Trust is not just leaving it up to God. It is also doing whatever is in my control so God need only tip the scale with mercy. Trust doesn't relieve me of my responsibilities. My father, of blessed memory, used to say, "God helps those who help themselves." So one way to relieve fear is to do what is on my control. However, sometimes no matter how hard I try or how long I try, something doesn't work out. I trust in God I am not afraid because I believe God knows the bigger picture. I trust God knows what is best me. This allows me to give my fears and worry to God so I can do something else more productive and positive.
Any day is a good day for a fresh start. Any day is a good day
to study a little Torah. In terms of the Torah, this is a very special time of
year. It is the holiday of Simchas Torah which is a public reading of the end
and the beginning of the Torah. It done with great joy and dancing and delicious
feasts. It starts the evening of September 26th this year and it is a great time
to try out a new synagogue (no tickets required).
The coming weeks are the very first portions of the five books of Moses. They are some of the most
poetic and inspiring of portions. If you have never read the Torah from
the beginning, this is a good time to start Tiptoeing with me. With every week,
you will know that you belong to a virtual community who care about God and
learning God's Ways through Torah.
Starting fresh with the Torah's public reading cycle is especially good for those who feel a chaos in their
life, or a darkness or a void. This is because the world begins in darkness and
God brings in light. When you learn Torah, you bring light to your soul and give
it a recharge. When you learn Torah, you engage your mind and distract yourself
from negative thinking. When you learn Torah, you have something to talk about
with people who are also interested in Torah, religion and spiritual
Give Tiptoeing Through The Torah a try this year from the beginning or find a convenient study class on-line or locally. Tis
the season for fresh starts!
So often in religious circles there is a tendency to take sides. As in, I believe or don't believe. As in, I am one branch and certainly not in that "other branch". As in, I practice or I don't practice. This splitting of sides may be helpful in identifying one's own belief system but not very good at bringing people together and fostering
Therein is the challenge for every human, for every lover of Torah and Judaism. To find the shared beliefs and values to connect you spiritually to all people, especially your brethren.
One way we can help the process is by seeing all people as souls not bodies. A soul commands respect in ways
just another body doesn't. Respecting another person's soul goes a long way towards understanding and acceptance.
Self-care is also part of the equation of getting along better with others and building connection. If we have a positive hopeful approach to life, we are easier to get along with. When we show self-discipline in taking care of our bodies with good food, exercise and enough sleep, we feel better for it and that sense of well-being will permeate in our day to day life. It will make us less prone to defensiveness and negativity.
Taking care of our own soul by engaging in Torah and acts of kindness also helps the process. When we nurture our soul by learning God's ways we will be inspired to do charitable thoughts and deeds.
This, in turn, fosters feeling of connectedness and belonging and encourages people to treat each other fairly and with more tolerance.
Another way to foster togetherness rather than the separateness is to recognize that there are ranges of faith and worship and religious observance. It is all relative to where a person starts. If someone grew up with a lot of ritual and learning, they will need a different level of observance to achieve the same feeling of spiritual growth and satisfaction as someone who has no experience in observance and begins. Let this
range of observance be a reminder that everyone is on their own spiritual journey and must go at their spiritual pace. Be someone who leads by example rather than takes sides.
Division is easy in religious math but multiplication is more meaningful. We multiply our joys and sense of connection when we respect each other as souls and take care of our own spiritual and physical health. When we desire unity and pursue it, we are on a reliable positive path towards harmony and peace.
In communications, when you are debating in your head, it is called Self-Talk. For example, you are ordering at a restaurant. You "think" you are just "thinking" but you are really having a conversation with your Self. This
means you can talk your Self out of getting .... or talk yourself into ordering....or settle on.... Regardless of what is said in your head, this is a conversation with your Self.
If you couple that conversation with your spiritual Self, you can tap into your inner Divinity and gain a loyal
and nurturing friend. This internal Voice of Good is easily recognizable for it promotes fairness with your
Self and forgiveness, love, mercy and maturity.
