Friday, December 2, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. Single photos - no words - capturing moments from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Friday, October 28, 2011

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]

the little prince.

"  'The stars are beautiful because of a flower one cannot see...'
I replied, 'Of course' and I looked at the sand dunes under the moonlight in silence.
'The desert is beautiful,' he added...
And it was true. I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet one can feel a silent radiation.
'What makes the desert so beautiful,' said the Little Prince, 'is that it hides a well somewhere.'  "

"I raised the bucket to his lips. He drank with his eyes closed. It was as sweet as a festival treat. This water was something entirely different from ordinary nourishment. It was born from the walk under the stars, the singing of the pulley and the effort of my arms. It was good for the heart, like a gift."  

"It is only with one's heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye." 

Friday, October 7, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} A friday ritual. A single photo - no words - 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 section for all to find and see.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Between the lines.

"Learning is what you do with knowledge that already exists, seeking is what you do for the truth." - Rabbi M. Feuer

"All that is thought should not be said, all that is said should not be written, all that is written should not be published, all that is published should not be read." - The Kotzker Rebbe

Monday, October 3, 2011


A little bit of life through my eyes...

[afternoon sun]
[jerusalem stones]
[looking up]
[nachlaot graffiti]
[stones and sun]
[shirat devorah girls in the light]
[desert at sunrise]

Some Rosh Hashana Impressions.

I close my eyes and all I see is white. I hear the voices rise up around me and form one, whole voice which then settles down into my core, sending reverberations through my whole body. The melody is haunting, slow, intentional. Coming from that same core place in all those around me. We let out this voice, our voice, a call in hopes of drawing closer. To what? To the divine infinite all around us, to each other, to ourselves. A harmony of yearning.

"I called out from the narrows and you answered me with expansiveness."

And then, silence. Heads bowed. Waiting. Trembling. The shofar sounds, sending shock waves through each member of the congregation until it reaches every corner of the room. The sound travels through us, now one whole, like a wave. Shattering our false pretenses, our exterior shells, exposing our truest selves. We continue to listen, awaken, return to. Surrender to that which is so much greater than ourselves. I hear tears rolling down the cheek of my neighbor. I am still.

When my eyes open, I can finally see. Despite my exhaustion, I am being pulled upward. Growing and shrinking at once, transcending my physical limitations.
And the singing brings me back. This time joyous. The Torah, our ancient and timeless truths all wrapped into one scroll, is carried through the crowd. Our most precious possession. When it reaches the women, the tears start again. But this time I can see them. In my eyes and the eyes of all those around me. Gratitude. Awe. Devotion. All shared. Women dance in the aisle with their infants, grasp hands and sing with their neighbors. The majestic head coverings crowing each woman glisten in the sunlight that shines through the windows. The vision is both ancient and futuristic at once. I close my eyes again and all that I breathe in is light.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Returning to, once again.

Somehow another month has gone by. I actually can't believe it. I know, I know, so cliche to speak of time passing quickly. But there are times where it must be noted.
My life has once again changed drastically since I last wrote. Going from seminary life to being a Madricha (coordinator/counselor) for the program I went on 2 years ago (Livnot U'Lehibanot) has been quite a shift. Full of ups and downs, hardships and accomplishments. My experiences continue to be rich, complex, fulfilling, and challenging, somehow in a whole new way than I had expected. Going from student to teacher, from living in my own cloud of learning and reflecting and processing to serving as a mirror for others to grow and question. Teaching, listening, and questioning for others has been a whole new teacher for me!

Some things I've done in the last month:

Gave an hour long presentation on Kabbalistic concepts of Masculine and Feminine
Danced at a friend's wedding
Sat under a few waterfalls admiring rainbows in water droplets
Stayed up until 3am talking under the stars
Been called someone's spiritual guru (ha!)
Completed a 3 day hike (somewhere near 30 miles) ending in the Mediterranean Sea
Seen a full lunar eclipse
Sang to the Prime Minister's wife
Eaten way too much hummus
Cried at the most beautiful Shabbat sunsets
Been proposed to
Walked through a banana field
Cooked/done dishes for 35+ people
Napped on the side of the road with a group of 30 people

Here are some excerpts from emails and conversations I've had in the last month:

i wanted to share something i'm learning about today (in preparation for my final project that will be an hour long presentation on sunday!) this is from the book about kabbalah of masculine and feminine (by sarah yehudite schnieder).

