Field of Unrealized Potential

I so love this time of year. The feelings of possibility, newness, and change that come with the fall have always made it my favorite season. It was only really after I started learning more in Israel that I came to appreciate the cycle of the Jewish calendar and how it so accurately reflects and prompts our inherent needs for growth.

We have entered the Hebrew month of Elul and are approaching the High Holidays – The Days of Awe. I wanted to share a bit of Torah around this time of year from a great teacher of mine, Rabbi Mike Feuer, in hopes that his words and explanation of the potential we can tap into will inspire you as well. This is what I’m thinking about these days.


“But there is another type of field, the quantum field of unrealized potentials, of possible futures waiting to be. It offers freedom of self, identity unbounded by the personality I have constructed to cope with the past and serve me in the present. How is it possible to leave my failings in last year if I don’t know what I look like in the next?

This is our national problem and our personal problem – we don’t know who we want to be. We can’t defeat Hamas because we don’t know what victory looks like, we can’t build a just society because we don’t imagine justice. And I can’t let go of my flaws because I can’t imagine my healthy spiritual self.

Even if we can imagine it, we are afraid to believe in our possible future. We are stuck in a “Newtonian” conception of the universe, and of our lives, which undermines our ability to change. We think we are playing out the inexorable results of initial starting conditions, that what is flows only from what was, and wholly defines what will be.

To enter into Elul is to step out into the field of dreams. To imagine redemption, envision spiritual wholeness, evoke national realization. To touch the prophet within, awakening the purity of connection to Gd and self unleashed at Sinai.”

(Read more here)


 

What would you reach for if you weren’t afraid of failure? Can you envision your highest self?

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Only in Israel

moving

After Maor was born, we decided to start looking for a bigger apartment. We felt both excited and hesitant to leave the space that had become our home for almost two years but also knew that moving would allow us necessary room to grow. We found our new apartment pretty quickly after seeing an ad posted online. I came to see the place and loved the size (a two bedroom instead of our studio seemed like a huge upgrade!) and how it was filled to the brim with light from three sides of the building. Ben came to see the place the next day and, after comparing with a few more places, we decided this one suited our needs best. The landlord agreed to send us the lease and told us to look it over and made any additions we felt necessary.

When we received the lease, Ben read it over and told me there was something I needed to read for myself. I told him I wasn’t really interested (time to read with a newborn around is very precious and I didn’t much feel like spending it reading legal jargon) but he insisted and pointed me to the end of the lease. As my eyes skimmed over the last few clauses, I did a double take upon reading the word “Messiah.” Sleep deprivation had been setting in so it wasn’t out of the question that I could be hallucinating. I read it again and realized I was not, in fact, mistaken. The clause read, “Upon the coming of the messiah, tenants agree to vacate the apartment within 15 days.” Period. As if this were a completely normal request and subject to appear in a rental agreement! The owners of the property live in America and apparently want to make sure they have a place in the holy city upon the arrival of the messiah. Seems reasonable, right?

At first we laughed at the silliness of two worlds colliding – our religious beliefs and legal contract. The spiritual and physical realms. Then I started thinking about what this could mean. “But Ben, what if Mashiach (the messiah) DOES come and then we have no where to live because everyone is trying to come to Jerusalem? And what does this say about the landlords? That their first act of this messianic era will be to evict their tenants so they have a place for themselves? And what if they belong to some fringe sect and think Mashiach is their cousin’s dog?” It was not comforting, to say the least. We went through many scenarios during the conversation, both chuckling at envisioning this seemingly far off reality and then questioning our own religious beliefs and their applications in our lives. It is what we are praying for, right? A basic tenet of Judaism being that we are eagerly awaiting and trying to bring Mashiach “speedily, in our days.” Honestly, It’s always been too huge a concept for me to wrap my head around I’m embarrassed to admit. One of those massive ideas I’ve come to terms with not fully grasping and deciding to table for the time being. But why not believe it could happen at any moment? This conversation went on for a while.

