Moses and Miriam’s Friendship of Trust

Our sidra this week is Chukat which includes the mysterious telling of Moses emotionally striking the rock in the wilderness of Zin to bring forth much needed water for the people of Israel (Num. 20:10-11). For this, Moses was not allowed to enter the land of Canaan.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks observes this is the first trial that Moses had to face as a leader without his sister Miriam who had recently passed away. Rabbi Sacks explains that the early life of Moses suggests that Miriam was Moses’ trusted friend and confidante. “Maimonides calls it the ‘friendship of trust’ (chaver habitachon) and describes it as having someone in whom ‘you have absolute trust and with whom you are completely open and unguarded.’” Even Moses needed a human friend that he could trust.

My fellow student Tirtzah says this is also what we need to help heal our world today. My heart has been aching since the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas policemen Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens. I asked Tirtzah what can we do? She told me of her Englewood neighbors and their ‘network of trust’. These eight households began neighbor-by-neighbor to be open, unguarded and authentic with each other. Leaders such as Moses and neighbors such as you and I need friends and family we can trust.

This is one thing we can do. Give those we meet reason to trust us. Be a kind listener. Be a trusted problem-solver. Talk openly about your fears and sanctify the gift of each day by being kind.

Here is another thing we can do. Jewish law influenced Roman law, English law, and our own Declaration of Independence and Constitution. The Men of the Great Assembly said, “”Be deliberate in judgement,’ because there is no greater act of loving-kindness than saving the oppressed (from those who would wrong them) by rendering fair judgement.” (Kehati on Pirkei Avot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2.)

In the words of contemporary author George Saunders, “… to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality – your soul, if you will – is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespear’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Teresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret, luminous place. Believe that it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.”

 

 

 

Become A Channel of God’s Healing Energy Using the Name of God Yah

Hebrew Seminary President Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer’s teacher, Rabbi Dr. Yaakov Dresher taught:

“Your lungs expand and contract, responding to the universe.  Imagine the universe as a vast Being that is alive, and that you are a cell in this body.  And you, the cell, are kept alive by the Ru’ach of the universe.  In Ezekiel 36:26, we read, ‘I will place a holy Ru’ach within you.’”  This Ru’ach is the Spirit of God that every living being inhales, this Ru’ach is our breath; and it is through breathing that we focus on the present and not the past or future.  When we are in the NOW, we are alive, filled with the Breath of God.”

Become A Channel of God’s Healing Energy Using the Name of God Yah
as taught by Rabbi Goldhamer:

  1. Go to your mi’at meekdash and sit in 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 count silently 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10: this is the numerical equivalent [Jewish Gematria/numerology] of Yod. As you breathe in, don’t try to visualize God’s breath coming in through your nostrils; instead, visualize with your ko’ach dimyon, imagination, that God’s breath or energy is filling your head area.
  3. Without holding your breath between inhaling and exhaling, exhale through your nostrils silently, counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5: this is the numerical equivalent of Hey. The exhaling should take half as long as the inhaling.  As you breath out, don’t try to visualize God’s breath leaving your nostrils; instead visualize God’s breath or energy flowing from your head into your heart and through your heart into the world.
  4. Repeat this cycle four times, for a total of five times for the entire meditation. When you inhale or exhale, maintain the internal dynamic that you are breathing in the Life Force of God, and that your breath and His breath are becoming One.  Recognize within the depths of your soul that you are becoming one with the Holy Spirit, Ru’ach HaKodesh.  When we breathe in God’s Ru’ach with kavvanah, we create Ru’ach HaKodesh; that is, we become One with the Holy Spirit.

Practicing Kindness

Chesed
By Sandra Charak

Kindness is so much more than charity.  Acts of kindness, Chesed, come from the heart.  They are spontaneous gestures of goodwill to strangers as well as friends.

Acts of kindness are done without expectation of anything in return and begins with being aware of your surroundings.  Small gestures of kindness are as simple as a smile while saying please and thank you to a shop clerk or to wait staff.   Everyone wants to be acknowledged and appreciated.  Let someone know when she/he drops something.  Use a smile to cheer someone up.  Offer a positive outlook.  Give someone a heartfelt compliment; it could make their day.

