Thursday, May 31, 2012

EmunaHealing Testimonial: Shoshana Devorah

How is Shoshana Devorah's life changing from just one EmunaHealing session?
Watch this inspiring video! 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Guarding our Light

Welcome to B'erot
Coming out of Shavuot was not easy for me. On Shavuot I felt so perfect with my goals in Torah and in life. It all seemed so simple and clear, until boom… the trials of the week days, all the distractions, the computer, the email the telephone… All the crazy things that happened that needed my attention. When do I ever have time to learn like in the “old days” when I was in my twenties studying at Michlala in Jerusalem? I must look ahead and count my blessings. The learning of my youth is still in me, with every step I take, as I answer my phone and my emails. Every stage in life has its meaning and opportunity for growth. Blessings need to be guarded so they won’t dissipate. 

The blessings of the Kohanim, in this week’s parasha, come to guard all of the light we received on Shavuot. These blessings help us bridge the lofty spiritual Shavuot experience with our mundane tasks in life. I use Birkat Kohanim (the Kohanim Blessing) often. Its words are so powerful to engender good energy and chase away darkness. I may even venture to say, it is a centerpiece of EmunaHealing.

With Blessings of the Torah and the Land,
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Click to read  Hidden Lessons from a Hidden Woman- Rebbetzin's commentary on Haftorat Naso

Parasha Meditation Naso
Bamidbar 4:21-7:89

This week’s Parasha is filled with spiritual healing. It includes the powerful Kohanim blessing with which Jewish parents bless their children Friday night. Giving and receiving blessings has great spiritual healing power. The Kohanim were chosen to be the channel for Hashem's healing blessings. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to come to the Beit Knesset and be blessed with the following blessing from Above:

ספר במדבר פרק ו
כד) יְבָרֶכְךָ הָשֵם וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ
כה) יָאֵר הָשֵם פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וִיחֻנֶּךָּ
כו) יִשָּׂא הָשֵם פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם
כז) וְשָׂמוּ אֶת שְׁמִי עַל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַאֲנִי אֲבָרֲכֵם

May Hashem bless you and keep you!
May Hashem shine his face upon you and be gracious to you!
May Hashem lift up His face upon you and give you peace!
They shall place my name upon the children of Israel and I will bless them.[1]

Notice that the Kohamin blessing is written in a perfect pyramid style. The first verse has three words, the second has five words and the third line has seven words. The middle word of each of these lines spell out “הָשֵם פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ” – “Hashem’s face upon you.” Pronouncing this blessing draws Hashem’s presence upon us. When reciting this blessing as part of our morning prayer, keep this in mind!

Kli Yakar notices that each of the three verses of blessing begins with the letter י – yud which has the numerical value of ten. When you spell out the letter Yud – י-ו-ד The numerical value of the inner (hidden) letters vav and dalet likewise add up to ten. This alludes to the fact that the Kohanim Blessing includes both ten revealed and ten hidden blessings. This twofold blessing affects both the physical and spiritual realm. A person, too, consists of ten physical and ten spiritual faculties. While the parents bestow his physical capacities, he receives his spiritual faculties directly from Hashem. The father bestows the following physical faculties (the white parts): 1.Sinews, 2. Bones, 3. Brain, 4. Nails, 5. White of eyes. The mother bestows the following physical faculties (the red parts): 1. Skin, 2. Flesh, 3. Blood, 4. Hair, 5. Pupil of the eye. G-d bestows the ten spiritual faculties: 1. Spirit, 2. Soul, 3. Facial features, 4. Vision of the eye, 5. Hearing of the ear, 6. Speech of the mouth, 7. Walking of the legs, 8. Da’at (knowledge), 9. Bina (understanding), 10. Sechel (intellect).

These ten physical and spiritual faculties are blessed by the Kohen when he lifts his ten fingers, in order that from each finger emanates the blessing on both the revealed and the hidden.

Kli Yakar continues and explains that the three sentences of Birkat Kohanim correspond to the three stages of the feminine development, 1. Daughter, 2. Sister, 3. Mother. “In the beginning Hashem called Israel “daughter”, afterwards he called her “sister” and in the end “mother.”[2] At first Israel is “Daughter,” which is below and the father above her, having dominion over her. This corresponds to “May Hashem bless you and guard you.” – For the spiritual sustenance of these blessings flow from Above. Becoming “Sister” is the notion of equality and being face to face. This corresponds to “May Hashem shine His face upon you…” Evolving to become “Mother,” is being elevated to a “superior position” – A Tzadik has dominion through his superior awe of G-d. This corresponds to “May Hashem lift up His face upon you” so to speak.[3]

Make yourself comfortable wherever you are sitting standing or walking. Breathe deeply and bow your head forward slightly to open yourself to be a vessel to receive the blessings. You have just opened yourself to receive the Torah on Sinai. So much light flowed downwards from Above on Shavuot.

Now we need proper vessels to keep this light and channel it into our daily day life. The Kohanim blessing which always is read the Shabbat following Shavuot bestows us with these spiritual vessels to hold all the lights. Visualize/recite the words: “:יְבָרֶכְךָ הָשֵם וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ” – “Hashem bless you and guard you.” Hashem will not only bless you but, moreover, guard you so that the blessings will keep. While focusing on these words imagine Hashem’s light flow downwards from heaven landing upon your head. Think about something specific in your life for which you need a lasting blessing and with humbly bowed head, make your request to Hashem.

