Song of Peace
Nov. 27, 2022 The Torah portion for this week is called Vayetzei which translates as “He went out.” It includes the famous story of Jacob’s Ladder. *
Jacob is now journeying to his uncle’s home after deceiving his father and brother in order to receive the all powerful first born blessing which entitles him to inherit the leadership of the family.
He stops in the desert to sleep and has a very vivid dream of a ladder going up to heaven with angels traveling up and down the ladder. He finds himself at the top of the ladder where G-D speaks to him.
He is very much in awe of his experience expressing that G-D was in this place and he didn’t know it. He pours oil on the stone he used as a pillow sanctifying the place with the name, Beth El, House of G-d.
To understand this story we need to be aware of Jacob's emotional state as he travels to an unknown place where his mother's family lives. He is scared that his brother may be following him in order to kill him. He is scared to be alone on a dangerous road. He is frustrated from suffering the consequences of deceiving his old father due to his mother urging him to do so.
Through Jacob's vivid dream, G-D demonstrates that even though Jacob is struggling emotionally, he is not alone, that G-D is always with him.
There are many interpretations of the ladder that can help us in our lives. One is that it represents the corridor to ascend into a divine space where communication with G-D can take place. We travel up the corridor through meditation, dreams, prayer or by being in a higher state or vibration.
The ladder is also a metaphor for our spiritual journeys throughout life. The angels are actually us, the Divine aspects of ourselves housed in a physical body. There are times when we are ascending and more easily living in a higher state aligned with our angelic or Divine aspects and times when we are in a lower state. We always have the option to ascend.
The ladder also shows us that Heaven and Earth are connected. Our task as Jewish people has always been to bring heaven to earth.
By tapping into or aligning with the energy of Vaytzei, we become more mindful of where we are on our own rungs of our personal ladders.
* Every week a section of the Torah is read throughout the week. There are always many levels of understanding with each week's portion. The Torah portions also have energies that can be utilized to help us navigate though our daily lives not only during the week the specific portion is read but any time it is needed.
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From Cantor Lee: With Thanksgiving this past week, gratitude and blessings has certainly been a theme. As Rabbi David has shared previously the rabbis put into place that we say 100 blessings a day.
This helps us to align with the Divine part of us and live in a higher consciousness. The daily practice of being in the higher state also helps us more easily navigate through difficult circumstances.
We received some questions about the 100 blessings so here is further information:
From Rabbi David: It is taught that in the time of King David, 3,000 years ago, a plague broke out killing 100 people every day. Realizing that the plague had a spiritual cause, the sages of that time instituted a "measure for measure" response: the saying of 100 blessings each day. Once implemented, the plague stopped.
Each blessing was said to save a soul from a plague reminding us that blessings are also powerful spiritual remedies to fight plagues, or any disease as well as to preserve life. They of course also help us have a spiritually fulfilled life.
Our life is like a tug of war between our negative experiences and the positive ones. Our negative experiences are very powerful and can pull us down to a negative outlook on life, even despair and the inability to function properly.
Reciting blessings is a wonderful way to appreciate the secret gift of life. They are actually a portal to the Infinite and have been used as such for thousands of years.
It’s like “calling in the calvary” to effectively transmute any negativity that may be within us.
There is a misconception however about the way a blessing works. The general formula which usually starts with “Baruch Atah Adonai,” “Blessed are you Adonai (G-D)” clearly indicates that while we are the ones who bestow the blessing we are actually blessing G-D for the item being blessed whether it is food, nature or a special event.
With people we directly ask G-d to bless them such as May G-d bless you and bring you peace.
However you say a blessing, it all counts as part of the 100 per day!
Shalom, Rabbi David & Cantor Lee
The Torah portion for this week is called Toldot which translates as generations or genealogy. * It tells the story of two twin brothers and the struggle between them which actually begins in the womb. The older is Esau, a hunter, and according to the customs at that time will inherit the leadership of the family as first born. Jacob, the younger twin, has a gentle nature and is drawn more to spiritual matters.
