שירת שלום

Song of Peace

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  • 30 Jul 2014 3:34 PM | Shirat Shalom (Administrator)

    From Cantor Lee 

    This is a story I  have told to many and also share with my seventh graders each year. 

    About eight years ago, a new couple moved into the house  across the street from us and much to our shock had animosity towards us. This was also surprising to the rest of our neighbors as we live in a multicultural neighborhood and honor each other's beliefs, traditions and religions. 

     After the couple's baby was born, they began going to neighborhood meetings to complain about us, that we had too many visitors. What is so funny that people with teenagers had more visitors than we did! Although the  neighborhood board stood behind us and suggested that we have people park in our driveway this whole situation got under my skin. In spiritual terms it means that this couple hooked into my energy field.  I became nervous each time someone came to visit and uncomfortable when the couple was outside.

     Rabbi David and I decided we would pray that they would move and had a special prayer/ceremony one evening in our front yard.  They actually put up a for sale sign the next week!! But within two weeks the sign was gone.  I then decided I would just change the energy by sending them blessings each time I would go outside. This wasn't easy especially in the beginning but I kept at it.  Although my anger and discomfort lessened it kept getting triggered as the couple continued to display animosity towards us.

     As my daily ritual progressed, I finally reached the place that no matter what they were sending me, my heart was truly full of blessings for them. Within a month of reaching this point,  the family moved!  The other strange thing is that two other families down the street that that were not so kind to their neighbors moved at the same time!

     Today, four years since the family moved,  I look back on this experience with much gratitude for it helped expand my spiritual understanding on many levels.  I have continued the daily ritual of sending blessings to those who show animosity and hatred  and right now that includes Hamas and ISIS. I honestly can't say that my heart is always totally open in doing this but I know that working on the energetic level as a partner with G-d is part of the plan.  And so I will continue. Who knows,  perhaps all those who decide not to align with love and peace will  move to a different  planet!! 

    From Rabbi David aka The Reb

    As if we needed a reminder  how awful, cruel and  vicious war is, we have had  a full dose of it  in the last  couple of weeks. The intention was to put  a stop to  several  thousand rockets which  have been  falling on every corner of Israel threatening  the life of every Israeli citizen, man woman and child.

    We now  know  that  the  long and elaborate network of tunnels dug under many Israeli villages was in preparation for a monster terror operation which was to take place during the High Holy Days this year.  Thousands of terrorists (yes, thousands!) were to emerge at the same time from  these tunnels in the middle of many Israeli villages, shooting  at anything and  everyone. This  would have been an extremely  well coordinated operation  which would have easily massacred at least 5,000  Israelis.

    Israel estimates there would have been a 90% chance of success. Hamas has been practicing this operation for a year and a half now. So yes, this was a real plan!

    In  the last two weeks approximately  2500 rockets have fallen over Israel. To compare the percentage to the United States, multiply  2500 rockets by 450  (the USA is approximately 450 times the size of Israel.)

    The answer is 1,125,000 rockets. Imagine if Mexico sent more than a million rockets all over the USA. How long  would it take for the USA military  to take action?...Get the picture?

    But this is not  to excuse the Israeli operation in Gaza. Israel does not need an excuse to do everything possible to survive a barbaric enemy which does not  recognize any Jewish person's right to live and breathe anywhere in the world. Period. Speaking of a war of survival....

    So what is  the answer? Will we  forever live under  the shadow of complete annihilation?

    The bible, a 3000 year old  book, describes  numerous incidents  in which nations  who  intended to  destroy Israel were completely destroyed. No doubt three millennium ago  we had a very violent beginning. Yet  one  can easily understand  that in these ancient times the  rules of war  were simple. Only one side survived, either Israel or their enemies. Nothing in between. (sound familiar?...) 

    But  the difference was that we were never  violent  people. We simply faced violent circumstances. In fact, from the first day of our exodus from Egypt we were taught to love freedom and protect it with all our might. Freedom for all nations. Freedom  also means peace for all.

