Friday, December 19, 2014

A Thoughtful Dance

Every day one must dance. Even if only in thought.
-Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810)

The body moves us and we are moved on multiple levels towards our joyful ascent.

Sometimes, the very thought of being in holy movement, lifts us out of the chair of despair into seraphic speculation.

The body works in seamless attunement with our spirits. If every emotion has a physiological response, can we change how we feel if we alter our physical progression?

It is easy to dance and sing, smile and laugh, when we are content.

What takes practice, is dancing and singing, smiling and laughing when we are despondent.

Rabbi Nachman encourages the dance practice as a form of therapeutic resistance to sadness and suffering.

Everyone can dance, if only in thought.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Backward Glance

Observing your life with perspective is unnatural.

We continue cruising constantly.

Until we stop.

We catch a rear-view snapshot of a life running behind us.

An unexpected compliment that highlighted your work.

A friendly stranger who who spoke a truth you needed to know.

An emotion reverberated through your body you didn’t know existed.

And you stopped.

You caught up with your shadow.

The spotlights showered your accomplishments.

You were blinded by the brightness of your backward glance.

A life well-observed is a life well-lived.

He said, she said.


Look behind you.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Craving Aloneness

As human beings, we crave being alone.

We carry an entire world inside our own experience. When we are inside ourselves, we possess an opportunity to meditate on the interconnection of soul, God and the Divine without critique from others.

A story told by the Baal Shem Tov about his childhood includes this passage: "I was drawn to walk the fields and the great, deep forest near our village. Often I would spend the night in the field or forest. One morning in the forest I heard a human voice: a Jew in tallit and tefillin, praying with a passion I had never heard. 'Aren't you afraid to be alone in the forest?' the man asked me. I answered him: 'I like the field and the forest, because there are no people . . ."

Ah, to be alone. To pray listening only to my own voice. To concentrate fiercely on all that is uniquely my own. To revel in the peace and possibility of an answer or an insight from Nature’s Universe.

And yet the reverse is also true. To be alone is disquieting. Loneliness and aloneness can be fraught with physical and emotional dangers. Difficult thoughts may discover us.

Chasing our distractions can cause an addiction of discomfort. Instead of an occasion for the Capital Connection, we form deleterious detachments and tentative traumas.

As human beings, we crave our interiority time. The silence within calls us to this open forest of mindful fertility. Feel it, fear it, face it, infuse it into your daily practice.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Gratitude Has a Price

"Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough." - Oprah Winfrey

It is a spiritual fact.

Gratitude has a price.

The price is abundance.

The more you expand your thoughts, energy and desires around the art of gratitude, the more you enhance your life’s trajectory towards more of everything.

Thanksgiving is a time to accentuate the positive in your life around the table of your communal feast.

Abundance flows on Thanksgiving.

Acknowledge it. Expand it. Embrace your life. And, if necessary, consume it.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Calling Ahead

We find our life’s calling and it aligns us with our purpose for living and staying alive.

Then, unexpectedly but smoothly, another call sits side-by-side and asks us to move over.

Do we accept this new direction immediately? Do we resist indefinitely? Ask for more time? Embrace it as it follows us around? Do we begin again to follow our passion only to find that it has changed or that we have changed?

Callings are like horse whispers.  You need to distinguish one from the other in a gentle and patient manner. If you keep hearing the same sounds and the same admonitions, take time to discern the calling ahead. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Great-Grandmother's Rite of Passage

While my daughter Elisheva was laboring at Northside Hospital in Atlanta, Ga., with her first child, my 90 year-old mother was laboring at Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia, Penn., struggling with a life-threatening illness.

My mother, Bubbe Jeanette, was semi-conscious for a week.

Every hour, I reminded her of the immediate future.

“Elisheva is due soon. Do you think it will be a girl or a boy?”

Does one soul die before another one is born? Am I waiting for a new life or anticipating losing one? Would this emerging small soul support the failing body of her maternal great-grandmother?