Finally, we agreed that defining the terms in the lease would make the most sense and set us a little more at ease. We told the landlord that we’d like to add in, just to be sure, that it must be the messiah as agreed upon by Clal Yisrael (the majority of the Jewish people). He laughed out loud and said, “Yes, of course.. come on, we’re not crazy!”

Follow up: Great article by Yehoshua Looks on the legality of the Messiah Clause: http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/rabbis-round-table/.premium-1.573886

(click here to get behind the paywall: http://bit.ly/1bMmuYY )

Soften into Freedom

Soften

Photo by James Chororos

A Yogic Experience for Rosh Chodesh Nissan

“The image is a warm spring wind steadily dissolving winter ice. This is meant to teach us that it is through perseverance and gentleness – rather than aggressiveness – that we overcome what is hard.”
– Brian Browne Walker

As you begin your practice, come into a comfortable seated position. Bring awareness to your breath and let your mind begin to settle. Start to take deep, full, cleansing breaths. Take note of any areas of tension or discomfort in your body, without judgement or resistance. As you start to feel more connected to this posture and your body in the present moment, bring the image mentioned above into your mind. Connect to your breath and feel it moving within and throughout your body. Allow the breath to be the warm, spring wind, moving to the areas of tension, melting them away. As you try to soften in that place, visualize the rough chips of ice melting away. Breathe. Connect. Soften. Repeat in whatever yoga poses you come into throughout your practice.

———

I love this image, especially for Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the beginning of the Jewish calendar. True, we have more than one new year. While Rosh Hashana, in the month of Tishrei, is thought of as the anniversary of creation of the world, Nissan, most noted for the holiday of Pesach (Passover), is thought of as the anniversary for the creation of Jewish people. Pesach commemorates the Jew’s being taken out of slavery in Mitzrayim (coming from the word for narrow, meaning Egypt) in order to become G!d’s nation. Rightly so, the month of Nisan is full of references to feelings of breaking out of our enslavements – both external and internal. We don’t eat any chametz (leavened bread products) during this time as we associate them with ego, arrogance, and pride – the ways of Mitzrayim from which we’ve broken free. We have a Pesach Seder in order to retell and re-experience our story with the younger generations and in order to experience the transition from slavery to freedom within ourselves each year. We eat matzah both at the seder and throughout the week in order to cleanse ourselves of this negative, prideful ego and, in turn, move toward freeing ourselves.

I could go on for hours about all of the depth and richness of this holiday and time of year. It struck me in a new way today, however, when I was thinking about this warmth melting coldness, the idea of softening in relation to Nisan and Pesach. So often in life, especially in my life in Israel, I feel the opposite reaction happening in and around me – hardening, strengthening through agression, jagged perseverance. I wonder how much more I could progress and persevere in the long run if, instead, I tried to transform that built up agression into softening. Move from slavery into freedom by allowing the ice to melt away to reveal the true strength within. After all, it was enduring inner-strength and a relationship to that which is true that got us out of Egypt.

This idea refreshed me as I walked through the park today with the first warm winds of the season guiding me through the olive trees, melting away any residual winter harshness I was still carrying with me. As the beginnings of this idea continue to steep in my mind, I will leave you for now with thoughts of what it means to soften, release, and free ourselves. What does freedom mean to you? How can we incorporate softening and releasing both on and off the mat? What does it mean to achieve strength and freedom through softening?

May all the physical labor of preparing for Pesach and ridding our homes and ourselves of chametz allow us to leave our modern-day Mitzrayims and connect to our purest, most essential selves. May the breaking down of barriers and experiencing oneness this month leave us humble and whole.

Between the lines.

“Learning is what you do with knowledge that already exists, seeking is what you do for the truth.” – Rabbi M. Feuer
 

 

 

 
 

 
 

“All that is thought should not be said, all that is said should not be written, all that is written should not be published, all that is published should not be read.” – The Kotzker Rebbe

Returning to, once again.

