Rosh Hodesh Elul 5779: The Hurricane Within.
Open Temple offers Daily Kavanot, or intentions, to guide us through the 30 Days of Elul. Open a New Page. Begin the Soul Journey. Find the Eye of the Storm.
The First Entry:
We Ask Ourselves: What am I working on?
1 – Between Myself and My Concept of Godliness (ben adam l’makom)?
2 – Between Myself and Others (ben adam l’chavero)?
3 – Between Myself and Myself (ben atzmi l’atzmi)
2 Elul Kavanah (intention):
We are on the Road to Find Out. Whether we are on the Playa at the Burn, Zipping down Venice Beach on a Bird, Picking up Take Out at Erewhon, or Snuggling at Home with our Children, these are the days to Move through Space with a Sense of our Inner-Place. If we are Out-of-Sync with our Inner Rhythm, this is when Dis-Ease sets in. Take the 30 Days of Elul out to Reset, Rewind and Renew. #OpenTemple #Elul #HighHolidays#BeginAgain
“Every person must prepare him/herself for thirty days beforehand with repentance and prayer and charity for the day when one will appear in judgment before G-d on Rosh Hashanah…During Elul, one should devote less time to study and more time to fixed periods of introspection and self-evaluation.” – Mateh Moshe
3 Elul Kavanah:
Create Your Spiritual Curriculum: Know Your Soul.
What is our life’s work actually about? Really, why are each and every one of us here? Identifying our life’s purpose – be it discovering we have an innate gift for music, or learning about a family truth that opens up a new healing journey, or feeling connected to our creative lives as artists or entrepreneurs or parents – is the core of a Spiritual Curriculum. Our Spiritual Curriculum is our Spiritual GPS, and Torah is the Technology that Fuels it. Take a moment out to reflect upon Life’s Purpose and Begin Again.
4 Elul: Spiritual but Not Religious Edition
Do we go to Soul Cycle for Soul and Shul for Soul Crushing Oppression? Are we suspicious and judgmental of the behaviors of a group of men wearing black hats walking down La Brea? If so, we are blinded by the lens of the Religion of Humans. When we experience religion as a limitation, we are caught in a man-made trap. Enter Torah (or any great art). Freedom is Divinely inspired. We Find our Freedom when we cultivate an access point to the Source. Torah is one of the guides to get us there. So is Dance, Art, Music, Love Making and Laughter. For the Jew-ishly curious, the access points to HaBoreh are endless. A return takes the smallest opening to begin. Just the size of a pinhole…and the Gates of T’Shuvah will crash open like a Chariot of Horses Blazing through it. #FindYourCreator #BegjnAgain #OpenTemple
5 Elul: 5780 Kavanah
אַחַת שָׁאַלְתִּי מֵאֵת-יְהוָה אוֹתָהּ אֲבַקֵּשׁ:
שִׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית-יְהוָה, כָּל-יְמֵי חַיַּי,
לַחֲזוֹת בְּנֹעַם-יְהוָה, וּלְבַקֵּר בְּהֵיכָלוֹ.
One thing I ask from Yah, one thing I desire
That I might dwell in Your house all the days of my life
To behold the graciousness of every breath and to enter God’s sanctuary.
Say it. Be it. Live it. Every day.
6 Elul 5779
Netzach. The attribute tied to the first week of T’shuvah. It’s endurance that gets us to the finish line, not perfection. It’s about being all in. Healthy Ambition is our inner drive to attain our place in this world as a vital sacred piece perfecting towards the world’s wabi sabi imperfection. Just do you but DO YOU, Do You?
7 Elul Shabbat Pause
Radical Amazement is our ability to apprehend all that surrounds us with a Sense of Wonder that evaporates the Ego Mind.
As we prepare for the Yamim Nora’im, take a moment for some Soul Journaling, for some Selfless Knowing and Connecting. The King is in the Field of Eternity, and we Unplug to Plug-in…to Ladybugs on Milkweed.
8th Elul 5779:
Open up for me the eye of a needle and I will open for you the most expansive corridors of the Great Hall.” -Midrash Rabbah.
It’s about will. It’s about grit. It’s about if we want to move from exile to freedom through radical forgiveness. The balance of the Jewish year finds equilibrium in a dance between Freedom and Creativity. One fuels the other. Both originate from The Source. Our Source is wholly accessible as long as we make ourselves available to It. Clean out the Soul. Accept the Offer. Crawl through the Eye of a Needle. And Begin Again.