 Now raise your head to upright position and visualize/recite the words: “:יָאֵר הָשֵם פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וִיחֻנֶּךָּ”– “May Hashem shine his face upon you and be gracious to you!” – Hashem will show His beaming smiling countenance to you! His presence will be at your side. Imagine Hashem’s light facing you, in front of you, feel it entering your eyes, nose and mouth with delicious warmth. Now visualize/recite: “:יִשָּׂא הָשֵם פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם” – “May Hashem lift up His face upon you and give you peace!” Feel at peace with yourself and your body. Feel at peace with your surroundings and imagine Hashem’s light emanating from below, softly caressing your feet, your ankles, calves and knees. Imagine the gentle light rising to your thighs, pelvis, stomach and torso, also from the back. Feel the light finally reaching your shoulders, neck and head, enveloping your entire being with soft serene peacefulness. Remain with this feeling as long as you want before opening your eyes and getting back to the chores of your day with renewed light and vigor.

The Kohanim Blessing is a powerful Spiritual healer. It is used to ameliorate difficult dreams. King Shlomo engraved the letters of Birkat Kohanim surrounding his bed.
The midrash learns this from Song of Songs: “Behold her is the bed of Shomo, sixty valiant ones of the valiant of Israel surrounding it.”[4] “…These are the sixty letters in the Kohanim blessing who are the mighty ones of Israel…Even if a person sees in his dream a wounding sword in his hand, what shall he do? Get up to the synagogue and stand before the Kohanim and listen to the blessing of the Kohanim, and nothing evil can hurt him. Therefore, He tells the Kohanim “Thus shall you bless etc.”[5]

If one has seen a dream and does not remember what he saw, let him stand before the Kohanim at the time when they spread out their hands, and say as follows: ‘Master of the Universe, I am Yours and my dreams are Yours. I have dreamt a dream and I do not know what it is. Whether I have dreamt about myself or my companions have dreamt about me, or I have dreamt about others, if they are good dreams, confirm them and reinforce them like the dreams of Yosef, but if they require a remedy, heal them, as the waters of Marah were healed by Moshe, our teacher, and as Miriam was healed of her leprosy and Chezkiyahu of his sickness, and the waters of Yericho by Elisha. As you did turn the curse of the wicked Bilam into a blessing, so turn all my dreams into something good for me.’ He should conclude his prayer along with the priests, so that the congregation may answer, Amen!...[6]

Bamidbar 6:24-27.
Midrash Shir Hashirim Rabah 3:21.
Kli Yakar, Bamidbar 6:24.
Shir Hashirim 3:7.
Bamidbar Rabah, Parsha 11, Piska 3
[6] Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 55b

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Realigning Ourselves with Ourselves

  Drama exercise in Megillat Ruth class
This Parasha Meditation is about realigning ourselves with ourselves in preparation for receiving the Torah. The quality of the midbar (desert) is the most suitable place for this process. Here is an excerpt from a description of B’erot Bat Ayin’s desert hike by Alumna student Chaya Berdigo:

As we entered the caverns, the rocks turned to soft sand, winding down into a labyrinth of cascading mounds, the silence growing, glowing like the full moon guiding our footsteps. Who can speak of the desert at night? There is so much to say, and still no words. Sitting in a circle, our guide Yisrael Cheveroni asked us to close our eyes and imagine the sounds of a forest - trees, birds, animals, water. Then he asked us to imagine the sound of the ocean. Finally he told us to open our eyes; to look and listen to the place in which we sat. After repeating this meditation, our guide reminded us that the Hebrew word for desert midbar" is related to "medaber", which means "to speak.”  The desert is a place so seemingly silent, and yet Hashem knows that it says so much. We need to take time to listen, in order to hear its silent voice that pierces the soul.

Shabbat Shalom & Chag Shavuot Sameach!
May we merit aligning ourselves to become the perfect vessel for Hashem’s Torah to flow through us!
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Read Hashem's Eternal Bond to Us - Rebbetzin's commentary on Haftorat Bamidbar
Parasha Meditation Bamidbar
 Bamidbar 1:1-4:20
Realigning Ourselves with Our Fellow Jews and the Torah
The Shabbat preceding Shavuot the Jews of the Diaspora reconnect with Israel in the Parasha reading. In the spirit of Shavuot, we always begin the Book of Bamidbar together in unison prior to receiving the Torah. In Parashat Bamidar the position of the twelve tribes surrounding the Holy Ark with the Torah is delineated.[1] In preparation to receiving the Torah on Shavuot we all need to realign our position in relationship with our fellow Jews and with our holy Torah; keeping in mind that the Torah must always remain the center of our lives.

Hashem gave the Torah on Mount Sinai because it humbled itself saying: “I am lowly.” Therefore, Hashem elevated this mountain by giving the Torah upon it.[2] This teaches us that the only way to receive the Torah is through humility, symbolized in the lowly Mount Sinai. Entering the bare wilderness without even trees and flowers engenders humility. Experiencing the simplicity of nothingness, but infinite sand is reflected in our psyche, washing away our extraneous attachments and arrogance. It was fitting that the Giving of the Torah took place in no-man’s-land amidst the stark desolation of the Wilderness. Likewise, no-one can take ownership on the Torah. Unlike the Crown of Kingdom, and Kehuna (Priesthood),[3] the Crown of Torah is free for all to take. It enters the open hearts of those who are not too full of themselves to make a space for the Torah to enter.

In the Wilderness
הָמִדְבַּר מְדַבֵּרHamidbar medaber – The wilderness speaks – When we enter the vast open empty space of the wilderness, we are able to hear the sound of silence. Without the humdrum distractions of technical devices, mundane chores that need to get done, the constant background noises of cars driving by, we can turn inwards to the Divine voice within, and re-evaluate who we really are.