If you are prone to negativity, think of it like God giving you an internal pep talk!
For example, instead of the self-hating "bad" voice, try the self-loving voice of good and compassion. Tell your Self, "I'll do better next time" or "I will keep on trying because I know I am capable of doing this," or "Things take time. I need to be patient with myself". Or you might say "I will be treated with the respect and dignity," or "How can I learn from this and move on?" or "I trust in God's bigger picture."
When you take responsibility for this internal conversation, you empower yourself with awareness and the
ability to take action. If you are listening, these voices will alert you that you are heading into negativity and remind you to bring forth the
Voice of Good within you. It will give you time to get your balance and realign yourself with your inner Divine so you can consciously get back on a more positive, self-loving path.
We are all made in God's Image but not all of us are open to letting God illuminate within and be
merciful and kind and fair with our Selves. It takes practice and commitment but it balances the need for accountability with the compassion that understands "learning the hard way" and the need for self-forgiveness.
Every time we manage our internal dialogue to focus on the good and the positive, our inner Divinity sparkles and grants us enlightenment and love and teaches us what true nurturing is all about.
It is so easy to fill our days with anxious thoughts of worry and dread. The Torah actually has a cure worth trying. It won't replace proper medication, nor will it take
the place of therapy or exercise, but it will give you an extra boost of hope and calm that can help you through the day.
Why, just a little learning from Torah each day can help remind you of all the people who overcame so much in their lives to do so much good in the world. Think of Joseph, Jacob and Moses. There was so much difficulty and heartache in their lives. Yet they mustered their courage and were willing to take risks. They each did it because they had one common unshakeable belief.
They believed that God has a purpose for everything. They understood what was outside of their control and let go of it. They took responsibility for what was in their control and did what they needed to do.
So too for us. With each intentional act of letting go and getting busy, we trade our current worries and anxieties for God's eternal comfort.
One of the most remarkable things about the Torah is that there are no vowels or punctuation in the Hebrew. This means when it is translated, it is amazingly the same and yet strikingly different. For example, a lot of things change when you insert a vowel. For example, with a "b"and a "d", a word can go from bed to bad to bid to bade or to bode. Take the sentence ‘Right now.’ or ‘Right now?’. As you can see, this poses many problems. Nonetheless, many brilliant dedicated people have translated the
Torah. Translation station is to help you think about the language of Torah and how small choices can make big differences. Which translation resonates best for you in your mind, heart and soul?
Listen, Israel, God is our Lord, God is One
(Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan)
HEAR, O ISRAEL; THE LORD OUR GOD, THE LORD IS ONE.
(Rev. Dr. A. Cohen, Editor - Soncino Press 1956 )
Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
(Robert Alter- Norton Publication 2004)
Hear O Israel, Hashem our God is Hashem, the sole One.
(Rabbi Samuel Raphael Hirsch – The Judaica Press 1990)
Hearken O Israel: YHWH our God; YHWH (is) One.
(Everett Fox – Schocken Press 1995)
Hear O Israel: Hashem our God. Hashem is One
(Rabbi Yisrael Herczeg - Saperstein Rashi Edition)
Hear O Israel! The Lords our God, the Lord alone.
(The Rabbincal Assembly of Conservative Judaism
Etz Hayim Edition—Jewish Publication Society )
Hear O Israel, Hashem is our God. Hashem is One and Only. (Rabbi
Nosson Scherman and Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz, General Editors
If you were born a slave in Egypt, then for sure you would not know how to read or write. You
wouldn't have any time growing up to play. Your ambition in life? Not to be assigned to heavy stone duty at the pyramid site at height of the Egyptian summer.
Suddenly you are free from Egyptian slavery, praising God Almighty Who brought you out of bondage.
God provides you food to gather and you build huts for shelter. After six days of working and
gathering, God insists on the Sabbath, a time to cease working and gathering. So you go from being a
slave with no control over your time to a free person who has some control over your time and complete permission from God to cease working.
