Your Spiritual DJ: Curating insights into the weekly Torah portion and the infinite light of Kabbalah

As physical creatures, we can’t fully defeat the forces of fate; we’re constricted by time and space. But our souls-- the parts of us that are infinite-- can reach beyond these constrictions. It’s only when we choose with our souls to surpass our limitations that we can connect to the true, everlasting, joyful freedom that can only be found in the Light of the Infinite

How To Never Get Angry

“The best fighter is never angry.” ― Lao Tzu Being unhappy is a vicious cycle. It can lead to worry, anxiety, anger, depression. And each of these can trigger any of the others. Anger is toxic to your body and soul, often triggering one’s ‘fight or flight’ response, which floods the body with stress hormones (e.g. adrenaline and cortisol.) This could manifest in all sorts of health, nervous system, and digestive problems. The cure for all this is easier said than done but it begins with a healthy perspective, with trust and faith that all is for the good and that everything will work out. I went through periods of depression when everything in my life was seemingly good. I wasn’t poor or friendless or in dire straits, but, in the way I viewed my life, I might as well …

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Revolt vs. Redemption

יִּֽקָּהֲל֞וּ עַל־מֹשֶׁ֣ה וְעַֽל־אַהֲרֹ֗ן וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ אֲלֵהֶם֮ רַב־לָכֶם֒ כִּ֤י כָל־הָֽעֵדָה֙ כֻּלָּ֣ם קְדֹשִׁ֔ים וּבְתוֹכָ֖ם ה’ וּמַדּ֥וּעַ תִּֽתְנַשְּׂא֖וּ עַל־קְהַ֥ל ה They demonstrated against Moses and Aharon and declared to them, “You have gone too far! All the community are holy, all of them, and God is with them. Why are you setting yourselves above God’s congregation?”  The Ibn Ezra holds that Korach’s rebellion actually took place earlier than when we encounter the story in the Torah. He says, “the Torah text is not chronological”, and that this rebellion actually happened when the Levites replaced the bechorah (firstborn) in the Temple service. Korach and his faction demanded that the honor and status that the firstborn once had, prior to the sin of the Golden Calf, be restored. They believed that Moshe had acted on his own, giving the honors and duties of the High Priest …

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Out of Sight, Out of Mind

“Out of sight, out of mind” is a very truthful line. Anyone who has gone through a breakup might remember how seemingly impossible it feels to stop thinking about your ex all the time, seeing them either in person or in your mind. But when you stop seeing them physically, you start seeing them less in your mind, and eventually the preoccupation subsides.  This week’s Parashah, Shelach, teaches us how to do the opposite for God, how to keep Hashem always in mind, even if He is, in some ways, always out of sight. As it says in Tehillim (Psalms), גַּל־עֵינַ֥י וְאַבִּ֑יטָה נִ֝פְלָא֗וֹת מִתּוֹרָתֶֽךָ Open my eyes, that I may behold the wonders of Your Torah.  The pesukim (passages/commandments) below contain so much wisdom on how to open our eyes. The deep kabbalistic and mystical power of tzitzit are a …

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The Secret To Never Falling

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֗ה לְ֠חֹבָ֠ב בֶּן־רְעוּאֵ֣ל הַמִּדְיָנִי֮ חֹתֵ֣ן מֹשֶׁה֒ נֹסְעִ֣ים ׀ אֲנַ֗חְנוּ אֶל־הַמָּקוֹם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אָמַ֣ר ה’ אֹת֖וֹ אֶתֵּ֣ן לָכֶ֑ם לְכָ֤ה אִתָּ֙נוּ֙ וְהֵטַ֣בְנוּ לָ֔ךְ כִּֽי ה’ דִּ’בֶּר־ט֖וֹב עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ Moshe said to his father-in-law, Chovev, son of Reuel the Midianite, “We are now on our way to the place that Hashem promised to give us. Come with us and we will let you share the benefit of all the good things that Hashem has promised Israel.” In this week’s Parashah, Behaalotecha, we read yet again of the land we are promised, the land we are named so preciously after– Israel. On the way to the land, the Israelites complain of the suffering they experience wandering in the desert. Rashi says the Israelites complained, “How weary we have become on the road; we have not rested for days.” They also complained about the manna, because even if …