I waited. I held onto to my mother’s hand for her dear life. Her slow rhythmic breathing chased my inhalations of hope.

As the sun was setting on Wednesday, she awoke suddenly and whispered, “Has Elisheva had her baby yet?”

“No, mom, not yet.”

“Then go. I will be okay. Go be with Elisheva.”

Ilana Ende Funk was born while I was driving back to my home in Washington, D.C., on July 3, 2002.

My mother lived another five years and witnessed the births of her four great-grandchildren.

Last weekend, Ilana became a Bat Mitzvah at the age of 12(+) and took her place as an adult in the Jewish tradition.

Twelve years ago, Ilana and her maternal great-grandmother shared a different rite of passage: the sacred passage from life to life. L’chayim!

Shabbat shalom,

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.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Stumbling Blocks in Prague

While balancing on the cobblestones along Dhoula street in Prague, I looked down to check my step. Four four-inch brass squares glittered among the grey and white ones.

"Here lived Robert Katz, born 1901 -- deported 1942 to Terezin -- murdered at Auschwitz April 1944."

Nothing more. Nothing less. A life expressed. A tale of woe. History beneath my feet.

In German, they are called Stolpersteine or "stumbling blocks," and more than 27,000 have been laid in some 500 locations by volunteers in the 10 years since a non-Jewish artist (Gunter Demnig) first came up with a way for ordinary Germans to honor the memory of the Jews who once lived in their midst.

There are 500 Stolpersteine in the Czech Republic -- and 300 are in Prague. I took a picture of four brass squares in memory of four victims of the Nazi regime. They were lovingly lined up in a row like flowers in a garden.

I looked up to see where they might have lived and laughed. Today, the residence held fancy shops and businesses. Other people live here now, enjoying the democratic republic of the Czech people.

Monuments need not be massive. In Europe, a small cobblestone creates history every time you put down your foot.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Ringing in the Sounds of Oxford

I awoke to the bells.

Five bells ringing one right after the other.

I am in Oxford, England, where every hour on the hour the bells are ringing from this 38-college-bound town.

I heard bells 1, 2, 3 and 5.

My jet-lagged body slept through the ringing of bell 4.

What did I miss?

Will I stay awake tomorrow to identify each consecutive sound as they gently sift through the new space of my timed reality?

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Jewish View of Spirituality

The Whole World is Full of God. - Psalm 24:1

Judaism sees the material and the spiritual world as one.

The material world is always potentially spiritual.  For Judaism, all things are not impediments to, but dimensions of, spirituality. 

Jewish spirituality is about the immediacy of God’s presence everywhere.

We need only be attentive to seeing that which was invisible a moment ago.

Friday, June 6, 2014

From a Buttercup View

Meditation on a Buttercup

I look up and see the sky every day, every hour, every moment of my life.

I don’t even know my truest color but I know that I am brilliant.

So, too, Dear One, don’t look down at me
Always look up towards your dreams
Reach higher than you thought possible

Know that you are as brilliant as I
Open the petals of your heart
Let others look inside and say . . .

"How beautiful you are, daughter of the day and night, Sister of Potential."

Friday, May 30, 2014

Madness and Miracles

We sat in the back row of the Helena Rubinstein Theatre at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, but we heard every traumatic detail of the Mendels family journey toward safety.

Jacqueline Mendels Birn was interviewed by Bill Benson for the museum’s series, "First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors."

She told a story of miracles and madness during the Nazi occupation of France, which began in May 1940 when Germany invaded France.

The madness caused by Hitler and the Nazis -- and the miracles that were attributed to kind people, holy circumstances, and an indomitable father.

Hidden in a hamlet in the south of France, the family of four, and then five, were protected by the French from the Germans for over two years.

Emotional yet articulate, Jacqueline had one last clarion call to the young people in the audience.

"Do good."

"Make a difference."