In this week’s Parasha, the Israelites are counted. The word described for how each of the Israelite presented himself before Moshe prior to the census is unusual:

ספר במדבר פרק א:יח- וְאֵת כָּל הָעֵדָה הִקְהִילוּ בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ הַשֵּׁנִי וַיִּתְיַלְדוּ עַל מִשְׁפְּחֹתָם לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם בְּמִסְפַּר שֵׁמוֹת מִבֶּן עֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וָמַעְלָה לְגֻלְגְּלֹתָם.

“All the congregation assembled together on the first day of the second month, (וַיִּתְיַלְדוּ – veyitvaldu), and they declared their pedigrees after their families, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and upward, by their polls.”[4]

Rabbi Yisroel Sisskind notices the special meaning of the word the word (וַיִּתְיַלְדוּ – veyitvaldu), which appears only once in all of the Tanach (Pentateuch). Literally this word means that the Israelites gave birth to themselves. Yet, Rashi explains that “they accounted for and gave bona fides for their genealogical descent, thereby proving their right to claim membership in a particular tribe.”[5] Rabbi Sisskind asks, why use such a unique form of the verb “to give birth to oneself” as a way of saying “they presented their family records”? It is possible that by researching our family tree and realigning ourselves with our ancestors we can become aware of our source and who we really are. This is similar to giving birth to ourselves.

If possible, it is beneficial to practice this meditation in nature, optimally in the actual desert, which probably most of us are unable at this point.

Make yourself comfortable on your cushion or chair, (or in the sand) close your eyes and take several very deep breaths. Try to empty yourself completely with every exhalation. Allow all the background noise to pass through you, and imagine now that you are walking in the wilderness. All around you is only sand and bare mountains. You are all alone as you face the emptiness of the void. Allow this emptiness and space enter into you, and become aware of all the superfluous items you are holding on to. Imagining digging a deep hole, deeper and deeper, big enough to bury everything you no longer have any use for. You may enter into this imaginary hole anything you don’t need, be it physical, emotional or spiritual. Make sure you enter all your arrogance into this hole. Notice how liberated you feel without it. Imagine emptying your heart from resentment, jealousy, anger and hatred. Place your hands near your heart without touching and feel the warmth emanating from it. Your heart is now ready to be reborn and infused with the holiness of Torah. Imagine the smallest letter of י – yud inside of your heart. This is the letter of wisdom and beginning. Following the yud, appears theל  – lamed, which means teaching. Hashem’s Torah teachings enter you, as you are reborn. Now visualize how the lamed extending itself to give its teaching over to the letter ד – dalet, which is turning its back as it receives lamed’s teachings. This symbolizes how children turn away from their parents, as they receive their teachings, in order to forge their own personal path. Dalet can also mean a door. Imagine the door of your heart opening, and through it walks your mother and father, they each give you a gift. Behind your parents their mother and father walk in with a special gift for you. Behind each of your grandparents, all your four sets of great grandparents walk through the door, each with a gift for you. Keep visualizing all their mothers and fathers for as far back as you are able to imagine. Try to fathom the infinite mothers and fathers it took to create you, with your particular gifts, talents and character-traits. Feel thankful and centered in yourself and enjoy the gift of being you! When you are ready you may open your eyes and face the world.

Shavuot is called in the Torah “Day of the First Fruits.”[6] This is a time when the fruits are beginning to ripen on the trees in Eretz Yisrael. Likewise, at this time, after having matured emotionally and spiritually through the counting of the Omer, we ripen into what we are meant to be, becoming reborn as who we really are.

[1]  Bamidbar 2:2.
[2]  Midrash Rabah, Bamidbar 13:3.
[3] The Kingdom is inherited from the house of David, and Kehuna from Aharon the Kohen.
[4] Bamidbar 1:18.
[5] Rashi ibid.
[6] Bamidbar 28:26.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Walking Upright with G-d

Pre-Wedding Tichel Party at B'erot this week for Chana Miriam
(standing between Rebbetzins Chana Bracha and Elana)
This week’s parasha is intrinsically connected with counting the Omer which must be in upright position, because the barley was standing upright in the field. Our posture and the way we carry ourselves, when we move through life, is very significant for how we feel and look. The letter of the month of Iyar, is the letter Vav,[1] which is a straight line connected to our spine. At this time we have a special segula (spiritual ability) to succeed in aligning our spine to become a straight line rather than bent, and curved. The more we align ourselves with the character traits that we encounter, as we move through the sefirot, the more we will be able to stand upright – erect without fears and hang-ups! I bless all of you and myself that we will take the opportunity to work on aligning ourselves both physically, emotionally and spiritually, to prepare for receiving the Torah in the very fiber of our being!

With Blessings of the Torah and the Land

Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Parasha Meditation Bechukotai
Vayikra 26:3-27:34
This week’s parasha opens with Hashem’s redemptive blessings, when we walk in His statutes and keep Hashem’s mitzvoth (laws).[2] The first letter of the parasha is an אalef – the first letter of the word אִם – “if” – “If you walk in my statutes.” The last letter of the blessings is a תtaf – the last letter of the word קוֹמֲמִיּוּת – “upright” – concluding all of the blessings in the parasha. This teaches us that these blessings can only be fulfilled completely when all the people of Israel keep the entire Torah from alef to taf (from A-Z).[3] When we reach this level we will be worthy of the final blessing, that Hashem will break all the burdens that are weighing us down, and align our posture to make us walk upright:

:אֲנִי הַשֵם אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִהְיֹת לָהֶם עֲבָדִים וָאֶשְׁבֹּר מֹטֹת עֻלְּכֶם וָאוֹלֵךְ אֶתְכֶם קוֹמֲמִיּוּת (ויקרא כו:יג)
I am Hashem your G-d who took you out of the land of Egypt from being their slaves, and I will break the bars of their yoke, and I will make you walk upright (Komemiyot).[4]

What does it mean to walk upright (Komemiyot) and why is this so important that the Torah placed this blessing as the final all inclusive blessing in the book of Vayikra?

