God is here!

April 7th, 2021

From Reb Zalman’s 2004 lecture given at Elat Hayyim and published by Spirit of the Desert Productions, R Sarah Leah Grafstein, may she be blessed!

Samachti B’omrim Li Beit Hashem Nelech. I was so happy to come to Shul today because there was a resurrection of a part of the Davvenen that, by and large hasn’t been happening anymore in the way in which one finds it in the average synagogue.

How so? Because when you’d come in to shul on Shabbos morning, first there are [only] a couple of old-timers there. [Then,] they send an old-timer over to the Amud and he buzzes through Pesukei D’Zimra.

So the worlds of Assiyah and Yetzirah [where one is to get in touch with] the action directives where Torah flows into our lives and the places where we get excited over God, that was sort of [glossed over]…

Finally, the Cantor would get up and sing, “Shokhen Ad Marom“, etc. and then it would begin, (as far as the “service” is concerned).

Barukh Hashem we are resurrecting the body in Birkhot Hashachar. And it’s so beautiful to see how people get into their bodies and dedicate the sight of the eyes [with] Pokeach Ivrim, Zokef K’fufim / the stretch and everything else; and we are in the body.

And then, for all the times that it says, “Praise God with a drum and with a dance,” and people were saying that [buzzing through quickly], what was happening [in the text], i.e., a drum or a dance or something like this, wasn’t happening in shul.

So for this, I’m very very grateful: Shehechiyanu v’Kiy’manu v’Higianu Laz’man Hazeh that I lived to see this being resurrected and brought back to people in davvening.

There is another area which needs some great, great work. And I feel like Jacob on that night he had to go across the river and pick up the last bits that he had left there. So before I can go on up with the ladder and deal with things that come at the end of life, I feel that the Pachim K’tanim [that] there a few containers, small containers that haven’t been recovered yet.

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1978 Panel: “Jewish Mysticism Today”

October 5th, 2020

This video was recently shared with me by Zevi Slavin. It was a 1978 Panel: “Jewish Mysticism Today” with Rabbi Zalman Schachter, Rabbi Arthur Green and Dr. Charles Rosen.

Zevi writes:

Moadim l’simcha! I thought you may be interested in sharing this beautiful exchange on your group.

I was raised in Chabad and after exposing myself to some of the other Mystical traditions of the world, I began a channel called Seekers of Unity to further my explorations of universal mysticism and find other ‘seekers’ to join.

Reb Zalman was a big inspiration for me and I was fortunate to be able to publish this historical gem of a dialogue.
I hope we can further this conversation with as many like-minded individuals as possible.

Reb Zalman and Me Presentation

June 15th, 2020

Dear Friends:

I was invited to speak about Reb Zalman to a Jewish Group in Ottawa, Canada. Here is a PowerPoint presentation I gave at that time. And below the presentation is a link to the audio.

Blessings, Gabbai Seth Fishman

 

The Unity of Above and Below

July 7th, 2019

In honor of our teacher, R. Zalman Schachter-Shalom, ztz’l, on the occasion of his fifth Yahrzeit which begins at sunset tonight, 5 Tammuz, July 7, 2019, I offer this translation of Tikkunei Zohar 132a. May the memory of R. Zalman forever be a blessing! Gabbai Seth Fishman (Original text may be found clicking here)

My son: A merit comes to the one who unifies the blessed Holy One with His Shekhinah in this world because these parts suspend from these commandments. Then, the blessed Holy One couples with Her, with His Consort, in that world. And whoever comes near to bring an offering for Him [and] for His Shekhinah, the blessed Holy One comes near to Her, to His Consort. And whoever makes for Him a sanctuary, as scripture states, (ibid 25:8) “And they shall make Me a sanctuary” for the blessed Holy One, He makes for him, in that world, a house to dwell (for him) there which is the “holy of holies.” And whoever makes Him a Sukkah, the blessed Holy One forms shade over him in that world, and protects him from all destructive angels when emerging from this world and going to that world. Whoever blesses the blessed Holy One, and sanctifies him in his prayer in this world, the blessed Holy One blesses him in that world, and sanctifies him. And no sanctifications if less than ten. And also, thus, the blessed Holy One makes ten wedding canopies in Gan Eden for him.