However, Jacob under his mother’s direction deceives his blind father, Isaac, by dressing up as Esau to receive the firstborn blessing. He will now receive the mantle of leadership. When Esau discovers what has occurred, he plans to kill his brother. Jacob leaves his home to escape the wrath of his brother.
Although there is so much to discuss with this story on many different levels, the deeper meaning of Jacob and Esau refers to the forces within each of us. Esau represents the ego and bodily desires and Jacob represents the part of us aligned with Divine Will. The “firstborn” represents the one who is in charge.
Each moment we can choose who is “in charge.” Is it the spiritual part of us that lives in a higher consciousness of the heart or the lower which is ruled by the ego and our materialistic desires?
Both of these inner forces need to work with each other. The body needs the soul and the soul needs the body to live on earth. Jacob shows us how his struggle with his brother is really about the struggle with keeping his higher consciousness in charge.
By tapping into or asking to align with this week’s Torah portion we can receive help to become mindful of who is “the firstborn, the one in charge” at each moment.
The traditional Jewish prayers that are said each morning are actually meant to set the tone for the day so we do live in that “higher place.” Upon rising Modeh Ani, "I give thanks before thee," is recited. The rabbis also put into place that we say 100 blessings a day. This helps us to align with the Divine part of us and live in that higher consciousness.
Science and religion are certainly coming together with gratitude being recommended by psychologists. You even see it in the magazine headlines while waiting in the grocery store lines!
With Thanksgiving this week, using gratitude to stay aligned with our Divine Selves is certainly a beautiful gift for all of us.
Shalom, Rabbi David
* Every week in Judaism a section of the Torah is read. There are always many levels of understanding with each week's portion. The Torah portions also have energies that can be utilized to help us navigate though our daily lives not only during the week the specific portion is read but any time it is needed.
From Rabbi David: The Torah portion for this week is Chayei Sara, The Life of Sara. The portion begins with the death of Sara who dies at the age of 127 in the Land of Canaan. Abraham deeply mourns his beloved Sara. Needing to bury her he purchases the Cave of Machpelah from a local Hittite, paying the asking price without bargaining. This allows him to be fully independent without being beholden to the burial traditions of others.
This portion is the first time burial is mentioned in the Torah. Our traditional Jewish values of burial and mourning actually come from this text. Just with the title, “The Life of Sara” we learn the necessity of needing to honor the life of one who has passed. We also learn the importance of having a period of mourning.
The portion goes on to describe finding a wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac. Abraham sends his servant back to his homeland to find a wife from his tribe. The servant asks for a sign from G-d to choose the best wife, one who offers him a sip of water from the well. A cousin to Isaac, Rebecca, not only offers to give the servant water but his camels as well. The servant takes her back to the land of Canaan to be Isaac’s wife.
From Cantor Lee: Rabbi David and I have officiated so many funerals over the years. Each one is a reminder of what is really important. In the end all that matters is how we treated and loved others. The Torah gives us this message by emphasizing the kindness of Rebecca. This has also shaped us as Jewish people with kindness being a core value.
In tapping into the energy of this week’s Torah portion which began Saturday at sundown, it didn’t surprise me that we had a funeral on Sunday. One of the granddaughters, our former Bat Mitzvah, spoke with tears of how her grandmother’s love had such an impact on her life.
This week Rabbi David and I will be paying attention to the teachings and energy of Chayei Sara, the Life of Sarah, and especially to our core value of kindness which is a manifestation of Love. Are we being kind in our thoughts, words and actions? To ourselves and others? Are we doing the same with those who think differently than we do?
Tapping into or asking to align with the energy of Chayi Sara can also help to further bring kindness into our lives for ourselves and others. So we are taking advantage of it!! Hope you will too!
Love, Rabbi David and Cantor Lee
This past week’s Torah portion, Lech L’cha, is one Rabbi David refers to at every Bar and Bat Mitzvah service. Abraham is told by G-d to ” go to the land I will show you and you will be a blessing.” We use these same Hebrew words to call to our B’nai Mitzvah teens to begin their journey into Jewish adulthood.
