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.

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

Spring into Study! 2019 Semester Begins Feb 3rd

Hebrew Seminary’s Spring Semester begins February 3 and continues through May 30, 2019.

Below is our schedule of class offerings. Call for more information regarding our Hebrew classes or if you would like to visit one of these classes. We welcome part-time and auditing students.
Contact Alison Brown at 847/679-4113

Mondays                  

10:00 - 11:30      
Practical Halachah: Shabbat
Rabbi Eisenbach

Tuesdays               

1:15 – 2:45
Weddings & Funerals
Rabbi Davis

For many Jews, the only time they will have a meaningful, personal interaction with a rabbi is at a funeral or wedding.

This course will have both textual and practical components. Students will study some halacha to understand the origin of liberal practice and to be aware of some common requests that come from the world of traditional Judaism. A strong focus will be placed on funerals and weddings. Students will study the interactions of rabbi and families step-by-step including examples from Rabbi Davis’ experience. Online resources and other tools will be studied.

Wednesdays                                                                                                                                  

10:30 -12:30
Modern Jewish History
Rabbi Edwards                        

This class will use the Mendes-Flohr & Reinharz, The Jew in the Modern World (Oxford), Second Edition text book. The class will meet for 13 two-hour sessions. From the Emancipation through today, this course will enable students to understand the broad social, political and religious forces which created contemporary Jewish identities. Particular focus on acculturation and modern religious movements; antisemitism and the Holocaust; Zionism and the birth of the State of Israel; the American Jewish experience.

1:00 - 3:00
Parashat Hashavuah, with Rashi Commentary
Rabbi Rosenbaum 

Jump into this text-based course to enhance your ability to read and interpret biblical narrative. Students will also become comfortable reading Rashi in his biblical commentary to address problematic passages of the biblical text. Rabbi Rosenbaum will introduce other midrashic materials as time permits.

Thursdays  

12:00 – 1:30pm
ASL
Deborah Fink                                 

2:00 – 4:00 
Talmud: Ben Sorer U’Moreh & Intro Gittin
Rabbi Vaisrub

This course begins with a focus on the 8th chapter of Sanhedrin, Ben Sorer U’Moreh which discusses the rabbinic treatment of the biblical “wayward and rebellious son” who is, according to Torah, to be put to death. We will look at the Rabbis’ reframing of this biblical concept as a core model of halachic change, and a way in to the Rabbis’ perspective on the Torah, in general, and problematic commandments, in particular.

Time permitting, Rabbi Vaisrub’s class will begin an introduction to the Laws of Divorce focusing on Gittin 90a/b. Discussion will begin with a history of divorce as it appears in the Hebrew Bible, and continue with the Rabbis’ development of the intricate laws of divorce, including the grounds for divorce as well as the procedures for divorce.

Sundays 

12 noon – 1:30pm                                          
Chassidic Teachings & Meditations
Rabbi Goldhamer

Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer will be teaching and sharing theory and meditations, some in Hebrew and others in English. Students will learn Kabbalah and the early Chasidic masters, their ideas and their meditative activities.

1:30 – 3:00pm 
Zohar – Petachat Eliyahu from the Tikkuney HaZohar (17b)
Rahmiel Hayyim Drizin

We Return to Health When Our Body and Soul are Balanced

 

Well-being includes physical and spiritual health.

We return to health from sickness when our body and soul are balanced.

Join Hebrew Seminary for a panel discussion on

 

NEW DIMENSIONS IN MEDICINE:

Where Body and Soul Meet

 

Sunday, October 28, 2018 from 2:00-3:30 pm 

Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer is Senior Rabbi of Congregation Bene Shalom in Skokie, Hebrew Seminary President and Professor of Jewish Mysticism, and author of two books on Kabbalistic Healing Prayer.

Dr. Roberta P Glick is a Professor of Neurosurgery at Rush University and Rosalind Franklin Chicago Medical School. She worked for over 30 years at Cook County and Mount Sinai Hospitals where she was dedicated to improving care for low-income patients with malignant brain tumors and traumatic brain injury.

Dr. Gary Slutkin is founder and CEO of Cure Violence and Professor of Epidemiology and International Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. He initiated the first national programs for AIDS in Central and East Africa for the World Health Organization (WHO) and created and led WHO’s Intervention Development Office.

 

HEBREW SEMINARY

A RABBINICAL SCHOOL FOR DEAF & HEARING

4435 W. Oakton, Skokie, IL 60076

847-679-4113  info@hebrewseminary.org

ASL interpreted      Refreshments served

Where Body and Soul Meet

Well-being includes physical and spiritual health.

We return to health from sickness when

our body and soul are balanced.