Rabbi Hillel, the renowned teacher living in Palestine in the first century BCE, is credited as the original source of the Golden Rule. “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn” Babylonian Talmud, Sabbath 31:1.   According to the Midrash, a non-Jewish man said to Hillel, “He would convert if Hillel could explain Judaism while he stands on one foot.” The man probably asked Hillel this question not expecting a meaningful answer, but Hillel responded with this insightful response, according to the Talmud.

Treating everyone with kindness in a loving way may not always be easy.   One needs to acknowledge everyone’s points of view and have compassion even when exhausted, angry or feeling low.  That compassion may lift your own spirits and influence others to mirror your actions.

In the Book of Ruth, read in many synagogues on Shavuot, when we celebrate receiving the 10 commandments.  Rabbi Zei’ra states in the Midrash Ruth Rabbah 2.13 “This scroll [of Ruth] tells nothing either of cleanliness or of uncleanliness, neither of prohibition or permission. For what purpose then was it written?  To teach how great is the reward of those who do deeds of kindness” (Midrash Ruth Rabbah 2.13).  Ruth, childless and widowed gave all of herself, going from princess to humble Jewish woman, to honor and serve her Mother-in-Law.

Everyone can act with Chesed or Kindness.  We need only to offer small daily acts of kindness to make a change in our home, our neighborhood and our community.  Kindness can become contagious.

I believe that the antonym of Chesed or Loving Kindness is fear. When a person is afraid they are unable to open themselves up to exploration and meet new people.  Fear leads to division, meanness and hatred.

In our current environment the mainstream media espouses and promotes fear and mistrust.  When practicing Chesed you may find the majority of people want the same thing you do, love and kindness.

 

 

Practicing Kindness

We asked our students for their thoughts on practicing kindness.  We are pleased to share some of their essays.

Stop the madness!!!  —   I want to get off!!!
by Tirtzah Israel

Where’s our compassion for one another?  What happened to kindness?  Why are we so afraid to acknowledge its need and purpose in everyday life?  The power of kindness is here in our world waiting to be accessed as a collective resource, even as a preventive measure to counteract violence.

We are all sickened by the latest wake of mass killings and gun-violence due to bigotry and hatred.  Right now the earth seems to be filled with strife and malcontent.  I am reminded of the pre-flood portion to the Noach story where in his time the earth was filled with so much corruption that God decided to destroy the earth.  In our own time, we live in a society where both politician and gunman present themselves as demigods with the  “ultimate” solution for the world that appeals only to the lowest denominator of human existence.  They “fan the fires” for violence, divisiveness, power and influence both physically and psychological as a rationale for problem-solving.  These people, in my opinion, act out of ignorance, mis-information, mis-education, fear or/and are mentally deranged.

In real-time, the news outlets inundate viewers and readers with the gruesome details of human carnage that both sensationalize and desensitized the suffering of others so much so that we are rendered helpless in our grief.  We re-live these traumatic events and are shakened to the very core of our existence, yet too frightened to act as a collective body for the sake humanity.

Sure, there’s a collective, world-wide outpouring of kindness in response to these tragedies.  Yes, we are energized in those moments to support one another during the horrific initial emotional realization of raw cruelty.  However, no amount of kindness can offset the impact of the trauma perpetrated upon humanity when the outpouring of kindness occurs only in response to specific tragedies.  Without these horrific events, we too easily slip back into our self-serving and self protecting mode wishing for  safety as we desperately hold-on to our preferred lifestyle.  The test for all of us is for us to realize that we are all one people, intimately connected as one race; the human-race.  We all belong to one another and we are all responsible for one another as a collective human society.   Basically, we all want the same things out of life.  We all want to have the reasonable opportunity to be able to reach our potential, to be successful and prosperous, to be safe, happy, healthy, and no one wants to be made to feel “left-out.”  We naturally strive towards sharing — and when that doesn’t happen an eruption occurs.