    What is amazing in our evolvement  as a nation and as human beings is  that  despite all the violence  perpetrated upon us over the years, we never developed violent tendencies. This is true  throughout our history. Israel  is fighting to survive, not to destroy anyone.

    As our terrorist enemies admit, "The  Jews love life ( L'chaim...)"

    We also love Freedom and Justice - we always did.  

    But how is it that our spiritual  development  took such a different course than most of the ancient world? There are spiritual clues in the bible that provide the answer. On the surface the biblical "rules of engagement" are very clear, pragmatic and moral including do not rush to war, try to negotiate peace, fight only until your enemy surrenders, never engage non combatants in war activities.

    Over the centuries these basic humanitarian  rules have led to an  amazing leap in Jewish consciousness. You see, we recognize the Power of the Light of G-D within us, the Light of Peace and Love which is desperately yearning to eliminate evil and war  from the human mind and soul, to shift our  spiritual DNA  so no human being will ever worship  wickedness and  brutality.         

    Yes, Israel right now has to physically defend herself.  But by us also spiritually sending the Light of Love  and holding a vision of peace in our daily prayers we will trump evil! May the Light of our collective consciousness eliminate all darkness and suffering around the world!   



  • 18 Jul 2014 5:40 PM | Shirat Shalom (Administrator)


    From Cantor Lee 

    Last year after my fourth graders learned through the story of Jacob and Esau that the Hebrew word, “Israel” means “to struggle with G-d” and that the Jewish people are called the “Children of Israel,” one of my students was quite perplexed. “Why would we want to have a name like that if it means we have to struggle?  And why would G-d want us to struggle anyway?!” The brilliance of a fourth grader! This question is one that many adults have also asked me or Rabbi David over the years. With the fourth graders we had a lively discussion of what their daily struggles are such as bullies in school, sibling rivalry,  too much homework etc. and they came to the conclusion that G-d doesn’t want us to struggle but actually helps us with our struggles.

    When an adult asks this question or a related one such as “Why does G-d allow children or animals to suffer? ” I reply that the original plan did not include  evil or suffering or struggles.  However, the plan did include free will and that is where things went awry. G-d actually needs us to be co-creators with G-d and bring the world back to the original plan, a world of love and peace. Especially now with our beloved Israel having to defend herself,  such a world seems to be a distant dream.

    But the Jewish people are eternal optimists. As Rabbi David likes to say, we have been praying for peace for over two thousand years, three times a day. And in doing so, no matter what we have had to face, we  have kept this notion of peace alive in our consciousness. This is actually where co-creation with G-d begins, in our consciousness. Each  day I spend time in meditation and prayer  sending waves of Love and Peace to the entire Middle East.  There are many throughout the world doing the same, of all religions and cultures. There is much power with group prayer so I always set the intention that all our prayers will join together.  Perhaps you will add your daily prayer as well.  I hope so!

    From Rabbi David aka The Reb

    ..so Jacob is  about to meet  his  brother Esau  who, he thinks, is  about  to act on some 20  years of harboring hatred  and  feelings of revenge. He is  extremely worried  about the safety of his large family, especially when he is told that his brother is coming to meet  him with 400 soldiers. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a man comes and starts wrestling with him. Since Jacob is not one  to shy away from a fight, especially since he did not draw first blood, he  fights  with the stranger for hours.

    After a whole night of wrestling with Jacob and seeing that he is unable to overcome him, the stranger uses a divine power to severely injure Jacob’s thigh. Any other WWF wrestler would have quit. Not  Jacob!  He pins the man to the ground  and  refuses  to let go. The man is pleading:  “Let me go the sun is up!” Jacob  says, “I will not let you go until you bless me!”  The  strange man  change  Jacob’s name to “Israel” because,  he  tells  Jacob,  “You have  fought  with  G-D and man and you prevailed.” We  the Jews are the sons and  daughters of Israel, or simply, “Israel”.