Targum Yonatan translates the word Komemiyot: – “ "והלכית יתכון בקומא זקופא – “I will make you walk with erect stature.”[5] Whereas Targum Onkelus translates: – "ודברית יתכון לחירות" – “I will bring you to freedom.”[6]

In order to be able to walk upright with erect stature, we need to free ourselves from all fears and worries, as we build our self-confidence. This blessing can only take place fully, when the Jewish people live like a free people in the Land of Israel. Then Hashem’s light shining through the Temple, will melt away both our outer and inner enemies. We pray for this blessing daily in our morning prayer, in the entreaties leading up to the Shema Yisrael prayer, and whenever we recite Grace after Meals, at the conclusion of every meal with bread we request: “May the Compassionate One break our yoke from off our neck and lead us upright into our land.”[7]

Rav Ginsburgh[8] notices a seemingly contradiction between the blessing to walk erect and the Talmudic statement that a person should not walk with erect stature:
...ואל יהלך בקומה זקופה דאמר מר המהלך בקומה זקופה אפילו ארבע אמות כאילו דוחק רגלי שכינה דכתיב מלא כל הארץ כבודו (תלמוד בבלי מסכת ברכות דף מג/ב)
…Nor should one walk with erect stature; since Mar said: “If one walks with erect stature even for four cubits, it is as if he pushed against the heels of the Divine Presence, since it is written, ‘The whole earth is full of His glory.’”[9]

According to the Talmud, walking with erect stature, is a sign of arrogance, pushing ourselves forward, as if our head pushes away Hashem’s feet above us. Rav Ginsburgh solves the seemingly contradiction, by explaining that there are two different kinds of relationships with Hashem. The Babylonian Talmud depicts the relationship during exile, when we experience G-d’s presence primarily above our head. However, during the Messianic era, we will once again experience G-d’s presence face to face – in front of us, as King David described “I have set Hashem always before me.”[10] We will then return to the relationship that the first man and woman had with Hashem in the Garden of Eden.

A different Talmudic interpretation of the word קוֹמֲמִיּוּת – (komemiyot) coincide with this concept. “Rabbi Meir says, komemiyot refers to the two komot (statures) of the first human being.”[11] Adam and Eve were originally created much “taller” than people are today. Their spiritual height enabled them to be, so to speak, “eye to eye” with Hashem. Our relationship with G-d is evolving towards this level of spiritual height, where G-d’s presence is before us rather than above us. Therefore, the blessing that G-d will lead us upright refers to the Messianic era, when walking upright no longer will be “pushing against the heels of the Divine Presence,” since rather than being above our head, G-d’s presence will primarily be experienced before us, at eye level.

In this week’s parasha, prior to the blessing that G-d will lead us upright, He first promised us that He will walk among us:
.(וְהִתְהַלַּכְתִּי בְּתוֹכֲכֶם וְהָיִיתִי לָכֶם לֵאלֹהִים וְאַתֶּם תִּהְיוּ לִי לְעָם. (ויקרא כו:יב
“I will walk among you, and will be your G-d, and you shall be my people.”[12]

Rashi depicts the idyllic scene of the renewed relationship with G-d that this blessing implies: I WILL WALK AMONG YOU – I will, as it were, walk with you in the Garden of Eden as though I were one of yourselves and you will not be frightened of Me…”[13] In order to be able to truly walk upright without fear, we need to first return to our original relationship with G-d in the garden of Eden.

Although the blessings in this week’s parasha will only be fulfilled totally when Hashem’s presence returns to reside in the Temple, as we have entered the redemption process, we may take the blessings in our own hand. We can empower ourselves to work on and rehearse Hashem’s promise “to make us walk upright.” So, this time, I’m not going to ask you to sit down and get comfortable in your chair.

This week’s meditation is a walking meditation, which can be practiced whenever you are walking, on the way, or even inside your home from one room to the other. Stand upright. Try to become aware of your posture. Are your shoulders slouching and your neck sloping forward? Stand against a wall, and allow the back of your head, your elbows and back of heals touch the wall. Push your pelvis slightly upwards so that your stomach flattens. Take some deep breaths, and feel your lungs expanding, and your chest rising.

Focus on the parts of your body that are unable to become totally aligned. Can you feel what kind of burden and weight in these parts of yourself that resists your standing upright? Perhaps, it is a lack of self-confidence that makes your shoulder slouch? Perhaps there are fears preventing you from standing erect. Look straight ahead and imagine Hashem’s presence before you. You may want to close your eyes briefly and imagine Hashem’s light in front of you at eye distance. Open your eyes, and mentally send Hashem’s light into the parts of yourself that resist standing upright. Feel your spine lengthening, as if a string from above were pulling you upwards to an erect posture.

