All posts by sigal

FDR’s Four Freedoms for Passover

Let’s begin with a question: 
What is the most reoccurring number at the Seder?
I begin with a question about numbers because the Seder is a night of questions, and also of numbers. We ask four questions, tell about the four children and drink four cups of wine. 
The four cups of wine at the Seder are the four stages of liberation:
1. becoming aware of oppression  2. opposing oppression 3. imagining alternatives  4. accepting personal and communal responsibility to act for freedom.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) in his 1941 state of the union address spoke of the four freedoms we should protect anywhere in the world.  They are: 
1. freedom of speech and expression 2. freedom from fear 3. freedom from want 4. freedom of religion. 

Passover1Passover(Pesach in Hebrew) is the holiday of freedom. Hag ha’chayrut! (Hag = holiday, Chayrut = freedom) 
The Seder is a celebration of freedom. We sit around the table and tell stories of oppression and liberation “as if we are coming out of Egypt.” In Hebrew Mitzrayyim literally means narrow places. 

Something New: May I suggest that instead of just blessing and drinking we use the occasion of drinking the four cups of wine to pause and bring to the table, literally in this case, a discussion about the four stages of libration and FDR’s four freedoms? What do the four freedoms mean to us today? How do we guard and express them? Which one is most important now, and why? 

Lastly, sharing a funny video about Seder. It makes me laugh just thinking about it. Watch and enjoy!
In light of the video a reminder.  We can eat vegetables (salad, potatoes) after we say the blessing of Karpas early in the Seder. It will be a more pleasant experience to all with some food.
I wish you a wonderful Passover and a delightful spring.

Soul-Centered Living

It takes courage to embrace the unknown and to find our way in new situations. Change can be scary and confusing. We must find “ground” first to calm down, so that the fear based part of the brain is not the only thing controlling our behavior. I call that part of the brain, the F brain; fear, fight, flight and freeze.
Mysticism and Kabbalah mentor us to find our soul-center so we can stay settled in the calm and peace of our soul, especially when we are feeling scared and confused. Mystical practices teach us ways to bring more calm to the body-mind and foster remembering and understanding of the underlying deep interconnection of all things. 

I am leading a weekend retreat March 3-5 at Kripalu to explore the relationship between mysticism, religion, spiritual practice, and happiness.
This holistic retreat provides a direct approach to living authentically and cultivating peace and well-being in all aspects of your daily life. I will explain complex concepts and guide healing contemplative practices that focus on reducing discontent and strengthening trust in your authentic experience. Practice transformative meditations, relaxation, and self-inquiry to point the way toward wonder, enjoyment, ease, and contentment.

I hope to see you there.
Blessings,  Rabbi Sigal
Sh’ma Meditation Retreat for soul-centered living at Kripalu, March 3-5.

Join Rabbi Sigal Online:

Contact us when you are ready for individual mentoring. Sigal has room for a few new students

Seeding a Soul Inspired Life

The time has come to seed the garden of your life with new soul inspired seeds.

Tu Bishvat (15th day in the month of Shevat) is almost here.  Under a full moon next shabbat we will celebrate Tu Bishvat (Friday night 2/10.) I hope you can make time to quiet down and contemplate seeding soul inspired seeds. What hopes and dreams are hidden in your soul this winter? What do you sense and imagine could bloom in your life when Spring arrives?

Tu Bishvat is a celebration of trees and nature. The trees are very internal this time of year. Perhaps they are too are dreaming and growing with strength. Readying themselves to burst with beauty in Spring.

Why do we take time to do inner work? Why should we sit quietly and meditate and simply make time to be? Because like trees even before the thawing and the blooming, we become alive from the inside out. Now is the time for deep inner growing; dreaming and imagining.

THE PRACTICE:

We begin by imagining the fruits we want to bring to fruition. What will you grow? Sit and become quiet to reflect on what you love; discern the desires of your heart. What is your heart’s desire?

Now, when you have a sense of what are your soul inspired seeds, your heart seeds, write them down. You may discover seeds you didn’t know were hidden within. You may want to make a list of them and read it over to see which are the ones with more pull. Keep the list and choose to reflect more on 2-3 of them. Attend to them. Nourish and water these seeds. Try to make time for dreaming and listening carefully to each.

Identify the necessary conditions to help your heart seeds grow and come to life. What are the approach you need to apply? What are the attitudes and actions you will take, or avoid, to support the growth?

Don’t rush. It is still winter. on Tu Bishvat the trees only begin to wake up and the sap begins to flow. Be patient and generous like a tall and strong tree. You have plenty of time to seed and germinate until Spring (Passover.) Don’t rush. Take all the time you need, but remain focused.

