Thursday, April 25, 2013

Healing Emotions through Speech

Special B'erot Bonfire
 I’m working on channeling the healing energy of Iyar through my EmunaHealing workshops. It’s 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 my online students, who requested that I elaborate on how we heal our emotions through speech.

With Blessings of the Torah and the Land
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Read Rebbetzin's commentary to Haftorat Emor - "The Power of Challah" 

Parasha Meditation Emor
Vayikra 21:1-24:23
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 life and vitality, 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 opens 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. Our parasha goes into length to tell the story of the son of Shelomit bat Dibri who blasphemed and cursed G*d with his speech, and was publically put to death.[6]

Healing Emotions through Speech
Going back to our 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 both 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 expressions 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 – neshamah, (intellectual soul), ruach, (emotional soul) and nefesh (the most physical soul) – correspond respectively to the three garments of our soul: thought, speech and action.[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 depression are examples of emotional blockages that block the Divine life-force from manifesting 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 be angry.

The Connection between Speech and Emunah
In addition to the intonation, our choices of whom to speak with and what to speak about, as well as the words we choose, also have the ability to elevate our emotions. Constantly expressing words of praise for Hashem and appreciation for our fellows help ingrain within us the emotion of gratitude. Gratitude engenders happiness and acceptance, which again raise our spirits, emotions and vitality. David HaMelech (King David) 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.

Fire, Water and Air – The Elements of Speech
אמר – “Emor” – the name of his week’s parasha consists of the three letters: א – “alef,” מ –“mem,” and ר –“reish.” These three letters are the acronym for the three main elements: אֵש – aish – fire, מַיִם – mayim – water, and רוּח– ruach – air.[11] 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 a 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.

Summary of Practical Tips to Heal our Emotions through Speech
1. Overcome pride and anger by speaking gently without raising your voice.
2. Develop gratitude by expressing words of praise to Hashem and appreciation for people.
3. Whenever you face difficulties accustom yourself to say: “gam zu l’tova” – this too is for the good.
4. Work on making yourself happy by choosing to speak about positive uplifting matters.

Make yourself comfortable in your chair or cushion. Close your eyes and become aware of your breath.

1. 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 chest.

2. Get in touch with how your chest rises and falls, as you fill it with air through your inhalation and deflate it as you exhale.

3. With your hands on your throat, feel how the air is passing through your esophagus, as you slowly breathe in and out.

4. Repeat the entire sequence of three breaths each to your belly, chest and throat, as you imagine the Hebrew letters that spell the word רוּח – ruach – air. Feel how the entire cavity within you aspires towards spirituality and holiness, as you take in Hashem’s life-giving air.

5. Continue to breathe calmly, as you imagine yourself dipping your feet in the calm sea on a hot summer day. Feel how the soothing, cooling water softens your skin.

6. 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.

7. Continue imagining yourself calming down in the water, letting go of all your worries, as you visualize the Hebrew letters that spell the word מַיִם – mayim – water.

8. Keep breathing calmly and ease 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.

9. Allow the radiating flame to etch itself into your heart, burning away the indifferent, lazy, and complacent barrier 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.

10. Visualize the Hebrew letters that spell the word אֵש – aish – fire, as you unearth and get in touch with your inner flame. Allow this flame to fill your entire being with bright, exhilarating, and 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.

11. Take several deep breaths and notice if you feel more in tune with the elements of your emotions.

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) – vayedaber – to Moshe saying, (לֵּאמֹר) – l’emor, –“speak”  (דַבֵּר) – daber unto…”[13] Here the root דבר – diber is mentioned twice while the root אמר – amar is mentioned only once. The triple repetition of the word אמר in the opening verse of Parashat Emor may possibly allude to the three elements (fire, water, and air) that we need to elevate through sanctification of life and speech. Both life and speech characterize 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 bat Dibri. It is also interesting to note that specifically the root אמר is used in the Ten Utterances with which Hashem created the world.[14] Originally, 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. אַבְרָא כְּאַדַבְּרָה – “Abra k’adabra” –“I will create as I speak!”

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

“Love your Fellow as Yourself” by Reconnecting with the Soul of Souls

We have passed the border (מחסום) that separates between exile and redemption. The way is still long, but we are on the other side of the barricade. The period of exile is behind us, and we are stepping on the way to redemption. Even if we are quite far from the peak, still, with the grace of G*d, the main obstacles of the last two thousand years have been removed. 

