Friday, December 30, 2011
These milestones are like measuring cups. The more we measure, the more we can accurately assess our blessings.
May your cups overflow this new year, 2012, with all the pleasures that life offers us.
Friday, December 23, 2011
But it wasn’t the song or their new video that drew me in, but their fundraising efforts on behalf of the Gift of Life Foundation through the website www.MakeSomeMiracles.
The Maccabeats are inviting donations of ten thousand dollars a day for each day of Chanukah in the hope of securing much needed funds for Gift of Life, a bone marrow registry organization.
With a personal video narrated by Mayim Bialik and each of the members of the Maccabeats, their call is honest and sincere. As of this writing they have already raised $22,000!
I clicked on the donation button. Suddenly, I was involved in making a miracle for Chanukah -- not just receiving an ancient one. The miracle that the Maccabeats are giving light to is a miracle that keeps on giving life and hope to people with cancer beyond this holiday season.
So can we make some miracles?
Many interpretations suggest that the miracle of Chanukah was that we didn’t give up even when we had no chance of winning against the Greek/Syrians. In spite of the powerful forces that encourage our continued assimilation or disappearance we have survived and adapted to the modern world in which we live in as Jews. We live precariously on the edge while we persevere through a revolving door of constant change. The miracle of the Maccabeats is the miracle of our people.
We have come a long way from the Adam Sandler’s Chanukah song from "Saturday Night Live" in 1994 which centered on the theme of Jewish children feeling alienated during the Christmas season, and Sandler’s listing of Jewish celebrities as a way of sympathizing with their situation.
With the Maccabeats, the traditional and the contemporary merge to create a blend of Judaism and Jewish music that continues to define our communal confidence with viral velocity.
We revel in religious freedom in America. A Yeshiva University a cappella group has reached beyond their ivory tower borders to educate and entertain. We all received the instant messaging. Again, history has shown us, that we are the miracle of Chanukah!
Yes, we can make modern miracles. Click and contribute to a new miracle this Chanukah 5772!
Friday, December 16, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
An hour before, while waiting for a cab outside Georgetown Hospital in the torrential rains of the evening rush hour, we empathized with our inability to catch a cab.
Then, suddenly, this six-foot-two stranger leaped forward and said with assurance, "I see a cab: I am going to run after it. Follow me!"
The race was on. I deliberately placed my feet beyond the puddles in order to keep up with his long strides and purposeful gait, but still he disappeared among the multitude of hand-held umbrellas dotting the flooding streets.
"Oh, well," I thought. "He had a train to catch. It’s okay. I’ll just keep singing in the rain until another cab appears. He meant well. Intention is almost everything!"
I clutched my pink polka dot umbrella in both hands, so the winds wouldn’t turn it over, and I patiently walked towards the main street where my hopes for finding a cab soared.
I heard a honk. I turned to see a man waving from the far side of the cab. I moved involuntarily towards him.
"Come on in! We have been looking for you and your pink polka dot umbrella. It wasn’t easy to spot in the darkness of the night."
I slid into the dry, warm front seat next to the cab driver and expressed my simple gratitude, "Thank you so much."
His name was Bill, but to me, he was goodness on a rainy day in the nation’s capital.
Friday, December 2, 2011
A few years ago, my watch disappeared. The mystery of losing it perturbed me for many weeks. Why did she abandon me this time?
A few months ago, my beloved 10-year-old watch turned up under my bed -- but only after I had substituted another watch that looked and acted like its identical twin.
I laughed when I realized that the loss I experienced turned into an abundance of watches!
How we handle these minor losses is a barometer of how we will endure larger losses that cannot be replaced.
The practice of honoring all our losses contains a spark of spiritual equanimity.
Friday, November 18, 2011
A short story, less than ten pages, possessed me.
In the still darkness of dawn, I sleepwalked toward my computer.
At dusk, I rushed into my apartment in search of my Beloved.
The flow of inspiration and perspiration pulsed through my writing and my life simultaneously.
I began the rewriting process with procrastinations and fears of inadequacy.
But once I became the process, everything moved in unexpected directions.
I discovered scandalous scenes and desperate dialogue that propelled me into a land only artists can experience.
Every day held the possibility of a fairytale or a mystery.
This passion for writing taught me a lesson about living.
Use your imagination to drive your actions.
Engage in an uncomfortable challenge without self-judgment.
Go back to knitting the story of your life one joyful stitch at a time.