Shabbat is God's Gift to you and all your generations, wherever you live, whatever the work and social commitments, activities or errands. Shabbat goes on whether you remember it or not. It is still here, an
available gift, an obligatory gift. It is easy to forget it is a gift from God when you are too tired to open it.
And yet Shabbat offers rest and renewal. It frees you from the burdens of life. It reminds you of
eternity. It reawakens your spiritual side. It gives you time to learn more about the Teachings of God.
It gives you time to rediscover hope.
Shabbat is our timeless connection to God. When you make the time for Shabbat, when you stop, even for a moment's repose, you keep that connection to the time of God's Creation of the heavens and the earth. You keep that connection to the slaves God freed from bondage in Egypt. You keep alive that spark between you and your fellow Jews throughout the world and throughout time.
It is just a thought, a moment among the many you can have from a Shabbat sundown to sundown. But it is a connection that spans generations and separates the holy day from the rest of the six days. Every week you get another Sabbath opportunity to bring forth holiness and reconnect. Don't let time fly away. Hop instead on the wings of the Shabbat angels and fly together.
In slang terms, Sedona, Arizona had a vibe. You could feel the energy winding down the mountain, descending into darkness as a family. We had only our headlights to point the way.
Suddenly I felt a little numb and a deep pull down towards the earth; a heavy gravity. Maybe there was something to those vortexes in Sedona, which claim it is as a space, a place where spiraling energy can be felt more strongly and channeled into prayer, meditation and healing.
The trouble was that it didn’t feel good - just strong. And the next morning, a hike among the stark rocks and two cups of coffee couldn’t shake this heaviness pulling me down.
I am trying to sort out this chaos in my head and body with my husband when we get a phone call from our children, who were about 14 and 16. They had just come out of the Sedona Center for the New Age, and said we HAD to go and they both were grateful to be Jewish.
We couldn't imagine any place that would inspire that kind of call and headed right over.
When we entered the New Age Center, mood music played and it was intimate and expansive. So many things to look at. So many price tags. I cannot deny a powerful energy inside this space. I felt it press against me as I walked through the different rooms. Crystals and charms, carved idols and angel lined
every nook and cranny. People stood in line for aura readings and astrology charts, and picked psychics from
brochures. Salespeople couldn’t explain which carved deity meant what to whom or why. He was content
that people found meaning and comfort and he was there to help.
I went over to the large crystal ball and eyeballed it up close. I didn’t see Dorothy nor any mystical signs.
I mostly saw a reflection of myself and began to feel uncomfortable. It was like suddenly I could feel a regret in my heels and the need to walk away and ask God for forgiveness. I may have been a tourist but I hear the echo of the Second Commandment about "have no other gods in God's Presence." Right then and there I confirmed in my heart and soul my commitment to God of Abraham, God, Master of the Universe, Creator, God
of Moses, Who hears the people's cries and frees them from bondage.
By the time I get down the hall with a peak in a few other rooms, my whole body needs to leave. I commit myself on the step out, to writing away my guilt. It was a cultural experience not a religious one and nothing quite like contrast to teach personal truths and beliefs.
We all agreed when meeting up for lunch we had a feeling of peace in worshiping a God Who has no eyes, no face, no shape or form, without representation of any kind. We felt trust in our God Who sees us,
knows us, and comforts us. We felt confidence of knowing who we were as Jews as we watched a spectacular sunset through the big red Sedona rocks.
Now, we like going to Shabbat services whenever we travel. So that Friday night, we entered the white circular spacious sanctuary a sense of home as we saw the ark and the eternal light. Then the rabbi started playing guitar and the congregation started singing together Lecha Dodi to welcome the Sabbath then Shalom Alechem, welcoming the angels.
Let me tell you, singing about angels in Sedona take on a whole new meaning. Literally as I sang,
I could feel my spiritual self lifting up and the congregation too. We sang to God to bestow peace on
God’s angels, beseeching God's angels to bring with them peace, then seeking God's angels to bless us
with peace now and depart in peace. We felt the harmony, and in that Sedona way, could feel God's angels
in our midst.
