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


The Secret To Oneness (and the Shema)

“This Torah shall not be removed from your mouth”  Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai that even if a person would just recite the Shema in the morning and the evening, he fulfills this mitzvah of “not removing the Torah from one’s mouth.” The lesson is that if you fall short of your goal, you have to focus on the good that you have done, because each person is only expected to do as much as they can, given where they’re starting from. If they do that, it’s as if that person has fulfilled all of Torah.   I remember learning the power of the Shema (שְׁמַע) as a little kid. It felt like I was in the world of Harry Potter and someone had clued me into the Patronus charm, so if I put myself …

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If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change

My mom was born in 47, and would have been 74 today. I miss her every second. She taught Talmud to women, made sculptures, painted, played accordion and became a partner/CPA at a firm in DC .. I mean, she was a badass Yemenite Jewess, and I see her in my kids and I’m thankful for that. I can’t not tear up just writing even this little bit about her.  I’m just trying to stay in the @dontblockyourblessings and @thelightofinfinite space as much as it’s possible, as it’s been helped heal my broken heart. I learned almost everything from my mom, by just seeing how she navigated and loved the journey of it all. We connected on so many things, but one of the most special was going to concerts together; two in particular stood out – one was Buena …

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Only God Can Judge Me

Tisha B’av is the most somber day in the Jewish calendar. It’s sobering to think that thousands of years ago, we were on top of the world: in the Promised Land, with our Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple), fully connected to the Divine. And how quickly– in just three weeks– that connection was destroyed. When you really consider a loss like that, no matter how ephemeral it may be in the bigger picture, it’s weight can feel unbearable.  The Biur Halacha explains that Devarim is always read on the Shabbat prior to Tisha B’av so that Moshe’s tochacha (admonition or reproof) to the Jews will coincide with the Tisha B’Av period. But before jumping into this parashah, it’s important to understand the cyclical nature of time in Jewish history and how the events surrounding Tisha B’av echo throughout time. To give some …

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Don’t Play No Games That I Can’t Win

Thinking about nedarim (vows) in this parashah brought to mind a song from my favorite band, The Beastie Boys, dubbed, “Don’t Play No Games That I Can’t Win,” featuring Santigold. It’s one of the main singles off their album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. (They never intended to make a Part One. Maybe any piece of art that’s actually released is actually Part Two, as Part One is only known to its creator.) The song title came to mind because I was thinking about how often people say that they will do things “bli neder”, without vowing to do them. It’s a way for people to say “I do intend to do this, but without the weight of a vow”. It’s a way to play the game and ensure that you never lose. The verse that opens our double parashah …

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That Yemenite Kid

My Great-grandfather (Saba Shelomo, pictured here with my mom and Savta) and my Grandfather (Saba Shalom pictured with his wife Yedida) passed away on the same day, and their אזכרה (Yahrtzeit) is tonight!  Their names & dates are Saba Shalom ben Shelomo Zipor z”l  25 Tammuz 5760 // Saba HaGadol Shelomo ben Salah Safar z”l, 25 Tammuz 5744. I have so many memories of Saba Shalom, but hearing from my uncle (סיימון אורגד ציפור) and sister about how he came to pass away on the same day as his father blew me away. My sister told me that he waited so that he wouldn’t be burdensome to anyone. He wanted his אזכרה (Yahrtzeit) to be the same as his father’s so that no one would have to go out of their way for him, which was his personality. My uncle explained …

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How To Levitate After Every Fall

There’s one kind of religious thought, which now feels antiquated, that teaches that a person should never fall into sin and that only in the purest state can they reach unification with the Divine and all the blessings that come with it. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov was controversial in his time and had many that railed against him because he shined a light on the profound spiritual elevation one can reach because of our fallen moments. We see throughout the Torah, and especially through the Temple sacrifices, that in a moment of sin, we have an opportunity to draw close to Hashem. This is why when the Temple was destroyed, the Rabbis instituted the daily tefillah (prayer), so that Jews would still have a way to elevate themselves, including in those fallen moments. In the Talmud and Zohar, prayer is …

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The Other Side

I want to apologize if this dvar is shorter and not as in depth as some of the previous ones. I’m writing this from Utah, where I’m spending the week with my kids, cliff jumping and jet skiing. Needless to say, it’s been a bit tough to spend the amount of time required to learn and write. But being one with nature in this way is what keeps the flames of my fire ignited so that we can approach Torah with love. It’s about choosing life, in a way that is in harmony with Torah and not, God forbid, with the Sitra Achra (the Other Side) — staying in a constant state of curiosity and wonder.  Now to the Parashah dubbed “Balak”… Balak was the king of Moab and was threatened by the Israelites wandering near his land with Moshe …

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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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