The freedoms within (ask me about what I mean)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Experience and LIVE

So my Bar Ilan program ended. I can't beleive it. It came and went faster than any year I can remember-let alone any program I've ever experienced. In a flash - it was over. Yeah yeah I'm sad its over and everything-I made amazing friends, and amazing connections, and took in a whole new life that I really am in love with - and I found out that this process is actually an ongoing process. That there's no switch that I or you can turn on and off to change who you, the way you think, or the way you view the world... You have to constantly be working on yourself, with constant questioning, and not let life just pass you by.

I got kind of scared, knowing that it was ending; I created a foundation that I was getting very comfortable in. I wasn't sure if I could adapt in a different environment but I knew I had to make something work.

Summer is Israel was my conclusion-I would stay here for a short period of time in different environments figuring out if I could adapt, and act out the things I've learned to act out at Bar Ilan. So here I am writing my first blog from one of the first experiences I am delving into: Isralight Inward Bound .

The first thing we did on the program was unpacking our Jewish Baggage taught by Rabbi Mottle Wolfe. We went through a list of things we hated about Judaism. People said things like conformity, sexism, fear of G-d, Jewish guilt, shomer negiah, long holidays, etc. After that, we talked about the things we loved about Judaism. For example closeness, authenticity, mitzvot, questioning, creating your own path, etc. He explained that it's very easy to make these lists but you come to realize, that the lists cancel each other out. How can you hate shomer negiah if you love mitzvot? Or hate long holidays, but love shabbat? They are the same lists! We create a list of what seems hard to us, which is the hate list, and we create a list of things we aspire to always do, which is the love list. The love list will essentially be what we know could be-and how we view Judaism in our hearts.

Rabbi Mottle also brought up a point that Torah is not just truth. Lets say you are talking to matchmaker and she shows you a picture of a person that you are attracted to, their name,age, height, weight, profession, history, etc-all on paper. You seem ecstatic about this person since they seem perfect and the matchmaker says, OK so the wedding is in three hours! You will probably thing they're crazy! This is like the Torah, on paper it seems a certain way but you wont get to know what it actually is until you experience it. He explains that Torah is not truth, it is LIFE and life is experience. You're not marrying the person because of what they are on paper, your marrying them becuase of the experience with him.

So thats what started off the journey and we continued from there. Pirkei Avot has a line that says the wise man is the one who can see who is going to be born into this world. Our teacher asked us what we thought this meant and we concluded that it meant a person that sets intentions and has goals for himself-is ultimately going to be wise. I thought about this line over and over as the days passed by, and realized that this was the answer to one of my biggest questions! How am I going to continue this inspiring journey I've came across in Israel in America? I realized I have a vision of what how I see myself-my ultimate higher self-and this reoccurring image will keep my strength going! Life is going to happen in front of you whether you like it or not-to know your intentions is a key to a happy life.

Rabbi David Aron-inspiring speaker and author is also one of our teachers here at Inward Bound. His topic that he teaches us in Jewish philosophy and mysticism. I've learned so much from him and can only tell you to buy his books to even begin to grasp what he's taught us. But for now, I'll explain that I've learned that G-d is not some guy in the sky that put 613 commandments on our heads to make us suffer. That is actually idolatry-giving G-d a human form and acknowledging him that way; and if you don't have clarity on what what Hashem really is, than every problem will flow from there. Its really hard to put this in a paragraph, but Rabbi aron made it clear to us that we are all aspects of G-d. You can't see Hashem because he is the source of all seeing, you can't think of what thinking is, because Hashem is the source of all thinking-G-d is the source of all consciousness. "To think of G-d is not to find him as an object in our minds-but to find ourselves in his". You have to realize that we are one-part of the big one, Hashem.

Rabbi Aron Leibowitz, createor of the Shirta Devorah Seminary/Ashrei Yeshiva is also our teacher. A main concept we went over was Lech Licha-Go to you. I took this as the person I don't want to be speaking to the person that I see myself as in the future-telling her to go inside to who you really are-an aspect of G-d-and be G-d like, eventually having the same intentions of G-d, making what I pray for what G-d wants for me too.

