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We are a community of Hebrew Seminary faculty, staff, rabbinical students, lifelong learners, Kabbalists, scholars, spiritual seekers and kind supporters.

The mission of Hebrew Seminary is to train rabbis and Jewish educators to serve all Jewish communities, including the deaf community. Hebrew Seminary has been an inclusive and egalitarian community for the study and practice of Judaism since our founding in 1992.

We hope that within this blog you will discover moments of insight and inspiration, practical and spiritual guidance, as well as a path to further study.

Along the way, let us know your thoughts!

Life in the Divine Presence!

Sefer Assiyah September 2019

In This Issue:

  • Teachings and link to photos from our summer event
  • Mazel tov to recent graduate Rabbi Dr. Rivka Glick!
  • Invitation to our Interfaith Thanksgiving Service

This summer our Hebrew Seminary community explored and reflected upon the Jewish practices of Mindfulness, Kavvanah, and Meditative Focus: the Three Roads to Prayer and Daily Living. Hebrew President, Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer began the program teaching us how these three techniques work together to bring us closer to God.

“Today we will discuss Meditation and Mindfulness and Kavvanah. Yes, I know when I meditate I strongly feel the Presence of God. Yet, meditation does not make me holy. I am already holy. You are already holy.  Meditation does not make you into someone else. Meditation allows you to be who you are.

The Torah, Leviticus 19, already says we are holy. There is no becoming. Meditation does not make you holy. You are already holy.  Psalm 46:11 teaches us “Be still and know that I am God.”  Meditation allows you to be who you are. If you are still, quieting your body, heart and mind, then you will know that the “I” or the Self that you are right now is a manifestation of God.

The English word “meditation” comes from the Latin word “medi,” which means “center” That’s why people talk about getting centered when discussing meditation. You touch your center. We also know it is also getting in touch with the center of all life.

Each practice takes time to create the space to experience and even hear at times the Infinite Alef or Hashem.  Jewish Meditation lifts each one of us to the One. And it brings us back to being one with one another.

Each meditative practice must be done with kavvanah.  Jewish prayer begins with kavvanah. To pray with kavvanah means to pray with focus, intention and meaning, because the root of kavvanah in Hebrew is kaven, which is from the verb kaf vav nun, meaning “to direct.” So kavvanah on the simplest level is “meaning” or “AIM.”

There are three ways to practice kavvanah in prayer.  The Hebrew word for prayer is tefilla. To do prayer with kavvanah, you need to internalize the words – which means, you need to know the meaning of the Hebrew words that you are praying. The second component of kavvanah in prayer is recognizing that one is praying to fulfill the mitzvah of prayer. A third element of kavvanah is recognizing that one is praying in the Presence of God – just like it says above us on our Ark , “Know before whom you stand.”  Mindfulness, Meditation, Kavvanah – three roads that lead to prayer. Each different and yet each the same.”   

Executive Director Alison Brown, our second presenter, shared Rabbi Goldhamer’s meditation, “Become a Channel of God’s Healing Energy Using the Name of God Yah.” This meditation, based on Ezekiel 36:26 and found in Rabbi’s book Healing with God’s Love and at hebrewseminary.org, is an example of a guided concentration meditation. Here attention is focused on the Holy Spirit, Ruach HaKodesh, “and a new ruach I will put in you.” Meditations such as this trigger a relaxation response in your body. Practiced over time this ability to relax changes your response to stress. Focusing on the kavvanah, the intention of becoming one with Ruach HaKodesh is a two-for-one meditation. You develop your relaxation response and experience an expansive, holy refuge in consciousness.

Most days we rush to and from meetings and projects, scurrying texts and emails in between hoping to get out the door at some elusive point for social gatherings and appointments. Still, in the present moment God awaits. In the Presence lies our cultural inheritance. Our forefathers tended flocks, pausing regularly to meditate in green pastures. This cultural inheritance is what scientists call gene-culture co-evolution. Language and social awareness prompted natural selection to guide the development of our brains and nervous systems.  Our inherited pastoral consciousness may be a gifted propensity that, with kavannah, with intention, we can experience, enjoy and wire to more reliably fire. This present moment consciousness can stride to the forefront and embrace you wherever you are.

