In this week's Torah portion, Abraham is told to go to a land that God will show him. God urges Abraham, “lech lecha”. This is often translated as “go forth” but can also mean “go to yourself” or “go for yourself”.
Reading the Torah as a reflection of our inner life, we can imagine that we are Abraham. So are we being called to go to ourselves, or to go for ourselves? Maybe it’s both.
When I take the time to go into myself in a deep way, cutting below the surface chatter, I sometimes end up hearing a call to go somewhere, to do something, for myself. A call that ultimately serves others as well as myself.
You might want to set aside some time this week to “go to yourself” and listen to what is calling from inside. Do you notice a stirring to go for yourself, or to do something for yourself? This could be as simple as engaging in an act of self- care, or as eventful as taking a step towards a life of deeper purpose.
May we be blessed to know that we are each of infinite value and worthy of going to ourselves in order to discern how to go forth on our unique journeys. Go to yourself and you may be surprised and delighted by what you find!
With many blessings,
This week’s Torah portion (Kedoshim) is located right in the middle, the heart of the Torah. In it, we have one of the most beautiful and foundational principles of Judaism: “Love your neighbor as yourself”.
As much as I strive to be loving however, I often fall flat. Sometimes, the reason I am falling flat is because my neighbor’s words or behavior are reminding me of an area in myself which I do not love. How can I extend love to others in those same areas in which I am hurting or judge myself? I find that very challenging and even at times impossible.
That is when I need to go within and sit with that part of myself that I am judging and accept it with loving compassion. With attention and compassion, a magic dance begins in which this part of me unfurls and then evolves. I come to an understanding and acceptance of myself that infuses me with compassion towards myself and others.
I facilitate this unfurling and evolvement with Focusing, an inner exercise I use with myself and teach to others. It is one of the best tools I have found to love and accept myself on a deep level.
May we all take the time to extend love to the hurting parts of ourselves, in order to not only love ourselves more, but be able to love others and thus contribute to a healing of this world.
For info on Bring Torah to Life gatherings, which incorporate Focusing and creative expression through collage, visit http://www.rebpatrice.com/bring-torah-to-life.html
Here we are starting off a new secular year, while we are reading in our Torah portion this week that the Israelites are leaving Egypt and beginning their journey to the promised land. The Torah portion we are reading this week is Beshallach (Exodus 13:17 - 17:16) and during my reading of it this year, I am particularly struck by the fact that the Israelites are bringing the bones of their ancestor Joseph with them as they leave slavery and move forward into a new life.
I am taking this new secular year as a prompt to leave behind an old habit that is a type of slavery for me – a way of being that is standing in the way of my feeling completely free. Perhaps you too are using this new secular year as a catalyst for transformation. If so, how might it benefit us to bring the bones of Joseph with us? The word for bones (atzmot) also has the meaning of essence. What is the essence of Joseph?
Joseph had the ability to transcend his circumstances. He rose from a place of lowliness (being thrown in the pit by his brothers) to being one of the rulers over Egypt, Mitzrayim, which means a place of narrowness or constriction. He accomplishes this by learning that he is not the ultimate source of truth, but instead that God is. Allowing himself to connect with God and have God’s wisdom move through him (as when he was interpreting dreams for Pharoah) was the source of his ascent to a higher level of being, on both inner and outer levels.
As we start this new year and move towards a new way of being/thinking/doing, may we remember to bring the essence of Joseph with us – calling on that ability to connect to what is real and true and good and allowing that to guide us as we move forward.
In our Torah portion this week, we read that Jacob sends 10 of his sons to go buy grain in Egypt. He holds back his youngest, Benjamin, however because he is afraid that harm might befall him. (Genesis, Chapter 42, verse 4) Jacob is very protective of Benjamin since his other son Joseph disappeared and he believed that he had suffered a horrible death, devoured by wild animals. Jacob is understandably afraid to let another favorite son go out into the sometimes dangerous world.
Jacob’s reluctance to let Benjamin out into the world reminds me of how I sometimes (okay, maybe more than sometimes) am afraid to be vulnerable, and hold a part of myself back. I am afraid to let a part of myself show that might be rejected. Yes, like Jacob, I may have a good reason- perhaps I was hurt in the past and am afraid to experience the same kind of suffering again.
Yet I wonder what would happen if I allowed all of myself to be present more often- if I engaged with the world more fully and without fear?
Perhaps allowing Benjamin to venture out into the world would afford Jacob some valuable new information from his son. Perhaps if we allow a vulnerable part of ourselves to come out at the right time, we will learn more about our deeper selves and about others we are in relationship with.
This Torah portion inspires me to experiment with opening myself to vulnerability more than I usually do. Jacob only thought that his son Joseph had been devoured by wild animals. In truth, Joseph had not only survived but even grown on many levels - in stature, in wealth and spiritually. Jacob was ruled by his grief and fear in not allowing his other favorite son to encounter the world. Perhaps I can remember that even if a part of me was hurt in the past, it’s not a reason to keep hiding parts of myself in the future. In fact, when I look at things through eyes of clarity and truth, I can see how I’ve grown and become very strong and able on many levels, despite (or because of) hurts and challenges. I can let this truth embolden me as I risk being more vulnerable, slowly but surely over time.
Might you consider being a bit more vulnerable rather than hiding parts of yourself because of past hurts? How might this Torah portion inspire you?
May we all experience a Hanukkah where we see the inner light in ourselves and are not afraid to let it shine.
This week, our Torah portion carries a key to moving through our challenges. Rebecca is pregnant with her twins, Jacob and Esau. She is having a difficult time because they are struggling and fighting with each other in her womb. It is literally hard for her to bear. She is so frustrated and full of despair that she asks God, “Im cain, lamah zeh anochi?” If it’s like this, why am I? Why am I even here, if I have to hold all this struggle, all this difficulty?
Many of us have come to this place ourselves. A place of despair; of not knowing why we are meant to be here if we have to contend with so much struggle.
Rebecca reminds me that like a pregnant woman, I am large enough to contain all of it. That life and love will prevail if I allow myself to be stretched open with my challenges. And that it’s ok to speak from my heart to God about how I feel and what I need.
Even in the darkest times, we can find solace by allowing ourselves to be in touch with our deepest feelings, share with God and each other, and know we are strong enough to let it all move through us.
Gam zeh ya’avor… this too shall pass.
It’s time for a fresh new start. Yom Kippur has passed, a time when we look within, practice forgiveness, and think about how we might want to change and what we might want to bring in for the coming year. In addition, many of us in Colorado have experienced great flooding and upheaval and have been forced to begin again. B’reisheet, our first Torah portion, is all about beginnings and reminds me that even when things seem dark and hope is flagging, there is always the potential to create our lives anew.
The words in the first few verses of Torah strike deep for me this year: “In the beginning, God created heaven and earth – the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and the spirit of God sweeping over the water. God said, 'Let there be light' ”.
Perhaps we can trust that even in the chaos and darkness of the rains and floods, the spirit of God was there. Perhaps we can trust that we too, like God, can create light out of the darkness. I’ve seen countless acts of generosity and loving kindness that have come out of this dark time. Let us focus on the light, and shine it with great compassion towards ourselves and towards others. Out of this great upheaval, may we experience healing and help create bright and shining newness for ourselves and others. May we be blessed with endurance, strength and hope.
I am a Rabbinic Chaplain in the Jewish Renewal tradition who brings a light-filled and joyful Judaism to others who want to experience the beauty of Jewish spirituality.