Somehow another month has gone by. I actually can’t believe it. I know, I know, so cliche to speak of time passing quickly. But there are times where it must be noted.
My life has once again changed drastically since I last wrote. Going from seminary life to being a Madricha (coordinator/counselor) for the program I went on 2 years ago (Livnot U’Lehibanot) has been quite a shift. Full of ups and downs, hardships and accomplishments. My experiences continue to be rich, complex, fulfilling, and challenging, somehow in a whole new way than I had expected. Going from student to teacher, from living in my own cloud of learning and reflecting and processing to serving as a mirror for others to grow and question. Teaching, listening, and questioning for others has been a whole new teacher for me!

Some things I’ve done in the last month:

Gave an hour long presentation on Kabbalistic concepts of Masculine and Feminine
Danced at a friend’s wedding
Sat under a few waterfalls admiring rainbows in water droplets
Stayed up until 3am talking under the stars
Been called someone’s spiritual guru (ha!)
Completed a 3 day hike (somewhere near 30 miles) ending in the Mediterranean Sea
Seen a full lunar eclipse
Sang to the Prime Minister’s wife
Eaten way too much hummus
Cried at the most beautiful Shabbat sunsets
Been proposed to
Walked through a banana field
Cooked/done dishes for 35+ people
Napped on the side of the road with a group of 30 people

Here are some excerpts from emails and conversations I’ve had in the last month:
____

i wanted to share something i’m learning about today (in preparation for my final project that will be an hour long presentation on sunday!) this is from the book about kabbalah of masculine and feminine (by sarah yehudite schnieder).

“one of the features of paradox that makes it uniquely suited to this task is its capacity to generate a kind of electric current between its two poles. this happens automatically when the mind focuses in and discovers that it cannot make peace with either side. at the very moment the intellect savors the truth of one statement, the stink of heresy spoils its repose. jolted, the mind scrambles for a solution, which it does find in the other side. but that statement, too, is also no safe haven, for its truth has problems of its own.
back and forth, a reluctant nomad, the mind seeks peace to no avail until…a wonder happens. its oscillation triggers a kind of electric current that adds motion to the system. and once there is motion, there is time. and if the motion is perfectly symmetrical between truth and counter-truth, then there is above-time. now in addition to its static and opposing truths a dynamic element appears that fuses the system into a single coordinated whole that is greater than the sum of its parts and possesses the capacity to hold infinite truth.”

it was written in reference to the paradox that god is perfection and yet also perfecting. (the sun and moon, relatively speaking). this reminds me of the israel/nationalism/person of the world dilemma. and religion and god. you and i. in my best moments, i truly believe in the necessity of this ‘dance’ between truth and counter truth, to find the where they can both be true.

____

i had this great conversation this morning with the couple i’ve been staying with, hillel and chaya. they’re an amazing couple, totally after my own heart. their values and partnership and the vision they have in raising a family is beautiful. we started talking about physics and god and me going home and relating to the rest of the world. hillel has a shiur/class that he gives called “i don’t believe in god, i’m not a monotheist, and i’m an orthodox rabbi.” i think thats a good summary of our conversation and his orientation. (he’s a rabbi, in yeshiva, and teaches meditation in the old city). we talked about the necessity of breaking away from all the empty shells religion has created. how transformation can only happen after a fall. he said he finds that spiritual people (especially scientists) who distance themselves from religion are totally coming from the right place, and a necessary place. seeing through the bullshit and the emptiness and challenging the status quo of big groups of people. this is so much of what i’ve been experiencing, that i find so hard to give over when i talk to people from home. that the concepts we were taught about what religion and god are need to be shattered before we can make any real progress. that i don’t believe in that god either, or that religion that fosters blind faith or empty ritual. but it is so possible to find something greater, once we leave those shattered pieces behind. to realize that the way that we relate to the world, in awe of creation and physics, can be what religion is. then we talked about all these physicists who talk about light and how they concepts are exactly what kabbalah talks about, just slightly different language. and how amazing and transformative that realization is. that science and spirituality aren’t separate or contradictory, but only reinforce each other. that oneness. it goes so far beyond god. and even YHVH, because the second we try to name it, we lose some of its essence.

