Song of Peace
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!
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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
I was just a young kid in the year of 1967. It a year that will be etched forever in Israel’s national memories. What happened in June that year was in the eyes of many, a real miracle performed by G-D. Of course the power, daring and resourcefulness of the Israel Defense Forces stunned the world.
On June 7th, 1967, elite Israeli paratroopers broke into the old city of Jerusalem. Within their midst was a reporter from the Voice of Israel, the national radio station. He was describing the unfolding events as they were happening.
I remember hearing bullet whistles and the sound of automatic weapons as he was running forward with the soldiers breaking into the lions gate which leads into the old city.
What happened in the next hour or so is the experience for which our great great grandparents have prayed for over 2,000 years. We, the people of Israel at the time, were lucky and privileged to witness it.
The reporter, running as fast as he could to avoid being killed, found his way along with many others into the “Kotel”, the wailing wall. As he was running, describing the chaos around him, he suddenly stopped.
A few seconds later his voice started shaking. The entire country with ears glued to the radio (there was no Israeli TV at that time) heard the reporter crying.
As he approached the Kotel he was describing literally through his tears how battle fatigued paratroopers were standing in front of the holy wall, kissing it and crying along with him.
The entire country listening to the broadcast was crying as well. Suddenly, the sound of a shofar pierced the microphone. Rabbi Goren, chief rabbi of the IDF, was blowing it over and over again.
The famous song, “Yerushalayim shel Zahav” Jerusalem of Gold”, which proclaims our deep yearning to return to our beloved old city of Jerusalem was now being sung. Soldiers all around the Kotel were singing it as loudly as they possibly could with their tired, scratchy voices.
And we kept crying. All of us. The entire country was crying.
On May 29th, 2022 the 28th day of Iyyar, it will be 55 years since that once in a two millennia event. But in my heart and in my mind it happened yesterday.
We the Jewish people have always shared Jerusalem with all religions who wish to worship there and have protected their right to do so. For we understand it is a holy city for many.
But for us it is even more than a holy city. Jerusalem IS the Jewish people. It is our city, our soul and will be in our hearts and hands now and forever.
When Kailyn, one of our Bat Mitzvah students, told me the theme was butterflies, I was so excited! “You can give all the guests milkweed seed packets,“ I told her!“ The plants help the monarch butterflies from going extinct!”
I didn’t make the connection of the butterflies to Eva though, until the Friday eve dinner. Eva was a child with whom Kailyn was not only sharing her Bat Mitzvah, but she was also making a commitment to always remember her.
You see, Eva never had a chance to come of age. She perished during the Holocaust in Auschwitz at the age of eight.
As we all sat around the table talking of Kailyn’s absolute love and obsession with butterflies and of Eva, Rabbi David added that butterflies have become the symbol of the Holocaust." It represents freedom,” he told the family. “It became a a symbol due to the famous poem, 'I Never Saw Another Butterfly,' written by Pavel Friedman, a young Czech poet while in the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp.
The Butterfly (English translation)The last, the very last,So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow.Perhaps if the sun's tears would singagainst a white stone. . . .Such, such a yellowIs carried lightly 'way up high.It went away I'm sure because it wished tokiss the world good-bye.For seven weeks I've lived in here,Penned up inside this ghetto.But I have found what I love here.The dandelions call to meAnd the white chestnut branches in the court.Only I never saw another butterfly.That butterfly was the last one.Butterflies don't live in here,in the ghetto.
The day of the service, butterflies were everywhere. On Kailyn’s dress, her jewelry, the challah cover, her tallit, the decorations.
As Eva's spirit entered the room, we were all so heart touched by her presence! I silently told her to please bring the butterflies to all the children who had died with her.
The next morning I decided to write about this experience and began thinking about what I would write. As I walked outside there was a monarch butterfly on the grass. “Is it hurt?” I asked Rabbi David.
As we looked closer we could see two butterflies were there. He gently scooped his hand underneath them so they could fly. They did so for a few seconds but then came back to the grass. And so we watched for them for awhile.
Rabbi David again scooped his hand underneath them and this time they flew off with one butterfly holding the other. As they continued to fly I said, “It wasn’t the last butterfly. The children can see butterflies again.”
Later on I learned that the two butterflies were mating. But I knew why they really came. And I could feel Eva smiling….
Here is the brochure Kailyn designed about Eva:
Here is Kailyn:
When G-D created the universe he wanted holiness, Godliness, to be a part of his creation. The first thing he did was create Light.
The rabbis ask why did G-D have to actually say “Yehi Or “ Let there be Light?” He could have created the Light of Holiness just by simply thinking about it.
But G-d decided to use Hebrew words for creating the Divine Light which was then used to create everything else. Imagine how powerful these words are. They were used to create our universe!
This is why our Torah is written in Hebrew and why our blessings and prayers when done in Hebrew are so powerful.
In order to adapt Lashon Kodesh, our holy language, as a spoken language, it could only flourish in a holy place in G-D’s chosen land. Therefore it was only spoken in ancient Judea and Israel. Outside the land of Israel, Jewish people would speak the language of the host country and only use Hebrew for prayer as well as Jewish related poetry and religious commentary.