Entire text below:

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Wrappings for God

April 7th, 2019

Reb Zalman, a’h was asked: “When you come before God. I wonder, what is that ‘God’ to you? Who is this that you come before? And what is that like?”

Here’s his reply:

Ok. It’s such a good question!

And I want to say that at another time I was describing how William James, the great psychologist who wrote about varieties of religious experience, one day made his way and came to a town in New England and, he asked one of the wardens of the church, “Who is God for you? What do you place yourself in front of?”

He answered: “An oblong blur.”

Now he was talking to a New England transcendentalist who was very much afraid to say anything of shape because that’s a “no-no.”

The mistake is that the head has to know there’s no shape. But the heart has to have a root-metaphor.

I can be in a monistic place in my head but I can’t be in a monistic place in my heart. In my heart I have to have the other whom I love. That’s where I’m in the I/Thou relationship.

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Levels of T’shuvah

September 16th, 2018

A teaching from Reb Zalman, z’l, as Yom Kippur comes this Tuesday night. It is taken from a wonderful pamphlet called Yom Kippur Kattan and the Cycles of T’shuvah (pp. 22-23) which can be found and purchased through the ALEPH Canada Web Site clicking here. The pamphlet is based on a lecture Reb Zalman gave recorded April 1999 and edited by Rabbi Daniel Siegel.
Blessings to all for a meaningful fast and g’mar chatima tova!

~~~

Imagine I’m going shopping in a mall. In the middle of the shopping, I get this feeling I have to do t’shuvah. The likelihood is it’s not going to be a lot of deep stuff that’s going to happen but it’s going to be like an action directive: “Zalman, that you don’t do.”

That’s like doing t’shuvah on the level of nefesh.

Let’s say I go somewhere on Thursday night and I still am embarrassed about that stupid remark I made to that person that hurt that person. I apologized for it, but really I’ll be making the same stupid mistake again if I don’t really check it out: was I trying to be clever? Was s/he the person I was talking to or was I talking to an imaginary other in my mind at that time when I said that?

This is the kind of level of t’shuvah that you would do on Thursday night

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For Rosh Hashanah

September 2nd, 2018

From Yishmru Daat, page 102, (Hebrew text here), this is a paraphrase and translation of Reb Zalman’s text:

This day is the anniversary of the start of God’s handiwork” (i.e. the creation of the universe), “a remembrance of the first day.” (The above is a text from the Rosh Hashanah Mussaf prayer called Zichronot / Remembrances.)

Since our time is one of Paradigm Shift-ing, i.e., radical change is happening on our planet and in our religion on a scale as powerful as the time of Reb Yochanan Ben Zakai, the time when the second Temple was destroyed, we can no longer only rely on our ancestors who sent deep wisdom our way in the liturgy and traditions of the holiday of Rosh Hashanah. In addition to this, each of us must accept upon ourselves that we will be the agents for change. We each bring divine sparks. We are empowered to “roll up our sleeves” and take action to bring about the change and establish “God’s kingdom.”

This is Rosh Hashanah‘s theme said in the prayers with this language:

“Dear God: Reign over the whole world in Your dignity.”

This text may be interpreted differently by different people. But despite our differences, every way of understanding brings an important piece of the puzzle.

When we hear the Shofar we may be thinking, “Papa, Papa, I’m not perfect, have mercy on me for my inadequacies!” Nonetheless, we can’t just rely on help from On High as a powerless one passively waits for a response. You are empowered to tap into a yearning for a better world through establishing a connection with the Source of blessing and to send your yearning upward. We are in an intimate relationship with Hashem. At this time, we should take the first step in that relationship to improve its quality and closeness.

At the time of Rosh Hashanah, we affirm our intention to work on this relationship, and to remain committed to it. Toward this end, here are three themes of the day:

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For Leonard Bernstein’s 100th Birthday

August 26th, 2018

As yesterday would have been the 100th birthday of the great Leonard Bernstein (a’h), I am sharing this link to his December 1989 performance of Candide:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMIzHnyuiNY

Bernstein was a “Hasid” in the sense that he helped many of us through his art and his genius and his struggles with Emunah / Faith. Please read his opening remarks, transcribed below, from this wonderful performance:

Surprise!

My dear friends, I hear you thinking, “Here comes the old professor to lecture us again!” But I promise to be brief and only [speak] by way of introduction.

The reason I feel I should say a few words… , that I ought to say something, is that for more than thirty years, (thirty-five years to be exact), people have asked me, “Why Candide; whither and whence Candide?” And I thought I might answer a little more clearly by speaking not only as the composer of this work, but as an every-day observer of history – like anyone here – and particularly of that period of history known as “The Age of Enlightenment”, roughly the eighteenth century, which was the century in which Voltaire lived, wrote, and in which he had extraordinary influence.

His masterpiece was a tough, skinny little novella, called “Candide” which inspired the playwright Lilian Helman and me to have a bash at it musically.

Voltaire’s book was actually entitled, “Candide or Optimism,” it being a viciously satirical attack on a prevalent philosophical system known as “Optimism” which was based on the rather indigestible writings of a certain Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz and popularized by our own beloved Alexander Pope.

For example, in this great line from his “Essay on Man”:

“One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.”

Now according to Leibniz, whose ideas Pope was lyricizing, if we believe in a Creator, then He must be a GOOD Creator, and the greatest of all possible Creators and therefore could have created only the best of all possible worlds; in other words, everything that is, is right.

Granted that in this world the innocent are mindlessly slaughtered and that crime mostly goes unpunished, and that there is disease and death and poverty but, if we could only see the whole picture, the divine, universal plan, then we would understand that whatever happens is for the best!

Thus spake Leibniz.

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Moshiach Zeit, Moving from Moshe to Shlomo Hamelekh

July 29th, 2018
  • Reb Zalman’s original Hebrew is here (Excerpt, Yishmru Daat, pp 74-75.) [NOTE English translation below. Both translations by Gabbai Seth Fishman, rebzgabbai@verizon.net].

The Mei HaShiloach text Reb Zalman references is here

Reb Zalman’s text:

And in truth, Moshe Rabbeinu (a’h) taught us until the coming of the Moshiach in an aspect of Sefer Devarim the torah’s principles. And according to the Mei HaShiloach (z’l) (cf Sefer Mei Hashiloach part 1, Masechet Menachot page 53) he says that for the present age the practice is according to Moshe Rabbeinu (Deuteronomy 17:11) “you shall not divert” (ibid 13:1) “You shall neither add to it, nor subtract from it,” but in the days of the Moshiach the practice will be according to Shlomo HaMelech according to the details of reality in an aspect of (Ecclesiastes 3:1) “Everything has an appointed season, and there is a time for every matter.”

Mei HaShiloach (from Mei HaShiloach I Menachos 53)

Gemara:
The rabbinic students said to R’ Preida: “R’ Ezra, the grandson of R’ Avtolas, who is a tenth-generation descendant of R’ Elazar ben Azaryah, who was a tenth-generation descendant of Ezra the Scribe, is standing at the door.” R’ Preida said to them: “What is all this? Why do you give his lineage? … If he is a scholar and of distinguished ancestry fine. But if he is of distinguished ancestry and is not a scholar, [may fire consume him!]” They answered him: “He is a scholar.” [R’ Preida] said to them: “Let him enter and come before us.” When R’ Ezra entered [R’Preida] saw that his mind was unsettled. [R’ Preida] therefore began saying,

[NOTE: Translated in accord with the Izhbitzer’s explanation below]:

“‘I said to God,” etc., ‘My good is in other than you.'”

[NOTE: The above is from the Gemara. The Izhbitzer’s commentary begins here:]

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Publications, etc., by Reb Zalman (a’h)

July 10th, 2018

Rabbi Daniel Siegel sends the following: The ALEPH Canada Web Site, https://www.alephcanada.ca/catalogue, offers Reb Zalman’s books, CD’s and DVD’s as digital downloads. Prices are in Canadian dollars. Other items listed below are offered by Amazon.

Here is the current listing (updated 7/10/2018):

* Credo of a Modern Kabbalist (with Daniel Siegel) ($18)

* An English Siddur for Weekdays (temporarily unavailable)

* First Steps to a New Jewish Spirit (with Donald Gropman) (available from Amazon)

* Gate to the Heart: An Evolving Process (edited by Robert Esformes) (available from Amazon)

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