"Do good."

Jacqueline Mendels Birn is the author of A Dimanche Prochain: A Memoir of Survival in World War II France. She lives in Bethesda, Md., with her husband Richard.

Friday, May 23, 2014

God's Nursing Breasts

The memorial service ended. I unplugged my heart to let the tears roll down my face.

For a few minutes I stood nestled next to the tissue box in the pastor’s study. Reluctantly I stepped into the fellowship of a bereaved community of friends and family and patients and fellow employees.

Barbara Lawson Boston, nurse practitioner, lactation consultant, labor and delivery nurse extraordinaire, friend, colleague, teacher and mentor left this world and our world far too soon. She was a vibrant 66-year-old mother and wife, sister and daughter.

The fellowship hall was abuzz with talk about Barbara’s joyful disposition and her defiant determination to make this world a better place.

I saw a young colleague who had worked at the Center for Integrative Medicine with Barbara and me.

"When did you last see Barbara?" I asked.

"Well," he responded. "Not so recently, but Barbara and I talked on the phone at length after my daughter was born. My wife was having difficulty nursing. I asked for her advice, not knowing that Barbara’s professional resume included lactation consultation. She diagnosed the issue and offered her friend Rachel as someone who provided breast milk for mothers who needed nutritional support while their own supply was being enhanced."

"And," he added, "this same Rachel was also providing breast milk for Barbara in the hope that it would vitalize her during her cancer treatments."

El Shaddai . . . God . . . The One of the Breast*

Barbara Lawson Boston, nurse of God, nurturer and nourisher: May the Holy One of Compassion, The One of the Breast, nurse and supply you with eternal peace.

Shabbat shalom,

* It is thought that Shaddai was an attribute of a Semitic goddess, linking the epithet Shaddai with the Hebrew shad meaning "breast" -- giving the meaning "the One of the Breast," as Asherah in Ugarit is "the One of the Womb."

A similar theory proposes that the name Shaddai is connected to shadayim, the Hebrew word for "breasts." It may thus be connected to the notion of God's gifts of fertility to the human race.

Friday, May 16, 2014

My Wrinkled Life

My white t-shirt came out of the dryer all wrinkled.

How can I wear any shirt with that many wrinkles?

Wash it again? Dry it again? Take an iron to it?

(Could I even find the iron?)

Wrinkles, they say, are a sign of how you lived your life. Every wrinkle tells a tale. Don’t erase your wrinkles or your story line will be altered.


Is my life’s prose written all over my face? Will a little Cover Girl distort the complexion of my narrative?

So I put the shirt in the dryer again using wrinkle control. After several minutes, the wrinkles had diminished significantly. The shirt was smooth and good-looking. Yes, good enough to wear.

I looked into the bathroom mirror with the eyes of a detective. I reflected fancifully on my aging face.

Yes, the years had worn those wrinkles up and down valleys and hills of my unpublished novel.

Perhaps a moisturizer would minimize the wear and tear. Perhaps a light cream would reduce the sharpest of indentations. Perhaps it did reveal my previous decades?

Was it time to engage in my self-imposed wrinkle control?

Promote less stress. Extend more love. Live with integrity. Laugh and hike. Pray with heart. Yes, this kind of wrinkle control will be good enough to wear.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Sabbath Peace in Diversity

I brought my braided challah, my Sabbath candles, and my desire to connect.

I was invited by my Hindu friend, Rukmini, to a Friday night get-together with her "spiritual" sisterhood. I hesitated. How would I perform my Sabbath rituals and practice?

"Bring them along," she encouraged. "Light the candles and say your prayers with us and for us. What a wonderful way to begin our conversation."

Nine feminine spirits circled the dinner table. With a few inward waves of my hands, the Divine light of the Shechinah hovered among us. Our four Sabbath candles kindled the way.

Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, American, Iranian, Egyptian, Peruvian.

