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E-Newsletter, How Is Your Soul?
May 03, 2020

How Is Your Soul?

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi once, only half-jokingly, advocated for “Jewish Methodism.” John Wesley, the founder of what came to be known as the Methodist Church, used to urge his fellow Christians to inquire after one another’s spiritual wellbeing. In fact, that was a centerpiece of his once-mocked “method.” Reb Zalman suggested that we greet one another by asking, Brother/Sister, how are you? How is your soul doing?”

This is not so far from the Hebrew. In both biblical and modern Hebrew, we ask, מה שלומך – meaning “How are you?” But the phrase translates literally as “how is your peace?”

Collectively, our peace and well being have been disturbed by the Coronavirus. In isolation, things seem even worse. Together, we can make them better.

The main purpose of this brief newsletter is to support your mental and spiritual health. I am not only inquiring after your welfare, but encouraging you to join me and a wonderful panel of teachers for two upcoming Tuesday evenings (May 5 and May 12) to promote wellbeing amidst the pandemic.

In the same spirit, I am including a meditation to welcome the healing power and blessing of sleep, as well as a communally sourced poem on focusing on what there is to be grateful for now. Finally, you will find a short piece below on finding missing pieces that you (and others) may need.

I pray that you will stay positive in your attitude and negative on all your medical tests. Please let me how I can support you.

Love and blessings,
Rabbi Debra

In This Issue:

Remaining Positive During the Pandemic - A Free Two-Night Event moderated by Rabbi Debra.

The Gift of Sleep - A Blessing During Coronavirus & Always.

Poetry - and Gratitude - for the Pandemic - Crowdsourced Observations and Imagery

Craig’s Corner - A video from the rebbetzin.

Putting It Together - Spiritual Puzzle Pieces.

Thank You - With gratitude to our subscribers.

Remaining Positive During the Pandemic - A Two-Night Event moderated by Rabbi Debra.

Join us via Zoom for
Remaining Positive (and increasing positivity) During the Pandemic
Tuesdays, May 5 & May 12, 8:00 - 9:30 PM EDT
Come to one session or both. There is no fee.

Zoom Link for Remaining Positive During The Pandemic

Our current situation includes tragedy, loss, and suffering – of which we are all keenly aware. Even those who are healthy and employed (or retired) face painful disruptions and understandable anxiety. Yet, without denying or minimizing this very difficult reality, we can cultivate the positive. There are opportunities now, as well as threats.

Post-traumatic stress is a terrible yet relatively rare condition. What happens more often is post-traumatic growth. Most of our growth comes from finding our way through difficulties, and (to use an Exodus/Passover metaphor) coming out the other side. While this pandemic is physically dangerous and restricting, it can be spiritually hopeful and liberating – if we make it so.

Join me and a panel of six experts from my home community of Congregation B’nai Israel in Emerson for two conversations via Zoom. Learn approaches, attitudes, tips, and techniques from traditional Judaism and modern social science to help you through this crisis – with a realistic and positive attitude! Please submit questions in advance if you care to, and come with your suggestions, as well. Click here to submit questions. I will be providing Jewish connections and sources for the topics below, as well as fielding questions.

Major topics that will be covered on May 5 include:
Understanding and Managing Fear
Taking a Mirror to the Moment: What Can We Learn?
What You Focus on Grows: The “Contagion of Positivity” and Your Positive Influence

Briefer presentations, with a focus on tips and techniques, will also be offered on the following subjects:
Working at Home – in General and with Kids
Hidden Issues Revealed (and Healed?) During the Pandemic
Tikkun Olam as a Response to the Pandemic: Some Ways to Help Others (and be calmed and empowered by taking action)

Major topics that will be covered on May 12 include:
Accepting What Is
The Virus’ Impact on the Elderly: Rising to the Challenges
Mindfulness & Resiliency

Briefer presentations, with a focus on tips and techniques, will also be offered on the following subjects:
Conscious Planning (for our remaining days at home and for life after re-emergence)
A Two-Minute Technique to Change Your Breathing and Calm You

Presenters and their Topics:
Renee Kuperinsky, LCSW, is a psychotherapist whose primary focus is on depression, anxiety, and trauma.