"one of the features of paradox that makes it uniquely suited to this task is its capacity to generate a kind of electric current between its two poles. this happens automatically when the mind focuses in and discovers that it cannot make peace with either side. at the very moment the intellect savors the truth of one statement, the stink of heresy spoils its repose. jolted, the mind scrambles for a solution, which it does find in the other side. but that statement, too, is also no safe haven, for its truth has problems of its own.
back and forth, a reluctant nomad, the mind seeks peace to no avail until...a wonder happens. its oscillation triggers a kind of electric current that adds motion to the system. and once there is motion, there is time. and if the motion is perfectly symmetrical between truth and counter-truth, then there is above-time. now in addition to its static and opposing truths a dynamic element appears that fuses the system into a single coordinated whole that is greater than the sum of its parts and possesses the capacity to hold infinite truth."

it was written in reference to the paradox that god is perfection and yet also perfecting. (the sun and moon, relatively speaking). this reminds me of the israel/nationalism/person of the world dilemma. and religion and god. you and i. in my best moments, i truly believe in the necessity of this 'dance' between truth and counter truth, to find the where they can both be true.


i had this great conversation this morning with the couple i've been staying with, hillel and chaya. they're an amazing couple, totally after my own heart. their values and partnership and the vision they have in raising a family is beautiful. we started talking about physics and god and me going home and relating to the rest of the world. hillel has a shiur/class that he gives called "i don't believe in god, i'm not a monotheist, and i'm an orthodox rabbi." i think thats a good summary of our conversation and his orientation. (he's a rabbi, in yeshiva, and teaches meditation in the old city). we talked about the necessity of breaking away from all the empty shells religion has created. how transformation can only happen after a fall. he said he finds that spiritual people (especially scientists) who distance themselves from religion are totally coming from the right place, and a necessary place. seeing through the bullshit and the emptiness and challenging the status quo of big groups of people. this is so much of what i've been experiencing, that i find so hard to give over when i talk to people from home. that the concepts we were taught about what religion and god are need to be shattered before we can make any real progress. that i don't believe in that god either, or that religion that fosters blind faith or empty ritual. but it is so possible to find something greater, once we leave those shattered pieces behind. to realize that the way that we relate to the world, in awe of creation and physics, can be what religion is. then we talked about all these physicists who talk about light and how they concepts are exactly what kabbalah talks about, just slightly different language. and how amazing and transformative that realization is. that science and spirituality aren't separate or contradictory, but only reinforce each other. that oneness. it goes so far beyond god. and even YHVH, because the second we try to name it, we lose some of its essence.


the last few days have been such a whirlwind, whoa. going from being the ever questioning student to this new role of madricha/teacher to people on their own journeys is mind blowing. i started getting challenged the second i got here! "why are you wearing long sleeves when its hot out?" "oh, so you're religious?" "well, why?" "wait, you don't TOUCH boys!?!?!" its been crazy. i feel like in a few days i've had to solidify where i stand, sometimes in ways that i'm not even ready to do yet. overall, i feel good. i feel so happy and grateful about where i'm at in my own journey, and also nostalgic for this place that the participants/chevre here are in. i don't think i realized how far i'd come, truly, until i got to see the mirror of others experiences. but it's lonely too. i miss being around my classmates and teachers, to really focus on this journey and process which is still so new for me! i miss being the one who's experience is central in the learning environment. i need to find a way to be here for the participants here (some of whom are having crazy intense existential experiences so similar to mine and asking so many amazing, difficult, questions), but also continue my own growth and learning. so so weird to be back at this place that for 2 years i held in such a high place, as a place that had the key to unlock my spiritually, only to realize that i've outgrown it in a sense. that i now hold my own key more than this place holds it for me.

i had a moment on shavuot (a word on shavuot: one of the major 3 holidays. we've been counting the days between passover and this day (called counting the omer) and it celebrated the day the jews received the torah on mt sinai. a big deal, to say the least. but very lightly celebrated here so as not to freak out the participants or turn them off to religiousness). so, on shavuot, i had this moment by myself where i so distinctly felt god (which is impossible to articulate, but a distinct feeling for me). this feeling i remembered having here 2 years ago that i've had so few times. my time of seeing the "light" (as a teacher of mine would say). i had that same feeling, and instead of being in awe and somewhat scared of it like i was a few years ago, i welcomed it with open arms. i felt like, 'ah i knew you'd come back. and i'm ready for you. for this feeling to come and go, and not be scared by that. to accept god and torah as important in my life, no matter how scary that seems sometimes.' its so undeniably a part of me. so, i had my own mt sinai experience. of feeling god and saying "yes."

the coordinator who i was so close to on my trip, adam, led our first hike the other day. fitting, i thought. he was so interested in where i'm at, how my questions have changed in the last two years. as i was telling him somewhat about where i'm at and shavuot and my process he smiled and was like 'you should see yourself jenna.' i said 'i bet you never thought we'd be having this conversation, huh? after seeing me so angry and confused for those two weeks.' and he said, 'you know, i'm not actually surprised. the people who have the biggest fire, the most burning questions, are often the ones that will go to the farthest lengths to get them answered. and that is exactly what you're doing.' whoa. so true. how special to be able to be here, 2 years later, reflecting on progress and growth, and playing a role to now help others through their own journeys, wherever they might end up.

There you have it. A less than perfect summary, but better than nothing. As for right now, I am trying to regain walking abilities after this insane hike. So ready for a restful weekend. And will hopefully be seeing Matisyahu in Jerusalem next week with some wonderful people! I'm. So. Excited.

Also, I'll be home in less than a month! So crazy.

Love to you all and see you soon :)