Besides classes, we also have been touring around Jerusalem/Gush Etzion/ the north (tomorrow). We get such a different perspective on things-and its truly amazing.

I have pages and pages of notes on what I've taken in, and we still have about a week left! I'm so blessed to be here and hope that everyone gets a chance to experience what I've been experiencing as well. Go into yourself, who you really are, through Judaism, and you will be extremely surprised on what you can find..

Saturday, June 18, 2011

His kindness and his faithfulness

What is considered a normal shabbat meal? A family, a few friends maybe, nice food, relaxed, songs, etc.
Now, imagine that, in a city walking distance from the Kotel (Western Wall), with a large family, serving a meal to 150+ people, starting at 10 PM, in a small living room. It may not sound so pleasant being in a small environment with so many people, but truly once you feel the spirit and the energy in the air, the room just magically expands. Chesed L'orchim organization, is run by the Machlis family. 2 amazing people Mordechi and Henny Machlis, had 14 children; some are married, the youngest one just had his bar mitzvah this year. Together as a family, they eat their meals on shabbat and then start a mini factory with challah, salads, soups, meats, and other stuff flying everywhere. Jews from all over gather here, to either celebrate their first shabbat or join in for a shabbat experience. You sit at a small table and a bunch of people try to squish until you cant even move your elbows.

You'd think that it would be hard to make good food for 200 people on a tight budget every week, but the food is actually exceptionally good! Theres a variety of salads, an amazing matza ball/chicken soup, and then theres two kinds of kugels, chicken, rice, vegetables, and probably 4 kinds of deserts. The environment is also amazing with songs between each courses, along with d'var Torahs from the rabbi and rebbetzin themselves and anyone else who wants to get up and speak words of wisdom.

Really, if you know of any really rich Jew (or person) that wants to do some chesed, but the only way is with their money, or a girl/boy that want to send their bat/bar mitzvah money too-send them to this website. People get the experience of a lifetime here and really see the true colors of a Jewish family that just wants to open up their arms to Jews of the world and inspire them.

I was there Friday night (I've been there before) with 5 of my friends from my program that haven't left for American yet. Well, before that we went to the Kotel, and let me just say that even though I've been there so many times this year, the inspiration and emotion that I get from being there hasn't diminished. I was uncontrollably tearing at one point during kabbalat shabbat because I was remembering on the first day I went to the kotel with our program about 10 months ago. I was equally as happy to be there..the striving Jew inside of me was just itching to release.

I love Israel, I really do...and I really aspire one day to make aliyah and raise a family here. There's something about this place that makes your soul come out and come alive in the best way possible. I'm quoting Ben Packer here (he is in charge of mens heritage house also an amazing organization that allows Jews to stay over in the hostel for either free or the slightest price-another good place to send some money if you're looking into chesed, or just because) but reagrdless, Ben said this shabbat that there are places all over the world that you can be an amazing Jew-but there will always be limits if you're not in Israel. I know that's true. I've seen it, experienced it, and felt it.

We ended off shabbat by singing and dancing to our favorite classic songs: Tov L'hodos, Esa Einai, Acheinu, Shema Koleinu, etc. in the living room of the mens heritage house. The meanings of these songs, to be etched in my memory forever include:

It is good to give thanks to God, and to sing to his name on high - to tell in the morning of His kindness,​ and in the evening of His faithfuln​ess. - Tov L'hodos

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains. From where does my help come? 
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. - Ese Einai

Our brothers the whole house of Israel, who are in distress and captivity​, who wander over sea and over land -- may God have mercy on them, and bring them from distress to comfort, from darkness to light, from slavery to redemptio​n, now, swiftly, and soon. And let us say: Amen. - Acheinu

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bringing in the spiritual-eternally

Shavuot couldn't of came at a better time. I just turned 20, and here I was celebrating receiving the most precious gift, the Torah.

Our program took us too Jerusalem for the holiday and at first I was a little nervous. Shavuot is the holiday where you stay up all night, and this time, at 4 AM, since I was in the holy city, march to Jerusalem. I never had a real shavuot before...I mean I celebrated with my family when i was growing up, eating the festive dairy meal...but besides that, the real staying up all night learning shavuot I did not experience.