Now begin to slowly walk as upright as you are able to. As you walk keep imagining Hashem’s presence before you, and. an invisible string pulling you upwards. Open your mouth and speak to Hashem as a person speaks to his friend. Tell Him about your challenges in aligning yourself and standing completely upright. Ask Hashem to remove everything that is weighing you down. When you have completed your walk, feel relieved and notice how you have come one step closer to: “I will break the bars of their yoke, and I will make you walk upright.”[14]

Walking upright with Hashem can be expressed in both the physical, spiritual and emotional realm. In recent times, as we have entered the redemption process, we have begun to align ourselves both physically, emotionally and spiritually. The Alexander technique, which teaches ease of movement through lengthening the spine and becoming upright was developed in our century.[15] Moreover, our generation is working hard to align ourselves emotionally through various kinds of therapy and spiritual healing, and through the world wide Ahavas Yisroel Project.[16] In the spiritual realm, there is a shift from relating to Hashem as a punishing G-d above our head, to becoming more connected with love of G-d, and relating to Hashem more like a friend. This is why Rabbi Nachman’s teaching about “talking to Hashem like you’d talk to your best friend” has gained so much popularity in our recent time. The empowering blessings in our Torah portion are on the verge of being fulfilled, as we approach the zenith of all time when G-d will tell us: “…call me Ishi (my husband), and do no longer call me Ba’ali (my master)!”[17]

[1] Sefer Yetzira 5:7.
Vayikra 26:3.
Rabbeinu Bachaya, Vayikra 26:13.
Vayikra 26:13.
Targum Yonatan ben Uziel, Ibid.
Targum Onkelus, ibid.
ברכת המזון – Grace After Meals.
In his video shiur: “Seeing Eye to Eye with G-d”
Yesha’yahu 6:3, Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 43b
Tehillim 16:8.
Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 100b, and Baba Batra 75a
Vayikra 17:12.
Rashi Ibid.
Vayikra 26:13.
The Alexander technique was invented by F.M Alexander, lived Australia from 1869-1955.
For more info about the Women’s Ahavas Yisroel Project see
Hoshea 2:18

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Parasha Meditations

Easy access links to Rebbetzin Chana Bracha's weekly Parasha Meditations:

The Book of Bereshit
Parashat Bereshit: Calling out to G-d for the Hidden Light
Parashat Noach: Building Our Personal Sacred Space
Parashat Lech Lecha: Fixing the Level of Going – to our Higher Selves
Parashat Vayeira: An Opening for Healing Revelation
Parashat Chayei Sarah:With Hashem in the Field
Parashat Toldot: Revealing the Living Waters
Parashat Vayetze: Stepping Inwards on the Ladder of Ascent
Parashat Vayishlach: Alone with Your Soul
Parashat Vayeshev: Tuning into our Dreams, Visions and Aspirations
Parashat Miketz: Igniting the Darkest Shadow Sides of your Soul
Parashat Vayigash: Reaching the Meeting Point of Contention 
Parashat Vayechi: “Shema Yisrael” – Unifying at Heart

The Book of Shemot
Parashat Shemot: The Five Leaved Bush of Light
Parashat Va'era: Unblocking Hashem’s Voice Within
Parashat Bo: Eradicating our Deepest Fears
Parashat Beshalach: Eating in Holiness – A Preparation for Receiving Torah
Parashat Yitro: The Tree of Love
Parashat Mishpatim: Transforming Pain to Become a Source of Joy
Parashat Terumah: The Mishkan: A Spiritual Healing Structure
Parashat Tetzaveh: The Candles of Eternity
Parashat Ki Tisa: "Raising our Desires for Life"
Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei: Learning to Give from the Heart & Spirit

The Book of Vayikra
Parashat Vayikra: “On-line” With Hashem
Parashat Tzav: Pleasure & Will – The Crown of the Soul
Parashat Shemini: A Vessel for the Fire of Love and Excitement
Parashat Tazria-Metzora: Time-out for Self-reflection and Meditation
Parashat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim: “Love your Fellow as Yourself” by Reconnecting with the Soul of Souls
Parashat Emor: Healing Emotions through Speech
Parashat Behar: Receiving Torah by Tuning into the Soul of the Land
Parashat Bechukotai: Walking Upright with G-d

The Book of Bamidbar
Parashat Bamidbar: "Realigning Ourselves with Ourselves"
Parashat Naso: The Spiritual Healing Power of the Kohanim Blessing
Parashat Beha’alotcha: Prayer for Miriam’s Healing and for the Longing of our Soul
Parashat Shlach L’chah: Developing Inner Vision and Exploring the Spiritual Land
Parashat Korach: Eradicating the Energy of Korach from Within
Parashat Chukat: Actualizing our Trans-rational Latent Emunah
Parashat Balak: Transforming Curses into Blessings
Parashat Pinchas: How can Killing a Fellow Jew Restore Peace???
Parashat Matot:
Parashat Masai: What is the Purpose for Every Stop on our Path?

The Book of Devarim
Parashat Devarim: Turning our Vision into Reality
Parashat Va’etchanan: Connecting with the Unity of the Community of Israel and Hashem
Parashat Eikev: Listening to the Voice of Hashem with Our Heels
Parashat Re’eh: Discovering our Personal Mission in Life
Parashat Shoftim: The Gatekeepers of our Soul
Parashat Ki Tetze: Going out to Battle our Spiritual Enemies
Parashat Ki Tavo: Dedicating the First and Best to Hashem
Parashat Nitzavim: Standing Upright Today before Hashem
Parashat Vayelech: "Finding Hashem in the Very Darkest Darkness"
Parashat Ha'azinu (before Yom Kippur): Finding Hashem in the Very Darkest Darkness
(after Yom Kippur): "Tuning into the Holiest Shabbat of the Year"

Sukkot: Within the Glorious Clouds of Divine Embrace

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Preparing to Receive the Torah by Tuning into the Soul of the Land

It is so exciting that today, after having returned to the Land of Israel, we can finally keep some of the laws of the Land described in our weekly Torah portion Behar. Just as it is said: “More than the Israel has kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept Israel,” likewise we can say that: “More than the Land of Israel has kept the Shabbatical year, the Shabatical year has kept the Land of Israel.” Actually all our exiles, and our losses or victories in the land of Israel took place the year following Shemita year (The sabbatical year for the land).

