שירת שלום

Song of Peace

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  • 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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