So Shavuot came in, and Rabbi Menachem Nissel (he came to be with our program for the holiday-so lucky!) opened up the chag with a shiur. I never heard him before, but knew he came highly recommended, and after he spoke I knew why. What I took from the first time he spoke is the real concept behind the whole dairy custom..(the festive meal is dairy). He explained that when the Jews were receiving the Torah, they were learning halachos as well. They were learning the laws of kashrut and realized that they had nothing at the moment that would make their meat kosher. So at the time, meat was a main meal, and a dairy meal was never really a concept. So here is where the woman came in and decided to get a little creative and make a festive meal, but in dairy form. In short, they took what was on their spiritual plate and used it full force. The Jews absorbed G-d's commandments and put them into action..something that was fairly new to them. So when we eat dairy, we are reminded to take what is offered to us in the spiritual world and bring it into the physical world.

So then we had our amazing dairy meal and then headed back to the rooms we had reserved to learn in all night. 10:45 kicked it off where we Rabbi Nissel speak to us again, and this time about not missing the opportunity. He told us the story of a young Israeli that grew up hating religious people, and after a series of events that included (missing his trip to Thailand after his army, ending up in Tzfat instead, having a few encounters with religious people that ultimately led him to Yeshiva in Jerusalem), he started a journey back to Judaism. After that I attended classes by Rabbi Ari Kahn, Rabbi Tani Prero, and Rabbi Adam siegal, abd in between discussed a book on purity with my friend Elisheva and had a one on one talk with Rabbi Meyer.

I learned so much as the night progressed. I'll share one very important concept though. I approached Rabbi Meyer with a question. What did you mean in your class when you said that once people start tuning into themselves as Jews, they feel alone? With his eyes half open, he slowly glanced up at me. He began to explain that when a person starts tuning into themselves, they become more and more aware that their only ever lasting relationship is with the Almighty. They start to see that everything around them is staged; every person, every action, every step, and everything you do is designed by G-d. He continued saying that everything you do in this world is for one purpose; to get closer and closer to G-d..he admitted to me, even when he is married with children, he still sometimes feels alone, knowing that G-d is the only one that 100% truly understands him.

4 AM came quicker than ever. I was alert the whole night listening to these amazing teachers give it all they have to inspire us just once more before the year ended. I didn't want to stop learning, but I was excited to get to the kotel. So on my way to the kotel, I took advantage of the opportunity to speak to another rabbi, Rabbi Menaged, for most of the duration of the walk to the kotel. I asked him some question, but ultimately our discussion was led to one meaningful thing that I picked up on this year; free choice. He went in depth about it and ultimately helped me realize that G-d is that one that is putting the doors of opportunities in front of is us, our free will, to take the key and open those doors and see what lies behind them and beyond.

We arrived at the kotel, and at this point I lost my friends and in the crowds of tens of thousands of people, I didn't even attempt to find them. It was so so packed, but I stayed behind the railings peering at such a precious place that us Jews hold so close to our hearts. I prayed the most intense morning prayer as the sun rose over the Jerusalem sky asking G-d for the continuation of clarity within me, within my family, within my friends, within the Jewish people..I thanked him as well for putting this door of opportunity in front of me, and for the many others that go on these spiritual journeys as well.

I found my friends and we eventually went to here kiddush and walk back to the hotel.
The whole Shavuot experience was amazing. I learned so much and was so genuinely happy to be learning with the amazing people that were there with us as well. From pesach till now we were counting the omer and I learned in one of my classes at Bar Ilan that the 49 days were a period of reflection and renewal. My teacher, Tamar Weissman, was very right when she said that because Shavuot came around and I could almost see my spiritual journey laid out in a canvas before my eyes. This shavuot set me off into a new year, a 21st year of life, another spiritual journey, and ultimately life of being a committed to Judaism Jewish girl <3

Sunday, June 5, 2011

19 to 20

In a few hours, I am going to transition from being 19 to 20. Its hard to even say whats on my mind. From the last June 6th to this June 6th, so much has happened. Last year at this time I was on birthright. I was so excited because the night we got in Tel Aviv was the night of my birthday. And not going to lie, I had a good time with my birthright group, Mayanot 81-I'll never forget it. But my excitement or realization that this year of my life is coming to an end, is a very different feeling.

