"Más participación", interrupts Margarita, my massage course instructor, "y menos presión."
I nod without looking up and continue to knead down the back of Yvonne, my fellow student; this time, as per my Venezuelan teacher's directions, using more participation (namely from my entire hand) and applying less pressure.
"Muy bien", she proclaims when I'm done, "very good".
With a small towel, I wipe away some sweat from my forehead.
Onto the shoulders now.
My eager fingers grab, pinch and pull her stiff joints, bidding the cartilage to allow her shoulders the ease of movement they so desperately desire. I work vigorously. I stand stiffly as my fingers do their dance, their concentrated dance, upon Yvonne.
Deeper now, deeper. More pressure, more pressure. Get out all the knots. Dig!
I'm breathing hard and quickly.
Yvonne nudges me and points to our teacher. "Más participación y menos presión. Involucrate!" Margarita repeats herself. "More involvement and less pressure. Get involved! You need to involve ALL of your hand! Ease on the pressure!"
I roll my eyes and we all giggle. It's an ongoing joke, this constant reminder for me to slow down and focus on where my energy is coming from and where it's going to, rather than pounding away zealously.
I shake my wrists, take a deep breath and carefully resume my labor of love on my dear friend and classmate. "Victim", she claims with a wink.
I started this course about three weeks earlier and the classes are the highlight of my week. I'm absolutely in my element as Margarita lectures, demonstrates, tests, and guides us in everything there is to know about Masaje de Todo (Everything Massage). I knew a bit about massaging before I joined, having been blessed bywith 'hands that heal', but entering the world of the erudite and gentle Margarita was entering into a whole new sphere of healing.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
I’ve seen the Eiffel Tower
And I’ve seen Trafalgar Square
I’ve seen the sun rise on the ocean
And I know that You are there
From our holy land
To the Jewish plight we all know too well
I know You are there
And I know, I know You care
Horrified, we watched the Towers fall
As my soul froze somehow
I wondered where are You now?
But as the people ran in fear
I know You were standing there
And as our heroes went to die
I think I heard You start to cry
And I believe, You are listening to me
And I believe, You are standing here with me
And the footprints in the sand, oh no they’re not from me
I believe they’re all from You my G-d, when You carried me
And the storms in our life
They come riding in like the wind
And turn us inside out
Just to fill our hearts with doubt
But You’re my strength, You’re my power
You’re my hero, You’re my tower
You’re my life-line in the sea
And it’s You who carries me
Thursday, September 16, 2010
It's for Him, either way.
G-d doesn't want me to do that whole list of things, nor does He want me to eat rocks.
Apparently, G-d knows me a lot better than I know myself. And He knows the plan a lot better than I do, I must remind myself.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
By Aron Moss
Rabbi, do you know why I don't go to synagogue? I used to go, but I started to notice that in my synagogue, the rich people get more noticed and average people like me are overlooked. So I stopped going. If you need to be wealthy to be respected, I want no part of it. Am I right or wrong?
You are the third person this week to explain to me why they don't go to synagogue. This happens to me all the time. At almost every function I attend, a wedding, kid's birthday party or communal gathering, someone comes up to me and says, "Rabbi, do you know why I don't go to synagogue...."
I have never asked anyone why they don't go to synagogue. I don't even know these people. And yet they feel the need to share with me their particular Jewish gripe, either about the unfriendly rabbi or the arrogant cantor, the grandfather who forced them to pray or the G‑d who didn't answer their prayers.
It's funny, I don't feel the need to justify to my dentist why I never go to him, or the local gym why they never see me. And yet when people see a rabbi they are overcome with an urge to explain their absence from synagogue.
Mind you, the people who do attend synagogue don't seem to have a good reason why they come. Even someone who has not been to synagogue in years can rock up to a service, and without any justification for their sudden appearance, they walk in, take a prayer book and sit down as if they always belonged there.
Because they do belong there.A Jew needs no reason to be in synagogue. There is no explanation necessary. Most of the time, they themselves don't know why they started coming to synagogue. And so they offer no rationalization. You only need a reason not to go to synagogue. But to go, no reason is required. I am here because I am Jewish, and going to synagogue is Jewish.
This is why I love hearing those alibis people present for not being in synagogue. A Jew needs a reason not to connect to Judaism. Some may have pretty good reasons, like yours. But they are reasons nonetheless. A Jew needs no reason to connect to Judaism. It is who we are.
If you don't like your synagogue, find another one. Until you do, all the justifications in the world won't change the fact that you're a Jew, and a Jew wants to be Jewish.
uch i LOVE it!!
Feeling guilty, they say, is bad for us. It lowers self esteem. Who does it any more? We have finally reached the age Shelley dreamed of in his poem Prometheus Unbound. We are “free from guilt or pain.”
All of which makes it difficult to understand – except as some relic of the past – what Jews throughout the world are now doing, getting ready for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement, what we call “the Days of Awe.” Yom Kippur could almost be defined as a festival of guilt. We repent and confess our sins repeatedly in long alphabetical lists. “We have been guilty, we have betrayed, we have robbed, we have spoken slander.” “For the sin we committed through hardness of heart, for the sin we committed through utterance of the lips,” and so on throughout the day.
Yom Kippur itself is the culmination of a process that begins forty days before with the sounding of the shofar, the ram’s horn, our moral early warning system. Then come Selichot, the special penitential prayers said for a week before the New Year, then the New Year itself with its symbolism of the world as a courtroom in session, with our lives on trial. It’s hard to think of anything less in keeping with the zeitgeist, the mood of now.