Do it for the love of it.
Friday, November 11, 2011
My gaze catches the glow that emanates from the room’s interior cavity. A life-sized picture of the host couple’s Indian guru greets me. We engage. His eyes follow me like Michaelangelo’s Mona Lisa and encourage my contemplation.
The dharma is presented by a visiting Hindu teacher. He reflects on the life of his beloved guru, Bhagavan Nityananda, with stories, humor and pathos. He recalls and recites the miracles created by his spiritual mentor. His tales enhance our way of modeling a superior spiritual life.
“The spiritual,” he says, “is about connections and coincidences, the relationship to the One and the flow of the mysterious.”
The chanting occurs in Sanskrit. Several people sing along, while I relax into the rhythmic tones and nest my face into my white pashmina scarf. My breathing is nonexistent to myself. God takes my inhalation and sets my heartbeat into a peaceful pace.
In time, the chanting changes and completes its round. The dimmer radiates more light. The 90-minute meditation session ends with a smooth finish. No one speaks; everyone moves.
Ten hours later, I stand before the Shabbat candles in the corner hallway at the Chabad House in Herndon, Virginia. I hear and embrace the giggling sounds of my four grandchildren and the rabbi’s five children as they relay race down the corridors. I quiet my mind for reflection.
Amidst the joy, I linger in the entryway in front of the gold-framed picture of the Rebbe and a portrait of the late young Chabad rabbi, Levi Deitsch, who died of cancer the year before. The Rebbe, the late Chabad rabbi and the nameless guru follow me into the Friday evening prayers of Kabbalat Shabbat.
Rabbi Leibel Fajnland faces the Holy Ark. The echo of his continuous Hebrew davening wafts through the many rooms of this sparsely furnished one-story school and learning center.
I receive his concentric prayers and whisper the mantra of my silent evening Amidah by heart. I enter into dialogue with the God of my ancestors.
I soften my eyelids. I close my eyes. I see into the light of my early morning soul again.
Friday, November 4, 2011
The Oneness of the Universe and the Oneness that aligns our soul’s purpose with the reality of our present.
Our work is to model an inner strength and a connection to self which is ultimately a connection to all that is within.
When we focus on rebuilding self we set a new course for going with growth.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Sometimes we look at others and wonder how their pathway leads to a greater sense of satisfaction and pleasure. Is God more present for them than for us? We project that the path of another is easier than our own.
Stay on your path, for it is the path that has been created for you. Navigate the detours and the downhills, but stay on course with your heart.
Stay on your path and this will lead you to a personal truth about God.
Friday, October 7, 2011
The tables were covered with hundreds of charity plates that represented a multitude of causes, from food for the needy and assistance to poor brides, to schools and families in distress.
The “Rebbe” would methodically and mindfully place a coin into each plate. He took care not to skip a single one. Each plate represented a community or an individual who needed help materially or spiritually.
Each charity was significant. The Rebbe took this holy task to be his preparation for his Yom Kippur prayers and reflections.
What will be your holy preparation for your Yom Kippur prayers?
I count each one of you on my Spiritualetters list to be a significant blessing for me. I hope you will forgive me if I hurt you by word or deed, or by omission.
May we all be sealed in the book of life and contentment.
Friday, September 23, 2011
As Jews enter into the Higher Holidays of our spiritual calendar and character, assess your spiritual measurements with these questions: "What has my life been all about up till now? What am I living for? What is life all about for me today?”
Friday, September 16, 2011
Embarrassment and regret catapults us into the world of change and repentance. The very thing that embarrassed you is the key to an altered lifestyle. Accept your regrets and initiate new strategies for success. Make a pledge to yourself to stay in integrity with all your decisions.
Friday, September 9, 2011
There is an expansiveness in life and nature that can never be fully contained or fully completed. Like human wisdom, there are no limits on the ability of the heart to expand and to stretch and to love.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
As I look back on my life, I extract an extraordinary spiritual tool. I recognize the times in my life when the impossible actually happened. With my awareness heightened, I realize that more impossible things will happen if I consider all the possibilities.
Tapping into the wisdom of the past catapults us into the dynamics of the present where the future also resides.
Close your eyes. Meditate on a past achievement. Breathe into the joy of that reality.
Open your eyes. Smile. Dream again into that impossible dream.
