Archive for the ‘Psycho-Halachah’ Category

Reb Zalman’s Thanksgiving Prayer

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Dear Friends:

Here’s a copy of Reb Zalman’s wonderful insert to birkat hamazon / grace after meals, for your Thanksgiving celebrations:

Tanksgiv All The Boona

It’s a beautiful prayer that will add a Jewish touch to your Thanksgiving celebration this year.  

At the same time, we need to also reinforce the notion that it would be unkosher for us to behave as some say the Europeans did as they settled in America.  

Here’s an excerpt from Reb Zalman’s book, Integral Halachah where he lists the non-negotiables, the anchors of a Halachah for our time:


Hattarat Nedarim / The Release Of Vows

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

In Reb Zalman’s intro to Kol Nidre, one finds the following (adapted): 

“We know that we’ve often made vows [with God].  We meant to keep the word we gave when we wanted to bribe God with good deeds, [but we didn’t always do so].  Thus, we now state we will live our weakness and strength as it flows; and make no more vows, give no more bribes and pledge no more oaths.  And if in weakness we vow, we void them, right now, so that freely we see God and person.”

Please use the following from Reb Zalman as part of your Rosh Hashanah preparations.  The court session to annul vows is typically done on erev Rosh Hashanah which is Monday, Sept 29th, 2008 before sunset.  Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor

Hattarat Nedarim / The Release Of Vows
Based upon the Traditional Formula
Updated by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi


My friends: I ask the three of you to constitute a court empowered to release one from vows, and to serve as judges in that court. Will you please serve for me in this capacity?

The judges:

Yes, we are prepared to serve and to hear you.


Sefiras HaBinyan / Counting for Building God’s Realm

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

A message from Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor:

Shalom, U’vracha:

Reb Zalman wrote:

“People who have worked on their awareness have pointed out that there are 49 days from the end of Tish’ah b-Av / the fast of the 9th of Av, to the day before Rosh HaShannah.  In counting S’feerah between Pesach and Shavu’ot, we make our way downward from Chesed of Chesed to Malchut of MalchutDuring the Elul  season, we make our way upward from Malchut of Malchut to Chesed of Chesed.”  (A Guide for Starting Your New Incarnation, 2001, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, p. 1)

So here’s a suggestion for how to do the counting at this time of year, (for example, as I write this it is Motzei Shabbat, 16 Av, 5768 / August 16, 2008):

Ribbono shel Olam:  I hereby prepare myself for Sefiras HaBinyan / a counting for building God’s realm during the  time between Tisha B’av and erev Rosh HaShannah. 

Today there are 43 days left until erev Rosh HaShannah, which is 1 day and 6 weeks, Chesed Sheb’Malchut

Dear God: Please let me be a vessel for Your light and help to align me with Your will.  May this period of Sefirat HaBinyan and the New Year be for good, for peace and for blessing for all of Israel [Substitute here your particular identification] and let us say Amen.


Second Day Yom Tov for Ecology

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

The following excerpt from Reb Zalman’s book, Integral Halachah, deals with the question of ways to emphasize new aspects to our practice of adding an additional day of Yom Tov outside of Israel.   Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor

“I feel, also, that when we are coming to the issue of yom tov sheni shel golyus / second day of celebration for the exiled, people have not been taking it seriously enough. 

“When it had once looked to me that I and my mishpacha / family were going to make aliyah / immigrate to Israel, after having been to Israel a couple of times, setting things up, living there for half a year, I was on the level of daato lachzor la-aretz / knowing I would be returning there, and therefore only had to keep one day yom tov.

“And something about Jewish renewal says to me that the second day yom tov as it’s been celebrated in the past, (because we don’t know if it is yom tov, and similar things,) doesn’t sit well with me. 

“On the other hand, when I study hassidus and I read that the second day of yom tov is important in chutz la-aretz / outside of Israel because whither it has to come down, whither it has to be taken inside the nefesh / soul, I really feel that the last few times, second day of yom tov was a very important way of doing a kind of secular way of doing the same yom tov.”

