{this moment}

My morning light.

My morning light.

{this moment}

A Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Through my eyes

There are some weeks that are so full, so rich with complexities and simple truths, that there are no words. Here are some images that have stuck with me:

early morning father daughter light

early morning father daughter light

homemade fudge

homemade fudge (of course)

hey there

funny animals in my neighborhood

good morning

megillat esther made by an incredible woman in nachlaot

megillat esther made by an incredible woman in nachlaot

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yellow and blue

yellow and blue

our nachlaot onebillion rising event

our nachlaot onebillionrising event

finally time for shabbat

finally time for shabbat

Before the end of the week, I like to reflect on all that I am grateful for. Snapping pictures everywhere I go helps to remind me of this. This week, I am so grateful for the deeply meaningful relationships in my life, my ever expanding yoga community and practice (with a new space to teach (hopefully) in two weeks!), a nice reminder of our engagement from Hatunot Blog, the shifting seasons, the waves and depths of emotions I can experience, and the delicious bread from Russell’s Bakery.

Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom, the ability to face the present moment with grace, and much light!

In Between Spring and Brownies

We are finally tasting the beginnings of spring here in Jerusalem and I am loving it. Longer days, warm sun, fresh air cleansed by all the rain we’ve been granted this winter. Although I know it will be a short lived season and soon we will be in sweltering summer, longing for the cold nights of actually sleeping under blankets, for now I will appreciate the in-between.

There’s something to be said about in-betweens. In a yoga class once, a teacher once directed us to our own internal in-betweens. The brief, easy to miss moment when one is at the end of his or her exhale and before the next breath…and again at the top of an inhale before exhaling. Try it. What happens for you in those spaces? Are they different? For me, at the edge of my exhale, I feel calm, grounded, centered, connected inward. At the top of my inhale I feel full of life, potential, expansive. Almost like Shabbat and the rest of the week. They two paradoxes are always working within us, working in unison. The solid core and capacity for expansiveness need to work together to create the reality in which we live. These days, I am trying to connect to my breath and this notion of awareness in my daily, seemingly mundane tasks. I was reminded of the importance of this by a friend in the neighborhood who wrote: “There isn’t any moment in my day that doesn’t deserve my full attention and when I convince myself otherwise, I wind up feeling checked out and wondering what’s missing.” And look how much I could have missed out on otherwise!

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Speaking of mindfulness, I love food. I should clarify – I love eating food. And mindfully eating good food. You should know, I am not a chef. I didn’t grow up in the kitchen, helping to prepare food, like so many of my friends and my husband (who are amazing chefs) did. I have always loved food and even share a special trait with my Dad of being able to remember a meal from any given occasion in the past (he is much more talented than I in this skill – remember the squid ink pasta in Venice?) Before the days of keeping kosher, I would have easily booked an entire vacation based on food (check out my friend Local Belle‘s recent posting about foodie tourism!) Transitioning from a food lover to a food preparer, however, has been quite a mess. And while I do a lot of this:

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What I really want to be preparing is this:

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So welcome to my recent obsession with brownies. A few months ago it was Oatmeal Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies. Now it is rich, dark, fudgey, brownies. Weirdly enough, although I’m not so fond of cooking, I am loving my exploration into the realm of baking. I want to share with a super simple, fast, delicious recipe that I’ve adapted from Smitten Kitchen incase you want to share in the indulgence. These are perfect for that extra slice of time you have between preparing for Shabbat (or any huge meal) and resting, getting ready, lighting candles, etc, and somehow seem to make it all worthwhile : )

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one-bowl, simple, darkfudgeydelicious brownies

85-100 grams of an extra dark chocolate bar (70-85% cocoa), broken into pieces
115 grams unsalted butter, chopped
1 cup demarara (natural brown) sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
(optional: walnuts or extra chocolate chunks)

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Pre-heat oven to 175C (350F). Place chopped butter and chocolate in a bowl over simmering water and stir occasionally as they melt together. Before fully melted, take bowl off the pot of water and stir until fully mixed. Next, mix in the sugar, salt, and vanilla. Add in the eggs and mix well. Lastly, stir in the flour and any nuts or extra chocolate that your heart desires. Pour mixture into buttered or parchment lined 8×8 dish and bake for 25-30 minutes.

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Don’t forget to lick the bowl.

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Somehow I never manage to get a picture before Ben grabs a bite…

Enjoy! And may you carry your own mindfulness with you in all of your endeavors – from walking to baking to breathing. Now time to do some dishes.

Returning, again.

This is my first attempt to publish a blog posting since the beginning of my journeys in Israel in 2011. (For some history, check out these old postings: http://jennagoestoisrael.blogspot.co.il). I came to this land oblivious as to what was ahead of me. A wide-eyed, single girl traveling the world before settling into the coming five years of doctoral work. The world, this land, was my oyster…or should I say matzah ball? My mind, my heart, my eyes were open. I was completely ready to absorb it all, have a traveling experience, and then go right back to my neat and orderly planned out life. So what happened? Everything.

I fell in love, for starters. With the land of Israel, the history of the Jewish people, my own heritage and rich tradition, my (at the time) new boyfriend and now husband. Within a little over a year, I came to this country with no plans, fell deeply into seminary learning ancient Jewish wisdom, met an incredible man with a similar journey, decided to uproot my life in America and settle in Israel, and then had a fairy tale, outdoor, organic spring wedding in the hills of Jerusalem (Thanks Yehoshua Sigala for the amazing pictures!) Today, we are both working, learning, and planting our roots here, in The Holy Land. Happily ever after, right?