May your heart seeds germinate, take root and grow well. May they grow into a beautiful Spring garden and reward you with the delicious fruits and fill your life with beauty and peace. Enjoy!

I hope to see you soon at the Meditation Gatherings in February and Meditation Retreat at Kripalu, March 3-5. Please see dates and information below.

Many blessings, Rabbi Sigal

How to let go and be turned

horn_and_pomagranite

Hashivaynu e’lecha ve’nashuvah  Come let us turn, return, and be turned to the one.

 

After Teshuvah, the willful work of turning and returning, we let go of preconceived notions of what we are and how life should be. We breathe, relax and allow life to unfold for us. The more we allow ourselves to be turned, the more we are home.

Our attempts at prayer for help, as it is with any action, is motivated by our belief, laden with guilt, that we need to do something and that belief causes us to never let go or relax. We are always doing, trying, controlling and seeking to get better, farther, etc. Most often we forget to stop after we ask to feel the effect of our “doing” and to let help, joy and life in. We are habituated to do and we rarely surrender long enough to be turned and be at home.

The Jewish New Year is here to remind us to wake up and stop the doing and the trying so we could be turned. At the beginning of a new year, willing to be transformed and with hope we stand at a new beginning pregnant with possibilities. We pray and ask to be turned and retuned to the home of our souls. (You may have more specific prayers in your heart for happiness, health, peace, prosperity etc.) I hope you can stop doing and listen deeply and pray for an opening in the heart, so you could be turned to more fully appreciate the gift of this life.

With humility and with hope in our hearts we allow ourselves to fall into the mystery of it all and enjoy the ride guided only by our desire to love this life before it is too late.

Shuvah, it’s time to come home.

Besefer haim tekateyvu vetechatymu. May we all be inscribed in the book of good life.

I wish you and yours a sweet and healthy new year and wonderful holiday celebrations.

Blessings, Rabbi Sigal

Freedom to Inspire Your Heart

Reflections on Independence Day

Thirty years ago when I moved to the US, I organized my travel to arrive in time to celebrate Independence Day in Philadelphia. It may seem silly now but it was important to me then. I wanted to celebrate the 4th of July with thousands of people at the special concert by the Art Museum’s steps, and view a spectacular fireworks show.
Celebrating freedom and life has always been important to me. As I reflect on the past, I can see how the threads of yearning for freedom and living in freedom are woven into the fabric of what I do and teach. Those threads shimmer through and guide what I write, sing and create. Freedom is in the choices I make in how I mother, cook, mentor, lead, officiate, teach and rabbi.
Today, I reflect on the words of the Declaration of Independence and how many generations are connected through history to the values of our society. As the founding leaders of this country and all leaders ever since, I am thinking how to inspire our hearts to be free and open to the joy of life. I hope that between beach and barbeque you can make time to contemplate what inspires you.
It works well for me to celebrate freedom at the beginning of the summer because, as I do every summer, in preparation for the Jewish New Year in the fall, I contemplate and connect to what inspires me. I also mindfully include activities I enjoy. Making a priority to spend time with family, friends, beauty, fun books and travel. I also make time for retreat and quiet to feel and breathe, and allow flourishing in the landscape of my soul. What do you do at this time of year? Maybe you can navigate taking more time to do what you love and need to best care for yourself.

High Holy Days services at the beautiful Abington Art Center in Jenkintown, PA.

I am here to support you. Please contact me with questions and to explore personal mentoring to bring more balance into your life.

How to keep perspective and hope?

The view from the mountain

On this Shabbat evening and the evening of Shavuot holiday, beginning tomorrow night, we continue to strive for peace and the next level of reconciliation among all people. We resolve to not give up on working toward making the world better for all inhabitants. On Shavuot we celebrate the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. We glimpse from the high point and ask not to shrink our hope into the painful details and despair. We respond with kindness and contemplate wisdom. 

Sad about the violence in Tel Aviv I am reminded how fragile is the calm and our sense of freedom. I’m also encouraged by how caring, courageous and resilient the response has been. I reach to one of the luminaries of Jewish thought, Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz z’l for inspiration.

He taught there is no religious meaning in history. There is only an endless struggle for justice with a desire to help alleviate human suffering and fight against natural disasters and human made disasters. This endless effort gives our lives meaning. The human courage and ingenuity to invent and reinvent ourselves, endlessly, is the story of history. We are all in this eternal process together.

Thankfully, the impulse to help is greater than the urge to destroy. We mostly focus on the good.

May we resolve to be the champions of peace in the eternal struggle for the good. May we choose inclusive over exclusive as we remember our deep interconnectedness. May we hold up caring for all humans over religious righteousness which separates and causes us more suffering than we inevitably and naturally have to endure. 