____

the last few days have been such a whirlwind, whoa. going from being the ever questioning student to this new role of madricha/teacher to people on their own journeys is mind blowing. i started getting challenged the second i got here! “why are you wearing long sleeves when its hot out?” “oh, so you’re religious?” “well, why?” “wait, you don’t TOUCH boys!?!?!” its been crazy. i feel like in a few days i’ve had to solidify where i stand, sometimes in ways that i’m not even ready to do yet. overall, i feel good. i feel so happy and grateful about where i’m at in my own journey, and also nostalgic for this place that the participants/chevre here are in. i don’t think i realized how far i’d come, truly, until i got to see the mirror of others experiences. but it’s lonely too. i miss being around my classmates and teachers, to really focus on this journey and process which is still so new for me! i miss being the one who’s experience is central in the learning environment. i need to find a way to be here for the participants here (some of whom are having crazy intense existential experiences so similar to mine and asking so many amazing, difficult, questions), but also continue my own growth and learning. so so weird to be back at this place that for 2 years i held in such a high place, as a place that had the key to unlock my spiritually, only to realize that i’ve outgrown it in a sense. that i now hold my own key more than this place holds it for me.

i had a moment on shavuot (a word on shavuot: one of the major 3 holidays. we’ve been counting the days between passover and this day (called counting the omer) and it celebrated the day the jews received the torah on mt sinai. a big deal, to say the least. but very lightly celebrated here so as not to freak out the participants or turn them off to religiousness). so, on shavuot, i had this moment by myself where i so distinctly felt god (which is impossible to articulate, but a distinct feeling for me). this feeling i remembered having here 2 years ago that i’ve had so few times. my time of seeing the “light” (as a teacher of mine would say). i had that same feeling, and instead of being in awe and somewhat scared of it like i was a few years ago, i welcomed it with open arms. i felt like, ‘ah i knew you’d come back. and i’m ready for you. for this feeling to come and go, and not be scared by that. to accept god and torah as important in my life, no matter how scary that seems sometimes.’ its so undeniably a part of me. so, i had my own mt sinai experience. of feeling god and saying “yes.”

the coordinator who i was so close to on my trip, adam, led our first hike the other day. fitting, i thought. he was so interested in where i’m at, how my questions have changed in the last two years. as i was telling him somewhat about where i’m at and shavuot and my process he smiled and was like ‘you should see yourself jenna.’ i said ‘i bet you never thought we’d be having this conversation, huh? after seeing me so angry and confused for those two weeks.’ and he said, ‘you know, i’m not actually surprised. the people who have the biggest fire, the most burning questions, are often the ones that will go to the farthest lengths to get them answered. and that is exactly what you’re doing.’ whoa. so true. how special to be able to be here, 2 years later, reflecting on progress and growth, and playing a role to now help others through their own journeys, wherever they might end up.
_____

There you have it. A less than perfect summary, but better than nothing. As for right now, I am trying to regain walking abilities after this insane hike. So ready for a restful weekend. And will hopefully be seeing Matisyahu in Jerusalem next week with some wonderful people! I’m. So. Excited.

Also, I’ll be home in less than a month! So crazy.

Love to you all and see you soon 🙂

Pendulums

Is it possible that I haven’t written in a month!? That seems crazy to me. But then again, time in general kind of blows my mind, so I am unsurprised at my surprise that so much time has passed without a blog posting. SO much has happened, changed, returned, changed again since last time I wrote. It seems silly to try to summarize any of it so instead maybe I’ll talk about some events or thoughts that have been more present than most in the past month (from emails, class notes, conversations, etc). Bear with my ever swinging pendulum.