Almost. When I look back at the whirlwind of my last few months, I am overcome with more emotions than I know how to verbalize. Gratitude, first of all. Awe, excitement, a longing for the past – the moments before waking that now seem much simpler, the satisfaction of listening to my intuition through adversity, missing my family. Today I am faced with challenges in every-day tasks I never thought I’d find difficult. Striving to maintain my connections to family and friends across the ocean while becoming a part of and embracing society here. I am an immigrant. I am learning more and more Hebrew every day yet it never seems to be enough. I am building a life from scratch, rather than continuing on in a life of privilege. I am humbled by this process every day (some days more gracefully than others). I am a constant student (and now teacher) of yoga – a practice that keeps me grounded and lets me fly. I am an orthodox, married woman. A homemaker. An administrative assistant for an organization doing incredible work in the field of Jewish Personal Growth (shameless promotion for The Shalev Center – check them out). A happy baker and improving cook. I am choosing to connect to and plant new roots in Israel because I believe in this land, in our people’s dream of coming back to our land. Despite all I have seemingly given up in my American life, I am comforted and reinvigorated by the idea that we are investing in our children and grandchildren in hopes that if they choose to follow a similar lifestyle, connecting to Torah and this holy land, it will not be so alien and difficult for them. A jarring, jumble of translations that fall short, foreign land and new culture. This will be their home base, Am Yisrael (the people of Israel) will be their family, no matter where they choose to go.

So this is my journey through Israel, Yoga, Judaism, making Aliyah, marriage and hopefully someday kids that I am inviting you to witness. The concept in yoga that I have come to love so much and relate to in my daily life is what has inspired this blog. Just as when we root deeply into the ground, into the earth, we are able to rise to much greater heights than we even thought possible, I hope that in my return to this land (in hebrew called making “aliyah” – literally “going up”) I am able to raise up my life and the life of my future children to new heights – both spiritually and physically. No matter what each of our life’s journey holds in store, may this concept always help to take you to exactly where you are supposed to be.

You only see when you hear.

“July, 1967…I have discovered a new land. Israel is not the same as before. There is great astonishment in the souls. It is as if the prophets had risen from their graves. Their words ring in a new way. Jerusalem is everywhere, she hovers over the whole country. There is a new radiance, a new awe.
The great quality of a miracle is not in its being an unexpected, unbelieved event in which the presence of the holy bursts forth, but in its happening to human beings who are profoundly astonished at such an outburst. My astonishment is mixed with anxiety. Am I worthy? Am I able to appreciate the marvel?

I did not enter on my own the city of Jerusalem. Streams of endless craving, clinging, dreaming, flowing day and night, mights, years, decades, centuries, millennia, streams of tears, pledging, waiting = from all over the world, from all corners of the earth – carried us of this generation to The Wall. My ancestors could only dream of you – to my people in Auschwitz you were more remote than the moon, and I can touch your stones! Am I worthy? How shall I ever repay for these moments?
The martyrs of all ages are sitting at the gates of heaven, having refused to enter the world to come lest they forget Israel’s pledge given in and for this world:

If I forget you, O Jerusalem
let my right hand wither.
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joys.
                                                                                                     Psalm 137
They would rather be without heaven than forget the glory of Jerusalem. From time to time their souls would leave the gates of heaven to go on a pilgrimage to the souls of the Jewish people, reminding them that God himself is in exile, that He will not enter heavenly Jerusalem until his people Israel will enter Jerusalem here.
Jerusalem! I always try to see the inner force that emanates from you, enveloping and transcending all the weariness and travail. I try to use my eyes, and there is a cloud. Is Jerusalem higher than the road I walk on? Does she hover in the air above me? No, in Jerusalem past is present, and heaven is almost here. For an instant I am near to Hillel, who is close by. All of our history is within reach. 
Jerusalem, you only see her when you hear. 
She has been an ear when no one else heard, and ear open to prophets denunciations, to prophets consolations, to the lamentations of ages, to the hopes of countless sages and saints; and ear to prayer flowing from distant places. And she is more than an ear.
Jerusalem is a witness. An echo of eternity. Stand still and listen. We know Isaiah’s voice from hearsay, yet these stones heard him when he said… (2 : 2-4)

It shall come to pass in the latter days…
For out of Zion shall go forth Torah,
and the word of The Lord from Jerusalem…
And he shall judge between nations,
and shall decide for many peoples…
Nation shall not lift of sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.

Jerusalem was stopped in the middle of her speech. She is a voice interrupted. Let Jerusalem speak again to our people, to all people…
What is the secret of Jerusalem? Her past is a prelude.
Her power is in reviving. Here silence is prediction, the walls are in suspense…
This is a city never indifferent to the sky. The evenings often feel like Kol Nidre nights. Unheard music, transfiguring thoughts. Prayers are vibrant. The Sabbath finds it hard to go away… 
Jerusalem has the look of a place that is looked at… “The eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year” (Deuteronomy 11:12). Psalms inhabit the hills, the air is hallelujah. Hidden harps. Dormant songs. “



[Excerpt from Israel: An Echo of Eternity, A.J. Heschel]