April 26, 2011

Yesterday I was consumed

Yesterday I was consumed by my own feelings and griefs and attitudes. I was sad; quite sad. I walked around in a fog.

This man in beat up clothes who looked like he had been dragged through a river and dried out in the sun looked at me as I walked out of the grocery store and said in a strained voice, "ma'am, can I ask you a question?" "drug addict" said the uncharitable side of my mind. "I'm sorry," I said. "I don't have any money."

Yeah, and it was true. I didn't have any money. But I felt this little sinking sensation in my solar plexus that told me I could have done something anyway. I passed up an opportunity to just talk to the guy for more than two seconds, and to give him some desperately needed respect and love by treating him like a real human being. Conversely, I've been doing great in the religious forums; stockpiling lots of respect for my ability to memorize and regurgitate facts. Ugh, this is not adding up.

I'm a little disgusted with myself, is it coming through in the typing?

So, this is it; I'm just going to say it.

I have a hard time believing in "-ism's" and "-ianity's," particularly because they so often seem to separate people instead of unifying people. I'm not just responsible for caring for the people in one religious group; I am responsible for the whole of humanity. Either all men are made in the image of G-d, or no men are. I don't accept groups. I only accept people.

What I believe in is not doctrines or articles of faith, but rather it is the Eternal Now, the Kingdom of Heaven. And it is here, in this moment, in my being and the faces of others and the natural environment I find myself in. 'Today, if you will listen." I don't care what you call it, honestly, I don't; and I'd rather not be sold someone else's views on the subject. I love my Creator with all the pathetic little paper roses and macaroni pictures my soul can muster, and I believe that I was born for one thing: to show compassion to my fellow man, and to reflect every good thing in my life back to my Loving Creator who for whatever strange reason, never gets tired of reaching out a helpful Arm when I cry for Mercy. There's this well-spring of infinite Love. Can you feel it? There's an invisible door to it in the center of my gnarly little being.

Tradition and spiritual discipline are, and always will be, a part of my life. But if I am being really honest with myself, I feel the Presence of the Divine, שכינה, in three things:

~Long walks in the beauty of Nature, where I offer words and songs and dances to the invisible G-d whose beauty seems to saturate the creation itself and I am full and overflowing in the abundance of it all.

~When I am creating art in various mediums and the little "me" disappears.

~And in the eyes of all people: brothers, sisters, strangers, neighbors, nemeses, lovers, friends.

That's what I have learned so far. What did you do today?

April 7, 2011


So, I'm taking the Tehillim/Mishlei (Psalms/Proverbs) challenge put forth by this blog - to read 5 Psalms and 1 Proverb every day of the month of Nissan. It's been tasty. Ok, let me 'splain - for me, Psalms and sunsets are things I drink in like water, and savor like fishes and spinach (which I love; yes, I'm weird, we covered that a few posts back).

I've also been reading this book, which is utterly delightful and profound, and so, I've had a lot of food for thought these last few days...


Genesis, 2007, דבורה

Today I went back and wrote a song from the words of the 4th Psalm. It's called רגזו / "Rigzu", which means "tremble" and is a terrifically fun word to write in script Hebrew, because the gimel and zayin mirror each other.

So, Tehillim 4:4-6:

ד וּדְעוּ--כִּי-הִפְלָה יי, חָסִיד לוֹ; יי יִשְׁמַע, בְּקָרְאִי אֵלָיו. 4 But know that the LORD hath set apart the godly man as His own; the LORD will hear when I call unto Him.

ה רִגְזוּ, וְאַל-תֶּחֱטָאוּ: אִמְרוּ בִלְבַבְכֶם, עַל-מִשְׁכַּבְכֶם; וְדֹמּוּ סֶלָה. 5 Tremble, and sin not; commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah

ו זִבְחוּ זִבְחֵי-צֶדֶק; וּבִטְחוּ, אֶל-יי. 6 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.

There's something really wonderful between the lines of these verses; I see a hint at the nearness of G-d. "Tremble," it says - the awe of Hashem is the beginning of Wisdom. "Be still" and "commune with your own heart upon your bed" - in these verses I hear a call to listen deeply. To what?.. To the presence of G-d within.

But says my mind, G-d doesn't answer me... all I hear is silence.

"יי יִשְׁמַע, בְּקָרְאִי" / "Hashem yishma b'kar'i" says "G-d will hear when I call." However, "בְּ" can mean "in," implying: "G-d will hear; [G-d is] in my cry" - a deeper nearness than imagined... G-d is closer to me than my own body and spirit -Yehuda HaLevi

I can only know this when I am truly present in my own life. So breathe. And listen. ...and tremble...


Genesis, detail, 2007, דבורה

April 2, 2011

Shabbat Bliss

This Shabbat was brilliant and bright. A day stuffed to overflowing with Torah learning, good conversation, tasty (pre-prepared) food, joyful dancing and singing...

I thought about the lepers of Parashat Tazria... having a skin affliction makes one "unclean" for obvious reasons. Yet there is a paradox in the Parashat: a leper who has turned all white is declared clean. I read a good article on this subject here.

In my random, non-linear mind, the all-white leper makes me think of klipot - the "shells" that surround our soul that we must learn to break through and step out of so we can grow closer to G-d. Call it "ego" if you like.

When a shell turns all white, it is ready for rebirth... and it's clean.

This is the process we are going through all our lives: birth, death, rebirth - a cycle of becoming.

I felt a shell crack and fall away from me in January. And it happened as I was saying Shabbat prayers - Lecha Dodi, Ein Kelokeinu, Shma & V'ahavta, etc. I was struggling with my own desires and fantasies, and in a desperate gesture I turned to G-d and said those prayers with my full attention, instead of focusing on my own will. At that moment, I felt a sensation of a knife cutting down the front of my ribcage, a great CRACK, and something heavy falling away. I felt completely free and new, like a soft, pink human being stepping out of a gnarly coat of dragon scales. And it was good.

We are transformed when we are willing to be... when we are willing to let the old self die.

There are more shells to be dealt with... plenty more. Last night I felt another one crack; this one went out with more of a whimper than a bang. Sometimes it's like that, I guess. I asked to be free, and heard a small voice say "because you asked"... then whoosh, another layer dissolved.

I'm looking for freedom from my own foolish desires - from my own will, which can run rampant and become my only law when aroused. "I need! I need!" "Give! and Give!" they cry...

So, I am beginning to truly see the value of Torah (I know, I know... DUH). The blueprint from on high to align my will with G-d's, to take me out of my foolish notions of how the world should work, and see the Reality. "Crush my fantasy" sings Matisyahu (sorry, if this is some kind of wisdom from the talmud or something, I've only heard Matisyahu say it.. I'm learnin'...)

I knew there was something good about this day. Something new to be born in me! I couldn't put my finger on it but I knew this day was special... then it hit me: 4.2.11 - It's 42!!! Of course! What a great number. The answer to life, the universe and everything....

All I can say is... Baruch Hashem!!