I think, though, that Judaism gets it right and the zeitgeistgets it spectacularly, dangerously wrong. Consider: guilt enters the world hand in hand with the spirit of forgiveness. G-d forgives: that is the message emblazoned all over Yom Kippur. G-d doesn’t expect us to get it right all the time. The greatest of the great, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, David, had their faults and failings, defeats and doubts. There is only one person in the Hebrew Bible who is said to have committed no sin: Job. And look what happened to him.
So, because G-d forgives, we can be honest with Him and therefore with ourselves. Unlike a shame culture, a guilt culture separates agent from act, the person from the deed. What I did may be wrong, but I am still intact, still loved by G-d, still His child. In a guilt culture, acknowledging our mistakes is doable, and that makes all the difference.
Today’s secular environment is a shame culture. It involves trial by the media, or public opinion, or the courts, or economic necessity, all of which are unforgiving. When shame is involved, it’s us, not just our actions, that are found wanting. That’s why in a shame culture you don’t hear people saying, “I was wrong. It was my fault. I’m sorry. Forgive me.” Instead, people try to brazen it out. The only way to survive in a shame culture is to be shameless. Some people manage this quite well, but deep down we know that there’s something rotten in a system where no one is willing to accept responsibility.
Ultimately, guilt cultures produce strong individuals precisely because they force us to accept responsibility. When things go wrong we don’t waste time blaming others. We don’t luxuriate in the most addictive, destructive drug known to humankind, namely victimhood. We say, honestly and seriously, “I’m sorry. Forgive me. Now let me do what I can to put it right.” That way we and the people we offend can move on. Through our mistakes we discover the strength to heal, learn and grow.
Shame cultures produce people who conform. Guilt cultures produces people with the courage to be free. The Talmud says that the Day of Atonement was one of the happiest days of the year. That’s an odd thing to say about a day of fasting and confession. But the rabbis were right.
In place of a low dishonest culture where everyone blames someone else and no one admits responsibility, Yom Kippur offers a world of honesty and responsibility where guilt melts in the flames of G-d’s forgiveness and we are made new in the fire of His unconditional love.
Wishes for you in the year ahead:
May you rise from every occasion . . .
May you find it easy to give and receive . . .
May you know when to surrender, and do so with grace . . .
May you remember that some people's lives are parched and dry... and be grateful for the abundance in yours . . .
May you find beauty in unexpected places . . .
May you carry your loads with ease amid sweetness . . .
May you learn and teach well . . .
May you move with as much joy and ease as you can . . .
May your home be filled with fresh air and light . . .
May your tense and angry times be short-lived . . .
so that you come back quickly to your comfortable ol' self . . .
May you be startled and delighted by new beginnings . . .
May you find your uniqueness . . .
May there be peace between you and your friends . . .
and hear beautiful music . . .
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
On Rosh Hashanah we produce three sounds via the shofar. The first sound is called tekiah, a single whole note. The second is shevarim, three shorter “broken” notes, which sound like three sighs. The third is called teruah, nine staccato notes in rapid succession, which sound like the short sobs.
What do they represent? Tekiah reminds us that once we were whole. Each of us was born whole. Shevarim reminds us that in life we are plagued by questions, confusion, and disappointments; we become fragmented, and scattered, causing our existential sighs. Teruah reminds us how many people’s lives have been shattered through various negative experiences into tiny pieces. They are sobbing consciously or unconsciously.
We all stood there under the awning and just inside the door of the Wal-Mart. We waited, some patiently, others irritated because nature messed up our hurried day. I am always mesmerized by rainfall. I get lost in the sound and sight of the heavens washing away the dirt and dust of the world.
Memories of running, splashing so carefree as a child come pouring in as a welcome reprieve from the worries of my day. Her voice was so sweet as it broke the hypnotic trance we were all caught in. "Mom, let's run through the rain," she said.
"What?" Mom asked.
"Let's run through the rain!" She repeated.
"No, honey. We'll wait until it slows down a bit," Mom replied.
This young child waited about another minute and repeated: "Mom, let's run through the rain."
"We'll get soaked if we do," Mom said.
"No, we won't, Mom. That's not what you said this morning," the young girl said as she tugged at her Mom's arm.
"This morning? When did I say we could run through the rain and not get wet?"
"Don't you remember? When you were talking to Daddy about his cancer, you said, 'If G-d can get us through this, He can get us through anything!'"
The entire crowd stopped dead silent. I swear you couldn't hear anything but the rain. We all stood silently. No one came or left in the next few minutes. Mom paused and thought for a moment about what she would say. Now some would laugh it off and scold her for being silly. Some might even ignore what was said. But this was a moment of affirmation in achild's life. A time when innocent trust can be nurtured so that it will bloom into confidence, courage and faith.
"Honey, you are absolutely right. Let's run through the rain. If G-d let's us get wet, well maybe we just needed washing," Mom said. Then off they ran. We all stood watching, smiling and laughing as they darted past the cars and yes, through the puddles. They held their shopping bags over their heads just in case. They got soaked. But they were followed by a few who screamed and laughed like children all the way to their cars.
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
The earnestness and sincerity, the acceptance and the struggle.
A perfect human being, doing everything wrong.
The most precious English neshama I've yet to meet...
Monday, September 06, 2010
Friday, September 03, 2010
Thursday, September 02, 2010
Wednesday, August 25
- Exercise for the day:- Of the events of the past day, select a positive experience and identify how the goodness you encountered is embodied in you.- Of the events of the past day, select a negative experience and identify how this reflects a negative characteristic that you possess.
Excerpt from 60 Days: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays, by Simon Jacobson. ©Copyright The Meaningful Life Center, 2010. All rights reserved.www.meaningfullife.com.
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