Friday, June 19, 2009


Mindfulness is the buzzword today. It is used in Book titles, seminars, etc. Most people associate mindfulness with Buddhism. I would like to explain the origins of mindfulness in Judaism.

My definition of Mindfulness is: awareness of what is reality, being present and awareness of consequences of what my current and next actions will bring. In our tradition, we learn about being mindful in the first chapter of Genesis. God tells us to take care of the earth, having rule and dominion over all. In order to do this, we have to know what each part of the earth needs to flourish. In the second chapter of Genesis, we are told to take the seventh day, Shabbat, and make it holy. We do this by not doing any creative work. How interesting, we are commanded to take time to review what we have created in the past week and appreciate it and appreciate and be grateful for what God has created. To me, this is the height of mindfulness!

Adam then goes on and names all the animals. Here again, awareness of what each creature is and naming them according to their own traits takes being mindful. We are commanded to work the land and guard it. In order to guard something, we have to be aware of what is going on with it and around it. God is showing us mindfulness when God says that it is not good for a human to be alone and that we need an Ezer K’negdo, a helpmeet. This is someone who helps us do the next right thing and pushes against us when we are doing the next wrong thing. To know one from the other takes a great deal of awareness.

When man sees woman, face to face for the first time, he becomes aware of his need to be connected. So, we learn in this second chapter of Genesis to be aware of our need to love and be loved, to be known by another person and to know another person. Finally in the second chapter of Genesis, we are told to leave our parents home and have Devekut, a complete union, with our soul mate. Devekut is the same union that we seek with God. So, just as we have to be aware of our need to be connected to God, we have to be aware of and cultivate and grow our connection to our soul and to the soul of our mate.

Now, these are all positive examples of mindfulness. In Chapter three of Genesis, we see what happens when we are not mindful. This is the Garden of Eden story. When we don’t see what is and either talk ourselves into a lie or allow ourselves to be led astray, we go into hiding. Then, when found out, we blame another. This is the state of most of our world today, non-mindfulness.

We see another example of this when Cain is told that “sin couches at your door, it desires you much AND you can master it”. What does Cain do with this warning and direction? He kills his brother Abel.

The only way to “master sin” is to be mindful of what is negative in you and around you. Then, by knowing what the consequences of what acting on this negativity will bring and making a conscious decision to not give in to our negative impulses and, rather, transform the energy to do good, we live a mindful life. (Next month, how to do this) God Bless, Rabbi Mark

Friday, June 12, 2009

This week’s Parsha is B’Ha-alotkha. This translates
to when you cause yourself to rise up. This is part
of the command that God tells Moses to give to
Aaron and his sons regarding the Menorah. It is interesting
to me that Torah uses the form of the word
that is causative: ‘when you cause yourself to rise up,’
rather than just saying, ‘when you go up’ or ‘get up!’
The Torah uses this particular form, causative. So,
what I understand from this is that when doing a
Mitzvah, we must be deliberate and aware of what we
are doing. We must cause ourselves to perform a
Mitzvah so that we are not doing a routine routinely;
rather we are at one with ourselves, God and the task
at hand. We are performing this Mitzvah at this time
in this manner.
Are we causing ourselves to do Mitzvot? Do we take responsibility
for the actions that we cause ourselves to
take? What makes us blame others for the things that we
cause? When are we present enough in our lives to be
aware of what we are doing, the ramifications, both short
and long term, on others and

This Parsha also has in it the verses we say each
time we take the Torah from the Ark. In Chapter 10,
verses 35 and 36, the text says, V’Yhi Binsoah
HaAron, ‘When the Ark was to journey, Moses
would say: Kumah Adonai, ‘Rise God and scatter your
enemies and make the ones that hate you flee from
before you.’ Moses said these words when the Israelites
were to move in the desert; we say them when we
are to move in our service and in our living. I want to
look at these words carefully with you.

The first phrase, “When the Ark was to journey/
set out” is said when we open up the Ark for the
Torah Service. What journey is the Torah taking? The
Torah is setting out amongst the people of the congregation.
The journey is to remind each person that
there is a Torah and the words in it are the path to
wholeness and decency. The journey is going from a
safe, protected place to a place of the unknown. This
is not only the journey of the Torah, it is our journey
as well. We have to join in following the Torah on its
journey. We have to set out on the path that Torah is
forging for us.
What is the path that you are taking in your life? Is it the
path that the Torah has taught and led you on? Is it the
path that you have decided on because you are ‘the captain
of your own ship’? How are you living safe rather than
authentic? What are you trying to protect living in your
protected, gated, armored self?