{Gabbai Seth:  The view was that when one is outside of yisrael, the shefa / abundance flowing from God, effected through prayer on the holidays, has to flow further to reach us and therefore requires more effort.  Additionally, a nefesh / soul not in eretz yisrael needs more of the shefa / abundance just because they are not in eretz yisrael.}

“Like shavuos, for example:  To do the first day of shavuos in shul with all the things that one does on shavuos with yizkor at one point [is good, it’s important].  But part of shavuos has to do with outdoors, has to do with green.  It is, after all, chag ha-katzir, it’s the time when the cutting of the wheat harvest begins. 

“There is something so ecological about the yom tovim that we need to do the second day yom tov for ecology, to tie them to the natural seasons, and to find celebrations to be able to do that.  And to do it with the kahal. I’m not saying it should be just a picnic.  Rather, I feel that the second day of shavuos should be a kind of outdoor davvenen with the picnic afterwards, that the davvenen part is important in the way of doing it.

“Then the chagay hashana k’efsharut l’chaven tikkunim l’ripui hateva / we want the holidays of the year as enablers to effect repairs to the health of the environment, to do the second days in a way similar to  the ways we think about tu b’shvat when we plant trees.  I think we need to create more such opportunities for doing things for the ecology. ” 

Haggadah: Telling and Empowering

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

The following text is one of the four times the Torah asks us to be sure there is a telling of the Exodus from Egypt to our children. 


From the above text plus the three others, the Rabbis had the idea of Four Sons of the Haggadah

The Rabbis were Piscean New-Agers, and in those days, they read bin-cha as “your son.”  That’s how they understood it.  Instead of “your son,” we read it as “your child,” the Four Children

In Hebrew, the word “children” can be either Yeladim / young boys and girls, or Banim / offspring (of any age).   When the word bin-cha occurs in the Torah, the “children” refers to the latter usage, i.e., child of any age, offspring.  

It is also understood to mean the child within oneself. 

So at the Passover Seder, we must speak about Exile, Pessah, Deliverance, Faith and Healing with our sons, our daughters and the child within ourselves.

While the Seder speaks of four kinds of children, we can also say there are four kinds of parents who answer:  1) the body, 2) the feeling spirit, 3) the intellective soul, and 4) the intuitive God-spark in us.  What a blessing to give voice to all these four and to open these four in our children. 


Reb Zalman On Conversion And Renewal

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Reb Zalman says: 

“As part of what I consider to be my ethical will and summation of my life, I want to bring to your attention my experience and thoughts on conversion. 

“We have always taken responsibility for conversion and we have always taken responsibility for our converts, not only with regard to this incarnation, but also regarding previous and subsequent incarnations.”

Please read the following words from Reb Zalman.  If you wish to add your thoughts, please do so in the comments section at the end.  Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor.

B’nai Noach Within Our Communities:
Gerey Tzedek / Converts
And Gerey Toshav / Non-Converts

by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

Table of Contents:

Ger Tzedek or Ger Toshav?
Some Guidelines
Raise Expectations
Include A Klall Yisrael Perspective
Ensure Adequate Education and Preparation
Provide Supports
In The Case of Intermarriage
Neshamot / Souls
Jews In Passing


The Olam Haba of Psycho-Halachah

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

Shalom, u-vracha / Greetings and blessings.

A blogger named Dauer has been very interested in Reb Zalman’s vision for Psycho-Halachah for some time.  This Hanukkah, he and I have blogged on this subject and I want to share this discussion with the rest of you.  We’ve been struggling with an understanding of Psycho-Halachah. 

Psycho-Halachah is a concept that Reb Zalman has written about to describe the process by which Jewish law and practice gets updated by Paradigm Shift.  With the advent of developments in Psychology over the past 150 years, there is a corresponding impact on the way Halachah evolves.  Reb Zalman coined this term, Psycho-Halachah, to describe this impact, as well as the impact of other aspects of Paradigm Shift on the process of halachah.

Dauer wants a clearer picture of how Psycho-Halachah fits in with Halachah.  Is it a new Halachah?  Is it something specifically for a Jewish Renewal denomination, or is its influence greater?  How does it fit in with what we’ve inherited from hazal (our Sages)?

Click here to read our discussion.