For example, the victory of the six day war, which we will soon celebrate, took place in year 5727, following the Shemita year in 5726. Keeping the laws of the Land of Israel makes us worthy to deserve the Land. It is not by chance that we read Parashat Behar in proximity to the festival of Shavuot. Through keeping the mitzvoth of Shemita, we strengthen our faith and trust in Hashem, and engender unity between all of the Jewish people. In this way we become similar to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai who received the Torah in unison. I will clarify the connection between keeping Shemita and receiving the Torah further, so please read on!

With blessings of the Torah and the Land
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Outside of Israel, Parshat Emor is read this week.  Click here for to read "Healing Emotions Through Speech" - Rebbetzin's Parsha Meditation Emor.

Click here for Rebbetzin's Haftorat Behar commentary 

Parasha Meditation Behar
Vayikra 25:1-26-:2
Preparing to Receive the Torah by Tuning into the Soul of the Land
Parashat Behar is all about Emunah. Taking one day a week off from work in order to celebrate Shabbat and demonstrate our belief in Hashem, as the creator of the world, cannot compare to implementing our faith, by taking off an entire year from working the land. Keeping in mind that essentially and historically, Israel is an agrarian society. For some people it may be difficult to relate to the concepts of the Shabbatical year (Shemita) mentioned in this week’s parasha. If you live in NY, LA or Chicago, the only practical implications of the laws of Shemita, is to make sure that vegetables and fruits purchased from Israel have proper kashruth (kosher) certification. Those of us, who live on the Land, are fortunate enough to get a taste of the emunah that the Shemita year instills.

Relinquishing Ownership to the Land
The concept of Shemita teaches us that we never really have ownership to the land, which essentially belongs only to Hashem. This is why it states, “…then the land shall keep a Shabbat to Hashem.”[1] We, the Jewish people are not in the center here, but rather the land has its own will and connection to Hashem. Even if I paid a lot of money, weeded all the thorns, worked myself to a sweat turning the earth, adding compost, planting delicious grapes, as soon as the Shemita year arrives, I am reminded how everything belongs Hashem. “…For the Land is Mine; and you are strangers and settlers with Me.”[2]

My first Shemita Experience
I experienced this during my first Shemita year on the land, when I looked out of my window one Thursday afternoon, and discovered my neighbor helping himself the most succulent grapes in my garden. I was planning to pick these grapes on Friday, to serve them fresh for my family and guest for Shabbat. My first instinct was to stop him, exclaiming, “What are you doing? These are my grapes!” Then the deeper realization of Shemita kicked in. Really whose grapes are they after all? Whose land is it anyway? It took some processing before I realized that all my hard work on the land, was really not just for myself, but actually for Hashem. He gives this land to all of the Jewish people to share and live in unison and harmony upon it, as it states: “The Shabbat produce of the land shall be food for all of you, for you, for your servant, and for your maid, and for your hired servant, and for your stranger that sojourns with you…”[3]

Unity Connects the Laws of the Land with Receiving the Torah
Parashat Behar opens by mentioning that the Laws of the Land were “spoken to Moshe on Mt. –Sinai.”[4] Rashi asks, “What is the connection between Shemita and Mt. Sinai? Behold all the mitzvoth were given at Sinai; [but the Torah didn’t mention on Mt. Sinai in connection with any of the other mitzvot]. Linking the laws of Shemita with receiving the Torah on Mt. Sinai, teaches us that the Torah does not separate between religion and the social relationships of daily day living, through which we implement the general principles of Torah into the details of life. Moreover, the laws of Shemita engenders unity among the Jewish people, which is essential in order to be worthy of receiving the Torah. Likewise, prior to receiving the Torah, the Jewish people encamped on the mountain in unison, “as one person with one heart.”[5]

Ultimate Declaration of Faith
Israel expressed their ultimate declaration of faith, when they readily accepted the Torah with the exclamation, “We will do and we will hear.”[6] Keeping the laws of Shemita likewise requires sublime faith believing firmly that even when we abstain from work, according to Hashem’s mitzvoth, Hashem will take care of us. Through keeping the Laws of the Land, we ingrain within our entire being, that only G-d gives us the strength to accomplish anything in the world, rather than thinking that “My power and the might of my hand has gotten me all this wealth.”[7]

Freedom from Slavery
At the end of a seven cycles of the seven-year Shemita cycle, we “proclaim liberty to the land,” through the same Shofar that vibrated at the revelation at Sinai.[8] During this jubilee year (yovel), all the slaves go free, and every person returns to his original land and family. This way, by refraining from selling out the land and ourselves as perpetual slaves, we experience how both we and the land belong to no-one but Hashem.[9] Shemita and Yovel thus teach us to return to our essential selves, and let go of both our attachments to ownership and to being enslaved by others.

Now it is time to relax and allow yourself to let go. Make yourself comfortably in your space. Breathe slowly and relax even more. Visualize an imaginary “Shofar of freedom” and prepare yourself to blow as you inhale, and imagine yourself blowing the Shofar with every exhale. The sound of this Shofar will allow you to relinquish ownership to that which is not part of your essential being. Inhale and imagine your home, and if applicable your garden, exhale, blow your imaginary shofar into your garden if you have one, and then repeat with your home, relinquishing all your attachments, and making Hashem king over your garden and home.