The next phrase, “Rise/get up God” is a trip to
me. God is always up! Who is the Torah talking to?
Surely God does not need us to be God’s alarm clock.
Is it tremendous chutzpah to think that we have to
awaken God? Of course we are being taught to
awaken the Divine Image inside of us. We are being
told that the journey we are on is for the sake of our
Divinity and for the sake of God. We are being told
that we must be aware of where we are and who we
are before we set out on any journey, any task.

Are we aware of where we are, what we are doing, whom
we are doing it for? When we leave our homes in the morning,
have we woken up our Divine Image? What is our
Spiritual Practice for doing this? How do we help others
awaken the Divine Image inside them?

Then Torah continues with “scatter your enemies.”
You notice that it doesn’t say ‘destroy your
enemies.’ Torah is teaching us not to get so full of
ourselves that we think that we can destroy our enemies
forever. Rather it is telling us that living from
our Divine Image scatters our enemies, those inner
forces that continually lie to us and try to ensnare us.
By scattering them, we are able to deal with them
with a winning plan rather than keep trying to kill the
What are our inner enemies? What lies do they tell us that
we still believe? How do we continue to use old weapons
that have proven ineffectual against them? Are we scattering
them by living from our Divine Image or are we making
them stronger by living from fear and our lower image of

The last phrase we are looking at is, “make the
ones that hate you flee from before you.” This
teaches us that there are outside enemies as well.
Don’t get caught up in taking too much on yourself.
While I can’t change others, I can protect myself
from those that hate me. I don’t have to make friends
with everyone. I have to recognize friend from enemy.
Then I have to shine my Divinity as the flashlight
that lights the way in front of me. In this way,
it is too bright for my enemies and they run away. I
know that they will come back and I can rejoice that I
have a reprieve from them based on my Spiritual condition.
Who are your outer enemies? How have you confused
them to be friends? What makes you continue to have relationships
with ‘evil friends, lovers, enemies’? When are
you going to shine your Divinity and let them flee from before

May this Shabbat bless us with the strength to rise
up and live our lives.
May this Shabbat bless us with the courage to
shine our Divinity before friend and foe.
May this Shabbat bless us with the Grace
to accept our true purpose and live
our unique life. Shabbat Shalom

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Authenticity vs. Falseness in living

Living well is a struggle. For many of us, just defining living well is daunting. One definition is having what I want and enjoying life. Another is wanting what I have and enjoying life. Still another is having fame and fortune. Living well, according to Spiritual traditions is wanting what I have, living joyously through the agonies, ecstasies and in=betweens of life. To do this, I have to live authentically. This is one of the hardest principles for most of us to live! I am still searching for what is authentic in my life, who I really am and how to practice authenticity in a world filled with falseness. In fact, it seems as if the phonier I am, the more I give people what they want and who they want to see, the more I am rewarded. This is a difficult obstacle to overcome for me. I know in my soul and in my being that I live better when I am being authentic and I know that my life is easier when I live according to what others want. Yet, every time I engage in deception and falseness, my life comes apart at the seams! I am totally confused some days as to which way of being is running the show. Am I being nice to someone because it is going to get me something or am I being nice to someone because it is the right thing to do? If I don’t get what I want, does this mean that I was stupid for being nice? When I am being authentic and people reject me, does this mean that I am bad, defective, wrong, etc.? Does authentic mean that I act whatever way I feel when I feel it?

These questions haunt me every minute of every day. I want to live well. I lived badly for many years and caused much trauma and pain to the people I love and to the world. Was that authentic? I see many people who are trying to live according to how the world says they should and/or how the world says they shouldn’t. I am always confronted with the statement, “this is the real me, take it or leave it’. Yet, is it the “real” person?

Many of us believe that we have to rebel against something or someone to be authentic. This is a fallacy. We have to rebel to our true selves and to a living in truth. This is why having a Spiritual discipline is so important.

The rebellion of any and every Spiritual Discipline stands for non-conformity. This is what makes it a Spiritual Discipline. Conformity, in our society, is doing what everyone else is doing just because they are doing it, like ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, etc. are all rebellions. Alcoholics Anonymous is a rebellion. All of these and the rest of the Spiritual Disciplines say that living a life of service, compassion, healing, love and Truth is the real path to living a good life. This is against what society says. Society is saying ‘the right house, job, car, mate, bank account, etc. is the path to a good life’. A Spiritual Discipline says that life is not hopeless. These rebellions stand for principles. What principle does your rebellion stand for?”