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The Secret To Blessing

יְבָרֶכְךָ֥ ה’ וְיִשְׁמְרֶֽךָ׃ יָאֵ֨ר ה’ פָּנָ֛יו אֵלֶ֖יךָ וִֽיחֻנֶּֽךָּ׃ יִשָּׂ֨א ה’ פָּנָיו֙ אֵלֶ֔יךָ וְיָשֵׂ֥ם לְךָ֖ שָׁלֽוֹם May God bless you and keep watch over you. May God make His presence enlighten you and grant you grace. May God direct His providence toward you and grant you peace.  This week’s Parashah, Naso, teaches us about blessings. My favorite of all blessings is this verse above. I say it every Friday night to my two sons (דובי & משי) as I place my hands on their heads. I meditate on the meaning of the words and my love for them as I kiss their foreheads. This blessing is also known as the ברכת כהנים/Birkat Kohanim, the Priestly Blessing, which has been performed since Biblical times. It is said to this day during the Musaf tefillah (prayer) on Shabbat and Holidays. The Levites in …

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The Dance with the Divine

This week, we near the end of Sefirat HaOmer, the counting of the days between Pesach and Shavuot. This counting is meant to prepare us to receive the living Torah on Shavuot; it is our ascendance to what the Kabbalah calls the 50th Gate, the Gate of Understanding (Binah). All of this begins with Pesach, which in Likutei Halachot is explained as ‘Peh Sach’, literally “a talking mouth”. This means that the only way to reach the upper levels of holiness is through speech, through tefillah (prayer), the true speech of calling out to God. The blessings you receive correlate to the words that you speak– this is the power of counting out loud with the blessings of Sefirat HaOmer. The opening verse of this week’s parashah, Bamidbar, reads: וַיְדַבֵּ֨ר ה’ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֛ה בְּמִדְבַּ֥ר “And God spoke to Moses in the …

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Mental Health & Radical Responsibility

This month is devoted to mental health and breaking the stigma of struggling with it. Now, more than ever, we need to show love and empathy to each other. The Tzemach Tzedek (1789–1866) taught us to think of ourselves as vessels for blessings. He would say in Yiddish, “Tracht gut, vet zein gut” which translates as “Think good, and it will be good.” Literally, the act of believing in a blessing is the vessel for receiving it. Getting your mind, body, and spirit into the mode of preparing for and accepting blessings, living with complete faith that they will come– that is how you receive blessings. The converse is also true, making it that much more important to focus on the good. Each of us has the power to uplift those around us. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov said, “With happiness, …

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All Reap, No Sow

דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם כִּ֤י תָבֹ֙אוּ֙ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֲנִ֖י נֹתֵ֣ן לָכֶ֑ם וְשָׁבְתָ֣ה הָאָ֔רֶץ שַׁבָּ֖ת לַהי  Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I give you, the land shall observe a Sabbath rest for Hashem.  We have discussed the Sabbath as a day of rest for Hashem and for us. In last week’s Parashah, we covered the Shalosh Regalim (the High Holy Days), which the Torah also calls Shabbat, days of rest. In this parsha, Behar-Bechukotai, we are taught about the Sabbath for the land of Israel: for six years we may sow the field, prune the vineyards, and gather crops, but in the seventh year, the land shall have “a Sabbath of complete rest, a Sabbath for Hashem; you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard…. A complete …

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Finding Grace in Time

If you’ve been reading the dvar Torahs I have been writing the past couple months, then you probably have a sense of how much I love Shabbat. Just feeling connected to Hashem, disconnecting from the everyday world, meditating on having been created– it’s an incredible, ineffable feeling. In this Parashah of Emor, Hashem gives us the commandment of Shabbat and of the Festivals, which are also referred to as Shabbat, “a holy occasion… a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.” We are commanded to join in a Shabbat to Hashem. So, what’s it all about?   We learn from Hashem that words create worlds. In the beginning, Hashem spoke existence into being. Tefillah, prayer, is our daily method of emulating G-d, speaking spirituality into reality. But on Shabbat and the Festivals, we can focus on just that, without …

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The Secret to Love

Ahava (ah-ha-va)/אהבה/love. In Hebrew, the root word for ‘love’ is ‘hav’ which means “to give”. Loving is synonymous with giving — as real love is created. As The Beatles say, “The love you take is equal to the love you make.” You see this most clearly in the love a parent gives to their child. As a baby, the child’s existence fully depends on the parent giving of themselves at every moment. This tireless giving creates an attachment stronger than any other kind– profound, unconditional love. So the greater the giving, the deeper the love. In his TED Talk, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks suggested to his audience that they run a Search-and-Replace operation on the texts of their minds and substitute every instance of the word “self” with the word “other.” So instead of trying to do “self-help”, you would do “other-help”; …

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