Song of Peace
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!
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!
..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.
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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