A Few of My Favorite Posts from Past 10 years

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Elements of a Sustainable Spiritual Practice: Part V — Summer

Aligning your spiritual practice with the elements of Summer.

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Sivan: Lesson of Zevulon

Zevulon (זְבוּלֻן), also pronounced Zebulon, is the sixth son of Jacob and Leah.  His name comes from the word “zeved” (זֵבֶד), which means dowry or gift. Leah saw him as G!d(dess) endowing her with a good dowry with her six sons (Gen 30:20).   His standard, based on the blessing Jacob bestowed upon him in Genesis 49:13, generally contains a ship as Zebulon was considered a sea-faring tribe. As we know from the lesson in the month of Iyyar, Zevulon is cosmically intertwined with his brother-tribe of Issachar. Zevulon is the merchant that supports the scholarship of Issachar. Zevulon is a tribe of movement and travel, which explains the “sense” of the month being, “walking.”  According to Inner.org, this refers “not only to physical walking but to the spiritual sense of progress or development.”  It’s also clear how both the mazal, or astrological sign, and tarot card relate to Zevulon.  The mazal is Gemini, also known as the twins, and the tarot card is   “The Lovers.”  Both of these relay the idea of partnership, interdependence, and important relationships.   Humans are not, generally, solitary creatures — and Judaism is not a solitary spiritual path.  It’s a tribal religion.  We rely on each other, we pray together,  we rejoice together,  and we care for each other’s dead.  Zevulon is the merchant who sails the world and brings back experiences to share with Issachar and the rest of the tribe.  But, while Zevulon’s core role is a merchant — it doesn’t release him (or us) from the responsibility of learning Torah engaging with Judaism.   The lessons I find in Zevulon are that no matter where you go, or what you do in life, Judaism and Jewish spiritual practice should be at your center.  We all engage with this in different ways.  We all find different aspects that move our souls.  At Sinai, at Shavuot, the Torah tells us that G!d(dess) spoke to each of us separately and we all heard different words — but together. The job...

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Iyyar: Lesson of Issachar

Apr 24, 11 Iyyar: Lesson of Issachar

Posted by in Holidays & Holy Days

Issachar is the tribe associated with the month of Iyyar, which generally falls between April and May. Issachar is considered to be the tribe of scholars and noted as astronomers and mathematicians.

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Passover Menu 5771

The theme for my 5771 seder was “Oasis at the Elim.” I had written about this concept a couple of years back, but had gone in a different direction that year. This year, I finally decided to do a menu with the “oasis” theme.

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Elements of a Sustainable Spiritual Practice: Part V – Spring

Explore the spiritual practices of Spring, Tekufat Nissan, which is the marker of Spring in Judaism. Spring is the season of Earth (עָפָר) within Air (רוּחַ),

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Pesach Resources Round Up

Here’s a handy reference list to all the Pesach resources I’ve written over the years.  I figure this will be a good way to organize all of it and I can just update this as I add more! Passover resources on Peelapom.com: Peeling a Pomegranate Haggadah Menus and Seder Planning Food Blessing Tiramatzah! A More Magickal Pesach Afikomen Prizes Miriam, the Prophetess — a Midrash Peeling a Pomegranate Guide to Counting the Omer: Week 1: Week of Chesed Week 2: Week of Gevurah Week 3: Week of Tifereth Week 4: Week of Netzach Week 5: Week of Hod Week 6: Week of Yesod Week 7: Week of Malchut Now for a Trek in the Desert External Pesach Resources: Amazon.com...

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Nisan: The Lesson of Judah

~Excerpt from Nisan Guide – Subscribe for Free and Receive the Complete Guide Each Month (Cross Posted to PunkTorah.org) ~ Nisan – נִיסָן – begins at sundown on April 4th, 2011 and ends at sundown on May 4th, 2011. Judah (יְהוּדָה), associated with the month of Nisan (נִיסָן), is the fourth son of Leah and Jacob.  In Judaism the number four, the letter Dalet (ד), represents doorways. There are also four new years in Judaism, and the Nisan is the first — the doorway (הדלת) to the year.  Considering the number of fours found in the Passover Seder, is it any wonder that Judah is the fourth son? Judah takes a very human journey of learning what it means to be a decent man, in the Torah.  He starts out as a very unlikeable character, as he is the one who suggests selling Joseph to the Ishmaelites (Gen 37:26).  As others were calling for Joseph’s death, I suppose this could be seen as a moderate position — if you really wanted to try. Just after this, there is an odd interlude in the story of Joseph that focuses on Judah (Gen 38). In this story we still see him acting less than an honorable man, until his daughter-in-law, Tamar, teaches him a valuable lesson. It’s probably not just coincidence that Tamar means “date palm” and dates are considered to be psychically cleansing.  The next time we see Judah, he promises his life for Benjamin and then gives a moving speech (Gen 44:18-34) to save Benjamin that show us, and Joseph, that Judah is truly a changed man.  It is this change that seems to merit his incredible blessing from Jacob in Genesis 49:8-12, and his preeminence among the tribes. Nisan is also the new year of kings, which is appropriate with Judah because it is the tribe of Kings. Judah is the forebear of David, the first king of Israel.  It’s important to note, though, that David is descended from Judah and Tamar, whose...