P.S. I will be on the pulpit at Temple Micah (2829 Wisconsin Ave NW) this weekend! Please join me tomorrow, Friday, September 2, at 6:00 p.m. and/or on Saturday, September 3, at 10:00 a.m. We will be celebrating "Labor on the Bimah," and all are welcome!
Friday, August 26, 2011
A few nights ago my friend and I walked three miles to preview the newest memorial in the nation’s capital where I now reside.
When we arrived at the central entryway to the memorial entitled "The Mountain of Despair," our eyes are drawn upward to the Stone of Hope, a 30-foot likeness of this civil rights reverend. Like the eyes of the Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo da Vinci, Dr. King’s eyes follow us as we walk around the monument.
What is he asking of us? What answers do we have to offer him? Where does justice dwell today? Where is the righteous peace that he dreamt about so many decades ago?
The monumental granite statue of Dr. King revives our deepest desires for justice and equality, democracy and love.
Dare we dream again?
Please note: The dedication, which was to have taken place this Sunday, August 28, has been postponed indefinitely due to the arrival of Hurricane Irene this weekend in Washington, DC. Go to the webiste for more information: www.washington.org/mlk
Friday, August 19, 2011
An Iraq casualty? A suicide bomber attack? An innocent civilian caught in the middle of a battle?
A mother’s son. A country’s soldier.
My mind did not settle down during the fifteen minutes it took me to embark the plane as a number four zone, economy-class passenger.
I entered the aircraft and again encountered the priority passenger seated in the first row, first class, aisle seat. With the precision of someone with ten fingers, my mystery man was typing away on his iPad.
I drifted out of pity mode and melted into awe and admiration.
He deserves every priority on every plane, train and boat anywhere in this world.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Our daily work is filled with little dreams that get accomplished through a big vision. The dreams of our unconscious longing are embedded in our mind’s third eye and get translated into motions and actions that share the space.
May your dreams and deeds expand into a reality of your own making.
Friday, August 5, 2011
I rushed to pick her up.
She cried and squealed as she repeated her mantra of the moment.
“I want my mommy." Pause. "I want my mommy." Pause. "I want my mommy." Louder: "I want my mommy!”
I held her. I rocked her. I sang to her. I assured her that mommy would return.
Five minutes passed, and the mantra magnified.
“A popsicle?” I suggested.
It worked. She pointed to the freezer, and we picked out an eight-inch-long squishy green popsicle sealed in a plastic tube.
When mom came back, she asked her daughter, “How were things with grandma?”
“First, I cried for you, mommy. Then grandma gave me a popsicle!”
Friday, July 29, 2011
I read this Hebrew-scripted epitaph of my paternal grandfather at the Ahavat Achim country cemetery in Colchester, Conn., on a summer sun-drenched day in July.
I leaned on the five-foot-tall tombstone with my body and placed my hand on its curved surface. I trespassed on the currents of electricity that reached my grandfather’s soul’s teachings. Tears of loss watered my face.
In a moment of transmission, I experienced his love for Judaism, his love for the Holy One, and his love for me, his only granddaughter who followed his European footprints to become the first female rabbi of the Miller/Mlowdowski lineage in America.
Twenty years ago I came to this family grave site with my now-late father and mother, my eldest daughter, and my first cousin. I remember how my father chanted the Mourner’s Kaddish for each of my four relatives buried here (my grandfather and my grandmother, my aunt and my uncle). I remember how we searched for several special rocks to place on top of the stone as a sign that we had been there to visit. (Even in a cemetery one need not be alone.)
This time I walked by myself from grave to grave and recited the Mourner’s Kaddish for all my lost ones. I searched again for the tiny pebbles that punctuated the cemetery’s lawn. I placed them on top of the four graves.
I busied myself with this Holy Work to elevate my connection to the grandfather I had never met.
I rested in his peace.
Friday, July 22, 2011
I am blessed with friends from around the world
If only I could gather you in one room and take a group snapshot!
I would thank you virtually for your voices that supported me and your hands that held me during the high and low tides of my life.
I reminisce with you and the memories return like waterfalls streaming down my heart.
In gratitude for you, my friend!
Friday, July 15, 2011
My parents and grandparents journeyed by sea from Eastern Europe with thousands of immigrants seeking safe haven in America in the early 1920s.
I was born and bred in America, a first-generation citizen of the New World. By gazing at the harbor and the boats at sea, the history of my family’s cross-continental voyage was revealed to me. They were part of the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
My Blackberry camera zoomed into Liberty Island struggling to catch a glimpse of the majesty of the golden lamp that metaphorically lightened the sorrow and the burden of many freedom seekers. The sparkling, rippled waters dominated the simple snapshot. In the distance, the diminutive sculpture surfaced, perhaps, as it had appeared for my parents and grandparents 89 years ago.