Repeat this sequence of breathing, blowing the shofar, and crowning Hashem over any particular possession of your choice, as many times as you would like. Then move to your body. Blow the shofar of freedom into your forehead, crowing Hashem there, let your shofar crown Hashem over your eyes, nose, ears, mouth, cheeks, back of your head, your entire head and neck, and shoulders.

Make Hashem king over your arms and hands as you blow the breath of life into each of them. Crown Hashem over your lungs, heart and entire diaphragm, allowing the shofar to cleanse away all the blockages you may hold on to there. Continue crowning Hashem while blowing your shofar into your small intestine, belly and colon, purifying them and making Hashem the King over them. Blow your shofar into your liver, spleen and kidneys, while crowning Hashem. Finally bring the liberating sound of the shofar into your thighs, knees, calves and feet, making Hashem king over your entire being and everything you own. Keep breathing and enjoy the new freedom from attachments you experience, coming closer to your essential self.

Shemita comes to heal the land and give us a taste of the Garden of Eden, where there was no ownership and possession. Likewise, during the Sabbatical year, all the fruits of the trees become ownerless, belonging equally to all. By eating from the Tree of Knowledge, Adam and Chava, seized ownership, and breached their idyllic relationship with the land. As a consequence, the land was cursed as it states: “Cursed is the earth because of you… in the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground…”[10] Instead of living in harmony with nature, receiving sustenance directly from Hashem’s giving hand, humanity became enslaved to labor, in order to make the land yield its produce. However, during every Shemita year, the land gradually heals, as we learn that we are neither enslaved to working the land, nor its owner and master. Shemita teaches us that we are just custodians, enjoying the privilege to be able to dwell in Hashem’s Holy Land.[11]

[1] Vayikra 25:2.
Vayikra 25:23.
Vayikra 25:6.
Vayikra 25:1.
Rashi, Shemot 19:2, learns this from the fact that the Hebrew word for “encamped” is written in singular language.
Shemot 19:8.
Devarim 8:17.
Vayikra 25:9-10, compare with Shemot 19:19.
See this week’s parasha, Vayikra 25:28-55.
Bereishit 3:17-18.
See Avraham Arieh’s beautiful article on Parashat Behar in his Orchard of Delight.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Healing Emotions through Speech

A proud mother and other "fruits" of Rebbetzin's garden
The healing energy of the Hebrew month of Iyar is in its zenith as we approach the inner flames of Lag B’Omer. I’m working on channeling this energy through the two EmunaHealing workshops, I began this week, one online and the other in my home. Its amazing to experience the overwhelming interest in Jewish energy healing. I’m excited that this week’s parasha: “Emor” – “Say” inspired me to answer a question of one of the students in my online class, who requested that I elaborate on how we heal our emotions through speech. Please keep your questions coming, they guide me in my research! 

Shabbat Shalom!
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Outside of Israel, Parashat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim is read this week. Click here for Rebbetzin's Parsha Meditaion for Acharei Mot-Kedoshim: Spiritual Healing is Required to fulfill the Mitzvah “Love your fellow as yourself…”

Click here for Rebbetzin's commentary to Haftorat Emor: The Power of Challah

Parasha Meditation, Emor
Vayikra 21:1-24:23

Healing Emotions through Speech
How do we heal our Emotions through Speech?
This week’s parasha is called “Emor” which means “say.” Parashat Emor is juxtaposed to Parashat Kedoshim – “Holiness,” because the word “emor” infuses the Kohanim and the Israelites with the superior holiness of keeping the Divine word. One of the students in my recent online EmunaHealing Seminar asked the following question: “Please elaborate on what you mentioned that we have the ability to heal our emotions through speech, how do we do that?”

Speech is Life
Speech is the way we express ourselves as human beings. At our original creation in the Garden of Eden “G-d blew His living soul into Adam’s nostrils, and he became a living spirit.”[1] The Targum [2] translates “living spirit” as “speaking spirit.” True life and vitality of the human being is expressed specifically through speech.

Holiness, Life & Sanctification of Speech
The connection between ultimate life and speech is alluded to at the beginning of Parashat Emor,[3] which instructs the Kohanim to be extra careful not to become impure, because of their special holy status, as servants in G-d’s sanctuary.[4] In the Torah, holiness is linked to vitality and life, as opposed to death and necromancy. This is why Parashat Kedoshim concludes with the prohibition to be a medium for doing witchcraft through the dead,[5] while Parashat Emor begins with the prohibition for the Kohanim to become impure by having contact with the dead. From here, we may conclude that holiness and sanctification of speech is connected with life. This principle is confirmed by the end of Parashat Emor, describing how ultimate misuse of speech results in death. The parasha goes into length to tell the story of the son of Shelomit who blasphemed and cursed G-d with his speech, and was publicly put to death.[6]

Healing Emotions through Speech
Going back to the original question, how to heal emotions through speech, we can now understand that the choice of our words and the way we express ourselves in speech influences and is an expression of the quality of our vitality. While death is stiff and stagnant, that which is alive flows, moves and changes. Therefore, our emotions which also are expression of our life and vitality are called “e-motions” in English, linking emotions with the motion and movement of life. Kabbalah teaches us that the three main parts of our soul: Neshama, (The intellectual soul), Ruach, (The emotional soul) and Nefesh (the most physical soul) correspond respectively to the three garments of our soul, thought, speech and actions.[7] The Ruach corresponds to speech because we express our emotions through speech. Our emotions are also an expression of our vitality. The amount of life that we radiate corresponds to the extent that we are able to express the emotion of love. Anger, jealousy and depressions, are all emotional blockages that block the Divine life-force to manifest within us. Through speech we have the ability to rectify our emotions, and thus learn to become more and more truly alive. Ramban, in his famous letter,[8] instructs us: “Speak gently at all times.” This will help us overcome negative emotions such as pride and anger. When we always speak gently, without ever raising our voice, it becomes virtually impossible to become angry.