9th Elul 5779
Elul is about Waking Up the Soul. And it’s also about converting Shadows, Rivals, and Adversaries into Redeemers. Rafa and Medvedev went head to head for five plus hours after two grueling weeks of competition. In Medvedev’s closing statement, he owned up to his “less than stellar” moments as the “bad guy of the US Open” and openly admitted at the Open that “I Make Mistakes.” With humor and candor, he offered this as his closing remarks. In front of the world.
And that’s exactly what we are all supposed to do during this month of Elul. Every day after we hear the Call of the Shofar, we are to confront our imperfections and make amends publicly as our first step to T’Shuvah. Like Medvedev. And like this:
“If I have done anything to hurt you, either knowingly or unknowingly, please forgive me. I make mistakes. I also want to do T’Shuvah and make amends.”
Sports inspire. And while most of us will never compete in front of the world stage, all of us compete in front of who really matter. To great sportsmanship this Elul. #JustDoTshuvah. #USOPEN. #MazelTovToTheBothofYou
10 Elul 5779
Elul: Ani L’Dodi v’Dodi Li
I am to My Beloved and My Beloved is to Me.
It’s the way he looks at the fish that made me fall in love with him. His curiosity for all things living and how this gentle gaze reveals his gentle soul, gentle character, gentle man. On this 10th Day of Elul, I consider the awakening of The Return through our compassion, curiosity and love. How do those we love, those who gaze upon us with wonder and compassion ignite in us a feeling of radical acceptance that emboldens us to look upon our darkest shames with love and forgiveness? T’Shuvah is all about the process of shining a flashlight upon our shadows. And our Beloved is the one who holds space for this journey without judgement. This Elul, Be a Beloved.
Yom Kippur will be over one month from today. On Yom Kippur, we are asked to “Pull back the Veil between Ourselves and Eternity” and to Receive Visitation from Those who Dwell in the Beyond in our Yizkor service as we contemplate the evanescence and temporal nature of life. Yom Kippur is a Near Death Experience and T’Shuvah prepares us for a Final Exit Rehearsal. The uneh taneh tokef prayer asks:
“Who will live and who will die?”
Who will die? …All of us.
Ah, yes…but who will really live?
קדושים תהיו כי קדוש אני יה אלוהיכם
You Shall be Holy, for I, Yah, your G?d is Holy.
What does Kadosh/Holy mean? Separate? Different? Set aside? Kadosh is one of those words in Hebrew that we will spend the rest of our lives trying to understand.
The pursuit of holiness means understanding that our bodies are vessels of holiness. Moreso, our bodies are ritual objects, matter consecrated to a higher cause.
What did I do today to dedicate my Holy Vessel? How do I honor my Kli Kadosh/Holy Vessel? What do I do with this gift that is the temporary home of my soul?
Elul is about return, T’Shuvah. Our bodies are our way station. Holiness is activating the Divine Sparks within as we reckon with the path we have paved On a Road to Nowhere.
Photo: Open Temple board member, Natasha Shamis and Rabbi Lori raise some Holy Sparks at Equinox Sports Club.
13 Elul 5779
Venice Canals Edition.
Turtles live long, very long lives. These turtles in the Venice Canals are kept by our neighbors. Acquired when their kids were young, our neighbors are now empty nesters. And yet, the turtles endure. Day after day, the neighbors bring the turtles out in the morning and retrieve them in the evening. As the day turns, the turtles meditate in the blue pool, children walk by – most unsuspecting of these little lives just over the fence, day inand day out. That’s how simple life can be: sun up, turtles in the kiddie pool. Sun down, turtles in the tank. In the midst of it all, we all move through the noise and haste.
The rabbis teach that Elul is the time of awakening. The Shofar blasts are a war-cry – “Awaken, Slumbering Humans, to the Lives We are Meant to Lead.” And, just like a turtle, the essence of this teaching, the essence of our collective destinies, is to merely BE where it is that we ARE and to Rise to the Call when Bid. #Simplicity #Nichutah #Calmness #ShabbatShalom
15 Elul, 5779
To experience the High Holidays is to Dwell in a Liminal Space in Time. Liminal Spaces are Portals Between Two Worlds, and in the imagination of rabbis, sci-fi writers and dreamers, they are the Portals to the World Beyond our Being. One of my teachers, Alan Morinis, went on a Soul Journey to reclaim his Jewish roots, and in the process reclaimed his own personal Mussar (Jewish Ethics) practice, and helped translate different teachings from that practice. One is an interpretive text on the practice of Heshbon HaNefesh itself, appropriately titled “Heshbon HaNefesh” (1812, Lvov, Ukraine). Credited to Rabbi Menachem Mendel Leffin, Leffin creates a disciplined practice to deepen our self-knowing. The practice is simple, and useful in preparation for our experience of the Yamim Nora’im (Days of Awe).