Collectively, we have access to some of the most powerful tools in the world; more powerful than bullets and bombs in the form of love, compassion and kindness.   Yes, people we are designed to be kind because we all naturally gravitate towards it.  We seek kindness in one another.  Yet, it appears at least on the outside, as if we have forgotten or maybe we are ashamed of accessing that which is inherently fulfilling, intimately close and intrinsically healing  — Kindness/compassion.    These attributes are divinely bestowed upon us by The Creator.  They are part of our Universe.  In particular, kindness/compassion allows us to fulfill our highest purpose at being a shared and common humanity.  Kindness can be stress relieving.  Kindness is benevolent; Kindness fulfills our desire to do good and charitable deeds that benefits others.  And it begins with each and everyone of us, individually, to activate the kindness within ourselves; to love ourselves and to experience compassion for ourselves that can be shared by others.

If we could imagine our world without strife, without hatred and bigotry then we can actualize it.  It’s not impossible.  Together, we have the ability and power within us to make this dream a reality.  However, we  must decide to do this together.  We can simply begin by forming prayer networks that pray for the activation of kindness and compassion.  We can pray to activate healing the world; and to pray for a shared compassion that ends suffering.  It can become a contagious movement, neigborhood by neigborhood, community by community.  But, it begins with just one person — visualizing; imagining; and engaging their power to heighten kindness; compassion and love.  For the pessimist among us, I say to them I’m not suggesting we all hold hands and sing “kum-bi-ya” around the campfire (although, that’s not a bad thought).  No, I referring to a clear sense of responsibilty, and active-state of mindful kindness that honors life.

If we could just stop being so damagingly competitive, stop trying to be “the winner” and “king of the hill” for just a moment, it could create an intutive-moment that allows us to find that balance towards wholeness.  We can actually heal the world.  It’s within our power to do so because we are all connected to one another whether we like it or not.  When you are not healed, I’m not healed.  When I’m not healed, you are not healed.  But colllectively, we have the ability to end violence in our world and to achieve the wealth of balance by actively participating.     We each have the responsibilty.  We each have the power.  We each can help to turn our world around.

Please don’t be that one person who may be holding out from the rest of us impending us from achieving our goal for harmony.  It’s not too late.  The world is waiting for the power of your kind prayers with compassion.  I thank you for praying with me.

 

 

 

 

Practice Kindness

We asked our students for their thoughts on practicing kindness.  We are pleased to share some of their essays.

Kindness in the Grey Zone
by Matthew Katz

One of our tradition’s most esteemed scholars was Rabbi Hillel, who is perhaps most renowned for his gratifying a potential convert’s challenge to teach the whole Torah while standing on one leg, by responding, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow; this, in a few words, is the entire Torah; — all the rest is but an elaboration of this one, central point.  Now, go and learn it.”  This seemingly simple admonition, enshrined in our Babylonian Talmud at Shabbos 31a, is, however, arguably, the greatest puzzle in the history of humanity because we have not yet learned how to apply this “golden” rule.

There are easier ways to apply this rule, such as not throwing a knife at a your friend’s face, or not stealing another’s car.  We hear about violent incidents and crimes like these on the news each night and feel proud that we’re not like “those people” who don’t know how to follow the golden rule like we do because we opt to not engage in those horrid acts.  But there are many harder tests of our character that we get wrong every day, such as speaking negatively about others or not cautioning others for doing so, or failing to act to prevent state violence or economic animosity against others.

Yale ethicist Thomas Pogge is author of the widely acclaimed 2002 work, World Poverty and Human Rights, which indicts our institutionalized complicity in the very nature of our being first world consumers: some 270 million preventable poverty related deaths have occurred since the end of the Cold War up to the book’s publication, alone.  How many more have died since or have died today but for access to what you and I spent on one beverage?  I studied Pogge as part of an ethics course last fall titled “Rights and Justice” wherein we tackled the deep questions like what are our obligations to the 800 million people who regularly go an entire day with nothing to eat.

Forever living in what Primo Levi dubbed the “Grey Zone” we can’t but continue our quest for answers to the great questions of how to apply the golden rule—of how to embody kindness in our actions toward our friends, our enemies, those we don’t know or will likely never meet, and in where to draw the line between caring for and protecting against.  It is into this void where the teachings of Hillel and his progeny offer profound instruction regarding where to orient our behavior and how to refine our character in search of an ethical world, a world where kindness would be easy to discern and apply without artificial and arbitrarily imposed borders not of our making.