My vision was blurred from the truth. I didn't know what Judaism had to offer nor did I have the energy to aspire into seeing what it really was. I just knew that I needed it, but had no idea how I was going to get it. I remember I was on my birthright trip and we were going to Ein Gedi and I just broke down. I couldn't eat nor be around anyone. So I walked away and dad and just cried to him. I was afraid. I knew that after my trip I was to return home for a little bit, and then return back to the Holy Land. My mind was flying wild with thoughts and I trembled on the fact that soon I'd be embarking on something that seemed so foreign to me. Little did I know that this was really the farthest thing from foreign, that it actually is the only clear thing that I held, hold, and always will hold close to me heart.

Right when I returned home, I started dating this guy that I really fell head over heels for. He was attractive, smart, funny, and mature. We spent about 2 months together hip to hip..then I had to leave to Israel. In those two months though I went through countless amounts of fights with my family about him (he wasn't Jewish), ultimately leading to fear, sadness, and a lot of anger. I couldn't wait to leave America and get to Israel already.

So I arrived in Israel and immediately entered into a major spiritual high. I was being spoon-fed amazing concepts and ideas about Judaism I never even knew existed. I was being guided into an amazing world that I will from now on forever be in. People were there for me when I cried over the past, and they were there for me when I asked questions. But ultimately I was happy. I could look at myself in the mirror, and be satisfied-not becuase of how I looked, but because I saw my soul-something I had such a hard time seeing before.

So a few months went by and was accumulating so much information. I admit, I was a bit overwhelmed from it all especially towards finals of fall semester and decided to take a break at home. Home did a few things for me. It showed me one that I really appreciate my families history but two you have to work for something if you want it. I found this out only now reflecting on those few weeks I was home. I didn't pray as much, learn as much, talk as much, and it took a large toll on who I wanted to become. My relationship with G-d that I strengthened so much was being ripped apart as I sat in my room numb to my surroundings.

When I returned to Israel my fire and spark of interest had been burnt out. I walked around like zombie not really taking anything in, and forgetting what I was here for. I 'relapsed' into some old lifestyle activities and didn't have the slightest clue why. So that was a really hard period of time..just walking around clueless to my flame that had been extinguished.

So now here's where I stand. Everyone will always be working on themselves. There is no state of perfection, you must always be getting better...and if you're not getting better than you are getting worse. You also need to exert a form of effort. No one is going to spoon feed you life. You have to always be aware that every moment, after it passes, is never going to come back. Really I learned, that Judaism is the only way I ever was and will achieve true happiness. And no that doesn't mean keeping the Sabbath and keeping kosher. There is so much more hidden beauty and amazing secrets to this religion. It brings out who you are, and helps you feel a sense of accomplishment (one of the highest forms of pleasure) when you fulfill what you were put on this world to do: fulfill your ultimate potential. Also that I know why G-d is hidden-I used to question why he couldn't just reveal his face so I could just beleive-how much easier it would be! But I see now that if that would happen, my free choice would be gone..I would have no choice but to worship G-d becuase he would be there right in front of me at all times. So I get to choose on what I want-I am the ultimate judge on myself-I choose whats right and wrong.

I can go on forever on what I learned but that can be saved for more personal discussion. Basically, soon I will be transitioning into a new age of life. I am happy, eager, and ready to see what it has in store. I can almost feel the lightning bolts of inspiration run through my veins into my heart. This 20th year of life is going to be a whole new journey, something so much different then what I've experienced on this past year. Heres to Civil Twilight for illustrating these concepts in thier song Human:

There’s one way out and one way in
Back to the beginning
There’s one way back to home again
To where I feel forgiven

What is this I feel, why is it so real
What am I to say

It’s only love, it’s only pain
It’s only fear, that runs through my veins
It’s all the things you can’t explain
That make us human

I am just an image of something so much greater
I am just a picture frame, I am not the painter
Where do I begin, can I shed this skin
What is this I feel within

It’s only love, it’s only pain
It’s only fear that runs through my veins
It’s all the things you can’t explain
That make us human