Take a moment to write 10 qualities that we wish to transform. Then write a phrase that attaches itself to that quality. For example, if our practice is to focus on Humility, we might write: “No more than my place, no less than my space.” Focus on that quality for a day, a week, or two weeks. Each night, let’s audit and assess our behaviors through that lens – don’t judge or celebrate, just bring awareness to the interaction with that quality (middah). In time, work through the entire list. For High Holidays, we’ve got 15 days – perhaps choose 3 and spend 5 days on each. What’s your middah? Write it Below. I’ll begin with mine…let’s begin to turn the knob beneath the full moon glowing, reminding us that we’ve only 15 days until we Open That Doorway to Eternity and Dwell There…
16 Elul 5779
Tonight, Joel and I heard Marianne 20 speak. I am not, by nature, a political creature, and as a rabbi, I am publicly agnostic about the topic. However, she said something beautiful:
“Living in Alignment with Eternal Principles empowers you and allows you to Transform the Material World.”
The work of Elul is about this transformation – what are the Eternal Principles that empower you to achieve it? Love? Truth? Creativity? Those are mine. They empower me to soar, and help keep my time management in check. Anything outside of these core values are unnecessary gains. Because of them, I need very little. For Love, I go to my family and friends. For Creativity I go to playfulness, ritual and curiosity. And for Truth, I use all of my senses and receive. No credit card required. And the external impact is even greater. Love is the force of rebellion, a tsunami of defiance. Creativity fuels resilience and endurance. And Truth is my compass to navigate through the maze of absurdity and confusion.
Love + Creativity + Truth = A Recipe for Rebellion.
Hitbodedut, Mashal and Can you Find the Bird in the Tree?
Meditation and Metaphor: we are getting closer to opening the Machzor and reviewing our year before our Creator Concept. How do we relate to it’s encyclopedic roller coaster of prayers? Chassidic stories bring 18th century innovations in narrative form to the rabbinic mashal (parable), and provide insight into how to experiencerabbinic language as well. They reflect so much more than verbal puzzles, and capture seedlings of an emergent understanding of human psychology and behaviorism. So, too, our High Holiday prayerbook.
This tale is credited to the Besht, the Baal Shem Tov, our Chassidic master whose disciples recorded his stories. The Besht was known to go out in nature in a practice called hitbodedut, “self-seclusion,” to talk out loud and meditate to God.
On this 17th of Elul, May we all Take the Space we need to enter into the Fields and Find Divinity. It is all within us; Elul means “search” in Aramaic. As the moon begins its disappearing act, and with the waning of its nightlight, May All of Us Welcome the Dawn of the Yamim Nora’im, and seek out the inner glow of its Or HaGanuz – the hidden light, within.
Seek it Out.
A parable from the Besht:
The great Chassidic master Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov would pray for many hours every day. His disciples, who had long concluded their own prayers, would form a circle around him to listen to the melody of his prayers and feast their eyes on the spectacle of a soul soaring in meditative attachment to its Maker. It was an unspoken rule amongst them that no one abandoned his post until their master had concluded his prayers.
One day, a great fatigue and hunger befell them. One by one, they slipped home for a bite and a few moments rest, certain that their master’s prayers would continue for several hours more. But when they returned, they found that he had finished praying while they were gone.
“Tell us, Rebbe,” they asked him, “why did you conclude your prayers so early today?”
The Baal Shem Tov answered them with a parable: Once, a group of people were journeying through a forest. Their leader, who was blessed with a keen eyesight, spotted a beautiful bird perched atop a tall tree.
“Come,” he said to his companions, “I wish to capture this beautiful bird, so that we may delight in her song and gaze upon her wondrous hues.”
“But how can you reach this bird you see,” asked they, “the tree being so high and ourselves held captive by the ground?”
“If you each climb up onto the shoulders of your fellow,” their leader explained, “I will climb on to the shoulders of the topmost man and reach for the treasure that beckons to us from the heights.”
And so they did. Together, they formed a chain reaching from the earth toward the heavens, to raise their leader to his aspired goal. But they soon wearied of the exercise and went off to eat and rest, and the man who had sighted the bird tumbled to the ground.
Our Father Our King.
Father: Progenitor. No matter how evolved humans get, an egg is fertilized by a sperm. Not the other way around.
Our King: There is order to the earth, humans create systems, the cosmos turns in the night sky. It is upon us to seek, experience, learn, Penetrate the Darkness of the Universe and Find the Natural Order within It.
