A Lifebelt for Doubt in Faith

September 24th, 2017

Excerpts taken from interview with Reb Zalman z’l by Daniel Epstein. You can see the whole interview by clicking here. (The video appears as part of a YouTube Channel called, “Portraits in Faith“) [NOTE: Edited by Seth Fishman]

D: What is your earliest memory of faith or this idea that there is a God?

Reb Zalman: This is so hard to get to because there is a level in which it is so deep. I am reminded of the well-known story of the child who is around two years old when they brought home his newborn brother. And the parents overhear in the intercom as he is saying, “Please tell me about God. I’m beginning to forget!”

So this is a very deep thing because whenever you get to trying to describe a place of deep insight… There used to be a television program with a big wheel that’s a door and you entered into another world through it, [“the Time Tunnel”], and I could sort of see the center of the Mandala through which I have to walk [to access this place], and there are memories that are not quite up in sharp relief.

So I can’t tell you about that earliest memory because that’s what stumped me. But if you say an early memory:

  • To be with my Papa under the Tallis when he is davening and he would sort of hug me – that was such a moment, a recognition that the universe is a good universe; that I’m at home.
  • Seeing my mother light candles as a child; knowing that she was talking to someone who really was there – that was an important thing; it made me feel that I could also talk to God.

And sometimes, when my aunt didn’t let me play with my cousin, I would get back on the staircase and talk to God saying how unfair it is; but it was a very real thing.

As a child I would walk by a little side-chapel in a big church and the ladies would be lighting candles and standing like my Mama did on Shabbos. And Papa would take me to shul with the men. So I had this notion that women were Catholic and men were Jewish.

This is childish but there was something very special about that, that when people are praying, this thing, i.e. to be able to talk to God, is important.

Once I looked under the tallis when Papa had just finished leading a Rosh HashannahYom Kippur service and I saw tears in his eyes and said:

Papa warum weinst du” / why are you crying?

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Shema Yisrael: Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad

July 4th, 2017

Excerpt from CD recorded at Makom Ohr Shalom called “Reb Zalman Prays” © 2008 ShareWonder Media, transcribed and edited by Gabbai Seth Fishman.

Reb Zalman, a’h:

One of the things that makes parenting a joy is to put children to bed at night and they don’t want to fall asleep. At that time they come up with wonderful questions to engage you in such a way that you can’t say no. For instance, five-year-old Yotam asked me:

Abba, what happens to people when they die?”

“What do YOU think,” I asked and he says:

“Well we sort of have  two lives: There’s an awake life and a dream life. And I think the awake life stops and the dream life continues.”

And how wonderful an answer that was.

And Shalvi one time said:

Abba, when you’re asleep you can wake up. When you’re awake can you wake up even more?”

These are the kinds of questions that come when you sit next to a child on the bed and you sing:

B’shem Hashem B’shem Hashem Elokei Yisrael. And then you say the Shema with them.

Or imagine a different scene: You are visiting someone in hospice.

This past erev Rosh HaShannah, one of our friends, who had been suffering from ALS, died. We had visited her in hospice and, we sang to her. And then, we said the Shema with her; that was a very important thing.

So the Shema is when you start out. And the Shema is when you leave. There’s something remarkable about this.

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The Fourth Turning

May 5th, 2016

This is Reb Zalman, a’h, speaking at Naropa University on April 9th, 2014, just before his passing, sharing thoughts on updating of traditions. Whether Jewish, Buddhist, or JUBU, his words are very powerful. The “Town Hall conversation” video can be watched here on Naropa’s Youtube page. [Transcribed and Edited by Gabbai Seth Fishman]

The Fourth Turning

Table of Contents:

Welcome!

Making a Space
Remembering Rinpoche
A Fourth Turning of Buddhism
Re-Programming Tradition
Words/Experience
The Four Noble Truths
Source of Compassion
Awakening Awareness
Organismic Reality Map
Collaboration
World-Enchantment
Art, Music, Celebration
L-Chayyim!
From a Conversation with Reggie Ray
Inner Part
Imagine!
Innovate!
Tune In Subtle Vibrations
Body Types
Stories
Patience
Hothousing Spirituality
Blessings

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Teshuvah in the Age of Aquarius

April 4th, 2016

Dear Friends:

Here is the Course Outline for Teshuvah in the Age of Aquarius, a class inspired by the teachings of Reb Zalman (a’h). It will be one of the afternoon week-long classes offered at the Aleph Kallah, July 11th-17th in Fort Collins, CO. Hope to see you there! Gabbai Seth Fishman

Session I

Course Map
Becoming acquainted

Jewish Renewal and you
Jewish Renewal and me

RZ Niggun: V’Taher Libeinu
Heart-openings, Expanding our inner space

1.Placing God in front of me
2.Tapping into our vulnerability
3.Accessing invisible support
4.Carving out inner space
5.Contemplation
6.Ribono Shel Olam, Gottenyu, closeness

Exercise and sharing: Inward attention
Traditions of Teshuvah

1.In Hasidut and Kabbalah
2.In Mussar
3.Bein adam l’vein Makom
4.Bein adam l’vein chavero
5.Degrees of Transparency (Galui V’yadua)

a)Aware, acknowledged, taking ownership
b)Aware, questioning role, feeling victimized
c)Unaware

RZ Niggun: L’cha Amar Libi
Jewish Meditation, averas detectors

1.Devekut, tuning in
2.Shiviti Hashem, we are cells of the global brain
3.RZ’s Blue Jeans Spirituality, creating reminders

Spiritual Buddies

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A Connection with the Rebbe z’l

March 9th, 2016

Here’s the first part of a precious sharing from Reb Zalman, alav hashalom, and his first encounter with the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Reb Menachem Mendel Schneerson, alav hashalom. The teaching came on 3 Tammuz 5766, the Rebbe’s 12th Yortzeit, (June 29, 2006). The source is the DVD, “What’s New in Jewish Renewal, 2006”, disk 3, Copyright © Spirit of the Desert Productions. (Edited by Gabbai Seth Fishman)

I want to make a connection with the Rebbe, with Reb Menachem Mendel, (it’s his Yorzeit today), and I’d like to urge you to do the following:

If you have, anywhere, a hope, a concern, something for which you would go to a Rebbe with a qvittel so that he would pray for you, keep that in mind and, during the second half today, we are going to chant the ana b’choach and send off, in a sense, sort of like hitting the enter button to send off your request.