Last semester Rabbi Dr. Goldhammer introduced us to Aryeh Kaplan, who in his Meditation and Kabbalah actually discerns the five stages of character development that will establish us on the road to prophecy, imaginably the highest level of righteousness we can attain:

  1. Devekut—attachment to God in all of one’s thoughts, as in Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s instruction to forever act in compassion for God’s frustration for the state of the world;
  2. Hishtavut—meaning stoicism, or as Rabbi Nachman of Breslov instructed, having no preference in ego matters, i.e., “all things should be equal to you.” This, according to Rabbi Kaplan, was the test determinative of a prospective student’s readiness for Kabbalah study, who would be asked by the would be instructors, “Do you prefer one who speaks well of you to one who speaks badly of you?”  If the answer was yes, the rabbis said keep trying and come back when you’re there;
  3. Hitbodedut—meditation in isolation to reach higher states of consciousness;
  4. Ruach HaKodesh—reception of the holy spirit and enlightenment;
  5. Prophecy.

Finally, as hard as we try, as disciplined and as studious as we might be, we probably won’t reach the level of prophecy.  That said, if consistently more of us, more diligently and more committedly, continue to work on new solutions to these millennia old problems of how to be able to be kind, to not be hateful to our fellow, in Hillel’s words, we just might see progress toward that kind of world.  It would presumably be a world in which we are not complicit in a system of depravity and injustice to billions every time we turn on the tap water or buy a cup of coffee.  It would perchance be a world where all of God’s creation would be treated as sacred, and thereby worthy of God’s presence.  I look forward to learning from you as we search together.

 

 

 

 

Rabbinical School Classes: Year ‘Round Sunshine!

Hebrew Seminary’s summer semester begins June 26th and continues for nine weeks until August 25th.  If you have felt the calling, now would be a great time to visit a class and bask in the rays of Judaism’s ancient wisdom. 

Contact Alison Brown to schedule the likely answer to your calling!

847/ 679-4113

Tuesday             Psychology / Human Life Cycle

Shulchan Aruch

Midrash

Wednesday       Biblical Hebrew I

Chanting

Chumash and Rashi

Biblical Hebrew II

Thursday          Talmud I

Hebrew Grammar IV

Comforting the Bereaved/ Nachum Aveilim

 

 

Be Mindful of Miracles – They Are Accessible in Every Time and Every Place and by Every Person!

By Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer

The great Hassidic rabbi Simcha Bunim suggests that the miracles that happen in the Torah did not happen only once in time and space. He states that Hashem’s miracles are accessible to be experienced in every time and every place and by every person.

I believe we need just to be open and aware that a Biblical miracle is not unique to the Bible in time and space, but it can happen with the same power today as it happened in Biblical times. All we need to do is to be mindful of where we are and what we see, and how we respond.

There is a wonderful meditative practice that is connected to mindfulness. This is called “Gazing.”  Gazing teaches that all things are inseparably connected, and we are never alone.  We are never separate from God.  When we think and feel this way, we enjoy an extraordinary spiritual experience known as Presence.  In physics, the idea of Presence is expressed in the theology of Energy. This means the entire universe is composed of the presence of Energy in various forms. Each cell in our body is a function of Energy. Every breath, every step, every movement, every relationship is an expression of Energy. We can’t separate ourselves from the source of Energy.

Imagine if we had miracle eyeglasses, that when worn, only allowed Energy to be seen. What we normally see as the specific miracle in the Bible could now, with these eyeglasses be seen as raw Energy.  And instead of seeing the Biblical miracle, we would put on these unique eyeglasses, and through a unique form of Gazing, we could be mindful of the Oneness of it all, and recognize that the fundaments element of the universe is love.

Imagine that a person who looks through the glasses recognizes that the glasses themselves are the same as what is being seen. It is all Energy. This is not too farfetched. Remember what Aristotle taught – God Is Thought Thinking Itself. And so, in our Torah, when we see a miracle, through mindful practice called Gazing, we can also recognize that we are all one.  Our Torah and its many miracles can be seen as appearing in a different form of Energy. Perhaps Rabbi Simcha Bunim is teaching there are miracles all around us, and they never clash because our Torah is not a historical narrative of our people, but a textbook of Spiritual Physics.

Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer is Senior Rabbi of Congregation Bene Shalom, Skokie, and president and professor of Jewish Mysticism at Hebrew Seminary, Skokie.

 

Hebrew Seminary Student Highlight!