I always smile when we ask the younger children if they can guess today’s name of the land which was called Canaan 3,700 years ago. Most are puzzled but there are always a couple who hesitantly ask, “Is it Israel?”
As we get older, “the land I will show you” takes on a deeper meaning, referring to our spiritual journeys to reach the “promised land” where we live in a state of inner peace aligned with our Divine Selves. The Torah acknowledges there are struggles along the way and not only helps us navigate through these times with her teachings but also with the energies that radiate out from each specific Torah portion.
I always like to tune into the energy of each week’s portion which officially begins at sundown Saturday evening. During the Shabbat afternoon service we actually chant from the new portion.
This week’s portion, Vayera, “And He Appeared” is the story of Abraham welcoming three strangers into his tent not knowing they are angels. They bring a message that Abraham and Sara are going to have a baby. This portion also includes the casting out of Sara’s handmaiden, Hagar and her son, Ishmael. Hagar was given to Abraham so he could father a baby when Sara couldn’t get pregnant.
I was pretty amazed that our Nov. 11th webinar, “Healing the Wounds of War” is during this week’s Torah portion as the story of Sara and Hagar is all about carrying wounds that need to be healed. But that is the way G-d and the Torah works!
Sara and Hagar actually represent the inner parts of us. We have all had times we have experienced rejection and times we have rejected others whether it is from jealousy, judgment, low self esteem or other reasons. As with all our various wounds, both sides of rejection are a result of being separated from our Divine Selves.
During our webinar we will be partnering with G-d to clear and thus heal these wounds which manifest within us as energy blockages. So please join us!
I especially love the teaching about angels in Vayera. As our Bat Mitzvah yesterday afternoon explained, the word angel in Hebrew, mal’ach, translates as messenger. The Torah teaches us that G-d not only uses heavenly beings to bring messages but us as well! We therefore need to treat each person we encounter as an angel.
May we all have many angels appear in our lives and be open to receiving their messages!
It is a question that I have asked for as long as I can remember, even as a child. I come from a country that knows war, Israel. My earliest memories at the age of three are of the sirens and the windows that needed to be darkened. I suppose the question was implanted then. Can this stop? Can there be Peace?
I served in the 1973 War. I know first hand what it is to carry the wounds of the horrors of war. And still the question has remained. Can there ever be Peace? Perhaps that is why I became a rabbi. I knew deep within there is a way we can bring forth peace.
That opportunity is being given to us now. We are being told by our Divine partners that the first step is to heal the wounds of war that each one of us carries whether one has experienced physical war or not. For there are the wounds from our own personal inner wars, the wounds from wars of other lifetimes, the wounds we have absorbed from each other.
Still the question remains. Is it truly possible to heal these wounds? I have personally experienced the transmission of these heavenly energies in preparation for the November 11th webinar, “Healing the Wounds of War.” I can tell you it is.
It is time. You are being called. We all are. Please join us on Veterans Day, Remembrance Day. Let us not only honor our veterans and our inner veterans, let us heal our wounds from war and bring forth a World of Peace. And that my friends, is a gift beyond measure!
Update: The 11-11 webinar was beautiful and powerful. You can still watch the recording on any date and receive the healing transmissions! Sign up here
From Cantor Lee: There is a line from a song that keeps going through my mind. Folk singer Joan Baez sang it: "There but for fortune go you or I."
We have a "piyyut," a liturgical song, which we sing during the High Holy Days: "B'Rosh Hashanah." We say the same thing: "Who shall die by fire and who by water..."
From Rabbi David: Here we are a few days before Yom Kippur, experiencing such a powerful message. Yet again we are reminded how vulnerable we are living on our mother Earth. All we can do is plan for tomorrow and hope for the best. Tomorrow can turn upside down on us in a matter of minutes. A few days ago many victims of Hurricane Ian along with all of us had no idea about the devastation that was lurking on our west shores waiting to pounce.
We go about our life, doing the best we can for our families, our community, hoping for no surprises, no crises but sometimes things happen which are beyond our control. There is a Yiddish expression, man plans and G-D laughs.
