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.
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
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?
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.