Blessing the Sea – Issue 3, October 2020 “The Hardest Practice of the Heart”

“Blessed are you, our eternal G-d, Ruler of the Universe, who made the great sea.”
A traditional, though rarely heard today, Jewish blessing upon encountering the majesty and the power of a large body of water. It’s a small but powerful reminder of many opportunities throughout the day to stop the rush and experience the reality, to touch its divine nature.

 “What do You want from me? Why did You throw a soul into me?” sings the young and astonishingly deep Israeli singer Hanan Ben Ari.
    I grapple with these questions too. What is my authentic path? Where is it meant to lead me? How do I stay faithful, as Rav Kook wrote, “to [my] inner essence, to the image of G-d in [my] midst”?
     After the most extraordinary High Holidays, it is now a new year, year 5781, counting in the Jewish tradition. And a new year, to me, means new resolutions.
     Last year I found myself engaged in daily morning prayer practice and – bless the Internet – weekly Torah study. I am sharing below some practices I’d like to cultivate this year, practices that help respond to reality without reactivity.
     Also included is a post, deeply inspirational to me as a parent, on valuable life lessons a rabbi learned from his autistic son. (It’s quite raw, but so true.) 
     Thank you, my dear friends, on joining on me on this journey. Wishing you a year of deepening clarity and joy,

Meeting Life’s Challenges with Gassho

An intensive practice period at Zen Center Los Angeles is teaching a timeless gesture. Yes, it’s Buddhist, but can it be useful in a Jewish setting? []

Removing Sleep from My Eyes, and Confusion from My Mind

Touched to see the October Applied Jewish Spirituality newsletter introduce my final installment in the morning prayers blog as latest AJS blog post as “especially beautiful and rich with concrete ideas for practice.” 

An Overlooked Quality of the Heart: Sympathetic Joy

Does you heart soar or shrink hearing of a co-worker’s promotion, or a friend’s son’s acceptance into a prestigious college? The Buddhist magazine Lion’s Roar recently ran a feature on mudita, a little-known, and possible the most difficult, quality one can cultivate – delight in the happiness of others. []

Everyone is Someone’s Jacob: What I’ve Learned from My Autistic Son

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, head of the rabbinic school at American Jewish University here in Los Angeles, is a magnificent writer and speaker. “Jacob has taught me to let go of the future. Jacob taught me all the thousands of expectations and impositions that I didn’t even know I had and that I had to give up. And I discovered that I counted on them only when I realized I couldn’t have them anymore.” [. . .

Hanan Ben Ari “What Do You Want from Me?” |מה אתה רוצה ממני|

Hanan Ben Ari is one of Israel’s most intriguing pop stars, whose songs yearn for G-d and lover often in the same sentence, much like the Hebrew poetry of the medieval Spain, or even the biblical Song of Songs. In this 2017 hit, he sings (my loose translation):
Keep me safe from myself / Watch over me, in truth / After all the empty prayers, words, and silence / Speak now / 
You promised me / To always be the light / At the end of darkness / I just can’t do this anymore / Now it’s Your turn
What do You want from me? / Why did You throw a soul into me? / Come visit me at noon / Hold me as you look into my eyes []

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