Monday, September 22, 2014

#blogElul 27: Intend {Guest Post}



#BlogElul Guest Post by Rabbi Stephanie Alexander

Rabbi Jack Riemer relates the story of three demons who set out to corrupt human beings, and then come back together to compare their results. The first one describes his approach: “I tell people that there is no God. But it doesn’t work. People are too smart. They see the wonders of the world and they don’t believe me.” The second one says: “I tell people that there is a God, but that She didn’t give the Torah. But it doesn’t work. People are too smart. They look into the Torah and see how much wisdom it contains, and they don’t believe me.”


Then the third one says: “I tell people that there is a God and that She gave the Torah. But then I say to them, ‘What’s the rush? You have time to do what God wants tomorrow.’ And that almost always works.”


The best of intentions can bring out our worst.


At this time of new beginnings, perhaps we can learn from the first beginning. “Vayomer Elohim y’hi or, va-y’hi or – God said: Let there be light, and there was light.” According to the great sage, Maimonides (in his philosophical dictionary of the Torah), “Vayomer” means God “thought” or “planned.” A thought, a plan, an intention, and then – Bam! – the thing itself.

No, we can never fully imitate God … but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. This year may we work to shorten the gap between intention and implementation. And when the creative, helpful, noble deed is done, may we too have that wonderful moment of realization: “And it was good.”


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Stephanie M. Alexander has the honor and privilege of being called mom, spouse and rabbi – three simple titles whose terseness belies worlds of joy, challenge and fulfillment.

Stephanie likes the idea of the beach more than the place itself, and prefers to travel by book as opposed to plane, train or automobile. She lives with her husband, son and adorable Cockapoo (who’s really a monster) in Charleston, SC – a city rich in beauty, charm … and stories. Her blog can be found at http://storiedlifeillustrated.wordpress.com
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The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with the Selichot, the prayers of forgiveness. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... I will be blogging here, and sharing #Elulgram photos on the same themes at imabima.tumblr.com. Follow me on twitter @imabima for all the #BlogElul posts, not only mine but others' as well! Read more about #BlogElul here.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

#BlogElul 25: Begin {Guest Post}


#BlogElul Guest post by Kim Phillips
Three women-friends of a certain age spend a day at a friend’s lake house. He tells us there is a great cliff for jumping into the lake, that we should take the boat over there. We do, and we scramble up the hill like not-so-young she-goats. The cliff is about 30 feet high but, from the top, looks like we’ll be jumping off the Empire State Building. Two of us walk up to the edge and immediately decide against it. The third friend never hesitates—just walks straight to the edge and steps off. Huge splash. What’s a gal to do? We jump. It was so much fun we did it over and over, just like kids.
I teach adult Hebrew and am always in awe of my students. Learning a new language gets harder as we get older, and Hebrew is a bit more challenging than most: it reads from right to left, has a whole different alphabet, and operates on system of word-roots that are somewhat inexact and hard to translate. But adult learners are tentative for other reasons. Unlike kids, who are a bit more absorbent and who understand that they haven’t had an opportunity to know a thing, adults are fearful. Shouldn’t I know this already? What if I look like a dummy? This is the self-talk.
Moses sent scouts into Canaan, wanting to know “what kind of country it is, are the people who dwell in it strong or weak?” (Num. 13:18) The midrash says that if the inhabitants of a land live in the open, it shows they are strong; living in a fortress is a sign of fear.
It is Elul. We are poised on the brink. This year, what will we do? Will we remain on the edge, or will we have new physical and spiritual experiences? Will our bravery be an example for someone else?
Go ahead: jump.
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Kim Phillips is a Nashville-based Judaica artist, marketing consultant, certified pararabbinic and mom to Jacob the Most Awesome Cat. Her work and blog are at www.hebrica.com.
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The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with the Selichot, the prayers of forgiveness. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... I will be blogging here, and sharing #Elulgram photos on the same themes at imabima.tumblr.com. Follow me on twitter @imabima for all the #BlogElul posts, not only mine but others' as well! Read more about #BlogElul here.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

#blogElul 23: Love {guest post}

Once in a while, I consciously remember love is a verb. Feelings--such as happy, sad, grumpy—are adjectives. But love is a verb and verbs require action.