Recently my grandson was under the weather. He was lying on the couch with my son when Jagger said, “You can cuddle with us Cocoa!” The present, the Presence of love embraced me. This was a Shehekheyanu, God helped me reach this moment, lazman hazeh, at this holy time. Pay particular attention to the rewarding aspects of these experiences, big and small. Be grateful for them, focus on the feelings surrounding them, and call them up when you need them to support your well-being in trying times. Shehekheyanu moments strengthen neural associations, they make memories, and they change our genes.

Another example of a concentration meditation, practiced by 16th century Jewish mystics in Safed, is gerushin. Practitioners read or recite from memory a single word, such as Shalom, or several verses of Jewish text for unstructured meditative explorations, or to connect with sages past, to help solve a problem or to guide daily life.

As an example, at Hebrew Seminary’s event I shared Pirkei Avot, Chapter 1: Mishnah 15. I recite this text with kavvanah in hopes of becoming this person:

            שַׁמַּאי אוֹמֵר, עֲשֵׂה תוֹרָתְךָ קֶבַע. אֱמֹר מְעַט וַעֲשֵׂה הַרְבֵּה, וֶהֱוֵי מְקַבֵּל אֶת כָּל הָאָדָם בְּסֵבֶר פָּנִים יָפוֹת:

Shammai used to say: make your [study of the] Torah a fixed practice; speak little, but do much; and receive all men with a pleasant countenance.

G-d dwells in the shared place within and between us. It is known that turning up the corners of your mouth, a cheerful countenance, opens your heart to the moment, our shared space and the Presence.

Rabbi Dr. Roberta Glick, our third presenter, spoke of how she enters the world of prayer and blessing:

And just as we read the same Torah portion each year and   derive different meanings from it, because we are different. We see different things in the same words. Similarly, when I prayed daily with this mindful focused more poetic intention, kavvanah, of connection, oneness, love, it made me stop and pay attention to how I was at that moment, what I felt, what I needed. Like taking your temperature. When I took this mindful pause, I indeed found that I was different each day. The formal liturgy became my anchor. And the words, albeit the same, took me to different places, and evoked different feelings, each day. Commitment is also essential to spiritual practice; you have to do the work, the homework, even when you don’t feel like it.    This is what taking on the yoke of heaven means to me: commitment. Like in any love relationship. But is prayer these personal emotions, or the communal recitation of fixed words? It is both; and we need both. “Sometimes words lead us to feelings; sometimes feelings lead us to words” Heschel elegantly stated.

I enter prayer with this type of consciousness. The soul is always praying. Prayer is a love poem, an intimacy of the soul and G-d. It’s an opportunity to step outside our self, and to connect to the perfect. It’s a clarification of ourselves: who we are, our needs and desires, if we look deeply within our self.  It’s looking in the mirror and seeing who we really are. Tefillah as Self-examination. Self-Judgment. Again, Rav Kook: Prayer does not change G-d. Prayer changes us.

Roberta’s insight into prayer is an important reminder of prayer’s power and embracing space. She adds:

        In prayer, we create our image of G-d, our imagining G-d as we need, Lover, Mother, Father, Fountain of life, Healer, Judge, All Being, Ain Sof, Echad. Therefore, I suggest that the greatest creation of all is the human consciousness.  Judaism has to be one of the most imaginative creative religions. Our words create our consciousness; hopefully they are seeds of lovingkindness, generosity, justice and compassion. Torah and the siddur are our spiritual guides, our spiritual tools. Torah is G-d speaking to us;     Prayer is us speaking to G-d. And the connecting thread is love, as we try to sacredly attune to the Divine. Tune in.

