#BlogElul 5776 #ElulGram – Elul 29: Return

sefardic_rh_sederWhen you read this final blog post of the #BlogElul series, we will be in the Days of Awe, with a new moon, a new month of holidays, a new year 5777 with its celebrations, reflections, worshipping and deliberate renewal of vows to be better persons.

This time, thanks to all of you, I feel so much more prepared to the notion of “returning” and I am immensely grateful for what I have received through the exercise and the commitment.

I learned a lot during the process, mostly that when you commit publicly to something you are more likely to accomplish what you promised.

Also, that because others give you a feedback, you receive so much more than what you give: you feel motivated to pursue, you feel loved and valued, you feel you matter and you want to be up to the challenge as a thank you for such a gift.

This is how I saw more clearly the importance of a community of people who care, who enjoy sharing and getting to know each other through common discovering.

Even though the introspection is a very intimate work, the presence of the witnesses of the process is a wonderful gift: the road seems so much more pleasant and less scary. It makes it worth to decide to undertake the journey of returning to the Source!

I feel so much stronger and less afraid. I feel ready to account for my mistakes and my shortcomings. I feel I understand the pains of others better for having traveled with them and listened as much as I could.

As I am getting ready to set a table for a Rosh ha Shana seder, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for having been faithful readers of this series, through some long, some short and some better than other posts, and I hope that the joy I took sharing them with you reached the joy I want you to experience always in feeling connected to each other.

Because, in the end, this is all that it is about: being connected.

 

May you be inscribed for a good year,

L’shana tova tikatevu

 

This year,  I have committed to a daily blog in English to participate in @imabima’s project of Elul. I have dedicated this endeavor for the רפואה שלמה complete healing of   מרדכי אלעזר בן חנה מרים (Mordechai ben Chanah).

#BlogElul 5776 #ElulGram – Elul 28: Give

positive_energy

I am writing this penultimate post of the series of #BlogElul after a very uplifting Shabbat I spent with loved ones and with the community of my small town that had gathered for a musical concert to promote peace and reconciliation.

Several Gospel choirs, musicians, and clergy from the area were invited to present their message of peace through stirring music. Our Jewish Choir had chosen to open our numbers with the shared Psalm 133 that reminds how good and pleasant it is to dwell together, brothers and sisters of the human kind; we sing it in Hebrew, and there is no need to know a foreign language when you are singing to understand the words of love and the message of peace.

As we sang it in the next piece “music speaks louder than words” and it may be true that it is the only thing that the whole world listens to. It certainly brought the feeling they belonged to all attending that event and while we were all brought together for that uplifting afternoon through singing, clapping, moving, the hope that our voices were able to march together towards peace was real.

For more than three hours, musicians of all colors, voices, ages, shapes, cultures, languages, traditions, lifestyle, faiths, backgrounds, personal stories gave their energy in love, not in fear, and made a powerful statement.

It was an honor and a joy to participate in the event and to feel that for some it may have been the first time they saw the similarities and the commonalities we all share by being so unique and so different.

Our emotions were high when we left the church and for many, it was a physical drain, I am sure because giving so much takes a toll on the body for singers and musicians, and also for all who organized and made this beautiful event possible and so warm and welcoming. My hope is that this act of extreme good will towards understanding goes further always.

As we prepare for a renewal of proclaiming the Creator of the Universe our everlasting and loving King, source of peace, Shalom, I hope that the message that was delivered today has touched and will grow and reach high.

Great is peace,

for all blessings flow from peace.

Great is peace,

for without peace, no blessing is complete

Great is peace,

for even in times of war, the hope for peace is undiminished.

Great is peace,

for peace is granted to the humble.

Great is peace,

for peace is granted to those who do justice.

Great is peace,

for God’s name is peace.*

*from the Midrash Sifrei B’midbar 42, excerpts

 

ברוך אתה יי עושה השלומ

Blessed is the Source of shalom, salaam, peace.