Sometimes, I ask what action love requires. And the answers used to come clearly and quickly. Hugging. Encouraging. Sewing. Laughing. And sometimes even cooking (sigh).

But recently the answers seem more varied than I used to think. Because waiting is an action. So are standing patiently and holding my breath. Keeping silent is an action too.

I’m an active person. I run. I go. I do. But children get older and so do parents. And love asks more.

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Ellen, Phyllis's wise and wonderful cousin, wrote this and then read it back and realized just how middle-aged she really is. (This bio is a mashup of my bio and hers!)
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The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with the Selichot, the prayers of forgiveness. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... I will be blogging here, and sharing #Elulgram photos on the same themes at imabima.tumblr.com. Follow me on twitter @imabima for all the #BlogElul posts, not only mine but others' as well! Read more about #BlogElul here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

#blogElul 22: Dare


Dear Abraham,
How dare you????
I would never
ever
ever
ever
have given him up willingly.
No matter what God said.
No matter what anyone said.
Sincerely,
Me

The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with the Selichot, the prayers of forgiveness. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... I will be blogging here, and sharing #Elulgram photos on the same themes at imabima.tumblr.com. Follow me on twitter @imabima for all the #BlogElul posts, not only mine but others' as well! This year, I'm not doing a linky or anything like that -- I'm conserving energy! So be sure to tag your posts on Twitter and Facebook so I can catch them with my alerts....

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

#blogElul 21: Change


A year ago on the Jewish calendar, on the 21st of Elul, was a very big day of change for our family.

Change
is
hard
painful
and enormous

and yet sometimes
exciting
enriching
and full of blessing.

Sometimes
I'd rather
just
stay
the
same.

The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with the Selichot, the prayers of forgiveness. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... I will be blogging here, and sharing #Elulgram photos on the same themes at imabima.tumblr.com. Follow me on twitter @imabima for all the #BlogElul posts, not only mine but others' as well! Read more about #BlogElul here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

#blogElul 20: Judge


The Divine Judge.

That's the "judgment" that we talk about on the High Holy Days.

God as Divine Judge.

One of the days for Rosh HaShanah is Yom haDin, the Day of Judgment.... "when even the hosts of Heaven are judged."

I have no idea how I'm going to read those words this year.
I have no idea how I'm ever going to consider God to be a fair and true Judge.
I have no idea how justice plays into it at all.

But I've got the rest of my life to ask the questions.
Which doesn't seem fair at all.

The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with the Selichot, the prayers of forgiveness. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... I will be blogging here, and sharing #Elulgram photos on the same themes at imabima.tumblr.com. Follow me on twitter @imabima for all the #BlogElul posts, not only mine but others' as well! Read more about #BlogElul here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

#BlogElul 19: Ask {guest post}

BlogElul guest post by Rabbi Anne Persin

Ask

When I first started writing this post, I kept focusing on the curiosity type of asking.  What it means to ask others about themselves, to be asked about yourself. I have always tended to be a curious sort and I have always been delighted to have others be curious about me.  So, this concept of asking was not only easy for me but welcomed!

But what about the other kind of asking?

What about the request kind of asking?

The request kind of asking has never been all that easy for me - asking for things... for help, for time, for people, for attention.  Deep inside the recesses of my mind, I have convinced myself that I should be able to handle things on my own.  If I truly needed something that would be one thing, but what more do I need than food, clothing, shelter?  Back in those recesses everything else are merely wants!  Of course, consciously, I know full well that I need a lot more than the just the basics.  All of us need help, time, people, attention.  All of us need care, consideration, forgiveness, love.  If only we were able to ask for all of that.

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Rabbi Anne Persin is my very good friend and one of the best tantes my kids could ever have.

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The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with the Selichot, the prayers of forgiveness. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... I will be blogging here, and sharing #Elulgram photos on the same themes at imabima.tumblr.com. Follow me on twitter @imabima for all the #BlogElul posts, not only mine but others' as well! Read more about #BlogElul here.