On Kedusha:
“…this relates to something i’ve been thinking about in the last 24 hours a lot, and that is the concept of kedusha. holiness. last weeks parsha was the one where god said ‘and you will be holy because i am holy’ and then goes on to list all the ways we are to do so. its a really interesting topic. holiness. what does it mean? what does it mean for us to be holy, or attempt to be? what does it mean to me? so many things. first of all, for most of my life, i had no interest in being holy. in fact, i was very ok with being the opposite of holy (maybe because i didn’t like myself so much). but if i’m going to be living and learning here, than i want to really explore what this means, how to live in a way that makes you holy (or substitute whatever word works best for you – present, aware, mindful, awake – all of these are equivalent to holiness for me). but the word kadosh also means separate, which is interesting to think about. that there is an inherent separateness in holiness. this makes me uncomfortable. i thought everything was supposed to be one? god is one and we are one and whatever. so why do we need to be separate to be holy? i understand people’s rationale (i don’t subscribe to this), that the common person who isn’t living according to the mitzvot (or isn’t jewish) isn’t holy because he doesn’t have the kavanah, or intention, to be so. and if we are going to be, then we need to lift ourselves up from that. and the rules of kashrut (kosher) and of shabbat work to separate us even more from those people. make us stand out. make us holy. but i have serious issues with this. when i had my one-on-one with my rebbitzin yesterday i told her that. and she urged me to really read the parsha and see what i think after that and to try to be open to the concept and stretch it so that it means something to me. i appreciate her willingness to meet me where i am and how she would never be like ‘well this is the way it, this is what it means to be jewish, and if you don’t follow it, you’re not.’ in the same parsha are all the rules about how to treat others. including, my personal favorite: ואהבת לרעך כמוך (love your neighbor like yourself). so how this all fits together, i don’t understand. should we only love our neighbors if they’re jewish? because i’m not down.
but i do want to be holy. not because i feel like i am special in god’s eyes/in the world more so than others, but because i want to live with kavanah. i want meaning…really, the overall purpose of kedusha to me is to raise up actions that can be done in a totally normal way to a level above. eating, the way you dress, sex, all can be holy acts (marriage being the most holy of all). not because god wants me to or needs me to, but because i want to treat myself that way. that is a beautiful thing to me.”

On Practice:Bold
“in talking about religion, judaism and orthodoxy to be specific, we are both struggling to find our place. whether to be fully religious (accept the whole neatly packaged bundle), reject religion entirely (not likely), or to find some way to pick and choose. be in between. and what the consequences of all these options would be.
for one, being fully religious seems like the easy way out. true, it does allow one to get to deeper levels of experience, but at what cost? immersing oneself in the study and practice of judaism has a lot of benefits and is truly beautiful at times, but it is also isolating. for people like us, who want to be out in the world and working with the people who have been cast out of society and given up on, this seems difficult for us. it is also predicated on the unwavering belief that god chose the jewish people, the torah is straight from his mouth, and therefore we must obey it as entirely as possible and then we are holy. i have issues with this because first of all, it is way too literal for me. yes, i believe in a god, or a uniting energy keeping us all together, but do i believe that this god felt the need to write out such detailed rules for how to live to be close to him? that he is angry and vengeful and strikes people down? not really. i think religion, like much of our lives, is human. passed down through humans. and while it is beautiful and intricate and deeply meaningful is still subject to human error and therefore should be open to interpretation. so how does one maintain a connection to this divine presence, be mindful, be part of the jewish community and tradition, yet hold this more humanistic and worldly view?
i value the religion, the structure, the heritage. and i so much appreciate and respect the people who can do it the fullest. we need those people. but to try to be that person wouldn’t be honest of me. maybe it is not my place. it would be cutting myself short. so the question becomes how do i exist in a place where in between are not always respected or acknowledged? how do i maintain the awareness and the connection to judaism as well as my own truths as a person of the world? i have yet to figure this out. but i feel good about where i’m at in this exact moment. and i suppose that is all we have, isn’t it?”

On Emunah:
(These ideas are from a shiur (class) that I went to yesterday, called “The Logic of Faith”)