Give me your tired, your poor.
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
The wretched refuse of your teaming shore.
Send these the homeless tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
- Emma Lazarus, mounted on a plaque besides the Statue of Liberty
Friday, July 8, 2011
Thursday, June 30, 2011
When I view the world in technicolor, I avoid a blurring of the senses.
When I pay attention to God’s world, I find ecstasy in my own.
Friday, June 17, 2011
With two red suitcases, a backpack, and a pocketbook, I was sent off to an adult Jewish spiritual retreat center in the Connecticut Berkshire mountains. For two months, I will serve the community at Isabella Freedman.
When she was nine years old, I drove my daughter to the synagogue parking lot where she boarded a bus to her summer camp in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. For two months, she made new friends, learned new skills, and explored and experienced a living Judaism.
Separating from her then and separating from her now had a familiar feel. Although decades have passed, the scenario of separation continues: Child leaves mother, mother leaves child, and the cycle continues.
Love creates the connection and then the separation. Recycling both goes hand in hand.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Friday, May 20, 2011
Friday, May 13, 2011
Friday, May 6, 2011
“Two years ago my father told me that I would be expected to say Kaddish for him when he died. The Kaddish was a familiar prayer to me, but could I chant it by myself, by heart? So soon after I came home from my visit with my dad, I went on the Internet to get acquainted with this venerable prayer. I wanted to be ready when the time came. Today, two years later, I am prepared to say the Kaddish for my father.”
He then proceeded to enunciate every vowel and syllable in this transcendent prayer. His voice, confident and grounded, remained steady throughout the upside down mantra-like sounds. No hesitations. No pauses. No mistakes. A solid-gold performance sincere and sacred.
A Kaddish recited by heart from the heart.
*Kaddish is the ancient memorial prayer written in Aramaic and recited by those who are mourning a loved one. In traditional Judaism, it was the eldest son who was obligated to say this prayer three times a day for eleven months to honor his parent and to raise the soul of the lost one to a higher realm. Today, in most denominations, women and men, the eldest and the youngest, chant this prayer in a communal setting. It serves as a therapeutic ritual for the grief work necessary to heal from our losses.
P.S. I welcome your referrals for weddings, baby namings, funerals, and special events! Contact me through my website: www.RabbiTamaraMiller.com
Friday, April 29, 2011
Friday, April 22, 2011
I ask questions all day long.
Friday, April 15, 2011
Friday, April 8, 2011
"The next time I get married,” the ninety-three-year old gentleman states unabashedly, “I want to have a Jewish wedding. I want you to officiate. Will you?"
"Most certainly," I assert giggling like a schoolgirl. “How long was your first marriage?"
"My marriage with my late wife lasted 68 wonderful years," he reminisces.
The stepmother overhears our conversation.
"I might find you a special somebody," she states unabashedly. "Here’s my card. I am a professional matchmaker!"
The applause begins.
The young married couple takes to the dance floor.
I clap and sigh into the love field that is stretched before and beside and beyond.
Friday, April 1, 2011
Every Monday morning I infuse my mind and spirit with the laws and insights of the Babylonian Talmud. Three Orthodox male lawyers and me (a post-denominational female rabbi) find delight in analyzing the legal codes associated with voluminous pages of detailed conversations and arguments the rabbis have over a word, a passage, a legality, or ethical dilemma.
This Monday morning I am the teacher’s only pupil. I concentrate on reading the Rashi script (a special typeface named after the outstanding Biblical commentator of the Middle Ages, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki). I enter into the world of Hebrew hieroglyphics as I haltingly decipher the semi-cursive letters.
The man with the black hat paces back and forth in front of the room as he choreographs his prayer dance before God. He moves with quiet determination while he places his black and white tallis (prayer shawl) over his shoulders. He wraps the tefillin (phylacteries) around his arm and on his forehead. He adjusts his black hat often and deliberately. I see him focusing on his paperback prayer book, but I cannot detect any audible sound.
My teacher, oblivious to the young religious man’s presence, continues to expound on the first sugya (Talmudic passage). What can we eat the hours before the first seder begins? Why must a poor person drink the four cups of wine at the seder? What is our responsibility towards the poor person? How are we equal on this night of freedom for all?
