Friday, October 17, 2014

Vowing to Unvow

"A sacred vow, after all is an effort to unify thought and action, taking the form of the statement, 'I will do what I believe.' And when such an effort fails, the soul finds itself in some degree of darkness." - Rabbi Benjamin Weiner

A vow is a sacred promise that binds our speech, thought and action.

When the vow is broken, the promise unkept, the actions not taken as proscribed -- downheartedness, distress and depression pervades our soul-being.

Living in integrity means doing what you say you will do so that your actions define and mirror your spoken words.

The making of a vow can be a foolish act of instinct or a deep commitment to a sacred purpose. Can we make that differentiation when propelled towards the promise?

My Aunt Faye made a vow in haste and in crisis. It became her sacred purpose.

Her baby son, Evan, was very ill. He hovered between life and death for days.

In an instant, she declared to God: “If you let my son live, I will obey the laws of the Sabbath and the laws of Kashrut.”

Baby Evan lived, and Aunt Faye kept her promise to God in exchange for a healthy son.

Her vow was an offering of gratitude to the Highest Vow-Keeper. She placed her belief side by side with her actions. She never veered from her actions. She binded herself to the spoken vow of her youth.

When the family story was revealed to me as a young girl, my respect for Aunt Faye was engraved on my heart. It was never a sacrifice from which she wanted to unvow. Rather, it became her way of life. The vow became a testament to her integrity not just to the God she called upon in desperation and grief, but it became a measurement of the way she valued her life and her relationships.

Have I ever made a vow that would last a lifetime?

Have you?

Friday, October 10, 2014

My Conscious Courtroom

The heavenly court has been calling me to stand on trial for my life as it is.

So I created my own court of appeals.

I pleaded my case.

I flaunted my flaws and unveiled the essence of my blockages.

My opened blind eye told the story of my resistance.

Fear floated around my aura of "good enough."

Fear of failure.

Fear of success.

Fear of changing my life as it is.

The judgment called me to task.

"Move through the gates of fear."

The sentence confirmed my conscious desire.

"The gates of love await you."

Friday, September 12, 2014

In Silent Company

In the company of my own silence, I choose only soothing sounds.

I keep these sounds free of falsehoods and gossip.

In the company of my own silence, I listen to my intrepid self.

I row towards the water of my natural river and reflect.

In the company of my own silence, clarity comes complete.

Friday, July 25, 2014

My Actions and My Belongings

My actions are my only true belongings. -Thich Nhat Hanh

What does it mean to have belongings?

Material belongings.

These are the belongings that we house inside our numerous residences -- that we keep in our purses and briefcases -- that we carry around in suitcases on vacations and on business trips.

With each passing day our belongings increase.

And then one day, as if on spiritual cue, our belongings become cumbersome details in a life that matters.

We begin the process of divestiture. We prepare for the day when we will no longer need anything we have been storing for all these many decades.

So what if our only true belongings were our actions?

How would we live differently?

What would we want to accumulate?

How would we feel about our acquisitions?

Where would we place our energies?

My actions belong to me and define my true wealth.

Friday, July 18, 2014

My Friend and Suitcase in Berlin

Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin,
deswegen muss ich nächstens wieder hin;
die Seligkeiten vergangener Zeiten,
sind alle noch in meinem kleinen Koffer drin . . .

I still have a suitcase in Berlin,
so I must go there again soon;
happy memories of times gone by
are all still there in my little suitcase . . .

(Hear Marlene Dietrich sing it here.)


I went to Berlin to see a friend that I had met two summers before at an Ulpan class in Jerusalem.

He, a German Benedictine monk, and I, an American rabbi from Washington, D.C.

We studied and spoke Hebrew together.

When the time came to say goodbye, he sweetly asked, "Why don’t you come to Berlin?"

I laughed and smiled and thought to myself, "A German monk is asking me to come to Berlin? This invitation intrigues me."

Two years later at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof central train station, we found each other on the platform among the throng of people swishing past us.

Through his eyes, I saw Berlin.

I traveled through time and history with my guide and friend. Nazism, Communism, the fall of the Berlin Wall, democracy, the Brandenberg gate, apologies, memorials, rebirth, revival, restorations of buildings and churches and synagogues, remembrances and noveau everything.

I left my suitcase and my friend in Berlin.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Hidden Synagogue of Theresienstadt

Our knowledgeable guide Martina -- film maker, tour guide and Czech historian -- informed us that from 1940 to 1945 there were eight synagogues inTheresienstadt (also known as Terezin).

Today, one hidden synagogue remained for us to bear witness.

When I think "synagogue," I think Holy Ark, Sefer Torah, Eternal Light, pulpit, pews, and a menorah.

When the sign outside the "synagogue" read "Eight people only can enter at one time," my reality shifted to adjust to this Nazi model concentration camp.

This "synagogue" was a former horse stable under the house upstairs. The grooves that separated the horses from each other were evident when you walked in.

This stable/synagogue with a wigwam-like ceiling was hand-painted by the Rabbi of this ill-fated community. Hebrew verses from the Psalms decorated this unusual place of worship in blues and reds and yellows. The Rabbi’s calligraphic hand graced the short curved walls.

Instead of a menorah, two Shabbat candlesticks were painted onto the walls and the color blue was still visible.

Yes, we could stand and, if necessary, we could pray.

But what did the Jews of Thereisenstadt pray for?

Could they foresee that towards the end of the war they would be transported to Auschwitz and perish there?


And, if they did not know their future fate, were their prayers also hidden under houses where stables used to be?

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Passing of my Rebbe, Zalman Schacter-Shalomi

.נצחו אראלים את המצוקים ונשבה ארון הקדש


The angels have overpowered the mortals and the Holy Ark has been captured. - Ketubot 104a

Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z"l passed into another realm the morning of July 3 in Boulder, Colorado.

Who was Reb Zalman?

To me, he was my "Rebbe."

What is a "Rebbe"?

A "rebbe" is a guide to your true self. It is written that you can understand what is a rebbe and who is a rebbe only after you recognize your own true value and journey.

Reb Zalman brought me to my truest self and connected me to the greater light within me, within the world.

He was my teacher, my guide, my spiritual mentor, the unconditional father of all.

I will miss him. He will be missed. His spirit remains glued to our memories.

Reb Zalman, rest in holy peace.