And so, in all the things that I want to do today, I want to do it really logged on to that website, to what I learned from the Rebbe and some of the things that happened to me in encountering with him.

[To begin, I’ll tell you when I first saw him:] In the beginning, I thought of him [as the Moroccan]. I was living in Marseilles, France; the year was 1940 and 41.

Reb Menachem Mendel Schneerson
MM_Young_man2

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The Act Of Prayer

February 15th, 2016

The following text is from Yishmru Daat, p. 30, by Reb Zalman ah. (Translation by Gabbai Seth Fishman and click here for Hebrew text.)

The Act of Prayer

The one who prays to Hashem Yitbarach should hold the belief that, from the start, there was a cause brought about by the everlasting One, and that S/He is the source of all completions, and S/He created all the worlds at the time when it arose in Hir will.

Also, after S/He created them and S/He brought them into existence, creatio ex nihilo and the absolute void, S/He didn’t turn over the leading to any angel or planet. Instead, S/He is the One who is the bringer of life, and S/He guides all the creatures, including those residing in the highest of heights all the way to those residing in the depths of below, the One without measure or compare.

And with Hir awareness, S/He completes all of the causes that S/He began at the start.

And S/He is the only One, alone.

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A Trip To Brooklyn

February 14th, 2016

Dear Friends:

Here is the article, written by me in the summer of ’91, and describing my trip with Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, a’h, together with his youngest son, Yotam, and our encounter with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Reb Menachem Mendel Schneerson, a’h. [NOTE: If you scroll down to the end, you will see the video of the Rebbe’s words to Reb Zalman.] Gabbai Seth Fishman

A TRIP TO BROOKLYN

Reb Zalman wanted Yotam to meet the Rebbe and also wanted to give the Rebbe a copy of Spiritual Intimacy: A Study of Counseling in Hasidism, a book Zalman wrote about the holy love that exists between a Rebbe and his students. I was to come along to help in the trip, and to ask the Rebbe for a blessing for myself and my wife Anna on our then, upcoming wedding.

On Sunday, August 18th, 1991, at 8AM, I met Reb Zalman and Yotam, and we set out on the drive to Brooklyn. I was curious to learn about Zalman’s time spent in the Lubavitch community and asked many questions as we drove.

“When did you first meet the Lubavitcher Rebbe?,” I asked Reb Zalman.

RZ060604_trip_to_brooklyn

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Spiritual, and Other Intimacies

January 1st, 2016

I’ve been reminded this week of words of Reb Zalman, (a’h), from 2004. On day 3 of his course “Inner Space” and after an exercise in which he had asked participants to pair up under a tallis to share meaningful root metaphors for God, he gave the following caution:

It is clear to me from the vibe that happened here in this space now – some of you were laughing; some of you were crying; it was a deep place for you to be at – and somehow you can’t help but fall in love with the person with whom you do that kind of sharing. (General nervous laughter) And I just want to say that I want to help you with this thing.

Because, it’s important to recognize that the person with whom you have had spiritual intimacy you don’t need to have genital intimacy with. (More general laughter)

It turns out that in the times of the sixties/seventies, people were so eager in their looking for intimacy that they were ready to offer genital intimacy so that they could get the spiritual intimacy. That created all kinds of karmic problems.

But when you say:

הריני מקבל עלי מצות ואהבת לרעך כמוך / hareni mikabel alay mitzvat v’ahavta l’rayeacha kamocha / I accept upon myself loving my neighbor as myself

this is where I’m trying to get you with the work we’ve been doing.

And the important thing has to be the discrimination not to con-fuse it, not to fuse it together with other levels. All of us are starving for spiritual intimacy today. If I were to say where we are most anemic today, it is in this area of spiritual intimacy.

Reb Zalman (Transcribed from the 4 DVD Set “The Space Within”, Spirit of the Desert Production (c) 2007, disk 3)

Reb Zalman’s Maoz Tzur Translation

December 4th, 2015

Dear Friends,

The awesome translation of Maoz Tzur by Reb Zalman a’h can be downloaded here.

And here is a rendition from a concert last year. Happy Hanukkah!

Thanksgiving Greetings

November 19th, 2015

I am quite certain Reb Zalman (a’h) would like me to share something that he would share without fail at this time every year, asking me to get the word out:

Thanksgiving, a time for gratitude, is a time for giving thanks! After we partake in our Thanksgiving celebration, let’s take a moment for birkat hamazon / grace after meals, (however that comes up for you and your company in your particular ways of “Jew”-ing), and to reflect on those things for which you are thankful this year, including the meal.

Here are links for two Thanksgiving resources provided by Reb Zalman (a’h) for download or printing:

Thanksgiving insert 1

Thanksgiving insert 2

Reb Zalman’s innovative inserts teach us a core teaching of Jewish Renewal that for all times, we have been empowered to make the tradition our own. The chachamim / the sages of yore and the Men of the Great Assembly who helped codify our liturgy as it has come down to us even in this time would agree!

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