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Sukkot 5779
Pesach Season Prayer For Dew
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Pesach Season Prayer For Dew

Give us dew to favor Your earth; sweeten the land in which we live with dew.
Strengthen us with plenty, with grain and wine: sheaves and vines sustained by dew.
Bring wholeness to the Holy City and to all who love her as flowers are renewed by dew.
You have said “I will be like dew to Israel;" may Your mercy well up in us like the dew.
Let the proud and beautiful fruits of our harvest be sustained and graced with dew.
Open our hearts; make us into open vessels to receive the spiritual gifts of dew.
May a light shine forth from darkness to draw us to You, as a root finds water from dew.
We are the people who followed You through the desert as sheep follow a trusted shepherd; favor us with dew.
You are our God, Who causes the wind to blow and the dew to fall.
For blessing and not for curse. Amen. For life and not for death. Amen. For plenty and not for lack. Amen.

Thanks to Rachel Barenblat for this translation and the following: "The Prayer for Dew is a special poem recited once a year during the afternoon service on the first day of Pesaḥ. Rabbi Rachel Barenblat first presented her d’var tefillah on Passover in 2009 and shared her prayer for dew in 2015 (cross-posted at her website here). In the Amidah, many Jewish liturgies replace the request for rain (recited during the traditional rainy season in the land of Israel) with a prayer for dew, beginning on this day. — Aharon Varady"

Reflections on Passover Morning 2017

This year there was much study and prayer in preparation for our little Seder at home. The preparation really made a difference in me, and that made a difference in the Seder when I conducted it. 

Congregational events are wonderful of course, but the intimacy of a small, family Seder with deep, prayerful preparation gives me (and you?) more opportunity to reflect and to receive.  The night of Passover is not just about the food and the memories of being set free from Egypt centuries ago. It is a distinctive, meaningful, precious time for us to receive freedom in our own lives right now.

We wouldn't think of sliding into a booth at a restaurant and telling the server, "I'll have a big helping of Freedom today, please." No restaurant sells it, for one thing... But that's exactly what we do when we sit at the Seder table and move through the 15 steps of the Seder. We are asking for a nice, big helping of Freedom from all our limitations. 

What a privilege to have access to world-class teachers this year, and also to have the time to study. I want to thank Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, of blessed memory, and Rabbi Akiva Tatz, Rabbi Yitzchak Swartz, Yedidah Cohen, and Rabbi Alon Anava in particular. You have all blessed me and brought Shalom Bayit to our Seder table this year. Thank you all!

Pre-Pesach Energy 5776

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

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

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

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

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

Rosh Chodesh & Shabbos Vayeshev & Chanukah

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Chanukah 5776

Pesach thoughts this year 5775

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shimona Tzukernik asked us a good question in her Rosh Chodesh workshop this week, and I'm still pondering it. She simply asked, "Are you teachable?" included a wonderful reminder in my weekly Shabbos reminder email, "...let us embrace the power of the Jewish woman. The Talmud says that it was 'in the merit of righteous women that the Jews were redeemed from Egypt.'

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

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

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

Parasha Beshalach 5775 - Song of The Sea

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.

People Of The Desert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joan Nathan Making Challah for Shabbos and Rosh Hashanah

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

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

What is the essence of Rosh Hashana?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shana Tova & Happy Cycling!

Rabbi Aryeh Nivin's Chaburas This Elul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It works for me!

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis at the Wall this Elul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, fromA Nation Blessed As One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rabbi David Aaron

Chana Bracha Siegelbaum on Elul

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

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

I agree!

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

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

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

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

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

Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum on The Shema

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

from this week's blog post by


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

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


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

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

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

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יהוה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יהוה אֶחָד

Restoring the Jewish Glory

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

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

Period of Counting The Omer And My Growth

"Our emotional makeup, including that of our human/animal souls, derives from the emotional attributes through which G-d created the world and continues to relate to it."   Rabbi Yosef  B. Friedman

This quote from Rabbi Friedman's email made me think about the levels or layers of my soul, and how they are all being cultivated, whether I know it and understand it.

Everyday I have new opportunities to grow, and I am learning to welcome them.  But first, I have to genuinely see my opportunities clearly. That is the first step, and perhaps the most difficult. Irritations and aggravations don't seem like precious opportunities at all, but they are. 

The period of counting the Omer is a good time to see my opportunities to grow now, and to recognize them as a big part of my Tikkun Olam, my personal contribution to repair the world.

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 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 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.

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.

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 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.

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.

Sounds of Shabbos All Week Long!

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!

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. 


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

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.

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.


Cease-Fire Thanksgiving

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

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.

Is The Pen Mightier Than The Sword?

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the Jewish People have lived by the pen and died by the sword for millennia. We now live in a country that recognizes the G-d-given right of self-defense; to fail to exercise that right when threatened is to hold G-d’s gift of life in contempt.

Rabbi Dovid Bendory,

I support Jews For The Preservation Of Firearm Ownership because I am a Texan and I am a Jew. Firearm ownership is a hot topic in more ways than one, and I have taken a stand for myself, my family and my nation. Read more of Rabbi David Bendory's articles HERE
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