Over the many centuries, spoken Hebrew outside of the Biblical context became extremely limited and very unsuited as a spoken language especially in a world becoming modernized over the centuries.
When I recently read Jewish related text from the early 19th century I had to chuckle with how the author tried to adapt Biblical Hebrew to non religious topics.
Things changed with the return of the Jewish people to our homeland. The awakening of Jewish national feelings among young Zionists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries breathed new life to the old forgotten Hebrew. A few young men who were fanatics to the cause began to rehabilitate Hebrew by adding the necessary modern words and expressions to this Biblical language.
Among them was Eliezer Ben Yehuda who is considered to be the father of modern Hebrew, and who created the first modern Hebrew dictionary by literally inventing thousands of new modern words while always trying to stay as true as possible to Biblical sources. His lifetime project was carried on by Israel’s national poets, such as Chaim Nachman Bialik and others who in order to enrich their Hebrew poems, created thousands of new words as well.
As the land of Israel began to awaken through the hard work and the dedication of the young Jewish pioneers of the early 20th century the Hebrew language reshaped itself back to the way it was thousands of years ago- a holy language which was used as a day to day national language.
This process was not easy. Hebrew was still a limited language and only by the fanaticism and sheer determination of the early pioneers it began to be spoken by more and more European pioneers.
I remember a story my mother told me when she was a little girl coming from the US to Israel in the early 30’s. On the first day of school when asked for her name she replied “Annette”. The teacher was visibly upset. She called my grandmother to school and told her in Yiddish (at that time my grandmother still did not understand Hebrew) in a less than polite way, that “here we speak only Hebrew and her name is Chanah, absolutely not Annette”.
So, are we diluting Hebrew from its divinity by using it as a national spoken language?
To begin with, Hebrew is who we are. It is part of our identity. We were referred to as “Hebrews” for many centuries. One can not deny our national identity as Jews if Jews all over the world share the same language.
The Hebrew language is like wearing a kippah. Even in a mundane, day to day life it constantly reminds us of our spiritual obligation to G-D, our obligation to be a Light unto the Nations.
Part of our obligation of being a Light unto the Nations is to keep learning and why Torah Study which encompasses all of our teachings is so paramount to our spiritual growth.
During our upcoming workshop this Sunday, we will be delving into the power of the Hebrew letter, Shin, which brings protection, healing and inner/outer Peace not only for us but for others when we learn to harness its Light. We are all familiar with Shin as it is on every mezuzzah.
I hope you will join us this Sunday May 1st, 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. Register Here
When Jacob’s family, 75 members strong left for Egypt to the fertile land of Goshen, they went to meet their beloved Joseph, now a powerful leader only second in command to the Pharaoh, in order to ride out the famine in Canaan. They could have returned back to their home land once the famine was over they did not. After all, their brother was the ruler of the land.
The members of the family could have returned to Canaan once Joseph died some 40 years or so. There was no reason to stay any more. They still did not. We know the rest of the story of course.
From a bird’s eye view it seems that the reason for staying was a Divine Will to create a yearning and struggle for freedom among the Hebrew slaves a few centuries later. But whose struggle was it?
When Moses first returned to Egypt and announced that he will free the slaves the Hebrews ridiculed him as a strange dreamer. Yet they cried out to G-D to save them from their suffering. A great struggle for freedom ensued.
But was it really a human struggle for freedom? Was it one nation’s war against tyranny and enslavement? Remember that the Israelites were totally passive in their bid for freedom as if it wasn’t their fight. In fact, as the Torah demonstrates several times later on in the desert, some of them were quite content remaining slaves.
This is in fact a story of a Divine fight for human freedom but not a human struggle.
So let me understand this. The Old Mighty makes the Hebrews stay in Egypt after the death of Joseph with no good reason, then causes them to become slaves and then fights the pharaoh to free them. What a strange sequence of events!
When G-D created humans he got directly involved in the act. He did not command it to happen like he did for all other animals. Rather, he himself physically made a human shape from the dirt of the earth and breathed life into it. The human being is so close to Godliness that the Holy One, G-D felt the need to make Adam with his “Bare hands”
The idea that the Passover freedom struggle is a Divine war against oppression for the sake of mankind is the same as the idea of human creation. When Moses finally yanked the Israelites out of Pharaoh’s grip, the message to mankind through the Hebrews and us, their descendants was profound, that human freedom is our fundamental right. G-d implanted this within us through the ancient struggle with a tyrant Pharaoh. No one can take it away from us. It is basic to our existence.
Passover is the time when we remember that the Light of Freedom and Decency was put in the Jewish heart and soul some 3,300 years ago to watch over and keep alive in a world that would despise freedom for many centuries to come.
We are still carrying it in our hearts. Our children inherit it from us to keep it safe in their hearts until such time that peace and freedom will no longer be in our prayers but in our world.
May it be so this Passover!
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