Category Archives: Holidays

Tashlich – Reclaiming Our Humanity

Each morning I give thanks for a new day and commit to finding ways to be mendful, connected, helpful and kind.

Disasters, difficulties and personal hardships are natural challenges of life. We come together in community and friendship and create safe space  and rituals to lighten the load of pain and reduce suffering. TO make meaning and bring comfort and solace to one another. We are reminded time and time again that we are all in this together.  Difficult situations also highlight for us the inescapable truth: our time here is precious and fleeting. We all take turns being in the frontline of disaster, of loss, in acute pain and stress and, we also have our turn in being free from acute stress and danger.

Unfortunately, sometimes when stress arises we withhold our love and care from self and others. We hold ourselves back from life’s joys and kindness when they are obscured by suffering and we are in a survival mode. We forget to reach out and hold ourselves separate; maybe holding on to judgement and criticism of self, situation or others. We can be loving instead if we could only remember it’s available to us. Difficulties and societal upheavals bring us closer together as we experience our fragility and loss.

This time of year in the Jewish calendar we review and reclaim our humanity: our belonging and sharing in the human tribe. It gives us an opportunity to contemplate how we belong and how we hold ourselves apart. For so many of us, with our lists of “should” and culture telling us we need to deny our authentic experience, we sometimes buy into a preconceived notion of what is right and should make us happy. We can lose our way even when we are together.

Why are we focusing on the denial of our human experience?  Why shame, judgement, guilt and anger? Why the withholding of love? What is in the way of feeling connected, cared for and caring?  How can we relax a bit and trust ourselves and each other more? What do we need to release? And mostly, what do  we need to forgive ourselves for? And what forgiveness can we extend to others?

Tashlich is a ritual of release that we participate in during Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year September 30th.) I want to offer this practice of release to use during the days leading to the Jewish New Year. It can also be used anytime of year to help you release. Tashlich is traditionally done with breadcrumbs that are cast into a natural body of water. I am offering a variation on it here with imaginary or real rocks, pebbles, or other natural materials.

Any Day PRACTICE:
Imagine you are holding a stone in your hand, or actually holding one, and bring it close to your heart. Feel it as a heaviness in your emotional heart, a burden you are carrying in your chest, painful feelings or a belief. What burdens are you carrying in your heart? The rock in your hand can be something which is hard for you to let go of,  something you want or need to release. This hand gesture symbolizes your willingness to release and ask for help. You are willing  to stop carrying the worry, the secret, the shame and give it up to make room for the joys of life. Give attention to and notice what you are holding and how you are holding back within yourself and in your life. What has hardened and closed your heart? What have you been feeling shame about? How are you holding yourself separate?

Notice your breathing and relax with the closed fist by your chest until it is clear what you are holding. Begin opening your hand and prepare to release it when you are ready. Toss it, send it with kindness and care into the river of life and feel the effect of the release. Feel how the stones you release return to the river of life and find their place washed anew and cleansed. Be gentle and go slow. It may bring up unpleasant (or pleasant) feelings that are hard to face or hard to let go. You may want to grab them back or hold onto them. One by one, repeat as many times as you wish, until you feel it is working. All the things that need to be released at this time are forgiven and set free.

Forgiveness is when we forgive the hope for a better past so we can live well now and in the future.

Join us for:

High Holy Days 2019 with Rabbi Sigal

Rosh Hashanah September 29th & 30th  

Yom Kippur October 8th & 9th

Temple Judea of Bucks County, Doylestown, PA

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L’shanah Tovah

I would like to express my heartfelt wishes at this time of turning our gaze onto a New Jewish Year. 
May it be a sweet and healthy New Year. May the year 5780 be a mendful path that brings us more ease, contentment and delight. May we share in more peace and may tranquility and friendship reside in our communities. May we experience less conflict and more understanding. May our homes be filled with the love and kindness we enjoy and desire, every day and throughout the year.
L’shannah tovah u’metukah. 
Love and blessings, Rabbi Sigal

We hope you join us for December retreats at the beautiful Kripalu Center in Massachusetts 

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

4 Weeks to Rosh Hashanah

How I love the beautiful nights at the end of Summer. The sliver of the moon above is beckoning us to gather a few more sun rays and a couple more days at the beach, to store within for the approaching cold of winter. In a few days, on September 1st, the new moon of the month of Elul will hang in the night’s sky.  It will be the last new moon before Rosh Hashana.