Debbie Maron, with over 25 years of experience as a Human Resources Professional and a Certified Professional Life Coach, brings a unique combination of business acumen and human compassion to her coaching practice.

Robin Nemeroff has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. She is a full-time psychology professor and also maintains a private practice focusing on stress-reduction, anxiety issues, and depression.

Debbie Shapiro, who has an M.Ed. and a Certificate in Positive Psychology, was an English teacher for 20 years and has been a positive psychology teacher and a daily meditator since 2013. Self-esteem, joy, and spiritual surrender are among the topics she studies, practices, and teaches.

  Sheryl Silver is a functional medicine certified health coach and co-owner of Salt of the Earth Center for Healing, a holistic wellness center.

  Michael Stern is a clinical psychologist in private practice and a consultant at the Jewish Home at Rockleigh.

The Gift of Sleep - A Blessing During Coronavirus & Always.

The following is an excerpt from Rabbi Moshe Goldberger’s 100 Brachos: Counting Your Blessings 100 Times a Day. I hope that you will find it as inspiring and charming as I do on the subject of sleep. We so often take sleep for granted. Yet it is vital to our immune systems, daily functioning, and peace of mind. “Sleep on Shabbat is a pleasure,” the saying goes – but sleep is a pleasure every day – and a source, too, of comfort, healing, integration, and renewal. During this crisis, when, many people are having trouble relaxing their bodies and quieting their minds, this meditation on the gift of sleep can help all of us to rest – gratefully. As the Psalmist sang, “my soul rests in God… God is our refuge.” – Rabbi Debra

“Blessed are You, Eternal Master, our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who causes the fetters of sleep to fall on my eyes…”

“The blessing said before we go to sleep is a blessing for the gift of sleep. If you have never thanked Hashem for the gift of sleep, you owe Hashem a tremendous debt of gratitude. Sleep allows one to lay down one’s body and allow one’s mind to go into a slumber-mode, which is geshmack [pleasurable, sweet]. Nebach [poor soul!], when someone has insomnia. One who has suffered even once from this difficulty learns how invaluable a good night’s sleep is.

“The vast majority of people fall asleep easily. What is more, most of us are privileged to sleep on soft, comfortable materials that Hashem has provided, such as the luxury to place our head on a soft pillow, our body on a comfortable bed and soft linens.

“The Torah tells us that Yaakov [Jacob] once went to sleep with only a rock for a pillow (Bereishis 28:18). You, however, do not have a boulder for a pillow; you have a soft, perhaps feathery cushion with a soft pillow cover. You place your tired head down upon it and think: ‘O, Hashem, thank You so much for the soft pillow!’ As you fall asleep you muse: ‘Ah, the Abishter [Supreme One] provides me with the best of everything.’

“One of the benefits of sleep is that it imposes a deadline on our daily activities…. We go to sleep with the intention of recharging our batteries so that we can serve Hashem [again] in the morning.

“The process of falling asleep is similar to a treatment of anesthesia, but we pay no anesthesiologist. Sleep is transformative. The Abishter re-energizes and rejuvenates us, so that when we awake, we are restored and refreshed, full of renewed strength and vigor. This is a gevaldige [amazing, fantastic] gift. It is not owed to us. The Medrash (Eicha 3:23) illustrates this with an example of someone who stores a precious item for safekeeping and hopes to have it returned in one piece, but would not expect it to be improved. If we owed the guardian of this precious object a lot of money, we would understand if they refused to return the item but insisted on holding it as collateral. [God guards us, body and soul, while we sleep and awakens us back to life in the morning – better than we were before we rested.]

“Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer lists some of the benefits of sleep: It is like food (sustaining us) it is like medicine (healing us), it provides life and it provides us with peace of mind.”

You can order this double CD (16 tracks) of talks, Q&A, exercises, and prayer introductions on Gratitude. Or download now.

Poetry - and Gratitude - for the Pandemic - Crowdsourced Observations and Imagery.

On a recent Sunday morning, I offered a seminar on “Gratitude in Tough Times” via Zoom to Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid in Milwaukee, WI. At one point, I asked people to respond to the prompt: “What are you grateful for from last night, what are you grateful for from this morning, and, as you look ahead, what are you grateful for in relation to this afternoon?” I posed this question after screening a spectacular short film on gratitude and reviewing the Modim prayer which thanks God for the “Divine wonders and goodnesses that are with us evening, morning, and noon.” The following lines were all typed into the chat by participants, but no triplet came from a single author. I paired ideas and phrasings that seemed to complement one another, to create a group poem. What follows represents the wisdom – and gratitude – of a community. – Rabbi Debra

Evening, Morning, and Noontime Wonders During the Pandemic

A call from my son yesterday
A call from Israel from my daughter today
A planned walk in the sunshine

Last evening, putting my kids to bed
This morning, being able to go for a walk
Talking to my Rabbi later on

Talking to my children - last night and later today
Food on the table
Connecting with my friends, despite distance

Walking with family
On a beautiful day
While social distancing

Sights of northern Wisconsin with my family
Beautiful music with beautiful voices
FaceTime with a 2-month grandson

Tears in my eyes

Craig's Corner, a video from the rebbetzin

After some weeks sheltering in place, I needed a solution for a haircut. I'll share with you here my little adventure.

Video - Craig Gets A Haircut!

Putting It Together - Spiritual Puzzle Pieces

First, it was toilet paper. Now, there is a run on jigsaw puzzles. Hoarding is never good, but the new focus strikes me as a bit healthier. At least folks are planning for searching, noticing. They may be collaborating with others or calming themselves with a meditative pursuit - both good choices, and all while creating something beautiful. The latest national obsession reminds me of a beautiful poem by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, about the spiritual "puzzle pieces" that we may yearn for - or provide to others. Whether you are working on a physical puzzle, on a hard surface, or on a spiritual puzzle, deep in your soul, I hope that you will find the most vital pieces, make connections, and be generous with those seemingly strange or random pieces that don't seem to fit.

There must have been a time when you entered a room and met someone and after a while you understood that unknown to either of you there was a reason you had met. You had changed the other and he had changed you. By some word or deed or just by your presence the errand had been completed. Then perhaps you were a little bewildered or humbled and grateful. And it was over.

"Each lifetime is the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
For some there are more pieces.
For others the puzzle is more difficult to assemble.

"Some seem to be born with a nearly completed puzzle.
And so it goes.
Souls going this way and that.
"Trying to assemble the myriad parts.

"But know this. No one has within themselves
All the pieces to their puzzle.
Like before the days when they used to seal
jigsaw puzzles in cellophane. Insuring that
All the pieces were there.

"Everyone carries with them at least one and probably
Many pieces to someone else's puzzle.
Sometimes they know it.
Sometimes they don't.

"And when you present your piece
Which is worthless to you,
To another, whether you know it or not,
Whether they know it or not,
You are a messenger from the Most High."

Thank You - With gratitude to our subscribers.

In these tough times, we consider ourselves physically distant from all our subscribers, but emotionally and spiritually close. We send you love and healing! Please be in touch via e-mail with any comments or questions about the newsletter, the teaching CD's, Judaism during the pandemic, issues of slavery & human trafficking, or any resources on the website.

We always appreciate your reviews on iTunes, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

You can also invite Rabbi Debra to your community to speak - in person - or virtually. Please consult the Scholar-in-Residence page for more information.

Thank you for all your interest and support.

Stay Safe, Stay Positive!

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