Mazel tov to Rabbi Dr. Rivka Glick, awarded smicha by
Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer on Sunday, August 25, 2019!

In 1204, the greatest teacher of Jewish thought and law passed away in Egypt. His teachings, initially in Spain and then in the Middle East, became revered the world over. What makes his teachings super unique is that Maimonides, or Rambam as he was called, was also the greatest physician of his time. He was the greatest physician and the greatest Rabbi of the 12th century. He wrote and taught the world over on medicine and Jewish thought. Rabbi Dr. Rivka Glick continues in the tradition of being a physician/surgeon and a scholarly Rabbi. Her thesis discussing the presence of God in our life continues in the tradition of the great Maimonides. Mazel Tov and thank you. – Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer.

Mindfulness, Kavvanah, and Meditative Focus: the Three Roads to Prayer and Daily Living photos can be enjoyed on our website hebrewseminary.org!

Be nochahut, be present and enjoy this expansive moment.

Interfaith Thanksgiving Service

Congregation Bene Shalom and Hebrew Seminary

invite you to join us in an affirmation

of life and unity and gratitude.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Beginning at 2:30pm

Clergy leaders from the community will come together to guide us in prayer, song and meditation. We will gain inspiration and strength from one another, and also celebrate all that we are grateful for at this time of year.

Congregation Bene Shalom  & Hebrew Seminary
4435 Oakton Street, Skokie,IL
847 / 679-4113
 

Please bring small toiletries

(e.g., soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, tissue, wipes)

to donate for refugee support in partnership with HIAS


BECOME A CHANNEL OF GOD’S HEALING ENERGY USING THE NAME OF GOD YAH

By Hebrew Seminary President Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer

1. Go to your mi’at meekdash (small holy place) and sit on a comfortable chair with your back in the upright position, and your feet planted firmly on the floor. Wear comfortable clothing and loosen up your tie or belt.

2. Breathe in deeply and gently through your nostrils and as you breath in count silently 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. (This is the numerical equivalent of Yod) Without holding your breath between inhaling and exhaling, exhale through your nostrils silently, counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. (The exhaling should take half as long as the inhaling.)

3. When you inhale, or exhale, you must maintain the internal dynamic that you are breathing in the Life Force of God, and that your breath and His breath are becoming One. You must recognize within the depths of your soul that you are becoming one with the Holy Spirit, Ruach HaKodesh.

4. As you breath in through your nostrils, your vision should not be God‘s breath coming in through your nostrils, but you should visualize with your koach dimyon (imagination) that God‘s Breath or Energy is filling your head area. And, as you breathe out, through your nostrils, your vision should not be God‘s Breath leaving your nostrils, but God‘s Breath or Energy flowing from your head into your heart and through your heart into the world.

5. Repeat this cycle five times.

When we breathe in God‘s Ruach, with kavvanah, we create Ruach HaKodesh; that is, we become One with the Holy Spirit.

Copyright © 2015 by Douglas Goldhamer and Peggy Bagley

Fall Semester 2019

September 8, 2019 – January 23, 2020

Classes below are open to the public with permission of the teacher.

Tuesday

12:45 – 2:15 Rabbi Cantor Michael Davis
Midrash Rabbah & Homiletics* 

Wednesday 

10:00 – 11:30 Rabbi Pinchas Eisenbach / Linda Clark
Talmud – Pastoral Counseling                                               

Thursday

10:00   – 10:45
Minyan with Tefillin * 

11:00 – 1:00 Rabbi Daniel Vaisrub
Talmud — Avot

Sunday

12:00 – 1:30 (Begins Oct. 27) Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer
Practical Application of Kabbalah*

1:30 – 3:00 Rahmiel Hayyim Drizin
Zohar—Beginning of the Zohar: “The Thirteen-Petalled Rose”*

*Class descriptions:

Midrash Rabbah & Homiletics 

From the earliest times of the synagogue, rabbis have interpreted the Torah to their congregations. In ancient times, this tradition was called Midrash. Later, the techniques of storytelling, intertextual reading, commentary and down-to-earth inspiration became known as homiletics. Whether you are a rabbinic student or a leader in a havurah, these are necessary skills that you can bring to your community. If you are curious about rabbinic school, this is a good course to check it out. THIRD YEAR STUDENTS enrolled in this class will have the opportunity to deliver a sermon at Congregation Bene Shalom.