The man with the black hat is my distraction. Was he offended that a woman and a man were studying holy texts together? If so, why didn’t he take his prayers to another place? Was he eavesdropping on our learning while concentrating on his blessings? Did he find it interesting? Or amusing? Was he surprised at my agility with the Hebrew text, or had he succumbed to the beauty and the brilliance of my teacher’s Talmudic treatises?
I longed to tell him my Yentl story.
My father, an Orthodox Rabbi, had no sons to whom to transmit his passion for Torah learning. Instead, when I entered rabbinical school at the age of 40 and took my first Talmud class, I realized a dream. Every night after class, my father and I studied the subtleties and the incongruities of the Talmud. The intimacy of our reflections opened up more than the secrets revealed on the written page. I immersed myself in the wisdom of my father, the greatest gift of my life.
The thrill of those intimate discussions flashed like lightning into my heart space as I held the Talmud in my hands and ingested the instruction of my intelligent tutor
We have many teachers in life. Some remind us of other teachers not by what they know, but by how they transmit what they know.
The attendance of the man with the black hat solidified the devotion and the dedication that the three of us sustained in the room filled with the books of our people. How could he not have stayed? He soaked up the deliberations of the Talmud just as I had done decades before with my father at my parents’ kitchen table in the Bronx.
Is it permissible to begin your morning prayers while the study of Talmud between a man and a woman is already in motion? According to the man with the black hat, it is permissible and precious.
Friday, March 25, 2011
(from "Memories," written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman for “The Way We Were”)
The past wears rose colored glasses to our untrained eyes.
But what if you create today as your water-colored memory for your lifetime?
Write your own storybook ending and smile!
Friday, March 11, 2011
He was frail in body and robust in spirit and stories. I spent wonderful hours with him as he reminisced about his life, his loves, his passions, and his travels. After many encounters he shared this wisdom spark.
Make your memories early, so you will have them the rest of your life
Friday, March 4, 2011
I walk into Starbucks and purchase a tall decaf café mocha sans whip, and I take a sip.
I wait and take another sip. The third sip clinches it for me.
The thought of it was better than the real thing.
How can that be?
We desire something from the depths of our being. We gravitate towards it. We take the actions necessary to fulfill the desire.
Still, the café mocha has no buzz.
Our imagination creates the strongest desire of all.
Like a good drip coffee, let it flow drop by drop savoring the heavenly aroma.
Living into the desire is the real thing.
Friday, February 4, 2011
Tell the Israelites: "You shall take for Me an offering from every person whose heart inspires him to do so." Exodus 25:2
God commands Moses to take the donations from the Israelites to build a wilderness Tabernacle. Why doesn’t the verse read that every person should give an offering?
The first charitable act of the Jewish people emphasized that the central aspect of Tzedakah (charity) is not giving to the needy, but taking from the donor.
The primary goal of Tzedakah is to elevate the soul of the giver while increasing kindness in the world.
The benefactors are commanded to pursue the poor in order to maintain their spiritual connection to the holy and the sacred.
The Israelites were asked to relinquish their material possessions for the sake of the greater communal good. When we act with simple generosity we refine our humanity.
Let us take the offerings and build a more generous world.
Friday, January 28, 2011
“Can God command our love?” I asked my sixth-grade students at Temple Micah, a Reform congregation in the Northwest quadrant of the District of Columbia.
They looked at me in disbelief and bewilderment -- and the ultimate test of listening: a resounding silence.
“Do you love your parents?”
"Do they command you to love them?"
“How do you show them that you love them?"
Doing things that they want us to do.
“What kinds of things?”
Making our beds in the morning. Brushing our teeth.
Sometimes I surprise them by doing my homework even before they ask me to!
“So, how do we as Jews show God that we love the God of our matriarchs and patriarchs?"
They began to unwrap their answers.
By acting in a moral way. By praying thoughtfully. By helping others. By giving tzedakah. By loving your brother and not fighting with him all the time. By doing good deeds on a regular basis. By following in the path of the prophet Micah.
To do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.
One can command actions, but one cannot command feelings. The Ineffable One offers us directions on how to follow a path of goodness. We show our love for God when we perform the mitzvot (the commandments) out of love.
God is commanding the actions (the mitzvot) -- not the love they demonstrate. If we keep these words in our hearts and practice them, in return, our hearts and our souls and everything we have inside of us finds satisfaction and peace.