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Shabbos Chic Blog

Creation, Sabbath rest

Sukkot 5779

It's Sukkot and Erev Shabbat. I'm preparing the Shabbat dinner and thinking about all the changes in my life since the beginning of Elul 5778. It's only been a few weeks, but my life has changed noticibly, in a good way!

Here's my blog called Solitary Holy Days, which highlights my journey. I'm excited to see what comes next!

Shevii Shel Pesach 5775

Shabbos is Not Just One Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chatzos is Shalom Bayit in action.

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

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

Every Shabbos is New

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

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

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

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

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

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

You need Flash Player in order to view this.
Challah Braiding
Different ways to braid dough for challah or any other bread.

Shabbos for The Reluctant

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

Shabbos is its own reward, inside each of us.

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

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

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

Our lights are poised and ready to shine, together.

The Shabbat Project This Weekend

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

Precious Yom Kippur Perspective

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

Tiny House for Shabbat?

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

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

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

Basking in the afterglow of Shavuot 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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


Shabbat - A Spa For The Soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

"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.

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!

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!

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 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.)"

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

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.

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."

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."

Shabbat Shalom from 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 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, 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 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. Eshet Chayil Video - Lovely! Video Shabbat Shabbos Candlelighting Shabbat Candle lightingClick photo for a short, lovely video by, the world's largest social network for Jewish people offering and looking for a place to spend Shabbos.

Seeing With The Eyes of God

Working with people all over the world on their book projects, I have the privilege of hearing their hopes and dreams and goals.  It's such a privilege!

When I got these words from one of my teachers this week, I was just elated because they spoke directly to my professional and personal opportunities to see others as God sees them. And, naturally, to see myself as God sees me as well.

In other words, we can all begin to have this enlightened perspective when, "....we understand how G-d sees us, which includes the past, the present and the future, all at the same time. He IS, he WAS and he WILL BE. That is who he is. That is his name, and that is his essence, or at least it is the essence that we can grasp."

This is something I will be working on the rest of my life, that's for sure. Remembering the Holy Name in my real life circumstances, and remembering what it means TO ME, what it means in my relationships with others, is the basic challenge of humanity, isn't it? It is the basic message of Torah living in us, in our everyday lives.

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.

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

Following is a quote from a special PDF provided by 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.

Shabbat Shemini

Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz sent out this message in an email this week -

"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, 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!" 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!

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.

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!

Sounds of Shabbos All Week Long!

Shabbos Va'yakhel Pekudei & Pesach Prep


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.

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.  

"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

"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


Personal Prayer on Shabbos and Every Day

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.
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.

by Rabbi H. Rafael Goldstein, CJC


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
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.

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."

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."

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 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 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.

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!

The Sound of My Shabbat Vaera

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

My thanks to 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...

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

From a 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.


Chanukah Preparation and Shabbat Vayeshev


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:

And these words lit up my inbox today, too, in an email from  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.

The Light and Peace of Chanukah and Shabbat

Here is some lovely Chanukah advice I received today from Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz of 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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