And Our: Not My. Not Yours. Ours. We are in this together.
We stand before Avinu Malkeinu and admit our failures. And our need for partnership in perfecting. And our place in the world.
It’s perfecting. Not perfection.
Creator. Sovereign. Hear us.
(Alas, my voice is but a whisper…)
Avinu Malkein, z’chor ki afar anachnu
Our Creator, Our Sovereign, remember us, though we are made of dust.I stand before You broken. My heart begins to crack open – 11 days before the Turning. The world is going through so much, and today, I feel a receptacle to it all. For all who read this, we are brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, children of one another. Our lives so short; We are but a Speck of Dust from Creation’s Starlight.May we make the most of our time here. May we Greet the Great Turning with a commitment to slay the Greatest Beast – the Ego mind. Our reactions and the way our bodies inhabit them betray the Soul that Lies Beneath.May we pray; may we pray that our bodies chasten and our neshamot (souls) shine through. May we pray in the voices of our ancient ancestors to be taken up like tongues and rise into a spirit greater than ourselves. May we Rise Up to the Call of the Shofar and Return so that when injustice, loneliness, darkness, calls to destruction arise, we know clearly that there is another voice, another way, and we feel moved by a well-oiled spirit within to be a part of the Answer.The Donald Trump Buddha is an example of religious syncretism, whereby culture and spirituality combine and comment on the Buddhist practice of Khanti (patience). May we all cultivate our hearts to be muscles of empathy whereby we can recognize the opportunity for our own growth through our challenges.
20 Elul 5779
Reflections on Jewish Circuit Works.
Cybernetics: the science of communication and control theory that is concerned especially with the comparative study of automatic control systems (such as the nervous system and brain and mechanical-electrical communication systems).
The High Holidays is a Spiritual Cybernetic. It Completes the Process of a Circuit: of a Year around the Sun, of the relationship between Self and the Other and Awareness and God Concept. In Morei Nevuchim, The Guide to the Perplexed, Maimonides spends time defending the role Halakah (Jewish Law) has in our life. In essence, Maimonides seeks meaning in Jewish Law, for him Natural Law, as a completion of the Circuit Between God and Human. Through Exercising our Awareness of Divinity, we Cultivate Divinity.
The High Holidays are a Cybernetic Experience. Without it, our Circuits are left to find another Disciplined (or Undisciplined) Practice of Connection. While there are many out there, I offer this: none have been so lovingly cultivated for so many thousands of years as the process found in the pages of our Machzor and the experiences it offers us to Create.
5780: A Soul Odyssey is Open Temple’s offering of this Circuit. It’s a wild ride filled with reflection, action, irreverence and reverence. And we’ve only space for 50 Souls in our Way Out Ride into Spiritual Outer Space.
This New Year – Make Contact.
21 Elul Shabbat Shalom Edition:
Joy is Simple and Attainable.
It helps us accept ourselves.
Turning to 5780: Orange Crush It.
22 Elul 5779
Psalm 27 is a curious one.
We begin reciting it on 1 Elul, and continue every day through Shimini Atzeret. The plea is an ancient one – grant us beneficence, Yah, continue to sustain us through your fecundity and plentitude. The prayer is purported to connect us to the earth – We seek to live through this near death experience of the High Holidays as an offering to affirm our livelihood through the long winter ahead.
This year, I feel differently about my place in this prayer. I feel as if this prayer is about the way I am sustained through every breath. And from that constant, I am reminded of the dwelling place of God in my life – my every breath. This is my house, all of the days of my life. I breathe it in – I am sustained.
And then, with each exhalation, I am reminded of the corpse I am without that animating force. I am left with this house of my soul, and I ask myself – what vessel am I? What actions outside of that exchange and cleaving to God am I responsible for? The breath leaves me, and, for but a moment, I experience a Demi-Death; a powerful and subtle reminder of what lies before all of us.
Psalm 27 reinforces our focus this time of year – all of us are animated by a force beyond our apprehension; and it is upon us to seek out its presence in every breath through our tiny apertures to apprehend.
Forgiveness in the plural on High Holidays:
I ask for forgiveness from anyone I hurt willingly or unwillingly. I ask of this on Facebook as an additional tentacle in my journey of contrition to return. I ask for the child I was and knew not, the teen I was who didn’t care to know, the young adult I was who struggled to find out. I ask for the woman I have become who hasn’t the time. And I ask for the woman I will one day be that no one will notice.
And why do I ask? For my soul to finally, at long last, get things right. So this one can do it differently.
