Walk the Seasons of the Soul

arcimboldo-3-638 four seasons tree“Nature never becomes a toy to a wise spirit. The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the wisdom of [man’s] best hour, as much as they delighted the simplicity of his childhood.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature,” Five Essays on Man and Nature, p. 1(1836).

SHABBAT LECH LECHA
Lech Lecha… (Genesis 12:1)                                                                                                                        Walk the seasons of the soul
Saturated with wonder, curiosity and discovery.
Tenderness, gratitude, hope and openness
Point the way.
“To the Land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1)

Ancient rhythms

Seasons continually in transition

Timeless in meaning

Walk with tenderness
Devoid of sentimentality
The forces of nature will have their way-
It’s not personal.

Walk with gratitude
For what the earth produces
Abundant or limited
Share with others
Gather seeds for next year’s planting

Walk with hope
Even as the first frost comes.
Even as days grow shorter
Even as cold sets in
And our mood becomes chilled
Resist despondency
Dormancy brings
A long, needed slumber
Powering spring’s reawakening

Walk with openness
Experience life’s unfolding
Notice the tiniest signs of life
Consider the miracle
Of so many shades of green
Pray that one last late frost
Won’t cut short the bloom,
Though it might
It’s not in our control.

Meaning blossoms in its own way
Moving to its own mysterious,rhythm
Compelling our souls to walk each season
As a point of departure
From what has come to feel so familiar
The journey is all about transitions

Walking life in this way
Brings complex blessings
Disappointment transforms
Gratitude softens sorrow
Pain deepens compassion
In the accepting arms of love, anger dissipates

Lech lecha, lechi lach
Walk the seasons of the soul
Saturated with wonder, curiosity and discovery
Tenderness, gratitude, hope and openness
Point the way
And through the blessing that is you

Know what you have always known
Each moment, day and season

Invites soul-walking
When we learn  “to count our days, so we may enlighten our hearts with wisdom (Ps. 90:12)

Shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Nina J. Mizrahi
Community Rabbi

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Opening Ourselves to the Light

This D’var Torah on Parashat Noah was inspired by my teacher, Rabbi Jonathan Slater, through his translation of the Birkat Avraham and his magnificent contemporary commentary.   I am forever grateful for the humanity he restores in me each time I learn from him.

Opening ourselves to the lightlight shining through window

In this week’s parasha, God instructs Noah to “make an opening for daylight in the ark” (Genesis 6:16) Why? After all, wouldn’t a sealed ark weather the storming floods better than one with an opening?

What if sealing off the ark completely would make it so dark that even greater fear would abound? Perhaps darkness represents fear and even loss from all that sustains us.   Then, the opening might represent the Divine light streaming hope and possibility into our lives.   Living in total spiritual darkness, it is difficult, if not impossible to reflect on the source of our darkness. Spiritual practices help shed light and open us to the dark truth of our worst behaviors. According to Birkat Avraham (Noah 2), we can learn how to find the power to open our souls through God’s instructions for Noah to put an opening on the side of the ark.   Through this opening the light of hope would shine once the flood was over.

When we bring the light of self-reflection into the words of our prayers, we are “aroused to enter the opening” to sincere and profound behavioral change. And there, through “reorientation and accountability,” we open our hearts to receive the boundless feeling of The Holy One’s enduring love. And in that moment, unlike those whose hearts are filled with rage, violence, maliciousness, spite and fear we are saved from our own small selves.

May the words you utter on this Shabbat Noah create an opening for you to face the human realities of loss, disappointment and all that darkens your heart. Then, may the light of Shabbat peace, joy and love stream directly into your heart, restoring hope and renewed possibility for who you might yet become.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Nina Mizrahi,

Community Rabbi

Giving Birth to Meaning

Shabbat Bereishit:  In the beginning, each day was revealed as a gift. Everything needed to sustain life was thoughtfully put in place. It was all good….but not yet very good.

From the very beginning, the Creator sought…balance and equanimity, discernment but not detachment, expansiveness and not constriction.  In this creative endeavor, everything was valuable, but had no value. Something was missing.

The Holy One looked inward, discovering something surprising. The world was not yet complete. With one more act of creation, life would give birth to meaning. And so, humanity was born out of divine inspiration.  But this creation was like no other. Humanity was filled with dualities – the capacity for love and apathy, soul-u-lar lightness and darkness, the waters of inspiration and the thirst of neediness, strength and weakness of every form. So, the Creator planted within every being the potential to evolve spiritually, emotionally and ethically. And in that moment, everything changed. Now this being could choose equanimity over imbalance, discernment over detachment, fulfillment over materialism. Even then, however, the Holy One understood that such “work” required a different kind of space – space within time itself.

This is why the Source of Life ceased creating after the sixth day. And the seventh day was formed with the potential for rest, reflection and renewal. And on this day, humanity discovered that detaching from the materiality of the rest of the week made space for an experience not otherwise possible. And in this space, humanity was able to access the blessed freedom from all that constricts, inviting in wonder, joy, and profound appreciation for the amazing blessings of creation.

In this “oasis of time” we came to understand that the experience of daily life can be constrictive. Shabbat invites us to rediscover how to expand our hearts, making space for the inner Life Force to thrive, filling us with a sense of wholeness and peace.

Shabbat is the greatest gift ever given. On this day, we can give ourselves permission to experience being itself, and, if we allow ourselves, we can our inner Eden, if only for one blessed day. In this state of being, we can use our capacity to detach from all that brings us low and attach to the highest form of our selves. And, in that moment, one by one, we restore the hope that one day every day will make real the hope of a world filled with healing, hope and peace.

Shabbat shalom.

Rabbi Nina

Community Rabbi

Living Memorably: Connecting Segregated Moments to a Continuum

Please share your thoughts in response to Abraham Joshua Heschel’s statement. What does it mean to be an “authentic individual”, an “heir”or a “pioneer” living “within a continuum of history” in the 21st century?

“The authentic individual is neither an end nor a beginning, but a link between ages, both memory and expectation. Every moment is a new beginning within a continuum of history. It is facetious to segregate a moment and not to sense its involvement in both past and future. Humbly the past defers to the future but it refuses to be discarded. Only [the one] who is an heir is qualified to be a pioneer.”(Abraham Joshua Heschel, 20th C)

Shabbat Shalom u’moadim l’simcha,

Rabbi Nina