So is the Ian mass devastation some kind of punishment? What did the poor victims do to deserve such hardship? Of course this is not a punishment! Nothing wrong was done to deserve such a catastrophe. We still ask Why? We want logical reasons. I don’t know of any logic for this or, for that matter, for any other suffering that we sometimes are made to endure. There is an unsatisfactory answer that I can think of: such is life.
Life is not perfect. We all know that. So in a few days when we gather to offer the Old Mighty our prayers for Yom Kippur, we are asking to be spared of that which is beyond our control, not because we think it is coming to us for wrong doing. Maybe because we, G-D’s creations, are living in such an unpredictable, unstable outer world on mother earth and in our inner world, our fragile body. This is just the way life is, I suppose.
But yet when we look at the last line in the piyyut it seems not only are we are given an answer but we are the answer!
“But with turning and yearning and caring we can temper the harshness of the decree…”
We are the answer with the compassion, comfort and help we bring to all in need. Perhaps this is why we sing “B’Rosh Hashanah." So we can remember that this is the basis of who we are as Jewish people, a people of compassion here to bring G-d's Light into our unpredictable world. And so it is.
G’mar Chatima Tova,
May we all be sealed for a good year!
Rabbi David and Cantor Lee
Hearing the shofar blown every year on Rosh Hashanah is something that we really can’t describe. For it touches the deepest parts of us.
One of the names the Torah uses for Rosh Hashana is Yom Teruah, the Day of Sounding the Shofar. Hearing the blasts of the shofar is a call to repentance, a wake up call stirring us to take action.
In the mystical teachings we learn that the vibrations of the sounds affect the levels of three of our soul dimensions called our Nefesh, Ruach and Neshama, bringing healing and alignment with our Divine purpose. As Jewish people this is Tikun Olam, repairing the world.
The shofar call also announces the coronation of G-d as king. It is interesting to note that during Biblical days when the Israelites clamored for a king, G-d didn’t like the idea. A king would only be allowed if he was in partnership with G-d and thus was chosen accordingly.
As we read about in the Book of Kings, when the various kings strayed from this partnership there were consequences. These stories are a reminder that we are all actually kings and queens in partnership with G-d. The sounding of the shofar reminds us to take action so our daily lives reflect this Divine Partnership.
We are looking forward to being together during the High Holy Days when we all hear the sounding of the Shofar. Once again our children and teens will be participating in the Shofar March up to the bimah, a highlight for all of us!
May the shofar blasts bring all people throughout our world a year of Health, Peace, Joy and Prosperity!
From Cantor Lee
Here's to Tu B'Av, the Holiday of Love! I know, you probably haven’t even heard of this holiday! I certainly didn’t growing up! But yes, we have a Jewish Valentines Day! In Biblical Days the maidens would dress in white and dance in the vineyards of Jerusalem, the idea being to find their soulmate. In modern times we really don’t have rituals to celebrate Tu B’Av so people are creating their own celebrations including community gatherings or just giving loved ones an additional “I love you” during the day.
Love is actually already a huge theme in Judaism. When we follow the prayer book for Shabbat or weekdays, a whole section is devoted to prayers about Love. The prayer, “V’ahavtah,” “You Shall Love,” is inside our mezuzzahs and is traditionally used as a bedtime prayer for children. The Hebrew word for Love, “A-ha-vah” has much power and is used in Kabbalistic Healing. It isn’t an accident that each syllable has an “Ah” sound which is the universal vowel sound for our hearts. What do we do when we see a baby or a puppy? AAhh……… And our hearts open…
In honor of Tu B'Av, I decided I too would create my own personal observance to celebrate the holiday. I asked myself, “How can I connect to the Love energy of the holiday? How can I bring more Love into the world?”
After some thought I decided the focus for my personal observance would be Loving everything that came into my awareness. I already have a mindfulness practice of gratitude and would just add “I Love You.” So for example when walking up steps… I might say, “Thank you feet, I love you. Thank you shoes, I love you, Thank you steps, I love you, Thank you sound of walking, I love you…etc.”
I was quite happy with this idea and called my friend to discuss it. I told her, “Not only will this connect me to the increased energy of Love from the holiday, but it will bring more Love into the world!” (Yes, it really is true that whatever we do personally does energetically affect others.)