Practical Application of Kabbalah


Do you want love? Do you want more money? Do you want to have more time for yourself? Do you want more time to help others (which also brings God into the world.) Do you want to feel God in your life just as you do with your best friend? This class is for you!

Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer will share his translations of Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapiro’s (1889-1943) works and other works written by Kabbalists such as Isaac Luria and Chaim Vital and others on the practical application of the Kabbalah. Rabbi Goldhamer says, “I was amazed during my study this summer to learn how the Kabalah should be used and could be used very practically in your life.”

Zohar–Beginning of the Zohar:  “The Thirteen-Petalled Rose”

The first class on September 8th will be an introduction to the High Holidays, and is open to all.

Minyan with Tefillin

All are invited!

Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer will begin the semester teaching the mitzvah of wearing Tefillin and demonstrate how to don them. Faculty is invited to share their Shacharit minhagim by leading services from time to time. Students will take turns leading prayers with the goal of leading services. This minyan will serve as Hebrew Seminary’s Hebrew Practicum (as well as a mitzvah and chavarah building!) There is no tuition charge or creditfor this practicum.

This class will start after the High Holidays.

Call Alison Brown for more information 847/ 679-4113.

I Knew You Once

By Stacey Zisook Robinson

I remember your kindness
In the desert.
We wandered there
In the dry air
that carried the scent of almonds.

Oh! my Beloved,
You spread salvation before me,
Cast in iron
and tasting of copper,
pockmarked,
eroded with the weight of centuries
and rain.
My bridal veil is trampled
before those walls
And the bread of
Blessing
is dust in my mouth.

But I remember your kindness.

I knew you once,
Before ever the land was sown –
This land that lays heavy with dew
And sacred grains
and the blood of princes
and priests
and children,
Who fought for
the glory of your Name,
Or no Name at all,
But for Glory alone.
They prostrate themselves before altars
That once were Yours,
Now reeking of incense and
Want.

But I remember your kindness,
My Beloved;
I knew you once,
and I felt the salvation
You offered
Like a cooling balm.
And I will weep for the land;
I will weep for the dying;
I will weep for the lost.
And I will sing praises to your name.



Based upon Jeremiah 1:1 – 2:3
Haftarah – Pinchas

Shiviti Adonai L’negdi Tamid Meditation

שִׁוִּ֬יתִי יְהוָ֣ה לְנֶגְדִּ֣י תָמִ֑יד

Shiviti Yod Hey Vav Hey L’negdi Tamid

“I place  יהוה  Y H V H before me always.”   (Psalms 16:8)

שִׁוִּ֬יתִי אֲדֹנָי לְנֶגְדִּ֣י תָמִ֑יד

Shiviti Adonai L’negdi Tamid

“I place Adonai before me always.”

1. Close your eyes and focus your attention on your breathing, concentrating as you breathe in and out for a minute or two.

2. Recite the verse¸ “Shiviti Adonai L’negdi Tamid, I place Aleph, Dalet, Nun, Yud before me always.”

Feel, say and know, “I activate the Shekhinah (the feminine presence of God) within me always.”

3.  First, you focus on the crown of your head. Try to feel a slight vibration and light pressure.  Then you say, “Shiviti Adonai….(“I activate Adonai (Feminine Presence) within me always.”) Then see the light increase greatly on your crown and feel increased vibration on the crown of your head.  Visualize Adonai in green on the crown of your head.

4.  Feel your right forehead vibrating slightly and visualize a pale light over the right forehead.  Repeat “Shiviti Adonai….”(“I activate Adonai…)” and see your forehead and the right side of your face now covered with a strong light .  Feel the whole right side of the face and forehead vibrating strongly.  See Adonai written in green characters on your right forehead.