Now we need to infuse the physical independence in our Land with true love for our people. In order to attain our goal of establishing a Jewish country that reflects the Divine ideal for Israel, we need to learn to truly love one another. 

This meditative practice helps us engender and integrate true love for all the people in our lives!

With Blessings of the Torah and the Land
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Read Rebbetzin's commentary to Haftorat Acharei Mot/Kedushim: "Connecting through Working the Land"

Parasha Meditation Kedoshim
Vayikra 19:1-20:27
In Parashat Kedoshim – the parasha that teaches us how to become holy – we learn about the prerequisite to love others, as we love ourselves. True holiness is not just about what we do outwardly, but it is even more about how we feel inwardly. A real holy person has learned to control his feelings, to think only holy thoughts about others, and to feel love and compassion for every creature. To be holy, is to let go of all the big and even small resentments that we may carry with us. Only then will we be able to truly love each other with a full heart as the Torah teaches:
  :לֹא תִקֹּם וְלֹא תִטֹּר אֶת בְּנֵי עַמֶּךָ וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ אֲנִי הָשֵם
“Do not revenge, and do not bear a grudge against the children of your people. Love your fellow as yourself, I am Hashem.”[1]

Learning to Forgive Ourselves
The Torah verse requires us to love our fellow, as we love ourselves. In order to give and receive love, we need to begin by learning to love ourselves. If we don’t have love for ourselves, all our relationships may suffer. It is impossible to fulfill this mitzvah from the Torah, and free ourselves from holding on to grudges, without deep inner spiritual healing work. Many of the women who come to me for EmunaHealing (Spiritual Healing) have difficulty loving themselves. They may be filled with guilt and shame and have a hard time learning to forgive themselves. In order to forgive ourselves we need to go into a meditative state, to get in touch with our guilt and its underlying causes, before we can remove it. The next step is then to work on forgiving others truly with all our hearts, and sending them love. This too, requires the meditative work of spiritual healing.

The Oneness of Love
The gematria (numerical value) of the Hebrew word for “love” – אַהֲבָה – ahava is thirteen. This is the same gematria as the Hebrew word for “one” – אֶחָד – echad. The number thirteen also alludes to the thirteen attributes of mercy.[2] Only when we become one with someone, can we really love that person. This is why the greatest love is between a mother and her baby, as they were one in her womb. To feel love, we need to reveal the aspect with which we unify with our friend.

Receiving Hashem’s Love – the Soul of Our Soul
The body is a vessel for the soul; the soul is a vessel for the Divine. Every Jew has a Divine spark of light and love emanating directly from Hashem. This is the source and power of our love – G*d’s love, which is beyond our reality. Hashem surprises us with endless love, if we only open for Him, even a small opening, to receive.
פתחי לי פתח כחודה של מחט ואני אפתח לכם פתח שיהיו עגלות נכנסים
“Open for Me like the opening of a needle, and I will open for you an opening for wagons to enter.”[3]

Sit comfortably in your chair, close your eyes and take deep breaths several times. Notice anything you may be holding onto, and let go... Connect with the light of Hashem, which always comes down from Above. Our body is continually filled with Hashem’s light and love even when we don’t see it or feel it; we know that we are filled with Hashem’s light.

1. Imagine Hashem’s light filling your head and spreading down your shoulders to the rest of your body. Picture your entire body as a light bulb filled with light.

2. Now try to get in touch with old feelings of guilt and resentment. Did someone ever embarrass or reject you? Did you ever feel a lack of love and consideration from a family member or a close friend? Did you yourself mistreat someone who needed you? Or do you feel guilty about something you’ve done? Tune into any images, words or feelings that come up for you.

Allow yourself to get in touch with any painful feelings that you may have repressed and swept under the rug.

3. Visualize these feelings as dark clouds within you. Try to locate these dark clouds in your body. Are there any in your head, in your throat or perhaps in your heart region?

4. Send Hashem’s light and love to each of the dark clouds within you. Keep breathing into them, one by one, until you feel them evaporate or burst.

5. Think about a person that you feel badly about for whatever reason. Visualize your bad feelings/resentments/grudges as dark clouds within you, within the other person, or on an imaginary string connecting the two of you.

6. Take Hashem’s light and send it to all of these dark clouds, one by one, until each of them evaporates or bursts. You can repeat this spiritual healing exercise with as many people as you can focus on at any given time. If necessary, you can continue at a different time.

7. Now send Hashem’s light and love to the person towards whom you had resentment. By sending light to someone that you have difficulty with, you have the ability to rectify your relationship with that person.