JUF NEWS June 2016
NEWS: LOCAL

Nationally ‘inspiring’ Rabbi Menachem Cohen reaches out to at-risk youth

Rabbi Menachem Cohen

Chicago Rabbi Menachem Cohen was named to the Forward’s list of most inspiring rabbis in 2016.

Years before he started working for the Night Ministry, Rabbi Menachem Cohen spotted its bus on the street one night and made a silent promise.

“In the back of my mind, I said, ‘I’m going to bring some yiddishkeit to that one day,'” said Cohen. He was referring to one of Chicago’s oldest social service organizations, whose well-known outreach bus offers those in need everything from coffee to medical care.

Cohen kept his promise; when looking for a job in 2003, he contacted the Night Ministry. Since then, he has been a vital part of their youth outreach team, where he finds and engages young people at risk of experiencing homelessness.

He’s also the founder of Mitziut , an independent, non-denominational Jewish spiritual community based in East Rogers Park.

Now, Cohen’s dedication and unique contribution to Jewish life and beyond is being officially recognized. The Forward has chosen him as one of America’s most inspiring rabbis in 2016.

“I’m honored, humbled, and excited about what this can mean for the programs I’m part of,” said Cohen about his recognition. He is one of only 32 rabbis from across the country chosen for this honor, out of more than 100 nominees.

Cohen grew up in the Chicago area, the son of a social worker and a teacher. He has always worked in social services, but with the Night Ministry he feels he’s found his perfect match.

“The philosophy of the team is relationship-based,” said Cohen. “We call it the ‘ministry of presence.’ We don’t have an agenda. We are there to be with them, to remember their names, and to let them know what services we have. We’re not trying to sign them up for a program. In this way, they get to know us and then they will come to us. It’s more authentic that way, and then they work on what they want.”

The work is deeply satisfying, he said. “It is so wonderful to build these relationships with young people. I know when they give me nicknames that I’m connected,” he said. And with his signature kilt and long hair, Cohen said he is often on the receiving end of many affectionate nicknames.

But his connection to youth at risk goes much deeper than a few nicknames. After a series of deep conversations, one young man decided to make some very profound and positive changes in his life. And he credited Cohen with being his “touch person.”

“I didn’t help him fill out any [job or college] applications, but what I did was have conversations where I heard him and listened to him as a person, and that is really what stuck with him. That approach gives me such satisfaction because it’s a soul-to-soul approach. It is a longer road but in the end it makes a bigger difference,” said Cohen.

As for the “rabbi” side of Cohen, he was ordained by the Hebrew Seminary — a Rabbinical School for Deaf and Hearing, because of his deep connection to Congregation Bene Shalom in Skokie and its Rabbi Douglas Goldhamer.

“Everyone told me about the deaf congregation that was founded by deaf families, and I fell in love with the place,” he said.

After becoming a rabbi, Cohen founded Mitziut in 2003 as an answer to the disconnected Jew who longed for more spirituality and meaning. Meeting on Shabbat and holidays for a spirited, musical service followed by a potluck meal, the community gathers everywhere from people’s homes to the beach.

If that isn’t enough, Cohen is also a partner at AlleyCat comics in Andersonville. And, as a life-long game player, he is working on a prototype for a game that will teach empathy for those experiencing homelessness.

Married to an art therapist, Cohen and his wife are parents to a 9-year-old child.

Throughout it all, Cohen is energized about his life and his work. “I love that I’m doing good work in the world and am helping people improve their lives,” he said.

Abigail Pickus is a Chicago-based writer and editor. 

 

Service of the Heart

I am writing my Rabbinic thesis on the idea that our thoughts ascend to God. Right now I am researching the practical application of that and reading a lot on consciousness. In some theories the role of images is a salient, albeit subconscious aspect of consciousness. The Zohar is a treasure trove of Jewish mystical images and symbols. I recently asked Hebrew Seminary Professor of Kabbalah Rav Rahmiel Hayyim Drizin, “Would you share with us a Zohar image that is meaningful for you especially as it might enhance our spiritual consciousness?”

Here’s an all-encompassing principle: What is above is below, and what is below is above. We know that the human is a microcosm of the universe, while the universe is a macrocosm of the human. And heaven and earth are mere reflections of each other.

