recipes and photos to share!

Rabbi Marshall I. Klaven of ISJL.org wrote a dvar Torah that brings Parsha Yitro right into our daily lives. He says, "Though written hundreds of years ago, the dynamics involved in this midrash could easily apply to today's world, particularly with how people deal with the sometimes conflicting obligations of work and family." 

And Rabbi Yosef B. Friedman of Kehot.com shared the following in his email this week, "Important as the mother's influence on her children is in their formative years, her role does not end there. Throughout their lives, the entire family's spiritual and even physical well-being remain dependent upon the mother's  ongoing  ability to inculcate them with love for G-d and His Torah. Even the husband's spirituality is greatly dependent upon his wife's. Every woman sets the tone in her home and is thus actively responsible for the physical and spiritual health of her entire family."

What an awesome privilege and responsibility to create Shalom Bayit, a peaceful home in the light of Shabbos!

ShevatInfographic from  Rabbi Avraham ben Yaakov Greenbaum

"Just like it is the woman who gives birth physically, so does she bring forth spirituality and Torah into the world."
Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Shabbat Shirah - Sabbath of Song שבת שירה

A celebration of freedom, Shabbat Beshalach is also Shabbat Shirah, the Sabbath of Song.  Here's a description by Rabbi Walter Homolka, rector of the Abraham Geiger College for the training of rabbis, also a professor of Jewish Studies at Potsdam University in Germany:

"This Shabbat is called Shabbat Shira, because this week's Torah reading, B’shalah, includes Shirat Hayam , the song the Israelites sang after they crossed the Red Sea. It opens with the words, "I will sing to the Lord, for the Lord has triumphed gloriously; horse and driver the Lord has hurled into the sea" and ends with "Adonai will reign forever and ever.

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In a world of forgetting, Judaism is all about memory. How often are we urged ‘to remember’ what God did for us “with a strong hand and an outstretched arm”. Remembrance is the very basis for our trust in God’s faithfulness and love:
This is My Name forever, and this is My remembrance from generation to generation." (Exodus 3:15; 2:23-5).

This is also the Shabbat of feeding the birds, some of whom surely sing to the Lord to help us remember daily as well.

Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz shares a list of miracles to remember from this Torah portion, including, "All thebabies and even children in their mother's womb said Shira," and his video highlights Tu Beshvat, the New Year of The Trees we're also celebrating this Shabbat Shira. Thanks, Rabbi!

Fair Trade Judaica Shabbat Bo

I DO NOT LIKE reading about the reality of chocolate, but it's important to know that one of our most popular "food groups" is not ethically harvested on a world-wide scale. 

ShabbosChicFairTradechallahcover

But I DO LIKE this beautiful Guatemalan Challah cover offered by Fair Trade JudaicaWhat a joyful item to enjoy every week on Friday night!


The Sound of My Shabbat Vaera

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I cannot stop listening to this simple, deep song with lyrics from Hoshea 2:20 today.



My thanks to NeoHasid.org for sharing the video and this English translation of the song lyrics:

"On that day, I will make a covenant for them with the beasts and the birds, with all creatures that walk on the earth, that  bow and sword and battle will disappear from the land , so that all may safely rest."

Shabbos Shemot Cholent with Fresh Swiss Chard

Living in north Texas (north of Dallas) I don't usually have fresh greens in January. But tonight, on Shabbat Shemot Eve I may be serving cholent including fresh Swiss Chard from my winter garden Yum...

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Here's a delicious recipe I will use and improvise (of course) and you might want to do the same, whether your greens come from the garden or from the market.



Shabbat Shalom on Dec 21, 2012

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From a FridayLight.org email this morning-
"When lighting Shabbat candles today, let us imagine our candle joining a global flame that can truly uplift you, your family and indeed the whole world. Even if it's hard to imagine, just do it. It's something we have to experience to believe."

But it all starts at home, in my home, in and around me. Shabbos is a gift that we give and we receive, all at the same time. This vintage Shabbos apron reminds me of giving and receiving food and love and light. I am lighting lots of extra candles tonight to honor sparks that ascended since Chanukah, sparks that will forever burn and ignite our own observances of Chanukah and Shabbos.

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Who Is Protecting The Children?

All the talk about gun control following the recent and previous  school shooting tragedies in the United States tells us a lot about how we see the world.

Americans frequently see the world the opposite of the way Israelis see the world. I am an American, not an Israeli, but I believe the crucial question we are all asking is this - Who is protecting the children? 

Right now, the answer to that question in the majority of American schools cannot be denied - unarmed adults.  The answer to that question in Israeli schools is often - armed guards.

The opinion of citizens who want to remain unprotected themselves and to leave school children unprotected as well can be see in the  article entitled What If 1 Of The Teachers Had A Gun? by Drew Zahn in World Net Daily.

