Friday, March 30, 2012

Shabbat HaGadol

Shabbat HaGadol
Malachi 3:23-24
Behold, I will send you Elijah the Prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the parents to the children, and the heart of the children to their parents; lest I come and smite the land with utter destruction.”

Much of human suffering comes from lack of understanding and lack of communication between families, communities and nations.

As Pesach approaches, may we be blessed to turn our hearts to remember, repair, and renew these relationships.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Blessing the flowering fruit trees

Plum Tree

Hasn’t every poem about your
effusion of petals
drifting softly in the wind
luring bees to bathe in
each corolla’s golden pollen shower,
already been written?

What thanks can I give  
for your generosity overflowing
into petal, pollen, leaf and fruit
so abundant that you release them
to the breeze and the birds and the earth
without regret,
but these words.


  בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֶלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹל,
  שֶׁלֹא חִסַּר בָּעוֺלָמוֺ כְּלוּם,
  וּבָרָא בוֺ בְּרִיּוֺת טוֺבוֺת וְאִילָנוֺת טוֺבִים, לְהַנּוֺת בָּהֶם
  בְּנֵי אָדָם׃

  Baruch Ata Ado-nai, E-loheinu, Melech Ha'olam,
  shelo hasair b'olamo kloom,
  ubara bo briyot tovot v'ilanot tovot,
  leihanot bahem b'nai adam

Blessed are You, Adonai, Sovereign of the Universe,
who withheld nothing at all from the world You created 
and  placed in it both good creatures and flowering tree
 in which we can take pleasure.
(thanks to Elaine Reuben for the not-quite-literal translation.)

Vayikra: Blood, sweat and tears

Leviticus 2:13
You shall offer salt on all your sacrifices.”

From Hosea 6:6 we get inspiration for the modern transformation of physical sacrifice into deeds of loving-kindness. " For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings." But what is the salt that we should offer with those acts of loving-kindness?

Salt is used to preserve food. Therefore, its offer with a sacrifice symbolized the incorruptibility of our link with godliness. It is also a widely used symbol of hospitality. In ancient times, salt was a precious commodity – even used as money. In our time, it is so widely available, that many of us have to work hard to limit it in our diets. So salt is something that preserves, that used to be as precious as money, and that is now plentiful. In our bodies, salt is present in all of our cells, in all of our fluids – in our blood, sweat, and tears. Too much or too little salt, and our cells cannot function.

Considering all these qualities of salt, what do we learn about how to offer a “sacrifice” of love and kindness? We must give from our core selves (our blood, sweat and tears), and we must give something precious to us, but we must be measured. Too much giving depletes us. When we achieve that right balance of lovingkindness and self care, we touch into relationship-making that is sustained and pure.

May we be blessed to live lasting and uplifting lives, salted with loving-kindness and integrity.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Ki Tisa: Contagious Holiness

Exodus 30: 27-29
....the table and all its implements, the menorah and its implements, the altar of incense, the altar of the burnt offering and all its implements, the washstand and its base. And you shall sanctify them so that they become a holy of holies; whatever touches them shall become holy.

What are the table, the menorah, the altar, the washstand? They are the body, the intellect, the self-identity, the capacity for attention.
What are the implements? They are the senses, the intentions of will, and bodily actions.
How do we sanctify all of these parts and processes that make up a person? By paying careful, curious attention to each moment of experience.

As we become absorbed into rapt attention to the exact moment of now, something wondrous happens. The whole “now” is experienced as complete, as holy. There is no need to push any part of the “now” away or to yearn for anything more to happen. Each moment is wonder-filled just as it is.  This is entering into the holy of holies.

Then something more happens: any new sensation that touches our experience is itself absorbed into the now.  The next sensation, and the next, and the next is allowed to flow across consciousness without resistance. Each experience is seen as part of the whole. There is no need to push away or to cling to sensation or thought. Thus, the contact of sensation becomes a holy connection to the wondrous “is” of right now.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Parshat Tetzaveh: ner tamid

Exodus 27:20 - “And you shall command the children of Israel, that they bring to you pure olive oil beaten for the light to cause a lamp to burn continuously.”

We are each responsible for kindling and keeping the eternal light burning within us.
May we be blessed to continue to allow that light to shine and illuminate the world.