Listen to Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz in his own words here: clip

Labor day weekend September 2-5 Retreat at Kripalu with Rabbi Sigal Inspire Your Heart Kabbalah of Turning and Returning

Playing Hide and Seek

How long have you been hiding your dreams and aliveness?

What desires are you denying yourself?

What are you afraid of?
Spring is a time to stop hiding and take a leap of faith. Look at nature around you and see how trees bloom and bulbs sprout without any effort or angsts. To spring forward like flowers do, we need to trust and not let worries and fears stop us. Think for a moment: What have I really wanted to do, but held back because of one reason or another, which stopped me from living fully and from fulfilling my dreams?
Revealing and concealing play important roles in our lives, in our stories and traditions. Life is a mystery and that is what makes it interesting. God and spirit are also unknown and they are too interesting because of that. Mysterious elements in all things keep us curious, engaged and yep, also guessing and amazed.
This week we celebrate the holiday of Purim (Thursday March 24) and read the story about Queen Esther (her name means hidden.) We dress up in costumes, which are revealing and hiding somethings about ourselves at the same time. This year, it also happened Easter is this weekend; marking the resurrection of Jesus and children will be looking for hidden colorful eggs with hidden sweets.
In both holidays we tell stories about hiddenness and salvation. The experiences of being lost, hidden and in despair are met with being found and saved. We can all relate to this motif. We all want to be found, seen, and live authentically and freely, but fears may stop us. In our spiritual seeking, and seeking friends, connections and meaning we long to be found. We long  to stop feeling separated and we want to stop hiding. The stories we celebrate this week can be helpful to us if we explore them as myths about human needs and conditions. The spirit is hidden and the storeis focus on the human side, not on God.
Life, turns out, is a mystery. The hidden and the revealed are playfully woven together. On Purim we can let what we usually hold back be more in the forefront. Playfully and temporarily we enjoy showing some of what is hidden. What can you playfully reveal about you, your life, your ideas and dreams? What will make you laugh if you trusted and revealed some of the mystery you are?  

Welcome to Purim: Happiness is Served

A holiday dedicated to happiness and fun? Yes!
On Purim we are “commanded” to be happy and have fun. But what if we don’t feel like it? I think that is why it is a “commandment.” So we do it even when, or especially when, we don’t feel happy. It is a practice!
I have shared about setting the right conditions for living the life we want, instead of setting goals. Happiness is closely relates to it and works in a similar way. Setting the conditions and having reminders for happiness in place are key to experiencing happiness.
We know from studies that smiling and laughing, even for no reason at all, changes how we feel. When we smile and laugh we set the physical, chemical, and neural conditions to feeling happier. 
Purim is an interesting combination of fun and masquerading. It works because freeing ourselves to be playful, in how we dress and behave on Purim, sets the conditions to silliness and giddiness, and that in turns contributes to more happiness and encourages more freedom of expression. Freedom of expression goes together with feeling authentic and opens us to more joy and fun. The reciprocal flow goes in both directions; allowing more playfulness brings about more joy and more joy encourages more freedom to be playful.

Awaken Passion & Aliveness

The commercial presentation of Valentine’s Day, or what I like to call remembering love day, can be fun, but it can also make some feel bad, left out and unloved if they don’t participate in the giving and receiving of bonbons and roses. On top of that, for many, feeling aliveness in relationships is fading, if not completely absent. Many people are indifferent to the holiday and let it happen around them avoiding or rejecting the whole thing. I like remembering love day, but I wish we used it to feed our soul and aliveness much better, instead of let it pass us by uneventfully.

How about instead of the same old chocolates and flowers we use the occasion of Valentine’s Day to awaken real passion and aliveness? And I do not mean just the romantic kind.

Perhaps when we see the landscape covered with pink and red for Valentine’s Day we can find a way to go beyond the symbols of the day to express love in a larger way. Can we free ourselves and color outside the pink and red lines with different colors and ideas to awaken our unique individual passions?

Imagine how it would be if you engaged with curiosity and use the day, or even take the whole week, to inquire about your state of passion and aliveness. Find out how you can awaken your aliveness; the desire of the body-mind to really live! How to come alive to deeply engage, feel, express and connect.

Aliveness is the experience of being truly alive in all relationships and not just romantic ones. Relating to one’s self and self-loving comes first. All other relationships are affected by how we are with ourselves. We can use Valentine’s Day to ignite the inner light, to empower and propel our lives and be more fully alive in all our relationships.

The invitation is to let remembering love day evoke a desire in us to become alive in all we do. This week, let the passion in the heart be free and the imagination open, to remember your aliveness.

Let yourself find new ways to awaken your passion, your enthusiasm and excitement to discover more of who you are and what you love in the ever-expanding field of your aliveness.

Happy love day!

Mentoring

Retreats at Kripalu Center. MA in March & September