 

This year, I have committed to a daily blog in English to participate in @imabima’s project of Elul. I will dedicate my endeavor for the רפואה שלמה complete healing of   מרדכי אלעזר בן חנה מרים (Mordechai ben Chanah).

If you are new to the series and would like to receive the daily blogs in your inbox, you may click on the link below to sign up

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#BlogElul 5776 #ElulGram – Elul 25: Intend

intend

There is a very beautiful concept in Judaism called כַּוָּנָהkavanah” which would translate as “the intention” and is actually a movement, the movement of your heart that you can feel when you really mean something – when you really mean it.

It can definitely be experienced physically. It may depend on how you are attuned to your own body and if you pay attention to very subtle sensations when trying to connect your words and your mind, your spirit and your body at the same time and in the same movement. It is a matter of awareness. It is also a matter of practice: setting an intention may take some preparation, like a ritualistic one.

If we intend to really delight our guests with a feast, we will set a beautiful table, take our fine china out, make sure we get the mess out of sight, clean our surroundings and be prepared on time.

If we intend to deliver a good speech to our public, we will make sure to prepare our text, maybe time our delivery and rehearse our movements.

When we take stock of our year before the high holy days, it should be as important as setting a beautiful table and getting our thoughts all in good order. This is when I think of kavanah as residing inside my heart because I can sense a bit of heaviness settling in advance which is different from simple “stage fright”, or this instinct to flee from something that would be scary. The questions that come to my mind are all about my honesty, my sincerity: do I really mean what my words say?  Sometimes, because I talk too much, I feel like the words are just cover-ups, that there should not be that many words to express the real intention. That is when my heart wants to jump forward and just show what it is capable of doing by just loving, opening up and praising the beauty of Creation.

 

This year, I have committed to a daily blog in English to participate in @imabima’s project of Elul. I will dedicate my endeavor for the רפואה שלמה complete healing of   מרדכי אלעזר בן חנה מרים (Mordechai ben Chanah).

If you are new to the series and would like to receive the daily blogs in your inbox, you may click on the link below to sign up

Yes, please send me an email when you publish a new blog post!

#BlogElul 5776 #ElulGram – Elul 19: Judge

scales-1333455_640
Photo: Scales by Aitoff  on Pixabay

When it comes to feeling judged or being judged, some unpleasant sensation of defense comes to mind. It is not uncommon to reject the notion, to rebel against the idea of being judged.

And yet, we keep doing it ourselves. To the others’ or to ourselves. We measure against what we believe is right or wrong, well done or imperfectly. We constantly look at our actions and instinctively know whether we should be proud or not about them. But because it leaves us with a slight discomfort we seldom stop at actually judging that sense of pride.

Because there is a positive pride that can actually take us towards our best self when we recognize our identity and how our actions can best serve it. This pride allows us to stand tall and claim the respect from the others if we are mistreated. This is also how we can measure if we are mistreating others and it should not prevent us from making amend or working towards forgiveness: so that we can honor that positive pride and genuinely have no second thoughts about who we really are.

But if our pride is preventing us from striving towards our best self, and on the contrary serving only self-aggrandizement, this will certainly be judged unfavorably and measured against us.

There is a fine balance, worth thinking about: it is not easy to recognize our wrongs, our mistakes and yet it is the only way we can change the course of destruction.

Each year, when the holy day of Rosh haShana, the day of Judgment comes around I get to reflect about those notions that are not easy notions to grasp: it has taught me to become more flexible and less stubborn. It has helped me become what I recognize and judge as a better person I can now be proud of.

 

This year, I have committed to a daily blog in English to participate in @imabima’s project of Elul. I will dedicate my endeavor for the רפואה שלמה complete healing of   מרדכי אלעזר בן חנה מרים (Mordechai ben Chanah).

If you are new to the series and would like to receive the daily blogs in your inbox, you may click on the link below to sign up

Yes, please send me an email when you publish a new blog post!