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Adar II – The Lesson of Naphtali

Adar II  (אֲדָר א) begins at sundown on March 6th, 2011 and ends sundown on April 4th, 2011 ~Excerpt from Adar II Guide – Subscribe for Free and Receive the Complete Guide Each Month ~ (Cross Posted to PunkTorah.org) Naphtali is the second son of Jacob and Bilah, a handmaiden of Rachel. His name, as relayed in Genesis 30:8 means, “ And Rachel said: ‘With mighty wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and have prevailed.’ And she called his name Naphtali.”  When I read this, I immediately went to check and see if this was the same word used in Genesis 32:25 to describe Jacob wrestling with the angel, and it is not.  That word seems to be translated “struggled” (יֵּאָבֵק) where as the root of Naphtali’s name (נַפְתּוּלֵי) seems to translate more truly as wrestling, or “twists.”  I find the translation of “twists” to be fascinating.  It seems lighter and less ominous than struggling. Naphtali is traditionally symbolized by a leaping dear.  This is from Jacob’s blessing in Genesis 49:21, “Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words.”  According to some commentaries, this refers to how quickly the fruit in the tribal district of Naphtali ripened, which gave cause for blessings.  In Moses’ blessing, Deuteronomy 33:23, Naphtali is describe as, “O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the LORD: possess thou the sea and the south.”  If nothing else we can see from these blessings that Naphtali was favored, and I think good with words. Let us imagine that the message of Naphtali is that of the poet or minstrel.  If this were not a leap year, the Netivah, face of Shekhinah, associated with the month would be the Fool.  I can easily see Naphtali as the poet-jester,  entertaining us by leaping, dancing and reciting poetry and songs.  So what does that mean in a leap year?  What happens to Naphtali when the Weaver (אורגת) is our Netivah of the month?  In this case, Naphtali uses...

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Elements of a Sustainable Spiritual Practice: Part IV – Adar I

I started this series in  January 2010, with an Introduction to Sustainable Spirituality and  “Four Elements of a Sustainable Spiritual Practice: Part I.”   In the fall of 2010, I picked it back up in earnest with the first of four planned seasonal guides,  Part II – Autumn and Part III – Winter.  I started writing these in a fortuitous year, because it is a leap year.  We don’t move straight from Winter to Spring in leap years — we have a pause, a moment of liminal space, a moment to explore the element of Aether/Void. Adar I, in a leap year, is the moment where the element of Aether/Void comes to the forefront.  Truthfully, this fifth element — like all elements is always present.  It is the element that transmits all other things.    While the other four elements are well founded in Jewish tradition, you may be asking if Aether is really Jewish. I don’t know. But I do know that the idea of center and void are well founded in Jewish tradition, and there are five levels of the soul.  It’s hard to call “void” an element, so I’ve chose to label it using a classical concept like aether.  The Hebrew word I’ve settled on, at least for now, is Chashmal (חַשְׁמַל), which in modern Hebrew means “electricity.”  Chashmal is the mystical substance Ezekiel describes as illuminating the Chariot of G!d(dess) in his vision in Ezekiel 14 and 1:27.  The description in The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism made me think of the type of energy we talk about in mystical/magical circles — or aether, also called akasha. How do you work with a non-element like Chashmal?  Let’s start like we have with all the other elements, with potential correspondences to weave a mental tapestry: AETHER/AKASHAH (חַשְׁמַל): Center, Void, Sabbath, Mt. Sinai, Wilderness, Liminal Space, Transformation, Gestation, Calendars, Mishkan, Temple, Passover Table, Seder Plate, Garden of Eden, Mystery, Sheol, Shamayim, HaSatan, Lilith, Sound of the Shofar, Baalot Ov, Circles, Shamir Worm ,...

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Adar I: The Lesson of Dinah

~Excerpt from Adar 1 Guide – Subscribe for Free and Receive the Complete Guide Each Month ~ (Cross Posted to PunkTorah.org) Adar I (אֲדָר א) is Dinah’s (דִּינָה) month, at least as far as I’m concerned.  Rabbinical tradition equates Naphtali with both Adar I & Adar II in a leap year, but many modern feminists have argued well that the extra month should belong to Jacob’s daughter, the 13th tribe.  Next month, we’ll talk about Naphtali.  This month, we talk about Dinah.  To be honest, I’ve really struggled with whether or not Dinah should be Adar I or Adar II. I’ve gone back and forth dozens of times.  Even while writing this, I struggled. Right or wrong, I needed to choose. Dinah is the seventh child of Leah and Jacob, and the only named daughter, although Genesis 37:35 indicates there were others.  Dinah’s name means judgement, but I’ve also seen it as “vindicated.”  Her story is one that few women like to read, at least as it is traditionally interpreted.  In Genesis 34, we read of the “rape” of Dinah. It’s an ugly story with very little redeeming value anywhere. But what if we look at this through another lens?  The ancient rabbis were famous for finding ways to turn stories to meet their needs.  The interpretations of the stories never seem to let the women be seen in a good light.  Sorry, but it’s true for the most part.  Deborah and Hulda are called “conceited and overbearing” and we’re told they are cursed with ugly names.  Really?  Bee and Cat are ugly names?  What about the tradition of giving children “ugly” names to protect them from the evil eye?  But, I digress a touch… Adar (both I & II) are months of the moon and lunacy.  Adar I is the month of the Kesilah (כְּסִילה), the clown or trickster, who in leap years steals all our holidays away and hides them in Adar II. The letter of the month is Kuf (ק), which...

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