5.  Repeat the same for the left forehead….

6.  Now look at your right shoulder. Feel it vibrating slowly; see it covered in pale light. Put your arms straight out. Recite “Shiviti Adonai…” Feel your right arm vibrating noticeably. See your whole right arm covered in light.  See Adonai written in green characters on your right shoulder.

7. Repeat the same for the left shoulder/arm.

8.  Now feel your solar plexus vibrating slowly, see it covered in pale light.  Recite “Shiviti Adonai….”  Feel your whole chest area now filled with a strong light, and vibrating strongly.  See Adonai written in green characters on your solar plexus.

9.  Now feel your right hip vibrating slowly and visualize a pale light over the right hip. Repeat “Shiviti Adonai….” See your right hip and right leg now covered with a strong light and vibrating strongly. See Adonai written in green characters on your right hip.

10.  Do the same for the left hip/leg.

11.  Focus on your lower abdomen.  Feel your lower abdomen vibrating slowly and visualize a pale light over the lower abdomen.  Repeat “Shiviti Adonai…” See your lower abdomen now covered with a strong light and vibrating strongly. See Adonai written in green characters on your lower abdomen.

12.  Now feel your feet vibrating slowly, and covered in a pale light.  Repeat “Shiviti Adonai…” See your feet now covered with a strong light and vibrating strongly.  See Adonai written in green characters across your feet.

13. Feel and know that the purpose of this meditation is to liberate Adonai/Shekhinah from Her exile and one way in which we do this is to visualize Her on our different energy centers, the Sefirot. When we do this each sefirah vibrates communicating to the sefirot above, below and next to it.

14. Recite and visualize the verse in the two permutations below¸

Shiviti אדני L’negdi Tamid, I place Adonai, אדני [in green letters] before me always.”

&  “Shiviti Yod Hey Vav Hey, יהוה,  L’negdi Tamid”, שִׁוִּ֬יתִי יְהוָ֣ה לְנֶגְדִּ֣י תָמִ֑יד,  

“I place  יהוה  Y H V H [in purple letters] before me always.”

15. Recognize that Adonai, the feminine presence of God and Y-H-V-H, the masculine presence of God, are identical. Adonai, the Shekhinah resides within us. We visualized אדני Adonai written externally on our energy centers. She is waiting to be joined by יהוה  Y H V H.

When they are joined, the feminine presence of God is completely liberated. When Adonai (in green) and Y H V H (in purple) are joined together we help complete God, Hashem shleimut. This complete God, made up of feminine and masculine qualities, vibrates powerfully inspiring each of us to be more healthy, more strong, more happy and like God, more complete.

16. Move through the sefirotic energy centers as above (#3) and visualize יאהדונהי YAHDVNHY in Hebrew, alternating purple and green as appropriate, knowing that you are becoming more healthy, strong, happy and complete.

Seminary Class Open to the Hebrew Reading Public

An 8-week class, beginning June 25th – August 13, 2019

Tuesdays 1:15 – 2:45                                
Midrash Tanhuma & Homiletics 
Rabbi Michael Davis

From the earliest times of the synagogue, rabbis have interpreted the Torah to their congregations. In ancient times, this tradition was called Midrash. Later, the techniques of storytelling, intertextual reading, commentary and down-to-earth inspiration became known as homiletics. Whether you are a rabbinic student or a leader in a havurah, these are necessary skills that you can bring to your community. Hebrew Seminary is offering a special, introductory rate this summer. If you are curious about rabbinic school, this is a good course to check it out.

