I hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter. First up, you will find an essay about where we are in the Jewish calendar -- and where we can go spiritually based on the recent Shavuot holiday. I have also included some questions for reflection to support your spiritual work.
My husband, Craig, has written a beautiful column about where he finds himself. He also asks for your feedback. “Let me know” becomes his mantra to you, as a reader. But it’s also a great statement to God and the Universe. “Behold I am prepared and ready! Let me know! Let me not hide from any truth I need to know.”
Thank you for subscribing. It’s a pleasure to share community together in this way, and I hope we can see each other in person, very soon.
Love and blessings,
- Rabbi Debra Orenstein
Moving On Up -- Together
From the second Passover seder until two weeks ago, we counted, day by day, our way toward Sinai. We ascended not only from Egypt to that holy mountain, but from liberty to Torah: a purpose and direction for our liberty.
The question is: where do we go from here? If Shavuot is the end of the story of revelation for us, that means we missed the holiday! How can we listen for the call of “Anochi” (God’s “I am”), fulfill the Ten Commandments, and advance the covenant--today?
Imagine that we begin another counting – from Shavuot, going forward. What date or destination would you count and move toward? Take a moment now to imagine where you are headed. What date on the calendar draws you forward toward “what’s next” spiritually? Is there a physical setting that you can imagine as your literal or symbolic destination?
When I do counseling for pre-marital couples, I sometimes quote a spiritual teacher of mine, who used to say, “Some people think the purpose of a relationship is to get one.” If you only want to “get one,” then you don’t need to think past the wedding, toward the marriage. You don’t need to consider how you will continue to grow and to deepen the relationship. The purpose is met: you have your ring. And you are less likely to be one another’s teacher, mirror, and blessing.
What is true for the covenant of marriage, is true for the covenant at Sinai. The purpose of the commandments is not just to “get them.” They are not a mere commodity to be acquired. Having entered into this relationship, we need to look past that one special day at Sinai, to our daily, lifetime practice. How will we grow? How will we deepen our relationship with God? Can we see Torah as our teacher, our mirror, our blessing? Can we treat the Divine One as our Chosen Beloved?
May your bond grow stronger day by day,
- Rabbi Debra Orenstein
Recently, I wrote a set of questions for prospective brides and grooms to review together. Tongue in cheek, I titled these discussion-starters “Spirituality Checklist.” With all the logistics and demands of planning a wedding, the prospect and holiness of the covenant sometimes gets lost. I thought that by adding one more checklist – to all those provided by Brides Magazine, family members, and wedding vendors – I could help brides and grooms focus on what matters to them most – for the wedding day and beyond.
In reviewing this checklist, it’s fascinating to see how little the questions for reflection need to be adapted for another intimate relationship – our covenant with God.
Below are a few selected questions to consider, phrased first for the covenant of marriage and then for the covenant with God. If you are seeking a relationship, the questions about human covenant can help you clarify and magnetize your ideal partnership. If you are in a relationship, a discussion with your partner on this topic can give you new insights and focus. I hope these questions will also prompt you to connect more intimately with Yedid Nefesh, the Divine Beloved of your soul.
As you generate ideas, I invite you to share them on our
- Rabbi Debra Orenstein
The Sacredness of Covenant
1. Beyn adam lechaveyro/Between people: How will you make each day holy, individually and as a couple?
Consider how you will organize your space and your time. Where and how do money, study, and service to the community fit into your lives? What custom, rituals, or limits do you have (or can you create) that will make your lives together more holy?
2. Beyn adam lamakom/Between a person and the All-Present One: How will you make each day a holy day, through your own efforts and in partnership with God?
Please give attention to both halves of the question. You may wish to do “automatic writing.” Ask the question, then sit in silence for 5-10 minutes. When that time is up, write down whatever answers come, without editing or evaluating. Just keep moving your pen across the page, or your fingers across the keyboard. Later, read what you wrote, and decide if you want to implement any of the answers.
The Mutuality & Support of Covenant
1. Beyn adam lechaveyro/Between people: Let each partner speak about how he or she is doing in terms of life goals, spiritual calling, and purpose, as well as how the other person could be supportive. Are there personal frailties or obstacles that need to be understood, healed, or overcome?
Do you learn something new? Do you gain insights on a familiar topic? Does this conversation inspire any specific intentions or plans of action?
2. Beyn adam lamakom/Between a person and the All-Present One: How could God (be invited/allowed to) support you? How can you support the covenant and God’s will?
Consider what you can do to be more open to hearing divine messages. Make whatever provisions or shifts you need to, so you increase your open-ness.