Emunah is the hebrew word that is roughly translated as Faith in english. But this term is so lacking compared to what Emunah actually means. Faith implies belief in something you can’t prove exists (according to my computer’s dictionary – “based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof”). But there is no place in Judaism that encourages people to have blind faith. It is the opposite, actually. A religious Jew will tell you that his belief in God is completely based on logic and reason. The story of the Torah is just that to many people. Judaism emphasizes the value of constantly studying, questioning, learning as much as you can, so you can discover the truth for yourself. I’m sure many of you reading this are skeptical. “The Truth!? Well, there is no such thing as truth. And if people are telling you there is, they must be crazy and trying to lure you into a cult.” But we all know what truth feels like. Whether it is the beauty of an incredible friendship that has withstood the winds of time, the all consuming feelings of new love, or a really incredible meal (this is a big one for me, as you probably all know 🙂 ). All of us have experienced our own truths in life. Those moments that transcend language, that deep down make so much sense to us that we couldn’t even begin to describe them.
So, what then, is emunah? Emunah is faithfullness to that faith in your truth. Confusing, maybe. So let me tell a story to make this point. A man is lost in the woods in the dark, trying to get to his house on the other side. He is making his way, slowly growing more and more panicked at his inability to find his way. He climbs to the top of a mountain and screams to God, “Please! Just let me see the way back to my house!” All of a sudden, there is a huge flash of light. He looks down from the mountain and sees the path to his house completely clearly. But it is not easy. He will need to go 50 feet and then take an immediate left, so as not to go over the edge of a cliff. Then another 40 feet before he needs to duck under a huge branch, then right for another 20 feet until he comes to a stream he will need to jump over, and so on. In this moment of light, it all clicks. He sees the way, no matter how difficult. And then the light goes out.
What is the point of this story? That of course, we will have moments of light. Of clarity. When it all makes sense. And inevitably, we will also go through periods of extreme darkness. The key is to look for the truth in the light, and stay true to the light in the darkness.
This is emunah. Commitment to your light, your clarity, even when you can’t see it. Trusting that it is still there. Suffering is, after all, not due to our circumstances, but due to how we react to those circumstances. What if we knew those truths, even when times were hard? With our friends, with our partners, with God. The clarity of hindsight we tend to get at the end of a situation, knowing why we needed to go through it and what we needed to learn, is just as possible in the beginning. Maybe not the details, but that feeling of emunah. Faith. Trust. It’s possible in every moment. What will you choose?

פסח

As many of you have been asking me – yes, I made my decision about whether or not to stay in Israel! But before I talk about that, I want to share with you some of what’s been on my mind.

Tonight is the beginning of Passover (Pesach). A huge holiday for the Jewish people.
It is a holiday of the journey from slavery to freedom. We are remembering the story of when the Jews were slaves in Egypt (Mitzrayim – coming from the Hebrew word for narrow) for years and years and years, exiled from our true faith and way of life, and how that exodus toward freedom took place over time. The Sedar (the big meal experience we have) is a way for us to not only keep telling the story to future generations, but for the people participating to experience (as much as we can) what our ancestors went through. We do this 1. because it is deeply relevant to our history and 2. because we are still going through it, in our own ways, today.