All these signs in nature are  telling us: we are 29 days away from Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

The invitation of the Jewish New Year is to truly have a fresh start; to review, organize and prioritize our lives and how we spend our time. To make amends, forgive, release, mend and at the end of this have a plan of intentions and goals to return to the home of our soul. A return to our true kind and loving nature. All this important work is necessary in order to clear a new path of hope to an inspired and meaningful life in the future. To truly clear a new path we must pass through the gates of  forgiveness; forgiving the hope for a better past. It’s time to release and move on.

Elul the month preceding the New Year, invites us to spent time at the wellspring of our hearts remembering what we love, what is important to us and what brings us alive. When we remember our authentic soul and long to return, we feel the strong pull of our desire to live authentically. Even when it’s hard to manage through the work of forgiveness, the sweet memory and feeling of being whole with ourselves and in the world, encourages us to do the work. We trust our stamina and commitment to do the work of forgiveness so we could live our highest aspirations and honor the desires of our hearts more each day.

Here are some questions and inspirations to Contemplate in the 30 days:

How can you help yourself decide what to let go of and what to keep? What is in the way to living the life you want? What is between living authentically and what you do now? How do we leave the unhelpful habits, partly unconscious? How do we let go? What do we need to release?

Madison Taylor writes: “One of the hardest things in life is feeling stuck in a situation that we don’t like and want to change. We may have exhausted ourselves trying to figure out how to make change, and we may even have given up. If we tend to regard ourselves as having failed, this will block our ability to allow ourselves to succeed. We have the power to change the story we tell ourselves by acknowledging that in the past, we did our best, and we exhibited many positive qualities, and had many fine moments on our path to the present moment.”

Each year we are given the opportunity to review our lives and renew our resolve to change. The New Year is a call to open to the possibilities, the help and the hope to make the changes we need to make to live more fully from the heart. When we honestly and kindly review the past year, we make it possible to open to new ways in the new year. Welcoming an inner shift to allow us to get out of the cycle we’ve been in that’s been keeping us stuck.

After the reviewing it’s time to open the heart with forgiveness. To loosen the knots of shame, blame, regret, self-hatred, not good enough and other sticky patterns of thinking and feeling. All those feelings and thoughts about ourselves and others keep us separated from the home of our soul; our joy, ease and fulfillment.

We release the past and open to new possibilities in the new year.

Shannah Tova

Celebrate the Holidays in a Welcoming Community 

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Retreats at Kripalu Center

50 Mendful Steps (Counting Omer)

We left Egypt, we are free, now what?

I invite you to count with us!

Daily inspirations will be shared for 50 days at Mendful Community on Facebook Please like page and follow us here

It’s Passover, we left Egypt, the narrow and constricting place called Mitzrayim in Hebrew. We are wandering in the wilderness of freedom looking at horizon hoping to catch a new, or a renewed glimpse of hope for our future to mend what is not well and whole yet. 
The archetypal Exodus journey story is a teaching story we relate to in different ways depending where we are in life. Once in a while we sense a desire to change or to reflect and with hope hope to feel free enough to change. It all begins with making time to reflect to gain new perspectives and insights.

Now that we are free , we have another changce to stop and ask about the meaning of our lives and the future.
It is human nature to desire to live a life that matters and which is also enjoyable and free of pain and hopelessness. This is the season to reflect, adjust and reorient life to move in the direction of our aspirations. 
At this season of spring and renewal we open life the spring blooms and curious as the new branches on the trees, to know what is ahead in our lives and how we could shape our future to live more fully and with more ease and joy.
Passover, Pesach in Hebrew, invites us to lift the veils that obscure our joy and potential and shed light into corners we have not visited in a while or never. The parting of the Sea of Reeds, a birth place of a people passing through the dry land open to them among the pillars of water threatening to crash down on them, is a birth metaphor. Every human life somehow have manages, endures and courageously makes it through to come to this world.
After the “opening” at the parting of the sea we tell at the Seder, we begin the Omer Counting (sefirat ha’Omer). A Mendful journey of 50 days to guide us on discovery and reflection until Shavuot. (June 9th in 2019) I hope you can make time for daily reflection for 50 days, make it count, reflect and take action to create the life you desire to bring more ease and contentment.  

I will guide us on the journey of counting through the mystical flow of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life for 7 weeks. I will share daily inspirations for 50 days at Mendful Community on Facebook Please like page and follow us here

What is Sefirat ha’Omer
It is the counting of the days during the period between Passover and Shavuot holiday. Literally it means to count sheaths; bundles of grain.  It is a time of self reflection with the aim to renew our awareness of abundance and bring more flow into our lives.