For the most comprehensive treatment to date on this subject, please read Reb Zalman’s book, Integral Halachah: Transcending and Including, available from Aleph.

If you would like to participate in this dialogue, please add comments to our dialogue on Dauer’s blog or in the remarks section below.  Blessings, Gabbai Seth Fishman (BLOG Editor)

On Halachah and Jewish Renewal

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

In each one of the following excerpts, Reb Zalman uses the same analogy:  How a spine grows in endo-skeletal vertebrates.  The analogy is used to illustrate Reb Zalman’s sense of how the essential structures of both Halachah / the way to be a Jew and Jewish Renewal are to be understood.  The essential structures are inside and they stay constant in a basic way while at the same time there is growth and change. 

Respectively, the excerpts are from Reb Zalman’s book, Integral Halachah: Transcending and Including, available from Aleph and an edited transcription of a video you can see by clicking here, posted on Rabbi Ayla Grafstein’s Youtube site.  Please share your comments on either or both excerpts and happy HanukkahGabbai Seth Fishman (BLOG Editor)

From Integral Halachah:

“Here is a wonderful, organic way of looking at the anchors of halachah / observance, what I’d call ‘the non-negotiables,’ ‘the absolutes:’   They are like the bones of an organism.   

“Look at the etymology for the Hebrew word atzmut / essence and atzmiut identity:  They both come from etzem / bone. 

“The essence of halachah is bone-like.  That feels right to me.  I see some present-day halachists as trying to protect themselves around with bones, as if the anchors were exo-skeletal. 

“We have to bring halachah inside so that we live with and have our skeleton on the inside and we have flesh, skin, etc., around it. 

“Deep inside are our absolutes, but around that we have to be able to grow, develop and change, which is like what is known as the chanoch la-na’ar / the education of the child. 

“Imagine that we decide to throw away the Maxwell House Haggadah so it speaks more to the concerns of the adults from our time.  How do we do this in such a way that it still speaks to the children and the adults, in such a way that as events change in the world from year to year it remains constant while it grows at the same time?  How do we give the children their connection and give each person his/her connection according to his/her phase in life so all can tune into it, yet it remains constant and recognizable? This is the genius of the seder, the genius in the way in which we have our edut, in the celebrative ways that we have.


Chovot Ha-l’vavot / Obligations of the Heart

Monday, November 19th, 2007

From Reb Zalman’s book, Integral Halachah: Transcending and Including, available from Aleph

“Really important in Psycho-Halachic work is to keep in mind Reb Ahrele Roth’s, a”h, 32 mitzvot hat’luyot b’lev / 32 obligations that depend on the heart for fulfillment.  They are mitzvahs one strives to do continually, in every moment. 

“Years ago I would give my friends a little bell to hang in the car as a help in this practice.  Each time they heard the bell when the car went over a bump in the road, the bell was to remind them:  ‘Nu?  Think of one of these mitzvahs.’  E.g., Aha!  I love You G-d!  You are One!  I respect You!  I place my faith and my trust in You!  I ask You to help me live a good life!  I called it the Nu-bell – a pun, like Nu-bell prize.  I would say that if holila v’chas / God forbid I’d have to die in an automobile accident, then I would hear the bell and instead of going out, ‘Oh sh..,’ I’d go out saying, e.g., ‘Echad, Yachid um’yuchad’ / ‘One, only one, altogether one.’

“These are the kinds of affirmations we can make. The whole point is to accommodate one’s mind so that an awareness of G-d is always in the background whatever we’re doing, and to keep these installed in the background.”

Here are the 32 affirmations of Reb Ahrele Roth as it appears in Reb Zalman’s “An English Siddur for Weekday,” available from Aleph.

Reb Ahrele Roth, a”h, wrote a list of 32 mitzvot whose fulfillment is completed in the brain, the heart and the mouth.

A good preparation and a bridge for the shema and its blessings section of the shacharit service as you enter into the world of B’ri’ah is Reb Ahrele Roth’s list of Mitzvot one can do with consciousness alone. 

The Hebrew alphabetical equivalent of 32 is ל”ב, the letters of which spell the Hebrew word, lev / heart.