8th Day of Chanukah in Israel and Texas

Yedidah Cohen, author and course facilitator at Nehora School and Nehora Press shared this lovely photo of Chanukias in Israel.
Hanukiafest

And here is my 8th Day table here in Texas USA!

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Little Chanukah Meditation

Click HERE to watch a short video of a sweet Chanukah meditation from JewishSpirituality.org

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Chanukah Inspiration From Rabbi Roni Handler

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Chanukah Words From The Rebbe

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Chanukah Preparation and Shabbat Vayeshev

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I received this quote from Rabbi Michael Berg and loved the way it ties Shabbat Vayeshev together with Chanukah Eve. Here, see what you think:

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And these words lit up my inbox today, too, in an email from FridayLight.org.  I found myself taking a deep breath and starting relax about this special Shabbat before Chanukah when I read:

Chanukah starts tomorrow night. Shabbat is our chance to refuel. When you light your Shabbat lights this afternoon, let the lighting work its magic. Somehow, just the act of lighting gives us a break from all the pressure. Striking the match, lighting the candles, saying the blessing, taking a moment to exhale and to connect to our Creator. It evokes the perfection that we embody, just by being you.  Don't worry if your latkes are not perfect, or if your applesauce comes from a jar. You are beautiful as-is, and G-d celebrates every single good deed that we do.

Kindling Chanukah 2013 - Getting Prepared

Rabbi Gershon Winkler's description of Chanukah in an email to me today lights up the hours before the holiday  begins, which is after sunset on Saturday this week.

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The Light and Peace of Chanukah and Shabbat

Here is some lovely Chanukah advice I received today from Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz of ParadisePrinciple.com in order to enjoy the Festival of Lights, as well as the dark months of winter that follow it.

Etch into your mind or soul, a 'space', a sanctuary, a knowing----that will always exist and be available for you upon request. It consists of the 'Divine Presence', of the light that you can tap in to no matter how far away you are in terms of time space and soul. This light, that is etched into your soul, will serve as a source of safety, sweetening, comfort, rescue and elevation. Project a few situations where this light will come through for you in the future, exactly in the way that you will need.

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Thinking About Chanukah Next Week

I like this article by Nina Amir. She describes the connection between lighting Chanukah candles and lighting Shabbat candles. It may surprise you!
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Thanksgiving Shabbat

This quote from my FridayLight.org email today says it all, doesn't it?

"...all that we have to be thankful for raises us above the mundane, reminds us of our purpose and imbues us with genuine joy.

But what if Shabbat could be our weekly Thanksgiving Day? After all, Shabbat is also a time to come together, have good food and celebrate the gifts in our lives."

Cease-Fire Thanksgiving

It's Thanksgiving Eve
and we all give thanks for
the cease-fire in Israel today.
pixlrshalom

Shabbat Toldot, Operation Pillar of Defense

BinnyMay all of us, all over the world, absorb these words of  Binny Freedman, Director, Rosh Yeshivat Orayta of Isralight in Israel.
May we all say havdallah this Shabbat Toldot, as rockets fly in the land of Israel, for our families, for Israel, for the whole Middle East, and the whole world.

Who is a Jew? One definition...

quote

Keeping Shabbat On Your Own?

Finding yourself keeping Shabbat on your own?  Me, too. Click HERE for a little article I wrote on the subject.  Enjoy!

Oh, and watch Grandpa make some Fried Matzah HERE, short, cute and instructive.

Vintage Shabbats

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 Shabbos is timeless,
and Shabbos is for everyone.
Now it's up to us to
light the candles...

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Chicken and Kasha Cholent

I found this recipe in an old Australian Jewish magazine from the 1800s and thought it looked good for 2011.   Kasha is  roasted seeds of  the Buckwheat plant, which is not related to wheat, in fact it is not technically a grain at all.  Kasha is gluten free and very nutritious. It has a unique flavor I have grown to love, and it was very popular with our ancestors.  Try it for your Shabbos meal!

Chicken and Kasha Cholent

1 cup dry kasha (not cooked)
1 chicken
1 - 2 onions, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
olive oil
salt & pepper
water

In a 4-qt pot saute the onions and celery in the olive oil, then place chicken in the pot and steam for 35-45 minutes. Add kasha with enough water to cover kasha and steam another 20 minutes.  Add water if keeping warm for Shabbos.

They didn't have slow cookers in Australia in the 1800s, but this looks like a perfect Crockpot meal to me... Just transfer the sauteed onions and celery to the Crockpot and then make the additions, allowing for longer cooking times. Cook on high, keep warm on low or warm setting.You will have a delicious, nutritious, gluten-free meal for the Sabbath Day!

And here's a good book to read about Australian Jews...
Click photo for link to book publisher to order and enjoy.

jewsoftheoutback

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