I am sorry. We are sorry. Please accept our offering. And May We Return to The Source.
24 Elul 5779
Every day Creation is renewed:
wake up and see
In the spreading light of dawn
The world and all it contains
Coming into being new and fresh,
Filled with divine goodness and love.
—words by Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg, taken from Kol Haneshamah: Shabbat Vehagim
25 Elul 5779
Psalm 27: A part of our liturgy for the past 25 days, I repeat its entreaty:
“One thing I ask of God: to Dwell in the House of Godliness All of my Days.”
A direct answer to this plea: Live locally. Every footstep taken en route to work, to shopping at the farmer’s market, to taking my girls to the beach park, plants our feet in “the House of Godliness.” Living locally is the direct line and the best route to creating a Holy Life. It fills the soul with friendship and purpose. It’s the best way to stay carbon neutral, and for me, spend time with my kids and husband, and make sure my puppy is getting her walks in. Most of all, it gives my life purpose in my every moment, every breath, every step.
This photo is a favorite. I received the Spirit of Venice Award three years ago for organizing Open Temple. My motivation for Open Temple grew out of a desire to create a spiritual center for the Jew-ishly curious and those who love us in Venice that will take deep roots and service Venice for generations to come. We continue to build this dream, and are now more robust than ever, having served over 5,000 people last year. This honor is truly better than an Emmy, Oscar and Tony combined! To “be seen” by our neighbors is the greatest honor of all; and in return, we see, love, care and provide for each other. That is what living locally and dwelling in the House of God means to me.
AND – Abbot Kinney Festival is this Sunday! A most wonderful day in Venice! Visit Open Temple’s booth near Milwood and AK Blvd. We’ll be offering Bark Mitzvah for your pups at 2 pm. Plenty of swag, surprises, kisses and High Holiday tickets sales. AND – a community service kicks off Rosh HaShanah that night, this Sunday (!), at 7 pm – open to all, and a family service at 4 pm for people with Kids under 7. Learn more about our High Holidays at Opentemple.org. Spread the love, share the light!#OpenTemple #AbbotKinneyFestival #AWOL
26 Elul 5779
“The primary role of teshuvah, which at once sheds light on the darkened zone, is for us to return to ourselves, to the root of our souls. Then we will at once return to God, to the Soul of all souls…It is only through the great truth of returning to ourselves that each person and the people, the world and all the worlds, the whole of existence, will return to our Creator, to be illumined by the light of life.”
– Rav Kook
It’s getting close. The Turn. The Return. The Brokenness is palpable. I had a neighbor say that she feels that this is really a kind of “Age of Aquarius” moment…and she works at one of the big LA Talent Agencies, meaning, it is being felt everywhere. The darkest corners are being outed by light, the darkest of souls are calling out for T’shuvah, an awakening of thousands of years, generations of cries, of Beating on Chests, of Repentance, of Return. I will sound a great Shofar and declare that we need to awaken. I will own my stuff – and please call out what I am blind to. I will make it a better year than the one before, as I don’t have many left. And I will cherish each and every moment in between as they are so fleeting as I embrace the evanescence of being. 5780, I feel you coming; I see the dawn approach, cracking through the darkness. One…Two…Three…Jump~
27 Elul 5779
27. It’s a journey with Psalm 27. Every day, turning it and turning it to return. The psalms earlier verses begin with “The Lord is my light and my help; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, whom shall I dread?”
First off, strike off that English word – Lord. What is that supposed to be? A paltry stand in for the quizzical word, so profoundly unknowable that it is called “The Tettragramaton.” For all of us shedding an anthropomorphic God concept, the Hebrew language offers an endlessly ponderous stand-in: Yud and Hey and Vov and Hey. A transcription of the word breath, a contraction of the verb “to be” a language puzzle. What a perfect metaphor for this curious life force that sustain. When I think about it, isn’t it just incredible, that in all of the history of the world, that another object hasn’t yet smashed into us, pulverizing our planet like an Atari Asteroid (moving into 5780 – the 80’s are back, and so are its metaphors!).
I continue with my morning Psalm: Hear, O Life Force, when I cry aloud, Have mercy on me, answer me.
…in the vastness of the dark matter that surrounds us, there is, no doubt, much yet to be revealed. It was merely 121 years ago that particle physics began with Newtonian disciples apprehending the mechanics of atoms as possessing subatomic particles. We are always new in uncovering the unknown.
3 days left until the turning. May we turn with curiosity, humility and a wonderment of what is out there – and within as well. May our ability to apprehend what is broken within illuminate the darkness.