The services and the rabbi, Alicia Magal, had a certain flare, too, with feminine meditations, a poetic tone and lots of references to our feelings. She chants some of the Torah portion using her beautiful voice and then sings a concise summary of it with the same intonations. Rather than talking, she sings blessings upon people.
At one point the rabbi gathers a group of congregants celebrating anniversaries, birthdays and upcoming travel into a group hug. She asks us to help her bless the group by stretching out our arms toward them while she sang the blessings. We follow her with arms outstretched extending blessings, sending joy, receiving joy, connecting.
We end the service holding hands in a chain throughout the sanctuary and sing Shabbat Shalom.
We are among our people. We are visitors but not strangers, for we share together our love and respect for
God and gratitude for Shabbat. Shabbat is our vortex, pulling our spiritual energy higher. God is our constant, eternal source of life and energy, renewing us each week with this time set aside for holiness.
Not everything that happens in our life is good. But I believe everything that happens in our lives can all be given meaning and used for good.
I think about the different tragedies in my life and all the struggles along the way and I realize again and again that it is up to me to find the good, to give the meaning, to accept and to move forward.
Finding the good is often the hardest part because that requires a certain kind of trust and belief that God knows what God is doing. God sees the big picture. I know my vision is limited.
Giving meaning to something bad that has happened is a very profound and personal experience. It emerges over time and rarely can be rushed. Sometimes we give meanings which are temporary so we can get us from one "space into another". Sometimes the meanings last forever. All are healing.
Acceptance is a daily practice and doesn't come without some work because it goes hand in hand with forgiveness. Practicing compassion is a also good way to cultivate acceptance.
Moving forward is another word for change and, as well all know, transition is hard. But moving forward is a positive change which is self-rewarding and helps build confidence. Positive action relieves anxiety, shows courage, earns respect and gives personal release.
Not all that happens in life is good but we can find that sliver of meaning, the tiny spark of hope and the seed for a new stalk of inspiration and bloom.
When was the last time you said “THANK GOD!” out loud? A few years ago I shouted it with glee in the silliest of
You see we have two cats, a brother and sister. They were house cats whom we let out on
pretty days in the backyard. They were lazy around the chairs most of the time. So anyway I went to call for them. “FONZIE, ALICE, TIME TO COME IN”. I waited a moment and then escalated the call with urgency, “TIME TO EAT”.
Alice came right away at the promise of food but Fonzie was yet to be found. I scoured the bushes and branches and all the nooks and crannies of the porch. No cat. So I went inside and got a can of tuna. Soon I am walking around the pool waving a can of tuna in the air hoping that Fonzie will get a whiff and come running. I keep calling. “FONZIE, TIME TO EAT”!
Not a meow to be heard and I am panicking all the way out my back yard, through the garage, down the alley, all over the neighbors yards, looking at the roofs and the side spaces, running and calling out until I get so winded I finally jump into my car and drive with my head halfway out the window. FONZIE….FONZIE. TIME TO EAT!”
Nothing. I stop at my house and park and go once more into the backyard. I can hear the choke in my throat as I cry out,“FONZIE. FONZIE. FONZIE.”
I need to pick up my children in five minutes and I am out of options. I look under and over all the chairs and finally exhausted and broken-hearted I fall to my knees in the dampness of the grass.
I bow to the God Who can save me from disaster of having 'lost the cat'. I prostrate myself before the God of forgiveness and redemption. My eyes are closed. I am surrendering to the God of Mercy. I am praying from the depths of my soul. I trust in God I am not afraid. I trust in God I am not afraid. I open my eyes and see two cat eyes staring back at me. Yes. Two cat eyes only seen because I prostrated myself before the Lord..........Talk about the power of prayer and I shouted out loud, “THANK GOD! THANK GOD! THANK GOD!”
© 2012 Nancy Reuben Greenfield
The Golden Medina
by Edwin Jerome Reuben & Nancy Reuben Greenfield