What we do down here affects above, as the verse in Psalms says “Ascribe strength to G-d!” Our thoughts, ideally expressed through words and realized in deeds, rise to high levels, as the Talmud Berachot 6b notes that “prayer stands at the heights of the world.” But prayer first starts out here in our hearts, “the service of the heart,” and then it finds its way to the ear of G-d.

This brings to mind (thank you Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer) the great Sufi mystic and poet Ibn al Arabi’s teaching that, “He who knows himself, knows his God.”

Yes, we always talk about ascending. We have this picture in our mind that we are going up there to a higher, elevated world but in Kabbalah we yordei haMerkavah, we descend into the chariot. That means we go inward. Everything we need to know about is inside of us. Torah says, “Build me a mishkan and I will dwell within them.” We are not the Shechina, but the Shechina dwells in our heart. Those who know their heart for all of its beauty and passions, they know where God dwells within them and they can find their way more easily.  We have the power to figure it out. Learning Zohar and Torah is helpful for this. It’s all about consciousness. We need to let the light inside.

Rav Rahmiel Hayyim Drizin is Professor of Kabbalah at Hebrew Seminary. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and moved to Chicago to go to Northwestern Law School. Reb Rahmiel is a devoted student of many of the leading teachers of Kabbalah in Israel and the USA. He is a criminal defense lawyer who lives in Oak Park with his family. Much of Reb Rahmiel’s work is available on line at www.kabbalahonline.org.

Lag B’Omer — the Torah Gates Are Open!

Lag B’Omer begins Wednesday evening May 25th. To learn more about this little known but fascinating Jewish observance, we meet this month with Hebrew Seminary faculty member Rav Rahmiel Hayyim Drizin.

On Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of Counting the Omer (what you refer to as Cosmic Organic Time) the inner gates to the depths of the Torah are opened. What does this mean to you Rav and what might it mean to our readers?
When I was growing up, Lag B’Omer was a free day at Temple Sholom. We were sent out of the Sunday school classroom to play baseball most of the day!

Lag B’Omer is a day of joy. We clear our mind, open our eyes, and we seek to make progress on our life issues, which are Torah issues.

Lag B’Omer is also the Hillula Rabbah, the celebration of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s (Rashb”i) transition from this world to the next. Rashb”i is the titular author of the Holy Zohar, the mystical interpretation of the Torah. With his ascension on high, marked on his yahrtzeit on Lag B’Omer, we too can share in his elevation, with the opportunity to gain special insights on our deepest spiritual questions.

Lag from Lag B’Omer spelled in reverse is Gal, which means “Open” and hinting to the verse:
Gal Einei v’Abita Niflaot MiToratecha
“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your Torah!”
This is the special opening on this Holy day.

Lag B’Omer is a time for singing and dancing and opening oneself to having a mystical soul-connected affinity with R. Shimon. The energy of R. Shimon is said to bring light into the dark areas of our lives. Can you share a meditation with us to help make that connection and shed light onto a difficulty or issue we might be dealing with?

Rabbi Shimon ascended to Heaven in the year 3,881 [121 CE]. On Lag B’Omer, many people have the custom to travel to the city of Meron in the north of Eretz Yisrael to celebrate this day at the gravesite of Rashb”i. This is an age-old custom that dates back many centuries, already in the times of the Tanaim.

One who is unable to physically travel to the gravesite of Rashb”i can still take part in this custom by learning passages in the Zohar or other teachings of Rashb”i.

So, in order to connect with the soul of R. Shimon, we need to learn some of his teachings, either in Pirke Avot, the Talmud, and especially the Zohar. So first, we should learn some of the Zohar in his name. Next, perhaps sing the famous song Bar Yochai or listen to it on YouTube.  Then contemplate a spiritual question you may have, an issue you are having trouble finding clarity.

Light a candle in a dark room and let that candle capture your entire intention. Say the verse in Hebrew
, מִתּוֹרָתֶךָ נִפְלָאוֹת וְאַבִּיטָה עֵינַי גַּל
Gal Einei v’Abita Niflaot MiToratecha
“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your Torah!”
Say it over and over and over until you feel that you have internalized the meaning.

Then stop, and be silent, and gaze into the candle.

The answer, in the merit of Bar Yochai, should be opened up for you.