My friend wasn’t so sure. “Thank and Love everything? What if you experience someone with road rage or read about something on FB that upsets you” I answered, “If that comes into my awareness on Tu B’Av, I will be very grateful. It just means G-d is asking me to be the instrument to send Love to the situation.”
My friend replied, “That is really a good answer!” I just smiled and thought, “Love is always the answer!”
Happy Tu B’Av! Thank you, I Love you!
From Rabbi David:
The 15th day of the month of Av, Tu B’Av, the Holiday of Love, is a little known yet very significant Jewish holiday. It is considered to be the highpoint of the year energetically and spiritually. This year it begins sundown August 111th and goes to sundown Aug. 12th. While it does not have any specific religious ceremonies associated with it other than the omission of one particular prayer, it is considered a very festive and happy occasion. It originated during the second temple when Jews returned from their Babylon exile and Judea was just a small province within the Greek empire and later on within the Roman empire.
The holiday is an happy celebration of the first day of the grape harvest as well as a biblical occasion which has to do with celebrating women’s specific biblical marriage rights. It therefore became a happy celebration of love and marriage.
The 15th day of Av, is also the time of the full moon which in Jewish tradition brings hope and festive feelings. It therefore became an antidote to the national yearly mourning day of the 9th of Av, Tisha B’Av, the day the Temple was destroyed which is observed six days earlier.
According to a biblical prophetic description, love and marriage is also a symbol of a national redemption in which Judea will flourish again. “The joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides will be heard again, along with the joyous songs of people bringing thanksgiving offerings to the LORD , Jeremiah 33:11” The holiday of the 15th of Av combines both the redemption from the disaster of 9th of Av with the celebration of love and marriage, so much so that it is considered the happiest of all holidays.
In modern day Israel Tu B’Av is known as the Holiday of Love and is an auspicious time for weddings and finding one’s soul mate. In Biblical days unmarried women would wear white dresses and dance together in the vineyards of Jerusalem while young men would choose brides for themselves.
So in that spirit , I am inviting all the single young ladies of our congregation to dress in white on the 15 day of the month of Av and dance. Since we do not have vineyards around us, the streets of Boca Raton will do just fine... According to the tradition it would be a great way to find one's True Love...
May we all be blessed with an abundance of Love!
With the school shooting this week, people are reeling everywhere. How can this be? When will it stop? We are already dealing with the Ukraine, the shortage of baby formula, the effects of Covid. These are our innocent children!
And so of course, people are finding ways to express themselves. There is a facebook post making the rounds which has two sentences written on it: Thoughts and Prayers. Policy and Change.
But “Thoughts and Prayers” are crossed out with a line going through the words. The message (which isn't new) is that thoughts and prayers offered by politicians are not a substitute for action.
While I understand the anguish that has led to this post, by crossing out “Thoughts and Prayers” a message is ALSO being sent to the universe to not help us. It is the way things work in the spiritual realms. We have been given free will which means we can only receive help if we ask.
In this case the message received by the heavenly realms is even stronger - “Don't help us!” And the more that people focus on those crossed out words the stronger it gets. This is the power of the written word. Another way the universe works.
I cannot imagine taking any steps without partnering with G-d. And I can’t imagine not offering my thoughts and prayers to all who are suffering. I know the power of prayer. But I also know that prayer has to be in conjunction with action.
There is a beautiful teaching from "Pirkei Avot," "Sayings of the Fathers" from 2500 hundred years ago that the world rests on three things:
Torah or Teachings, which refers to instructions for living at a higher consciousness
Avodah, which is service of the heart and refers to our prayers
Gimilut Chassidim which are our mitzvot -acts of human kindness to be taken in the physical world
All three are needed. So let us put “Thoughts and Prayers Back In!” which is the pillar of Avodah. May these thoughts and prayers not only help all who are suffering but also bring us Divine Inspiration of how to move forward with physical solutions.
And may the legacy of these children be that in partnership with G-d, we create a safe world for all.
Shalom Peace Prayer
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