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Shabbos Chic Blog

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When am I happy?

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

Prayer for Elul, Shabbos and Always

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chana Bracha Siegelbaum on Elul

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

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

I agree!

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

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

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

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

Craig Taubman and his Jewels of Elul 5773

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

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

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

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

Rabbi Shais Taub on Shabbos, Men, Women and Idolatry

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

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

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

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

The Precious, Predictable Opportunity of Elul

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

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

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

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

Sights and Sounds of The Sabbath

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

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

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

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

When nothing will exist anymore,
only He will rule.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and the following quote from page 10:

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



Shabbat Shalom To One And All


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

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

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

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

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

Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum on The Shema

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

from this week's blog post by

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

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
  

Rabbi Yosef B. Friedman on The Shema

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

Dr . Yedidah Cohen on Tisha B'Av

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

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

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

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

Amen and yet again, Amen.

Shabbat of Vision


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

Chazon means 'vision' or 'seeing'.

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

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


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

Birkat ha-Gomel for Summer Travel and Everyday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Shabbat Words To Live By

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

Like a diamond in the rough


When we are challenged, our consciousness has to shift.

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

It's about how much we can change.


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

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

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

Shabbat Shalom from FridayLight.org and from me!


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

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


Shabbat Shalom from FridayLight.org and from me!

Rabbi Friedman On Shabbat Parshat Behaalotecha


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thinking About Shavuot This Shabbat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 More Days Counting the Omer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shabbat.com Eshet Chayil Video - Lovely!

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

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.

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

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

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

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



Jewish Women Inspiring My Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All I can say to that is AMEN.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis on Gratitude

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

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

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

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

Our Souls Are Part of The Divine All The Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Body and Soul - Two Extremes In Us All


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

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

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

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

Shabbat Shemini

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

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

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

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

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


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

Saving European Jewish Cemeteries

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Precious Family Shabbos Blessings - Video

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

Shabbat Clusters on Shabbos Pesach 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women Lead In Our History And On Shabbat

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

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

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

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

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

Rabbi Wayne Dosick on Shabbos and Kabbalah

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

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

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

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

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

What Passover Can Mean For Us Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Shabbat Tsav is THE BIG ONE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pesach Poetry By Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz

My People are like the stars and  the dust

When we ascend, we ascend to the highest heights

When we descend, we descend to the lowest depths

My People are like the Thorn bush on Mt. Sinai

We may sometimes be burned, but we are never consumed


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

Rabbi Aryeh Nivin's Chaburas for Life Purpose

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds of Shabbos All Week Long!

Making Matzah for Pesach - Inner Meaning

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


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

ShabbosChicMatzah3

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

Shabbos Va'yakhel Pekudei & Pesach Prep

ShabbosChicoldcandleholder

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts On Spiritual WorldsThis Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rabbi Asher Crispe, from his awesome blog, Interinclusion

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

Rabbi Jonason Goldson, from an article on Jewish World Review

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Personal Prayer on Shabbos and Every Day

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

Shabbos Chic personal prayer lute angel

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

Comments welcome below.


ShabbosChicRabbiYitzchak
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by Rabbi H. Rafael Goldstein, CJC

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Happy Shabbos Purim!!!

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

shabboschicpurimbasket
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!

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. 

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.

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

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

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

Fair Trade Judaica Shabbat Bo

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

ShabbosChicFairTradechallahcover

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


The Sound of My Shabbat Vaera

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



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

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

Shabbos Shemot Cholent with Fresh Swiss Chard

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

chard
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.



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