How would life be if we take the time really count for us? As we journey from Passover as free people, we walk on a 50 days bridge of daily practices to connect us to what we love. We engage in authentic reflection once a day as we count the days connecting to new and renewed mendful possibilities. We make room each day to connect with our heart’s desires, journey in the mystery of the unknown wilderness, in the desert as the Israelites.


Many your holiday and counting the Omer be enjoyable and meaningful, Rabbi Sigal

Retreats with Rabbi Sigal… June, September, December

Fascism and the Book of Esther

It’s purim! A holiday of masquerading and fun. But before we dress up and celebrate can we reflect for a moment on a serious matter? 

The Book of Esther is a story about Ahasuerus, a pleasure seeking King asleep at the helm, and Haman, an “evil” Prime Minister who conspired to kill the Jews. Esther, a Jew, was crowned Queen for her extraordinary beauty and foiled Haman’s evil plan with her smarts.

In the story Esther saved the Jews with two moves:

1. She identified the threat with the help of her uncle Mordechai; Haman’s evil plan.

2. She devised a plan to stop it; to open the King’s eyes to Haman’s evil plan.

Esther had the courage to see the situation clearly and not deny or hide from the painful truth of what is coming. Even though her life at the palace was pleasant and she could have ignored and deny the threat by saying it was “fake news,” she didn’t. Instead, she took a huge risk by telling the King about it, confronted Haman and save the Jews. 

This is a unique story because antisemitism’s harmful effect was foiled before it devestated, and Haman, the Antisemitic leader was hung. In history usually much harm was caused before it stopped. This year it’s not hard to see this story as a mirror to our times with the growing antisemitism and fascism in the world. In history both are intimately interrelated.

I am writing here after reading Fascism: a warning by Madeline Albright who writes at length about examples of fascism in history and now. She tells about her own experience meeting dictators and she warns that fascism is dangerous because it doesn’t arrive overnight. She writes “it implements itself little by little plucking the chicken one feather at a time.” Change happens slowly and gradually and before we know it, it’s fully here and democracy is gone. 

In her opinion we may be overly trusting democratic governments to be able to withstand the pressures and avoid a change to fascism. In fact, there are many examples to show how changes happened insidiously in governments, and are happening now.

Because fascism grows with influence little by little it’s hard to detect it. It’s hard to fight against it. We also look with disbelief at the situation and want to trust and believe democracy will prevail. 

You may ask, as I do, what can we do? I don’t know exactly how or what we can do, but I know we must respond to mend the situation before it is too late. We cannot be paralyzed by disbelief and idly hope for the best while we do nothing. We all need to be like Esther. Open our eyes, stop denying the truth and combat the forces of antisemitism and fascism. Esther asked everyone to pray and fast, to stand with her, to give her support to have the power and be the unlikely leader to foil the threat. Esther, a pretty woman who has no authority or standing in the hierarchy of leadership except for being beloved to the king, led against Haman, a leader with power who’s plans to cause harm had to be stopped.

May we all be like Esther.

“If not you, who?  If not now, when?” 

Variation on Hillel quote by Rabbi Sigal

Blessings and prayers for a mendful world.

Happy Purim! Rabbi Sigal

Two opportunities to retreat with Rabbi Sigal Mendful Living Retreat at Kripalu Center in June and September.

Flow like Sweet Honey

 

It’s 5779!

Everything is waiting for you. Everything.

May the New Year FLOWWWWWW LIKE SWEET HONEY.
Pour it allover your life and soak in it to infuse everything. Everything, even the toughest and most challenging situations, sorrows and pains. Release it all into an ocean of honey; the troubles of the last year and the worries of the next, and let them melt away to be sweetened. Love and blessings, Rabbi Sigal

Yom Kippur Services

Ease into Messiness

Why Seder?

Seder in Hebrew means order.                                            Receive our newsletter

Messiness is life. Humans have been talking and writing about chaos and messiness for thousands of years. It has always been a part of our experience and motivated us to change. With determination and creativity we seek to bring about more order.

Out of chaos the Earth was formed, a few ancient myths of creation tell us, the Genesis narrative among them. The goal of these stories is to make sense of the unknown and to organize. The general thrust of these myths is that an all-knowing and powerful God takes charge of chaos and with superb wisdom was able to organize the world and guide it. (Don’t you sometimes wish your world could be effortlessly and efficiently organized like that?)

But still, even with a super powerful deity, the messy story continues. Our human experience is a chain of messes, monumental ones and smaller ones; personal, communal and environmental. To help us cope with this reality, many aspects of every religion are dedicated to organization and order. For example: rituals, laws, governance etc. They serve a purpose.