We don’t eat leavened things (hametz) for a week to represent the culture we left behind in Egypt, which represented enslavement to ego. A people who built pyramids to celebrate themselves. Bread, during this time, represents worshipping ego. It is puffed up, full of air. When we do this extreme cleaning of our entire homes, cleaning out every inch of every corner (don’t even get me started on how intense this process is!), burning the last of the hametz we find, it is to serve as a cleansing of our souls. Getting rid of whatever is enslaving us. We eat matzah (unleaved bread) for a week to represent this same thing, the conscious freeing ourselves of ego. Matzah is the bread of affliction at the beginning of the Sedar and becomes the bread of our freedom at the end. They say that when you take the first bite of matzah at the sedar, the act in itself is freeing. (It is the only food that we are commanded to eat by the Torah – This is some holy stuff!)
So why do we do all this? Why are we so deeply tied to this symbolic holiday? Well for me, it’s an incredible way to be consciously bettering ourselves. Breaking our enslavement to our own egos, our own Mitzrayims. When this happened historically, when the hebrew people (not yet jews) were freed from Egypt, they then started wandering in the desert, trusting this one guy (Moshe Rabinu – Moses) to lead them to freedom. It took weeks before they understood what the purpose of this commitment was, needing to go on faith. Needing to go through many stages of freedom – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. But after 7 weeks (49 days), Moses went to Mt Sinai, talked to God, got the 10 commandments, and the people entered into a covenant with God. It wasn’t an arbitrary assignment, like ‘Hey you guys are here, so you’re all Jewish. Cool.’ They needed to enter into this covenant, to consciously accept God, Judaism as a way of life, before being led to the promised land (40 years later!)
The Sedar, and Pesach, are ways for us to go through our own narrows every year and come out the other side. Not only to keep the story alive for generations to come but to take a light to the corners of our beings, clean out the dust, and arise into something new. Elevated. A lighter being, perhaps. It is said that a new piece of soul comes into us every Pesach. And after the first night, we start something called Sefirot HaOmer. We count for 49 nights, until Shavout, marking the time it took between us leaving Egypt and reaching Mt. Sinai. During these 49 days, we are preparing ourselves for this new part of our soul to be integrated.
Each week has a theme, and each day has a sub-theme. (This process is no joke!) The theme of the weeks correspond to 7 of the 11 kabbalistic components/energies of the soul (see diagram below). The 7 areas (midot) we work on during this time are Chessed (generosity, love, giving), Gevura (justice, knowing, sacrifice), Tiferet (beauty, grace, compassion), Netzach (endurance, trust in God, eternity), Chod (consensus, splendor, acquiescence to truth), Yesod (truth, implementation, foundation), and Malkhut (kingdom, mastery, reflected light). Then the days of the week start with the chessed of chessed, then gevura of chessed, tiferet of chessed, and so on. They say that each of us are rooted in one of these midot but it is still important to do tikun (work, healing) on all of these areas. We don’t work on the top 4 sefirot (keter – transcendence, binah – discernment, chakmah – insight, and dat – knowing) during this time because the bottom 7 are the ones most subject to flaw as we go through life.
WHOA that gets complicated. Luckily I have a handy little guide to take me through each of the days with thinking points and such. But hopefully you get the gist. Needless to say, I have a lot to be thinking about during the vacation from classes! Of course, freedom and what it means has been on my mind as I prepare for this holiday, this cleansing process. This process and this story tell us countless things, but I think one of the most valuable is that few of us are actually free. Freedom, the process of becoming free, or exodus, happens slowly. Consciously. (I have met people in prison who are more mentally free than I am, yet live behind barbed wire and metal bars. Go figure.) Figuring out what my personal Mitzrayim is, and how I can free myself has been so valuable. So, I invite you to do the same, no matter how you identify spiritually. Spring is upon us, a time for rebirth. What are you enslaved to? Materialism? Consumerism? Body image? Your own expectations? The past? Relationships? We all have something. And the more aware we can be of these things, the clearer our path to our own exoduses will be.
I can think of many things that enslave me, ranging from lifelong struggles to more superficial concepts. As I was making the decision about whether or not to stay in Israel longer, I wanted to be sure that my decision wasn’t influenced by any of these things. That I could get to a place of stillness and clarity so that the decision would arise naturally and it wouldn’t feel much like a decision at all. Doing this meant really working out some knots, dealing with feelings of elation and despair, sometimes within seconds of each other. As I was struggling with this one day, I decided to take a nap and I had the most comforting dream. I was walking into the woods and starting to go down this path. It was green and beautiful and the sun was shining through all the leaves in these amazing rays. I felt so happy to be there. Suddenly, I was in front of myself, or rather my conscious self was now separate from my physical self (Or I had two selves? Not really sure. But I was in front. Whatever that means.) And I turned around to see myself walking down the path and I had this huge smile on my face as I hugged myself and said, “Welcome home. You’re finally here.” And then we floated away. The not-so-unbearable lightness of being. A few days later, I made my decision to stay here for another year, and after some initial freak out about what that meant, I feel like I’ve returned to the feeling I had in the dream. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. Free of that which holds me down. For this moment anyway!

So kudos to YOU (especially if you read all of this) and your path to freedom, whatever it may be. Whether we have to wander in the desert for 40 years before we ‘figure it out’ or if we happen to become truly free tomorrow, I’m just happy to be on the path with you all.
Wishing you a holiday or a season filled with insight and freedom, in whatever ways you need it most.
לשנה הבאה בירושלים