 

Join Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer, Dr. Gary Slutkin

and Dr. Roberta Glick for a panel discussion on

 

NEW DIMENSIONS IN MEDICINE:

Where Body and Soul Meet

Sunday, October 28, 2018 from 2:00-3:30 pm

 

HEBREW SEMINARY
A RABBINICAL SCHOOL FOR DEAF & HEARING
4435 W. Oakton, Skokie, IL 60076
847-679-4113
info@hebrewseminary.org • hebrewseminary.org

 

ASL interpreted                                                     Refreshments served

The Teaching of Pinchas Cannot be Condemned, But ….

By Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer

In last week’s Torah portion, members of the community of Israel profane themselves by engaging in licentious behavior with Moabite women and worshiping the Moabite god. Hashem becomes incensed with Israel and tells Moses to impale the leaders committing these actions.  “The Lord’s wrath may turn away from Israel.” (Numbers 25:4)  Pinchas witnesses an Israelite consorting with a Midianite woman in front of Moses and the Israelite community. Pinchas takes a spear and stabs the guilty Israelite Zimri and the woman Cozbi fatally.

This week’s Torah portion, Pinchas, begins with Hashem saying to Moses, “Pinchas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the Israelites by displaying among them his passion for Me, so that I did not wipe out the Israelite people…I grant him my pact of friendship…It shall be for him and his descendants after him a pact of priesthood for all time, because he took impassioned action for his God.”  By killing Zimri and Cozbi, Pinchas fulfilled Hashem’s command to Moses. He directed his complete being, body and soul, to maintain the complete integrity of the Jewish people’s commitment to the covenant of God which was clearly articulated at Sinai.

Pinchas publicly challenged the community of Israel and its lack of adherence to the sacred code of the 613 commandments of Torah.  Clearly, the moral code of the New Israelite polity was put to its first public test.  Zimri and Cozbi participated in an irresponsible and despicable return to pre-Sinai morality.  If God was everything, as Aristotle teaches (“thought thinking itself”), then God was subject, predicate and object.  As Torah maintained again and again, there is nothing but God. Therefore, Pinchas’s zealotry was a religious act, determined not only to preserve the crown of God’s glory – the New Covenant of Torah—but it was also a moral act, designed to preserve God Himself.

In commenting on this week’s Torah portion, Levi Yitzhak writes in Kedushat Levi, Pinchas zeh Eliyahu. Pinchas is Elijah [Zohar II, p. 190A) and Elijah lives on forever (Zohar II, p. 197A-B.) How is this so? We must understand that our physical bodies are not deeply connected to Divine service, since the body tends to look out for its own needs.  But, our soul is always attuned to the fear of heaven. The body is unlike the soul.  It is corruptible, it dies. However, if the body could serve God like the soul at all times, no one would die….”

Pinchas accepted that in killing Zimri and Cozbi, his own life was at risk.  He might be killed for stabbing Zimri and Cozbi.  But, Pinchas did not give thought to his own physical needs. He was devoted to serving God, with both body and soul. Pinchas saw his body and soul as one, having no distinction.  And for this zealotry, God rewards him with “a pact of friendship and a pact of priesthood for all time.”

Yet, last week’s Torah portion and this week’s portion, are not that clear cut. Of course, we are all God. There is no separation between us and God. There is no empty space in the universe that is devoid of God.  This leads to all kinds of healing.  As I said,  Aristotle’s definition of God as “thought thinking itself” denies that there are some places devoid of God and affirms the Deuteronomic claim that God is everything and everywhere.   I know our Kabbalistic tradition holds Pinchas at the highest level, but I have difficulty championing Pinchas’s zealotry and murder and then God’s particular blessing.  I am puzzled that God can reward someone for the savage murder of two people.

I love God; indeed, God is love. I recognize that Levi Yitzhak’s commentary suggests that the reason Pinchas received this blessing was that he had transcended physical needs and physical concerns, and was completely devoted to God. Does this redeem the terrorist, particularly in our age of “suicide martyrs”?  Levi Yitzhak’s view is profound, but it steps onto a slippery slope. This teaching of Pinchas cannot be condemned, but at the same time, it cannot be applauded. Yes, the Aristotelian teaching that soul and body are one is very important, and is part of our Jewish faith, but each time we learn that soul and body are one, we have to recognize its context. We cannot be so open minded that our brains fall out, and we applaud the suicide martyr.

When we look at this text in our Torah scroll, the letter yud in Pinchas’s name in verse 11 is written smaller than the other letters. This teaches that, when we act with violence, the yud in us (standing for the name of God and for the name “Jew”) is greatly diminished. Let us remember that the Torah is truly the word of God. Frankly, there is no separation between the word and the writer. The Torah is indeed the Lord our God.

Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer is the senior rabbi of Congregation Bene Shalom, Skokie, and the president and professor of Kabbalah at Hebrew Seminary, Skokie.

For the Rest of Us, It Is Subject to Debate

On April 29 we celebrated our 25th Anniversary. Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer introduced the (Heavenly) debate: Torah v Talmud with these well-received words:

The Torah contains  the 5 books of Moses, given or inspired by God to Moses. In later years, Jewish scholars would write 19 additional books. These 24 books would be called Tanach, or the Hebrew Bible, or, by the Christians, the Old Testament.