The Connection between Speech and Emunah
In addition to the intonation, our choice of whom to speak with and what to speak about, as well as our vocabulary also has the ability to elevate our emotions. Constantly expressing words of praise for Hashem and appreciation for fellows help ingrain within us the emotion of gratitude. Gratitude engenders happiness and acceptance which again raise our spirits, emotions and vitality. David HaMelech extols: “I have faith for I speak.”[9] Through speaking words of emunah (faith), we have the ability to strengthen the emunah in our hearts. Nachum Ish Gam Zu of the Talmud suffered much in life, but nevertheless he would always respond to every difficulty with: “gam zu letovah – this too is for the good.”[10] By accustoming ourselves to face difficulties with words of faith and acceptance, we gradually build our emunah, happiness, and vitality.

The name this week’s parasha is “Emor” אמר consists of the three letters “alef,” – אmem,” – מ and “reish” – ר. These three letters are the acronym for the three main elements:[11] אש – aish – fire, מים – mayim – water, and רוח– ruach – air. These elements are the expression of our emotions, through “fire” we can either express the negative emotion of anger, or elevate it into passion and excitement for the Torah. Through “water” we can either be filled with pleasure- seeking, or become calm like the cool soft waves of the lake on a sunny day. The element of “air” can make us nervous, or help us rise upwards in our yearning to increase spirituality and holiness in our life.

Make yourself comfortable in your chair or cushion, close your eyes and become aware of your breath. Your breath is the expression of your ruach – air. Place your hands on your stomach, and note how you can fill your belly with clean fresh air as you inhale, and empty it as you exhale. Repeat this calming breathing several times before moving your hands to your chests. Get in touch with how your chest rises and falls, as you fill it with air through your inhalation, and inflate it as you exhale. With your hands on your throat feel how the air is passing through your esophagus, as you slowly breathe in and out. Repeat the entire sequence of three breath each to your belly, chest and throat, as you imagine the Hebrew letters that spell the word רוחruach – air. Feel how the entire cavity within you aspires towards spirituality and holiness, as you take in Hashem’s life-giving air.

Continue to breathe calmly, as you imagine yourself dipping your feet in the calm sea on a hot summer day. Feel the soothing cooling water soften your skin. Allow yourself to truly relax and become enveloped by the calming softness of the gentle waves. You may imagine yourself deliciously floating, as all worries and fears melt away. Allow the waters to penetrate any tension you may carry in your body, until each tension dissolves in the sea. Continue imagining yourself calming down in the water, letting go of all your worries, as you visualize the Hebrew letters that spell the word מיםmayim – water.

Continue your calm breathing and easing yourself of fears and tensions through the tranquil water, as you imagine the flames of the Shabbat candles. Try to visualize its blue core turning into a yellow, orange and red glow. Allow the radiating flame to etch itself into your heart, burning away the indifference, lazy complacent foreskin surrounding your vibrant beating heart. Take your time to very slowly burn away each part of the blockage, as your imaginary flame touches the circumference of your heart. Visualize the Hebrew letters that spell the word אש aish – fire, as you unearth and get in touch with your inner flame. Allow this flame to fill your entire being with bright exhilarating warming light. As the flame dances within you, imagine yourself dancing with delight, while your entire being is engaged in a particular mitzvah of your choice.

The root אמר appears three times in the opening verse of Parashat Emor: “Hashem said ((וַיֹּאמֶר to Moshe, say (אֱמֹר) to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and say (וְאָמַרְתָּ) to them… [12]

This verse is written in a different style of language, than the rest of the Torah. Throughout the Torah and even in the continuation of Parashat Emor, the beginning of every command is written in the following style “Hashem spoke ((וַיְדַבֵּר to Moshe saying, ((לֵּאמֹר speak דַּבֵּר)) unto…”[13]. Here the root דבר – diber is mentioned twice while אמר – emor is mentioned only once. The triple repetition of the word אמר in the opening verse of Parashat Emor may possible allude to the three levels of life and of holiness (fire, water, and air) that characterizes this week’s parasha, beginning by prohibiting the Kohanim from contact with the dead, and concluding in the defilement of speech by the son of Shelomit. It is also interesting to note that specifically the root אמר is used in the Ten Utterances with which Hashem created the word.[14] Original light and life came into being by Hashem’s word אמר. Likewise we have the ability to emulate Hashem and create life with our words!

[1] Bereishit 2:7.
Both Targum Onkelus and Targum Yonatan on Bereishit 2:7.
Vayikra 21:1.
Vayikra 21:7.
Vayikra 20:27.
Vayikra 24:10-16.
See for example, the Rama of Pa’no, Article about the Soul, Part 4, Chapter 4.
Igeret HaRamban, written to his elder son, Nachman, with the instruction to read it weekly.
Tehillim 116:10.
Babylonian Talmud, Ta’anit 21a.
Rav Tzvi Elimelech Shapiro, Agra d’Kala, page 300/51 and many other kabbalistic and chassidic writings. The element of Earth – afar— עפר consist of a fusion of the main three elements.
Vayikra 21:1.
Vayikra 21:17, I found this style written in the Torah written 41 times in the Torah.
See chapter one of Bereishit where Hashem created the world in six days through His speech described by the Hebrew root אמר.