Special auditing tuition rate $200

Rabbi Michael DavisProfessor of Midrash

Cantor Davis received a traditional yeshiva education and is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in musicology. He trained as a cantor in Israel, where he also served as a chaplain in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Cantor Davis received his investiture (cantorial ordination) in the United States, from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s School of Sacred Music. Cantor Davis is a member of the American Conference of Cantors (ACC) where he has served on the Certification Committee for ordaining cantors at the School of Sacred Music-Hebrew Union College. Cantor Michael Davis joined Lakeside Congregation as its first cantor in 2003.  In 2015 he was ordained as a rabbi at Hebrew Seminary.  Rabbi Cantor Michael Davis currently serves as rabbi at Makom Shalom in Chicago.  He has served on the faculty of the Hebrew Seminary training future rabbis in classic Hebrew and Aramaic text since 2009.

Mindfulness, Kavvanah, and Meditative Focus: Three Roads to Prayer and Daily Living

Sunday, June 30, 2019
2:00 – 3:30 pm
at Hebrew Seminary

How do mindfulness, kavvanah (intention), and meditative focus work together to enhance and strengthen prayer? As we pray, how do these three techniques work together to bring us closer to God?

Living and serving God with kavvanah was routinely emphasized by the ancient rabbis. It continues to be embraced by contemporary rabbis as a way to become closer to God. Moreover, God embraces kavvanah to become closer to each of us as we pray and meditate.

These three powerful instruments are unique, yet at the same time are very similar. We will examine how these techniques can bring us closer to God in prayer and in our everyday lives.

Live life in the Divine present.  Join Hebrew Seminary President Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer, Rabbi Dr. Roberta Glick and rabbinical candidate Alison Brown on June 30th to inspire your practice and your life.

Hebrew Seminary
A RABBINICAL SCHOOL FOR DEAF & HEARING
4435 W. Oakton, Skokie, IL 60076

For more information 847-679-4113
info@hebrewseminary.org

The Healing Power of Psalms


Reciting Psalms to aid in healing is an ancient Jewish tradition and echoes today in shuls, churches, hospitals and homes around the world.

The Psalms lyrically vibrate in communication with our soul.

Learn about the healing power of Psalms from Professor of Kabbalah Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer and Professor of Pastoral Counseling Rabbi Dr. Pinchas Eisenbach. Take home techniques to augment the medical care and love of family and friends as they move along the rough roads of illness, accident and disease.

LEARN WITH US

Sunday, March 31, 2019 @ 2:00 – 3:30pm

Hebrew Seminary

A RABBINICAL SCHOOL FOR DEAF & HEARING
4435 W. Oakton, Skokie, IL 60076

For more information 847-679-4113
info@hebrewseminary.org

ASL interpreted

Refreshments served

Perhaps I am Free: for Shirat HaYam

by Student Rabbi Stacey Zisook Robinson

I have never seen such forever water.
I hear its incessant burbling,
a chant, perhaps to God,
Who has come to us as Fire,
Who has come to us as Smoke.
Who has come to us
at last,
bringing wonder and magic
and freedom,
perhaps.

I hear chatter of freedom,
but my back is striped still
and there is this forever Sea,
murmuring its prayers to
the ragged shore.

Perhaps there will be
freedom.

I wish they’d get this
over with, this mad dash
to this forever Sea
that never stops chattering.
The fire of God rages,
and His smoke smells of
charred wood and honey.
I can taste wind there.
I wonder what freedom
tastes of, and I think
the of the sting
of brine on my
wounds.

Still, I like this sea
this forever Sea,
that has captured the sky
in its mirrored waves.
They tell us
the only way to freedom
is through its
crashing, crushing
beauty.

But I have learned
to sing its song, to walk
between its silvered edges.
I stand at the rim of earth
and air and fire
and water.
It parts for me,
this forever Sea.
a slow and liquid splitting.
and the sea,
forever and endless
and never quiet
is hushed,
waiting, perhaps
for me to begin.
And so I offer a hymn
with timbrel and lyre
and ribbons of fire
and smoke,
and I dance.

And perhaps –
perhaps I am free.

Stacey Zisook Robinson is author of
Dancing in the Palm of God’s Hand and
A Remembrance of Blue