Then, take some time in meditation and contemplation to ask for guidance on the question: “what does God ask of me in covenant?” Notice whatever images or words come to or through you. Likewise, take some time in meditation and contemplation to ask for guidance on the question: “what shall I ask of God in covenant?”
As you may have noticed from visiting the website recently, we have started adding audio clips. For those of you who have ordered our CD's, these clips offer an opportunity to revisit some of the teachings and to hear a few new things as well in the Free Audio section of the
page (scroll down to the bottom). For those of you who do not have our CD's, these clips will give you a taste of the power and intimacy these recordings can offer.
In keeping with the theme of our covenant with God at Sinai, here are a couple clips from our CD
from track 6, Shema: Loving "God" (:41):
from track 9, Torah as the Word of God (3:02):
notes from the rebbetzin
"Let Me Know"
When I push "send" on the computer to launch these newsletters, I often wonder what happens. I envision a cyber-newspaperboy racing down streets, delivering copies with a brisk throw from a byte-cycle. And I wonder who is picking up the "paper," who is browsing through it quickly, and who is sitting and meditating with us on these special teachings, perhaps passing them on to a friend with a recommendation? I'd love it if you would let me know.
As you think of your comments on the Spirituality Checklist exercise or the audio clips above, we would appreciate your feedback. For instance, we put up a short audio clip and a longer one; do you prefer one length over another? Let me know.
When Debra and I started the website, our hosting company gave this "publication" the title "The RabbiDebra.com E-Newsletter" in keeping with common standards. But neither of us is happy with this dry, generic name. So we are brainstorming to find another name that will bring a smile and a feeling of warmth and engagement. We would like to have your participation in this process too. If you've got a good name in mind, please
contact us with your suggestion.
Let me know.
I'll be traveling to Texas this weekend with my son, Emmett, for a cousin's wedding. Debra will be "manning" the homefront, looking after Hannah Mathilda, conducting a bat mitzvah, and leading havdallah in Beverly Hills at a wonderful
(more about that below).
My cousin, his bride, and their families are facing a host of health and career challenges. As friends and extended family come together from far and wide, one might ask "is this really the best time for the ceremony?" How can we focus on the mitzvah, the covenant being formed, and all the cheerful and traditional ritual with all these unresolved issues in the air?
And yet, how else can we live? Debra once gave a sermon on how the perfect is the enemy of the good. If you try to postpone a treasured goal or activity until you think the time is "right," you may very well never enjoy that moment. And life is fleeting. We know this in times of loss, and we tend to forget in times of contentment. In a sermon found in
entitled "Life In Your Years," she discusses the talmudic instruction that, when an opportunity to do a mitzvah comes to you, do not delay. (Check it out. Let me know what you think.)
And so the wedding is going on, not just because it will provide a joyous weekend amidst a period of challenges, but because getting married and celebrating a marriage are mitzvot that cannot be delayed. These moments are the meat of life and the engine of an ongoing process of creation of God's world. We come together to do mitzvot in joy and in strife, building and sharing, recognizing covenant with God and with each other, sending out energy and a message to the world that we are alive. Did you get the message? Let me know.
- Craig Weisz,
rebbetzin and president, ShareWonder Media
P.S. I'm enjoying posting some audio teachings that are not part of the CD collections. To hear a four-minute audio teaching from Debra on being joyful in the midst of challenges, click on the player below. She is discussing Simchat Torah and remembering Daniel Pearl:
Recently, a guest attended Shabbat services at Makom Ohr Shalom in Los Angeles. It seems she had attended one of Debra's online tele-webinars and was moved to see her live. This would not be so remarkable except for the fact that the woman lives in Sacramento! If you would like to find out what prompted such enthusiasm, you can still enjoy the online course, Meaningful Jewish Ritual: What Works, What Inspires, and What's Next? Full information at:
CONCERT EVENT - It's gonna be good!
This Saturday night, June 13, Debra leads a havdallah service at a fabulous concert event hosted by Makom Ohr Shalom in Beverly Hills, honoring members Shayna & Eli Lester. It promise to be a spectacular, high-spirited evening. Eli and a bevy of talented musicians, singers, cantors, and choirs will come together to raise the roof - more than a little. We promise you'll be rocking in the aisles and walk away with a smile and a spring in your step. Tickets and information are at:
Don't miss it!
P.S. If you enjoyed the audio clips in this newsletter and would like to hear more teachings like these, convenient for bringing with you in your car or on your way via iPod, etc. wherever you happen to be traveling, please check our CD's by Rabbi Debra and spiritual luminary Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. Click on the CD's below for more information. We'd love to know what you think.
Thank you for your interest and support.