8. You may also send light to any person close to you. It could be a person you love very much, and who is in need of light and healing. See if you can feel where the person most needs this light from you, and direct your light to that place.

9. Keep sending light as long as you are able, and then wiggle your toes and fingers before opening your eyes. It is wonderful to repeat this meditation daily, opening yourself to receive Hashem’s light and sending it to different people in your life.

It is important to send love to everyone, especially to a person with whom we have difficulty relating. A friend of mine once had difficulty relating to one of her neighbors. They had had a dispute over trivialities. She decided to work on this by continually sending her neighbor love and light. One day, her neighbor sent her two challot for Shabbat (Shabbat bread), without there being any special occasion. Isn’t it amazing to experience the power of sending love to someone? It is so great that it can materialize into two Shabbat challot! This proves that sending love and light can overcome tension and difficulties that we may have with another person. This is what King Shlomo alluded to in his Proverbs:
 (ספר משלי פרק כז:יט) “כַּמַּיִם הַפָּנִים לַפָּנִים כֵּן לֵב הָאָדָם לָאָדָם”
“As in water, face answers to face, so the heart of man to man.”[4]

[1] Vayikra 19:18.
[2] The Thirteen Attributes of Mercy or Shelosh-Esreh Midot, enumerated in Shemot 34:6-7, are the attributes with which G*d governs the world.
[3] Yalkut Shimoni, Shir Hashirim, Chapter 5, Allusion 989.
[4] Mishlei 27:19.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Time-out for Self-reflection and Meditation

Parasha Meditation Tazria/Metzorah
Vayikra 12:1-15:33
Time out at the cliffs in the lower part of Bat Ayin
In Parashat Tazria we learn that a person must spend time in physical seclusion, truly alone during specific periods of his or her life. When we get out of sync, we need this aloneness in order to return physically and spiritually to a balanced state of being, before being ready to return to the community. Parashat Tazria opens with eight verses describing the seclusion and purification period that women were required to go through after giving birth. Although a new mother needs support from her family and community, she also needs time alone to integrate her life-changing experience, and re-emerge into the family and community as a new person.

The Ritual Impurity of Spiritual Disorder and Confusion
The remainder of the parasha describes the period of isolation of the person afflicted with tzara’at – a disease usually translated as leprosy, yet is more accurately translated as psoriasis.[2] This skin disease was only the outward physical symptom of a spiritual disorder or confusion. Rather than going to the doctor, people with symptoms of tzara’at had to turn to the Kohen – the spiritual healer. Only he was able to make the diagnosis of tzara’at, for which the prescribed treatment was immediate isolation. “All the days, during which the plague shall be in him, he shall be טָמֵא – tamé – ritually impure, he is טָמֵא – tamé. He shall dwell alone; outside the camp shall his habitation be.”[3]   

A Time for Silence
Today, even if we don’t experience the physical symptoms of tzara’at, we certainly don’t lack spiritual disorder and confusion. In our day-to-day, social media-infused lives, we interact continually, and often, in auto-pilot mode. When we feel confused, conflicted or in a state of imbalance, then seclusion, silence and time alone can provide an essential part of healing ourselves and our neshamah (soul). It may be helpful to turn to friends and family when we need support; yet, at some point, it will be time to turn inwards for answers. We need to take the time to sit again, to do the inner work that only we can do for ourselves.

Realigning Ourselves with Ourselves In the Torah, those afflicted with physical tzara’at were required to be physically secluded, in order to heal themselves; today, those affected with spiritual tzara’at – confusion, worry and lack of emunah – may benefit from the spiritual seclusion of meditation. Keep in mind that spiritual negativity is contagious. Whenever possible, we would do our community well by taking time out rather than burdening them with our complaints. When we are about to meditate, or during a meditation session, we may reflect over why we have chosen the silence and internal seclusion of meditation at that moment. How does meditation heal and rebalance you?

Meditation takes time. It can be hard to take this time out from all of our responsibilities. Yet, this time can be an offering for inner healing, and can bring more balance to our daily interactions with others, with whom our life is intertwined. Let us take some moments to rebalance ourselves with ourselves, return to our breath and see what arises.

1. Sit comfortably on a chair or cushion, and allow your breath to raise and lower your chest rhythmically. Notice how you are feeling at this moment, paying close attention to the places within you which could be more comfortable.