We spoke of heartache, losses and dreams. We wrestled with vulnerabilities and imperfections. We shared personal pursuits and disappointments. We valued the deep listening. We paused and spoke our Sabbath peace for two hours. 

How is it that you can create a bold, full-roasted bond with women you just met?

How can you not?

My new sisterhood loved the Jewish concept of Sabbath ceasing for one whole day. Our host, Leslie, suggested a Sabbath on the farm for our next meeting.

I left with true nourishment, a room full of newly ordained sisters and a desire to taste this kind of Sabbath again.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Goodbye to Our Reluctant Soldier

Thirteen months in Vietnam made him a veteran and a wounded warrior. When he returned home to his family and friends, there was relief and gratitude. In the larger public, however, the Vietnam vets were met with disgust. The controversial Vietnam War caused the returning soldiers great personal pain.

Finally, in 1982 the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated, and the names of more than 58,000 Americans who gave their lives in service to their country were engraved forever.

Before Stan died, he requested that we make a pilgrimage to the Vietnam Memorial and pay our respects to his memory and to those who were destined not to return. Last week, I walked with the 15 friends and family of this reluctant soldier in meditative silence perusing the names of the lost ones. How often do the past, present and future form an arc around an event so that it appears that eternity has intervened?

With the sun casting its warmth upon us, we sat on the stairs with our backs to the Lincoln Memorial. We shared stories highlighting his generosity and caring spirit. There were tears when words were insufficient. His sister brought personal effects and shared them with his closest. His three nephews and one niece wrote special notes to express their emotions.

Now the one who had survived had succumbed to cancer. He was more than his past would have suggested. He was a son, a brother, an uncle and a friend. He had lived a life surrounded by loving companions and good deeds.

We offered our inadequate goodbyes by casting our newly found rocks into the Reflecting Pool, thereby substituting the rocks for the stones we usually place on a Jewish tombstone.

We were reluctant to leave our beloved, and our beloved was reluctant to go. As we turned our bodies to exit the plaza, a high school orchestra began to play "Eleanor Rigby" by the Beatles. Yes, the 60s were over but the melodies lingered on only to begin again.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hope in Haste

For four hundred years (or a for a very long time), the Hebrews were slaves to the Pharaohs of Egypt.

Days, weeks, months, years of hopelessness and fatigue -- both emotional and physical -- pursued them. 

And then overnight, like in a dream, carrying the faith of their ancestors on their shoulders, the multitude ran from the bitterness of Egypt into the dawn of a free-flowing morning.

In haste . . .

Passover expresses the hopefulness that emerges often in haste. In a blink of an eye, sorrow turns to joy. Unexpected miracles arrive without precedence. A mother’s womb opens to a promise of conception. A new idea concretizes in our mind. A beautiful sight appears as we turn the bend.

In haste . . . 

We left our past in haste but we linger in joy as we instill the sweet seder memories for our future generations.

Please share your stories of "Hope in Haste" as we gather our belongings to enter into the next chapter of liberation.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Bronx Unitarian Memorial Service

If they had begun by saying that he was a Bronx boy who went to Stuyvesant High School, I would have had a moral obligation to co-officiate at his memorial service.

The Unitarian Minister who called me in the late evening ignored this significant status.

Instead the reverend pleaded on behalf of the Unitarian widow for me to suffuse the service with Jewish elements for her late husband whose core being was Jewish.

"We have been looking for a rabbi and you came highly recommended. The memorial service will take place on Friday. Won’t you please come? It would mean so much to the bereaved family."

And that is how I found myself at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Bethesda, Maryland, chanting the "El Maleh Rachamim," and leading the grieving community in the Kaddish. And did I mention the ribbon cutting ritual that the son and the grandchildren participated in before the service?

The eulogies were offered by  two of his 85-year-old male friends who grew up with the deceased in the Bronx. Did I say the Bronx? My old neighborhood in the Bronx. The Bronx Zoo. The Bronx Botanical Gardens. Crotona Park and the Cross Bronx Expressway.