#BlogElul 5776 #ElulGram – Elul 17: Awaken

yellow_flowersNow that I have become an adult orphan, I often think that I am next “in line” and this is an unsettling feeling.

My children are entering adult age, and I am entering another age too. I feel it is time I become wiser and that some of the unhealthy behaviors I have held to for all those years of rushing through my own adult life have to really go away, otherwise I might end up with not being able to answer the question: who was I? what did I do to be who I was meant to be?

The more I am progressing with this year’s Elul series, the more I feel like more than just last year is being reviewed as I try to see how to apply the theme of the day.

In some ways, life already gave me ample opportunities to work on some of the middot (characteristics or virtues, values by which we “measure” the accomplishments of a life lived by the Torah, the “teachings” literally).

As we are quickly heading towards the season of repentance and forgiveness, I still feel the resistance though to tackle those that are more difficult to deal with, and I want to retreat in a space of sleepiness, where it is easier to ignore the work still to be accomplished. It becomes easier to make excuses then, to argue of how tiring it can be to revisit what is past and cannot be undone, to just let it sit as it is and not even attempt to redefine it so it brings more meaning and leads to more intentional actions in the future.

It is in this movement of back and forth that my soul pushes me, gently but firmly, and won’t let me off the hook until I commit to stand up and make amends to vow to do better. Because I always can.

 

 

This year, I have committed to a daily blog in English to participate in @imabima’s project of Elul. I will dedicate my endeavor for the רפואה שלמה complete healing of   מרדכי אלעזר בן חנה מרים (Mordechai ben Chanah).

If you are new to the series and would like to receive the daily blogs in your inbox, you may click on the link below to sign up

Yes, please send me an email when you publish a new blog post!

#BlogElul 5776 #ElulGram – Elul 15: Change

ailing_treeAs much as I want to show how positive I can be when it comes to writing inspirational notes, and doing the work that will ensure I make the necessary moves to be spiritually prepared for a good year, the theme of “change” is a trigger to my fears and sadness.

The season this year has been extremely lenient, we are experiencing a drought that is unusual at this time and it feels like rain is long due. It rumbled but it did not break today. Maybe later when I am finally asleep. The windows are still wide open because the heat has not yet diminished despite the sun setting. I know that until some colder temperatures happen at night, the leaves won’t change into the bright colors of fall that make it so pretty to walk in our wooden area.

I noticed the change in my favorite tree next to our houses by the lake. I hope it is just the drought that gave it that rusty aspect. I had never noticed that it would change colors, to me this tree is an evergreen. My first thought was that it might be ailing, because of some sort of disease. It made me sad all of a sudden and I snapped the picture to see how it will compare in some days and to monitor the changes if any.

There is no room for life if there is no change.

It is inevitable. And permanence is reassuring indeed, but it can’t be sustainable. We need to change. We need to make room to the future. To the next generations. If they learn from us, we learn from them too. We can still change, even when we grow older, and the illusion that everything should stay the same for the sake of order is not healthy. We constantly change, because our cells are alive. Sometimes, fighting too much against change creates such stress and the cells may win the fight and start living an erratic life of their own. And something happens that make our world changed forever.

I am finally accepting a lot of what I used to rebel against: in my fear of change, I stiffened and hurt. When I am more open and flexible, there is more room for the flow of life, that goes with change. All the previous themes I have already reflected upon in this series are finding their place after they danced around in my mind independently: the dots are starting to connect, and because of acceptance of the inevitable changes, I am starting to be much more at peace with so many goodbyes that I have to say to what I knew and that is no more or that will be no more. I am ready to welcome the Fall.

This year, I have committed to a daily blog in English to participate in @imabima’s project of Elul. I will dedicate my endeavor for the רפואה שלמה complete healing of   מרדכי אלעזר בן חנה מרים (Mordechai ben Chanah).

If you are new to the series and would like to receive the daily blogs in your inbox, you may click on the link below to sign up

Yes, please send me an email when you publish a new blog post!

