Walking in love

“Now then, if you will obey Me faithfully and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession (segulah) among all the peoples. Indeed, all the earth is Mine, but you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5-6)

This week’s parasha describes Revelation at Sinai. It is an awesome scene with all the sound and light effects befitting a highlight performance. It is also an historical marker witnessed by all the people. Mount Sinai engulfed in smoke, the fire of God, the quaking of the mountain and the wailing notes of the shofar. Imagining the grandeur of this spiritual moment is difficult for us, the modernists who need scientific explanations and visual proof to believe. It would take all the tricks of moviemaking to put us in the scene – Technicolor, surround sound and omnimax, and yet, we probably would not be able to answer unanimously as our ancestors did, “all that the Lord has spoken, we will do.” They were there. They were witnesses. We have to take their word for it.

sinai.jpg “Sinai” evokes different images for different people. Some perceive Sinai as a “myth.” Bill Moyers, when interviewing Joseph Campbell, identifies myths as “the stories of our search through the ages for truth, for meaning, for significance.” Campbell adds, “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That’s what it’s all finally about, and that’s what these clues help us to find within ourselves…Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life…what we are capable of knowing and experiencing within.”

We all need to tell our story and to understand our story. Some may read of the moment as a guided imagery. Others may look for the Sinai that is within them. For some there was only one “R”evelation of Torah. For others, “r”evelation occurs each and every day – we have only to open ourselves to the possibility. However we frame the experience, we recognize Torah as a profound gift.

love-cloud  Just as Creation is renewed each day, so too is the opportunity to embrace Torah. What if Torah is not revealed in the past or the future? What if every time we connect with an “inner Sinai” wisdom and insights are revealed through insight and understanding ? This requires mindful presence. That is, when we leave the constricting narrows of an inner Egypt and journey into an open heart-space. Free from restriction, in a place of expansiveness, awakened hearts are truly open and “inclined to be in awe of [the Divine]…” (Machaneh Degel on Yastrow, as presented by R. Sam Feinsmith).

you-are-torah Our liturgy speaks of Revelation in the Ahavat Olam/Ahava Rabba prayers, but with a different focus. Ahavah means “love.” In this prayer we understand God’s unconditional love to be expressed through the gift of Torah. Imagine what it means to be “loved by a great love.” Have you ever allowed yourself to receive this Divine love from the many sources through which it flows? This love is manifest through compassion, guidance, and presence, as is reflected in the translation of Ahavah rabba below.

page-of-love  “With an abounding love, you love us…[J]ust as our ancestors placed their trust in you, and you imparted to them the laws of life, so be gracious to us, too, and teach us…[B]e merciful with us, and place into our hearts ability to understand, to see, to hear, to learn, to teach, to keep, to do, and to uphold with love all that we study of your Torah. Enlighten us with your Torah…Make our hearts one, to love your name and be in awe of it. Keep us from shame, and from humiliation, and from stumbling, today and always… “Kol Haneshamah siddur

sea_of_love We walk each day in a sea of love. Imagine all the love we could receive and return were we to be more mindful of this love. May your Shabbat return you to life in this moment so that you may be filled with a profound rediscovery of love.

Shabbat Shalom.

Nina J. Mizrahi
Community Rabbi
Parastatals Yitro 5777

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Tree Bathing!

In celebration of Tu B’shevat, the Jewish New Year for Trees, I am sharing one of my favorite poems. To learn more about this holiday, which has become increasingly focused on environmentalism, visit: http://www.reformjudaism.org/jewish-holidays/tu-bishvat and, for more on Tu B’shevat, including three wonderful Haggadot, visit: http://us8.campaign-archive1.com/?u=f7d47da986d48ddb1933530b5&id=05dc156ccf&e=fb961bcb30

goats-in-a-tree“What Is It Like Being A Tree?

Once I asked a tree: “Tree, what is it like being a tree?”

“You’re joking right?!”declared the tree.

“No, absolutely not,” said I.

“Seriously, is it good or bad?”

“Bad?!” exclaimed the tree in amazement. “Why?”

“Don’t you care that you are stuck in [the ground] throughout the week?”

“I am not stuck.

“ Look, I’m planted.”

“And don’t you have the urge, sometimes,

to walk around to visit your friends,

or to see what’s going on in other places?”

 “I don’t have any need to wander about or to move.

Birds sing to me regularly,

butterflies kiss me,

the wind caresses me,

the entire horizon spreads its expanse before me.”

“And in the evening, what happens when everyone is sleeping?”

“In the evening, I listen to the silence

and hear

how humanity breathes,

how fruit ripens,

how the dew falls,

and young birds nestling within the sleeping branches

and I watch over their sleep.”

“I love you, tree,” I said.

And I went to my garden

and I planted a tree

opposite my window.”

-Ditya Ben-Dor (translated by Nina J. Mizrahi)

tree-leaf-identification-guide-leaf-id-guide-a9000eb2b615b5adConsider

  • Explore the parts of a tree (roots, trunk, branches, leaves, etc.) as a metaphor.
  • What is the difference between feeling stuck and feeling rooted?
  • What does the tree find meaningful in its life?
  • What are we taught by our parents, friends & society about what is supposed to be meaningful in our lives?
  • Why is the Torah called a “Tree of Life?”
  • The tree inspires the boy. What inspires you?

Engage

  • tree-bath Take a winter walk in the woods. Notice this light shining through in the absence of leaves. Take a “tree bath” in the winter light.
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Take another walk, where you notice the state of nature during this season. If possible, you can still “harvest” pinecones and dry pods, seeds, flowers and grasses that you find interesting.   Place them in a bowl or vase to enjoy. My bowls contains all kinds of pinecones, dried leaves, pods, thistle, gourds and even etrogs from Sukkot. I keep a large magnifying glass in the bowl so visitors, especially children, can look at everything more closely. It is fun to open dried pods and look at the seeds they contain, as well as marvel at their structure.
  • Take a “vacation” in the local botanical garden’s greenhouse where the tropical plants and trees grow. Enjoy the warmth and humidity.
  • Roots cuttings from your plants or from other people’s plants. Share with others.
  • Make pinecones birdfeeders by putting peanut butter on them and hanging them outside on a tree.
  • almond-blossomsLook at photographs of almond blossoms blooming in Israel. There they announce the arrival of early spring.

exotic-fruit Try fruits you have never tasted before.seven-species

  • Go to the library and enjoy books with photos of nature.
  • Consider a next step you can take toward more sustainable consumption and living.
  • Plant parsley so it will be ready in time for Passover!
  • SHARE YOUR IDEAS ON MY BLOG PAGE: wordpress.com

Nina J. Mizrahi, Community Rabbi

Tu B’shevat 5777