My sweet childhood reflections returned rapidly at a memorial service by a man I never met, but a man I knew so much about. I knew where he played and where he went to school; I knew the sights and sounds of his native birthplace; I knew his struggles as a first generation immigrant; and I heard his Bronx accent whispering in my ear. "Wasn’t I a lucky man to have had the opportunities I had to become the scientist I was supposed to be in a country that gave me the freedom to excel and explore?"

I met Feivel’s soul last week and we traded stories about the gift of growing up in the Bronx without a map to guide us, just a path to invent.

In gratitude. In memoriam. Amen.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Cup of Morning Kindness

"If your friends don’t come, I will sit with you," said the 20-something male millennial, as he served me my first cup of coffee of the day.

It was 8:39 a.m. and I had been waiting for 15 elongated minutes for my friend and his student.

I had come unusually early.

My friend had come unusually late.

A mere nine minutes and his delay concerned me precisely because he is unusually prompt. 

Waiting is so mind-consuming.

Yet, we wait all the time for so many things, for so many people to show up, for so many wishes to be fulfilled, for so many opportunities to birth.

When my friends arrived, I was relieved, but so was the young twenty-something millennial. He had been waiting with me. His morning cup of kindness fulfilled me all day.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Details and Essence

Yesterday I misplaced my phone charger. Today I forgot to take my apartment keys. Tomorrow I will undoubtedly confront a new debacle.

How can it be otherwise? So many daily details invade our existence. If a scrabble word piece alludes us, we pronounce defeat or incompetence.cWe stand on guard for our lives.

How can our fortitude in the face of these mini-monsters be less than a miracle?

For all the things I do remember. For all the things I choose to forget. For all the things that turn out right. For all the times I accomplish a difficult task. For all these ordinary and extraordinary occasions, I stand in conscious and consistent gratitude.

Yesterday, I navigated the DC courthouse and found my way to a new destination. Today, I engaged in a smart conversation. Tomorrow, I will research an awakening opportunity.

The minutiae of my life continues to baffle and befriend me, but so does its essence.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Sound of the Chant

Megillah is the Hebrew word for scroll. On Purim, the Festival of Lots, we chant the story of Queen Esther and King Ahashverus. (Purim began last night.)

Megillat Esther tells the story of the salvation of the Jews of the Persian Empire.

When chanted, the scroll of Esther has a particular lilting sound that is repetitive with strong cadences.

Last week, the chanting began with my grandson's practicing his four lines over and over again.

Then he recruited his siblings to chant with him (in Hebrew) the same four lines in the car on their way to school.

By the time he actually chanted his portion at his school's Megillat Esther reading, it was spinning in my head and attached to my heart.

The Megillah took on a new childlike sing-song rhythm. The story is just a story. When chanted, it is a Disney classic.

Chag sameach! Have a happy, happy Purim.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Holy Listeners

To be truly heard by an ardent listener is a potent obsession.

It is more than empathy. It is more than affirming. It is more than your physical presence.

To be truly heard we must focus on the other with the same intensity that we focus on ourselves.

Holy moments equal holy listeners.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Reading is Spiritual

Reading is my new spiritual practice. It takes me far away from my everyday worries and concerns and elevates my thinking about a variety of ideas.

I am suddenly focused on something outside my narrow world while the story and the characters connect me to a larger sense of humanity.

I have a favorite reading place in the living room where the light is perfectly aligned and my body is enveloped easily into the coach.

The moment I sit down with my book and my teacup, I expect euphoria.

The luxury of reading is a luxury that freedom and fantasy provide.