#BlogElul 5776 #ElulGram – Elul 14: Learn

learn_spikishMy older son was born on the severe end of the autistic spectrum. I am usually saying that he is “differently abled” than most of us because I have learned to notice his extraordinary abilities and that they have proven to be consistent through his twenty and something years of life so far.

Autism is often characterized as a puzzle, in the sense of a mystery, but it is not to those who are affected by it. Not only to the individuals who may or may not be “diagnosed” with autism but also to their closest allies, siblings, teachers and caregivers  (I put the word “diagnosed” in brackets because autism is certainly not a disease and the word “diagnosed” tend to imply it would be, so it is really misleading but for a better way to explain what I want to explain I will continue to use some of that annoying vocabulary and I apologize for doing so).

The real mystery is why we would be unable to understand or communicate with some people, just because we think we have a “superior” way of functioning when the reality is that we also have lots of deficiencies in the way we use our brains. We are just the dominant part of the population and we are used to communicating the way we do, we highly value speech and communication through words and elaborate expressions of our thoughts and emotions. So when someone is properly handicapped in those domains we tend to see them as disabled, the same way we value being able to hear or see or run and someone whose hearing, sight or motion is impaired is considered by the majority as disabled when in reality everyone has different abilities and ways to adapt to how we function.

I certainly want everyone to understand the subtleties that make my son as able as anyone despite his disabilities: he is not less, and he certainly is more in many domains. Those domains might not be considered as functional in today’s world but I am ready to bet that in a couple of centuries or maybe less time, given how fast things are going if only we are willing to learn and adapt, they will be essential to life and his extraordinary skills will be needed and highly sought for the majority in society!

In our morning liturgy, there are a series of blessings that we repeat every day. Let me quote some of them in one of the many possible translations:

Thankfully, we offer praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe,

For bestowing the power to distinguish between day and night;

For creating us in Your image;

For giving us freedom;

/…/

For giving us the capacity to see;

/…/

I remember the first times I heard some of the readings from the High Holy Days liturgy in a prelude to the Sh’ma and couldn’t refrain myself from choking a little while reading them. I offer them here in English as they appear in The New Mahzor printed by Media Judaica, which we are not using anymore during our services and I have yet to see if this text that moves me so much is included:

 

Let us imagine a world without color, without regal red or leafy green, a world that bores the eye with gray.

Praise to You, Adonai, for all the colors in the rainbow, for eyes that are made for seeing, and for the beauty that “is its own excuse for being.”

Let us imagine a world without sound, a world where deathly silence covers the earth like a shroud.

Praise to You, Adonai, for words that speak to our minds, for songs that lift our spirits, and for all those souls who know how to listen.

Let us imagine a world without order, where no one can predict the length of the day or the flow of the tide. Imagine a universe where planets leave their orbits and soar like meteors through the heavens and where the law of gravity is repealed at random.

Praise to You, Adonai, for the marvelous order of nature, from stars in the sky to particles in the atom.

Let us imagine a world without love, a world in which the human spirit, incapable of caring, is locked in the prison of the self.

Praise to You, Adonai, for the capacity to feel happiness in another’s happiness and pain in another’s pain.

As the universe whispers of a oneness behind all that is, so the love in the human heart calls on people everywhere to unite in pursuit of those ideals that make us human.

As we sing of One God, we rejoice in the wonder of the universe and we pray for that day when all humanity will be one.

I will let you imagine what it has been like for someone born without some of those abilities we take for granted, ~ and could often forget to be thankful for, had our rituals not reminded us ~ to learn how to compensate to be seen as fully human and find their place among us, fully included as they should be.

 

This year, I have committed to a daily blog in English to participate in @imabima’s project of Elul. I will dedicate my endeavor for the רפואה שלמה complete healing of   מרדכי אלעזר בן חנה מרים (Mordechai ben Chanah).

If you are new to the series and would like to receive the daily blogs in your inbox, you may click on the link below to sign up

Yes, please send me an email when you publish a new blog post!