“Wow… I just viewed three of Jordan’s videos on Vimeo… I feel so inspired. I am so excited to be privileged to attend the upcoming JMTT2 retreat! What a wonderful community of teachers we are in the presence of.”

– Laura Hegfield

May 2017 Newsletter

Lisa GoldsteinHow do I hold myself with love?

Rabbi Lisa Goldstein

Early this spring, I traveled to California to celebrate my father’s 90th birthday. Members of my extended family from as far away as Fiji and New Zealand came to gather, and I was amazed by the connections I saw between cousins who  so rarely have the opportunity to meet in person, the instant bonds of love that we offered—even though  we live such different lives!

One of my favorite interactions I witnessed that day was between my father, , and a visiting cousin, who  just turned seven. This young boy was telling my father all about the planets and the solar system, which he was learning about in school, and found exciting and fascinating. My father, an astronomer who has been studying the planets since the 1960s, could certainly—in today’s “I know more than you!” world—have brushed this little cousin off. Did he need a little boy to tell him about the retrograde rotation of Venus, or the rings of Saturn, things he himself had discovered? Of course not!

But he did. He listened to this little cousin, as if the way he saw the planets and the stars was the most interesting thing in the whole world to him. And only when he knew that learning from him would bring this cousin even more joy and excitement did he begin to tell him about his own ground-breaking work.

The Psalmist teaches us that the world will be built through chesed (Psalm 89). But what, as we ask in our Tikkun Middot course, is so great about the middah of chesed that it, among all others, will build the worlds?

Chesed is one of the few mitzvot in the Mishnah with no minimum requirement for it to “count.” Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe writes, “A nice word, a smile – these can give new life to someone who has given up on himself! A word of encouragement can bring joy. These are such small things [yet so significant!]”

To build our daily worlds through a lens of lovingkindness is to approach each act we do with a perspective of love. Not to ask: how might I make this moment better? But to ask: How might I relate to this moment—as it already is—with love?

How might I hold myself with love?

I hope the practices enclosed in this month’s letter give you some space to find your own way to build your own world with love.

 


God’s Love is Our Refuge

by Rabbi Nancy Flam

How precious is Your love, God; human beings take refuge under the shelter of Your wings.
.מַה-יָּקָר חַסְדְּךָ, אֱלֹהִים: וּבְנֵי אָדָם – בְּצֵל כְּנָפֶיךָ, יֶחֱסָיוּן
Ma yakar chasdecha Elohim, u-benei adam b’tzel kenafecha yechesayun.
(Psalm 36:8)

We whisper these words after reciting the blessing offering us sanctity in donning the tallit (prayer shawl), just having thrown the fabric over our shoulders, newly enwrapped in its textile wing-arms.

This is an embodied practice of affirming God’s love, affirming God’s love as our refuge.

What other refuge do we have, really?  What is our true protection?  Where are we safe from harm?

In a moment when the heart knows loving-kindness, we are safe from ill-will toward others.
In a moment when the heart knows loving-kindness, we are safe from want for anything.
In a moment when the heart knows loving-kindness, we are safe from delusion of separateness.

Practicing receiving God’s love, in the gentle gesture of wrapping in the tallit, we affirm out trust in being held by love. When we feel safe, loved, fed, protected, we are able to offer the same to others.  Receiving love, we are able to extend it.

God’s love is our very nourishment:

They [humans] feast on the abundance of Your House, You give them drink from the stream of delights.  For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we are bathed in light.

.יִרְוְיֻן, מִדֶּשֶׁן בֵּיתֶךָ; וְנַחַל עֲדָנֶיךָ תַשְׁקֵם. כִּי-עִמְּךָ, מְקוֹר חַיִּים; בְּאוֹרְךָ, נִרְאֶה-אוֹר

(Psalm 36:9-10)

Let’s practice a few moments of receiving God’s love.  Don’t think too hard about it. If you have a tallit, you might want to get it, find a comfortable place to stand, hold the tallit up to the light, throw it around your shoulders, hug the fabric around you and then say these two lines from the psalm; if you don’t have a tallit, find a comfortable place to stand, raise your arms up the sky as if holding a tallit and stretch up for a breath or two, then circle your arms around your shoulders and back as if donning the shawl, ending by crossing your arms in front of your chest, palms on opposite upper arms, giving yourself a light hug, then say:

How precious is Your love, God; human beings take refuge under the shelter of Your wings.  They feast on the abundance of Your House, You give them drink from the stream of delights. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we are bathed in light.

Just stand comfortably where you are, knees slightly bent.
Feel yourself breathing, and the whole of the body standing.
Your arms can rest by your sides now, or you can bring your right palm over your heart and your left palm over the back side of your right hand.

Breathe into your heart center opening to receive love and light– in and out, in and out.
Allow a slight smile to come to your lips.
Breathe into your heart center opening to receive love and light – in and out, in and out.
Relax the forehead, the eyes, behind the ears.
Breathe into your heart center opening to receive love and light – in and out, in and out.

You can remain standing like this for a few minutes, or find a comfortable place to sit with this intention of receiving love and light as you open to receiving the breath in and out.

How precious is Your love, God; human beings take refuge under the shelter of Your wings.


Chesed Meditation

by Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appell

There is the possibility that we move through life primarily focused on all that is lacking or unsatisfactory. We may therefore find that we are, over time, developing a pervasive resistance towards life.  Jewish mindfulness practice offers a path for cultivating qualities of heart and mind—like chesed (steadfast love)—that can instead open our hearts towards our experience and help us live with a non-antagonistic relationship towards our lives.

I invite you to join me for a guided teaching and chesed meditation practice.

(click below to play)


Kindness (Chesed): Jewish Food for Thought

by Hanan Harchol

Jewish Food For Thought is written, drawn, and animated by Hanan Harchol. More animations by Hanan, as well as study guides by Rabbi Leora Kaye, are available at JewishFoodForThought.com.


Study Text for Chesed

Prepared by Rabbi David Jaffe as part of the Tikkun Middot curriculum

(Mishna Peah, 1:1)

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why might these five particular mitzvot have no measure, as opposed to other mitzvot?
  2. What can we learn about chesed from its placement in this group?
  3. Honoring one’s parents and making peace seem to be forms of “acts of loving kindness.” In what ways might acts of loving kindness be different meriting their own category?
  4. Think about your own acts of chesed. How have you experienced the idea of “no measure”?