The next book is already in my hands and it will gradually, but undoubtedly, open my heart to a new reality.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Waiting for Grace

"Chesed isn’t a reward; it is reality. God’s grace isn’t limited to what we want to happen or might like to happen. God’s grace is what is happening whether we like it or not. In short, God’s grace is the giving of all to all.” - Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Amazing Chesed
I have always believed that grace (chesed in hebrew) is limitless and available to everyone.
Grace has escorted me into my self-contrived darkness revealing herself just before the dawn of a significant birthing.
When I struggle and then let go of the struggle, grace appears to assure me that I am in sync.
Recalling moments of inexplicable goodness orbits my grateful places in perpetuity.
When I do not know what to do, I wait for grace. I stand with humility before her. I open my being to receive her. I trust her pattern. I shift my static paradigm and begin to swim towards that moment of clear water calm.
While waiting for grace, I forget to fear what will never happen.
Waiting for grace has become my best learned reality.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Longing is the One

Longing is a divine urgency that possesses your mind in the morning
and invades your heart in the evening.

When you long for something or someone,
your entire body is wrapped in the craving and the aching.  

In the longing resides a thirst and a hunger
that encourages and moves you forward.

Blessed is the longing
that uncovers your heart’s desires.

Blessed is the One who longs for you
and in the Longing
sets your sail in a new direction. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Rewriting Your Memories

The Way We Were (lyrics by Marvin Hamlisch)

Could it be that life was so simple then?
Or has time rewritten every line?

Memories may be beautiful and yet
what's too painful to remember
we simply choose to forget

Memory is the story you create of the past that fits your needs for the present.

Your mind sifts through chosen moments in your life and scoops out the preferred details.

You have ultimate control and access when you decide which memories to store on your hard-drive.

We each have a story that defines us.  It may be a false history and an uncommon perspective, but it belongs to us, and we own it proudly and defiantly.

When you recall and subconsciously rearrange the active plot of your past, it becomes the truth of your present, for better, for worse, forever.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Price of Wisdom

The price of wisdom is above rubies. (Job 28:18)

I am pleased to announce the creation of The Benjamin Center for Jewish Studies in memory of my beloved father, Rabbi Benjamin Miller, whose quest for wisdom through Jewish texts framed his life.

The Benjamin Center for Jewish Studies will form a community of wisdom learners who will disseminate a personal and dynamic commitment to Jewish texts and philosophy.

We will focus on the wonder and relevance of these texts to build a human community filled with devotion and love.

The premiere of the study group is in mid-February (on a Sunday) at my home:

Song of Songs: Biblical Lyrical Love Poems
A Study in Relationships

If you interested in this community, email me!

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Return of My Parents' Souls

January arrives bringing my parents back into my rear view mirror.

I dream about them. I whisper my deepest desires loud enough so they can hear while I remain undetected. I visualize my father’s white wool tallit wrapped around his body and then -- a flashback to his Cuban cigar smoking forays into the streets near our apartment building.

I smell my mother’s spicy meatballs which she formed every Wednesday night for dinner and then -- a snapshot of her diminutive shape standing at the sink "doing" the daily dishes.

In a few days I will light their individual Yahrzeit candles in memory. They died a year and twelve days apart. Dad first. Mom second. They stretched themselves to each other for eternity.

Now only six and seven years later, I ask my question.

How can their souls continue to be elevated, when each year my connection to them gets stronger and more immanent?

The return of my parents’ souls is an annual gift of grace and nostalgia for what was and still is.

May they rest in peace next to my beating heart.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Waiting One Minute Longer

The rabbis interpreted that the Jews escaped Egypt at the very final moment. The slaves had descended to the 49th of the 50 gates of deprecation.

Had we lingered a minute longer we never would have emerged as a people who were destined to enter the Promised Land.

Ascending in the darkness of slavery was an act of faith. Maintaining a glimmer of hope enabled us to climb up one freedom rung.

As dark as the winter nights are, as dangerous and as uncertain as our own lives may be, we must continue to see the part of the road that is already illuminated.

A future strewn with possibilities is an optimism that we can endure.

Do not wait one minute longer to make your ascent.