    What a bizarre story! Why would  G-D  send an angle to wrestle  with  Jacob? Why wrestling at night, in the dark? Why  was  the angel afraid  to continue wrestling  with Jacob  in broad  daylight?  Why did  he  use his divine power  to try to win the fight –   an unfair use of his powers? And what kind of blessing is changing one’s name because he is a good wrestler?

    No doubt this story can only be understood as a symbolic occurrence.  Jacob’s story is our story. The Torah chose to show Jacob’s spiritual turbulence and  frustrations with his constant life struggles through a wrestling allegory. It is  a straight  forward message to Jacob and  to us. Our spiritual greatness will be achieved through struggle.  But why? Changing  our  imperfect  world into a peaceful world for all its inhabitants  means wrestling  and overcoming  our lower nature (testosterone, I suppose)

    It is G-D’s world  and man’s  nature. It is a Jewish task which has been going on for millennia here on  earth. It is  a destiny which was thrust upon our Father Jacob and upon us. Jacob and we did not choose to wrestle (he with an angel – we with violence and hatred)  We hate wars and killing but if war is what it takes to overcome evil then so be it.

    Jacob’s wrestling in the dark of night is a symbol of  us, the Jewish people, carrying the Light of Justice, Compassion and Peace into our imperfect world of   darkness. The angel asking Jacob  to release him  since it was almost daylight is a clear message to us to hold onto our Light of Peace through the long night of turmoil around the world which is gaining strength but  will be defeated. It cannot survive in the bright daylight of our hearts.

    I pray that that Israel’s endless struggle for peace in the Middle East will overcome  the sea of hatred around it . May this  war in Gaza  brings Jacob’s Morning Light to Israel and it’s neighbors. May all realize  the futility of hatred and  the pointlessness  of killing.  May all nations join us, the Jewish people,  in our wrestling match to truly make our world  heaven on earth for all mankind.


  • 11 Jul 2014 4:18 PM | Shirat Shalom (Administrator)
     

    From Cantor Lee 

    While waiting at Barnes and Noble for a meeting , I had chance to peruse through the  spirituality section. Wow, there were quite a number of books!! Leafing through several brought up the topic of gratitude including tips on how to develop a gratitude practice.

    I  follow the Jewish tradition of reciting the Hebrew prayer, Modah Ani (Modeh Ani for a male) first thing in the morning.  It is actually a prayer that gives thanks for having our soul returned to us. I love the way the Hebrew words sound and go throughout the day just singing the three words Modah Ani L’fanecha  – “I give thanks before You,” as part of my personal gratitude practice. At night before I go to sleep I think of all the things that happened during the day for which I can say thank you. When I am in my journaling mood which is on and off, I write them down.

    Of course it is much easier to be grateful when things are going well! But that is the whole point of a “practice.”  We practice when things are going well so we when we really need it, it actually works! And yes, throughout the years, I have discovered that being grateful does make a difference especially when life seems to be throwing some curve balls. 

    For me a gratitude practice  brings me to a Higher Place, the place of connection to the Divine, to G-d. In this place, I am uplifted and filled with Peace which then radiates out to world.

    From Rabbi David aka “The Reb”  

    One  of  the most powerful Jewish  paradigms is the ability to deeply appreciate the  world around us. It is  the understanding  that  nothing  should be taken for granted, the  simplest natural occurrence, the most basic bodily function, the smallest of creatures, the  grass in the field,  the trees,  the flowers, anything we can  think of is a marvel which  deserves our appreciation and admiration.  This kind of understanding is a gate to  the highest spiritual discourse a human being can achieve. The first thought that should enter our mind when we first open  our eyes in the morning  is a prelude to a day blessed with expressions of appreciation.

    Upon  opening our eye we recite:  Modeh Ani L’fanecha…”I thank you, Master of life and subsistence  for returning my soul to me with much compassion”.  One  immediately washes the hands. This is  a symbolic  spiritual  cleansing of the body so that it can receive back the soul which is being lent to us every morning for the day. What  a powerful notion: Our soul is a gift  which we receive every morning with much  joy and appreciation to watch over, to love and cherish.



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