We don’t like messiness and we want to have more control because we are uncomfortable with the unknown. We like things to be more predictable, known, so they are less anxiety provoking. We don’t like surprises. Or maybe we like only good surprises. (Although, some of us rather not even experience those.) In our age, when anxiety is a prevalent condition, a pause of “Seder” of ease and enjoyment is a welcomed remedy.

When we clean and prepare for Passover with anticipation for a night of orderliness (Seder) we remember messiness is part of life, but we also remember our ability to bring about order. We are able to shape and control space and time (i.e, ritual.)

The Jewish year cycle of holidays invites us to routinely encounter themes on the map of human and societal needs. Spring holidays are opportunities for cleaning, organizing and celebrating order and openness. An invitation to remember that having order and routines can be supportive to us spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. Predictability that comes with order allows the body-mind to relax on all levels. It is relaxing when the amount of decisions we need to make is reduced. At the Seder we can lean back, sing, eat and enjoy. The order of the Seder, the meal and the story are basically prescribed, although many embellish on it for fun. The Seder ritual gives us the permission to effortlessly “ride” it to the end of the evening and declare it complete.

I hope you can enjoy the evening of order and ease. When we are at ease we open more fully and enjoy the mystery of life. Because, after all, life is a wonderful mystery, and with all the control we try to exercise, it’s messy and we don’t fully know. It may sound contradictory but, the more we ease into messiness, accepting life is an unknown mystery, the less anxiety we experience. In a way, reducing our angsts about needing to control everything, combined with some preparation and orderliness, allows us to relax into the mystery with more ease, and awe. That, my friends, is freedom.

I wish you a holiday of ease and contentment. Dayenu!

Does It Spark Joy? Spiritual Preparation for Passover

When your room is clean and uncluttered, you have no choice but to examine your inner state.” Marie Kondo, in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Even in the process of cleaning and organizing we examine our relationship to things, people, physical space and inner states. In the process of choosing we remember, sort through and choose. To what will you say yes, and to what will say no?

Hello Mendful Springtime!

Where spirituality meets Spring cleaning.

Cleaning for Passover is my favorite ritual of Spring. Each year I rediscover how cleaning with a purpose makes a huge difference in my life on a few levels. Preparing for the first night of Passover, the Seder (in Hebrew means order) is a journey of putting things in order. The yearly ritual of preparing is much more complicated compared to the Seder ritual, which is relatively simple and it has a script (Hagaddah books!)

Spring cleaning can be a transformative endeavor even before the holiday begins, if we do it right. Scrubbing, removing, discarding, cleaning and rearranging our living spaces has the potential to refocus and give us a new sense of freedom and ready us for something new. All this physical work can however obscure the opportunity to attend to our inner clutter of thoughts and beliefs, unless we use the process as a reminder and intend to include examining the inner landscape along with the physical cleaning.

It is hard to let go, but you’ll be glad you did. Marie Kondo suggests an efficient process by which we can select the things we want to keep. She suggests we use this simple question as a filter criterion, “Does it spark joy?” While Kondo’s book is primarily focused on how to tidy up one’s physical environment, her guidance can be metaphorically superimposed over the concept of clearing out inner clutter as well.

Marie writes, “There are several common patterns when it comes to discarding. One is to discard things when they cease being functional—for example, when something breaks down beyond repair or when part of a set is broken. Another is to discard things that are out of date, such as clothes that are no longer in fashion or things related to an event that has passed. It’s easy to get rid of things when there is an obvious reason for doing so.” Marie invites people to ask themselves, “Does this item spark joy?”
Let’s begin to clear our environments and attend to inner clearing   so we could forge a path to freedom and ease.  To remember what we cherish and remove what does not work or useful any longer. To better choose how, with who and with what we want to spend our time and resources. May you find mendful paths to more freedom and may life and all you do and have spark more joy.

I wish you meaningful cleaning and organizing, and a joyous budding of Spring’s renewal.

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? That is why it is a “commandment!” Even when, or especially when, we don’t feel happy or are not in the mood to celebrate we have to engage in this practice of having fun and being happy. Purim is an opportunity to practice shifting your mood. A valuable skill to have! The reciprocal flow goes in both directions; allowing more playfulness brings about more joy and more joy encourages more freedom to be playful.

I have shared about setting the right conditions instead of setting goals, for living the life we want. Happiness and fun work in similar ways. On Purim, we set the conditions and are  reminded about 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.