2. Breathe into your places of pain or discomfort and feel how the tension dissolves. Imagine your breath like a flashlight illuminating the dark parts of your soul. Breathe light into your confused, darkened spirit and experience how the darkness gradually flickers and turns into light.

3. Imagine walking alone through a dark tunnel, grabbing hold of the slippery walls and reaching the light at the end. A tall mountain meets your eye as you emerge from the tunnel. You start climbing the mountain. At first the earth is soft and sandy, and then gradually it turns more rocky and stony. You pass rows of trees with lush green leaves and exquisite spring flowers blooming close to the ground. Notice all their various colors and shapes.

4. Keep climbing up the mountain, while breathing rhythmically. Feel your heart beating as you continue climbing.

5. It seems like you have reached the peak, but each time you think you have reached the top of the mountain, there’s more distance to go. Finally, you see the rocky end of the trail. You reach the top and turn slowly to take in the entire, incredible view.

6. You are alone – בָּדָד – badad and at one with G*d’s creation. Being alone...being alive...feeling the greatest joys.

7. Inhale while visualizing going inward to the sound of בָּ – ba, exhale while visualizing the letters and the sound of דָד – dad. Repeat nine more times, and sit for a minute in silence, experiencing the Oneness of Hashem. Then walk down the mountain and return to yourself.

The Hebrew word for alone – בָּדָד – badad, from our Torah verse הוּא בָּדָד יֵשֵׁב – “…He shall dwell alone…”[4] has the numerical value of ten. Ten is the number that indicates the oneness within the multiplicity. Hashem Who is One manifests himself through the Ten Sefirot. Everything within this three-dimensional world has a beginning, an end and a middle. By its widths everything is also divided into three: right, left and middle. Similarly in its depth, it consists of inner, outer and middle. Together the lengths, widths and depth each have three dimensions which makes nine. The tenth dimension gives a space for these nine manifestations to exist.[5] Thus by sitting alone – בָּדָד – badad, we can experience our aloneness as part of the manifestation of Hashem’s oneness expressed through the ten dimensions of בָּדָד – badad.

[1] From the day following the Seder we count the Omer that reflected the barley offering during Temple times. During each of the seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuot, when we count the Omer, one of the seven emotional manifestations of Hashem is revealed. The first week during the holiday of Pesach corresponds to Chesed, the second week Gevurah, the third to Tiferet etc.
[2] Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica, Shai A, Vardy D, Zvulunov A (2002). [Psoriasis, biblical afflictions and patients' dignity] (in Hebrew). Harefuah 141 (5): 479–82, 496. PMID 12073533.
[3] Vayikra 13:46.
[4] Ibid.

[5] Rabbi Moshe Shatz, Ma’ayan Moshe, page 22.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Vessel for the Fire of Love and Excitement

Proud Mother!
Pesach is such a beautiful season of power and intensity. I have literally watched how the dry looking tree branches have woken up, opening new lush green leaves in just a couple of days. During Pesach, our love and passion awaken together with the unfolding of nature. This is why it is a minhag (custom) to read Shir HaShirim – Song of Songs on Pesach, as it describes the love between Hashem and His people. 

During this time of so much amazing light unfolding in nature, and in the world, we count the “Omer” – a particular measure of barley.[1] The period of counting the Omer became a time of semi-mourning because our vessels don’t quite measure up. The light of the time period between Pesach and Shavuot – the most glorious anticipation of Divine revelation – the month of Ziv – “radiance,”[2] has been darkened by the mourning for the students of Rabbi Akiva. They and we lack the proper vessels to contain all of the light and love.[3] Sefirat HaOmer (counting the Omer) teaches us how to encase our love and desire within the proper outer measure. This is also the lesson to learn from the “strange fire” that Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, sacrificed out of love and passion in this week’s parasha, which we read right after Pesach. Their light breaks through the boundary, missing proper vessels, in their lack of respect for their elders. 

I have designed this week’s meditation to help connect our holy intention – “light” with the proper outer Halachic boundary – “vessel.”

