Paving a Mendful Path with Questions

How do you orient back to love, balance and peace? What do you do? Is there a special way you shepherd yourselves back to wholeness and kindness? What could help you find a mendful path in your life? Can you discern what calls you back to the home of contentment and peace, despite the disappointments and heart breaks? Is there anything that beacons you to begin anew with hope and passion in your heart?

By now, reading all these questions you may think: Rabbi, why are you asking so many questions, it’s  not Passover.

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” Albert Einstein

Questions are vehicles born of curiosity to carry us back home to wonder, peace, appreciation, contentment, innovation and joy. Some of the biggest discoveries and inventions in many fields of study and life happen after long periods of inquiry and contemplation. 

We pave a hopeful MENDFUL PATH as we open, realign, and balance our lives with what we love and with our hearts’ desire and purpose. We ask and consider what we and others love and need. We ask how can we help, serve, live more fully, bring more to life. We ask new and old questions and contemplate possible answers and responses.

Questions are essential in the process of mending and healing. So much so that I am thinking that maybe we should declare 2018  A YEAR OF QUESTIONS! To dedicate and focus our attention to opening to new possibilities, to ask new questions, to become unstuck and more free to explore. Asking, conversing, connecting, and more actively offering fresh ideas to solving core problems and see in new ways our lives and our world.

In Kabbalah, mindful mysticism for soul-centered living, we are invited to venture to the unknown and risk, yes risk by trusting in the mystery.  Kabbalah is a way to ask questions with curiosity seeing beyond the veil of what is known, into new fields of  possibilities within our souls, our lives, world and universe.

I invite you to explore the landscape of your soul and your life, and inspire your heart to occupy itself more fully from now and into the the new year. Join me for special retreat at Kripalu Center (October 17-19) where we will journey and learn together. We will share in learning and practicing mendful living methods with self-inquiry and self care.

May we be inspired to open our hearts and ask elucidating questions, be extra curious and open, contemplate possibilities in conversations with others, meditate, reflect, identify patterns, think and act mindfully, and experience new levels of healing and mending.

I wish you a wonderful time of discovery and falling in love with yourself and your life and all your beloveds and all the beauty and joy you can experience. 

Blessings, Rabbi Sigal

See when are the next Kripalu Retreats with Rabbi Sigal

Building a Shelter of Healing and Peace

We enter the gates of Sukkot tonight. The week long harvest holiday of thanksgiving. With the full moon rising into the cool evening air, we gather in the fragile and beautiful temporary huts (sukkah in Hebrew) to be together. With gratitude for what we have and share, this year we also enter Sukkot with a heaviness in our hearts. The horrific violence in Las Vegas has shaken us to our core. We keep in our hearts and prayers all those who have been hurt directly and indirectly by the shooting.

In tragic times like these we feel our vulnerability. Can you pause for a moment to feel your sadness and shock and notice how along with that arises a movement in the heart with the desire to heal and mend? Can you allow yourself to feel the co-arising of all these movements and feelings for a moment? How will we use those feelings as motivators to act and do more to mend and heal our hearts and our society? My hope and prayer is that it motivates us to collectively do more to keep the peace and share the love in any way we can.

Please  join us for meditation and study online and in person in Pennsylvania and at Kripalu Center. A  Mendful Path Meditation and learning is on going in Elkins Park.

You are invited to Kesher Shalom interactive gatherings.

May sukkat shalom, shelter of peace and healing spread over us and our world.

Together we build a sukkah of loving kindness and peace. Niveneh Sukkat hesed veshalom.
I wish you a joyful and safe holiday.

Blessings and Love, Rabbi Sigal

Find New Passover Freedom

Spring welcomes us with sunshine and new colors. Life is infused with hope again. Passover is the holiday of Spring and freedom. It is also the holiday of new beginnings, asking questions and telling stories. It is time to come together and share with others. We eat unleavened bread (Matzah) as a reminder to let go of old “sticky” habits. Here are some Passover ideas to bring to Seder .Enjoy!

1. Ask New Questions
Although it is fun to sing the traditional four questions and do traditional things, many people become bored and tune out. To generate engaging discussions around the table try to ask new questions. What questions would you ask? What questions other have? For example: Name four highlights related to new beginnings in the last year? What are some of the experiences or events that are related to freedom and what are those related to oppression in the last year?

2. Put the Say in Say-der (Seder)
Hagadah, the book we read at the Seder, literally means to tell. This year try more telling and less reading. For example, use the the four cups of freedom to talk about the stages and kinds of freedom. The Hebrew name of the holiday Pesach, as pointed out to to us by a Hassidic Rabbi, can also be understood as related to telling. If we divide the word in to 2 words: Peh-sach, it means mouth-speaking/telling.
Give yourself the permission to leave the usual script and improvise on the many themes of the holiday.  Dare to be dramatic! For example, tell stories about your own life and talk about world events in the last year that relate to the themes of freedom and bondage. 

3. Becoming Less Sticky or Stuck
If Passover is the holiday of freedom and liberation, why is the food we eat is binding? With the awareness of sustainable and healthier lifestyle, our diet is also an expression of our choice to be more free. Some people are adapting a gluten free diet, which in my sensibility relates to the Passover theme of freedom and becoming less sticky.
We know now that some foods are “sticky” (hence called glue-ten) and cause inflammation. Over the years I have adopted a Passover diet rich in vegetables, fruits and protein and less grain. I especially try to consume less Matzah.

4. All are welcome – Kol Dich’fin
Kol dich’fin, in Aramaic means all are welcome. When we make plans for the seder each year we ask, who else can we invite? On this holiday of freedom we ask how can we be the force of good and share in our liberation? We count our blessings and extend our thanks by sharing an evening with people who we don’t know well, or people who are alone, had a hard year and can use the invitation to feel more free for one night.
We care and share with others with the tradition of kol dich’fin, all are welcome. We let people know there is always room at our table. Small gestures; opening our doors, sharing a meal with others, are actions to help heal and mend our world.

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.

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 a  Retreat at Kripalu in December, June and September.

Many 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 Gain Perspective?

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

Retreat at Kripalu with Rabbi Sigal

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?  

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