After our two ancient temples and the Sifrei Torahs, were destroyed in 586 and 70, our sages pondered how we Jews could continue to study Torah in the diaspora- Persia, Iraq, Germany, Spain, and throughout the world. And so, over a period of hundreds of years, the Rabbis wrote a multi-volume, or multi-tractate interpretation and adaptation of the Torah , which we studied in foreign lands. These books or Tractates were called the Talmud.  And yet, after the passing of hundreds and hundreds of years, it appeared that each text was a Torah in itself.  If you close your eyes, you can manifest a vision of the rabbis studying the original Torah, and if you continue to manifest your vision, you can see rabbis of the Talmud discussing passionately the Laws of the Torah in different countries of the Diaspora, as if these rabbis were a living community of Torah scholars.

Let me share a story that one of these rabbis of the second torah tells. It’s found in

Talmud Tractate Gittin 56B. We are told that Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai, leader of the Jewish people, during the Roman invasion, faced a question of life and death.  Vaspasian, leader of the Roman army, and soon to become the Roman Emperor, brought the Jews to almost death.  Jerusalem fell. There was nothing to eat.  Despair and lack of faith overtook the Jews. The Jews intuited that the second temple would be looted at any moment.  The Roman Army was huge, and cruel, and had much greater weapons than the Jewish army. Yet, Rabbi Yochanan thought of a plan that saved Judaism. He hid in a coffin, and his disciples smuggled him into Vaspasian’s camp, where Rabbi Yochanan then went before Vespasian. “Why are you here?” asked Vespasian.

“We are willing to surrender on one condition,” said Rabbi Yochanan.  “Give me the city of Yavney and its sages.”  You see, the city of Yavney was the center of Jewish learning in Israel, and was the home of brilliant rabbis.

Vespasian saw no harm in such an agreement.  He did not realize that the agreement would allow the Jews to outlive the Romans by thousands of years. The Roman Empire is no more. The Greek Empire, the Moabite kingdom, the Amalakites and Hittites have also disappeared.

But Israel survives: Rabbi Yochanan understood that the issue of Jewish survival does not depend on Israel’s possession of the land or a large strong army. But rather, on a strong sense of identity and ideology and deep love and understanding of Torah, whether it be the 5 Books of Torah, or whether it be the new Torah that paints pictures of rabbis discussing loving the laws of Torah as if these rabbis of the Talmud were a contintinuous living community of men of Torah.  So the question is not which is the greater text – Talmud or Torah. But the question is which is the greater text ; Torah or Torah?

Rabbi Yochanan turned the sense of Jewish peoplehood on its head. He created what Heinreich Heine called “a portable fatherland.” This land was none other than the covenant between God and His people. This Covenant manifested itself in the first Torah and in the Second Torah. It was Torah and Torah, each supporting a covenant with God.

There is a Jewish tradition that says there is no heaven, no hell. We all go the same place when we die – where Moses and Rabbi Akiva give everlasting classes  on Torah and Talmud. For the righteous, this is eternal bliss; for the wicked, this is eternal damnation. For the rest of us, it’s subject to debate…..

 

Thank you once again to our debaters Rabbi Pinchas Eisenbach, Allen Meyer, Rabbi Marcey Rosenbaum, Rabbi Daniel Vaisrub and moderator Arnold Pritsker for an excellent program!

 

 

 

Be Our Guest!

Kiddushin 29a

The Talmud says that you must teach your children Torah, how to make a living and how to swim.

At Hebrew Seminary, under the leadership of Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer, we have been teaching these skills for 25 years!

 

We teach Torah to rabbinical students who wish to learn and teach Torah forevermore.

We prepare students to make a living by Shiviti Hashem l’negdi tamid, always placing God before us to assure acting with kindness, understanding, love and Jewish learning.

We teach our rabbinical students how to swim while guiding others to shore amidst the ebb and flow of life.

Be Our Guest!

29 April 2018

12 noon – 2:30 pm

Hebrew Seminary’s 25th Anniversary Celebration

at Hebrew Seminary

 

Practical Applications of Kabbalah for Your Daily Life

“Practical Applications of Kabbalah for Your Daily Life”

A ten-session class

With Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer

Sundays, February 25 – May 6

12:00 – 1:30pm

Kabbalah has many important practical applications that can impact your life on a daily basis – your health, your finances, your relationships with others.  Learn how to connect with Hashem, and activate the Divine within you.  In this class, noted scholar and author Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer will focus on the fundamental principles of Kabbalah and how it can change your life for the better.  If you are new to the mysteries of Kabbalah, or want to learn practical applications of Jewish Mysticism for your life, this is the class for you.

 

Hebrew Seminary’s 2018 Spring Semester
begins February 11.

Visit Hebrew Seminary and visualize your possibilities!

847 – 679 – 4113