With Blessings of the Torah and the Land
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Don't miss Rebbetzin's haftorah commentary: The Dance of David: Haftorat Parashat Shemini

Parasha Meditation Shemini
Vayikra 9:1-11:47
“The sons of Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, each took his fire pan, placed within it fire and put incense upon it. And they [thus] offered a strange fire before Hashem, one that He did not command of them. And a fire came forth from before Hashem and devoured them and they died before Hashem.”[4]

Their Fire of Love and Excitement
What was so terribly wrong with the act of Aharon’s sons that they had to pay for it with their lives? After all, they were holy men, and very close to Hashem.[5] They didn’t have in mind to sin at all. On the contrary, when they saw the new fire which descended from heaven to consume the burnt offering, they desired to add their own fire out of the excitement of their love for the holy.[6] This is learned from the word וַיִּקְחוּ – vayikru – “They took,” which denotes happiness.[7]

Acting upon Spontaneous Feeling without Consulting the Lawgivers
The problem was that they did something they were not commanded to do, as it states in the Torah verse quoted above: “They offered a strange fire before Hashem, one that He did not command of them…” They took the initiative on their own, to do what they thought was right, without first checking with the established authority of their father and uncle, Aharon and Moshe. While some might interpret this as a good thing, it is evident that G*d did not! This way of acting is considered taking Divine service lightly.[8]

Halacha – the Vessel for our Love
Today, in our generation of “love” rather than “fear,” we all too often experience the desire to act spontaneously, expressing our personal love and excitement, without first making sure that our actions are in accordance with accepted halacha (Jewish law). Yes, it is important not to become halachic robots, discussing hairsplitting differences of exactly how many grams of matzah we need to eat at the Seder night within a particular amount of minutes, without any feeling of love and excitement for the mitzvah of eating matzah. On the other hand, we cannot just follow our heart by lighting the Shabbat candles overflowing with deep intentional devotion five minutes after sunset. While we must strive to emulate the passion of Aharon’s sons, we mustn’t forget that the lives of Aharon’s sons were taken in order to teach the importance of balancing inner personal intention with correct outer action. The measurements of halacha are the vessels to contain our light of love and excitement. Without the proper vessels, this light becomes a strange fire!

Sit down in a relaxed, comfortable position and close your eyes.

1. Raise your right hand in front of your face and take a complete inhalation and exhalation. Close your left nostril with your middle and ring fingers, and inhale slowly through your right nostril. Now, closing your right nostril with your thumb, exhale through your left nostril.

2. Now, while closing your left nostril again with your middle and ring fingers, breathe in all the air you can through your right nostril on a count of 4.

3. Close your right nostril with your thumb, placing your index finger on the ridge of your nose. Hold your breath for a count of 2, then slowly open your left nostril by removing your middle and ring fingers, and breathe out slowly to a count of 8.

4. Now breathe into your left nostril to a count of 4. This time, close the left nostril with your middle and ring fingers, with the index finger on the ridge of your nose, and hold your breath for a count of 2. Then breathe out from your right nostril to a count of 8. Repeat this cycle up to five times. You may pause this recording while you do this.

5. Put your hand down now and breathe naturally. Allow your mind to scan your consciousness for a mitzvah you particularly connect with. It could be a special part of a Jewish holiday service, or a mitzvah between people such as guarding our tongue or visiting the sick.

6. Dwell in your mind’s eye on one mitzvah you personally feel a great passion for – a mitzvah you really enjoy.

7. Now imagine doing this mitzvah not only with your ultimate love and excitement, but also with precision and attention to detail. Note the correct timing and amounts of the action, in addition to the particular words needed to be pronounced correctly.

8. Resolve to study up on the details of your favorite mitzvah and/or consult a rabbinic authority for fine-tuning your chosen mitzvah.

Rashi teaches us that the death of Aharon’s sons took place by two threads of fire entering into their nostrils and extracting their souls from their bodies.[9] The nostrils connect our body with our soul. Actually, soul in Hebrew – neshamah – shares the same root with the Hebrew word for “breathing” – neshimah. This is because when Hashem originally imbued the first human being with a soul, “He breathed a living soul into his nostrils.”[10] By slowing our breath and breathing in a measured way, we can fine-tune our connection between body and soul – between action and intention.

[1] Barley in Hebrew is שעורה from the Hebrew root שעור that means measure.
[2] I Melachim 6:1.
[3] The main building of vessels take place by showing proper respect, which was what the students of Rabbi Akiva lacked.
[4] Vayikra 10:1-2.
[5] “I will be sanctified through those who are close to me” (Ibid. 3).
[6] Yalkut Shimoni, Vayikra, 10, Allusion 525.
[7] Note the same word is also used to mean “marriage,” the epitome of love and excitement.
[8] Rabbi Moshe David Valle, top student of the Ramchal, commentary to Vayikra (Avodat HaKodesh).
[9] Rashi, Vayikra 10:5.
[10] Bereishit 2:7.