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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Reb Zalman’s “Hilulah”

June 17th, 2018

Tonight will be Reb Zalman’s 4th Yahrzeit, “ברביעי֙ בחמשה לחדש” / Fifth of Tammuz.

It was two years ago, July 13, 2016, a few days after his 2nd Yahrzeit that year, and we gathered at the Aleph Kallah in Fort Collins and heard these amazing sharings. Deep thanks to Rabbi Tirzah and Rabbi Marc for their holy work.

Feel free to add your comments below. Gabbai Seth Fishman

~~~

Rabbi Tirzah Firestone:

Everybody! As we start, I invite you to take a big breath! Let’s take a moment to come back home into ourselves and wind down from the day. Take a deep breath. Ahhh!

Bruchim habaim.

I want to mention the extraordinary good news that our beloved friend, brother, colleague and teacher, Rabbi Marc Soloway is with us despite his recent loss. Reb Marc just got up from shiva for his father and he returned from London yesterday afternoon.

Marc is in a tender place; and all of us are tender too, as we recall and share the events around the miraculous occurrences and last days related to Reb Zalman’s departure from this world into the next, his hilulah.

Rabbi Marc and I had the unimaginable honor of laying our Rebbe to rest!

In the midst of leading the levaya, a chant came to me and it was pushing, really dofek, it was pushing, “Sing me! Sing me!” We’ll start with that now. I felt it came from Reb Zalman, that he wanted this passuk from the sixteenth perek of Tehillim sung.

I’d like to begin with a brief teaching on the term “Hilulah” which is, after all, the theme of this Kallah. As has been explained at all the orientations, it means, “celebration” in Hebrew, “festivities” normally surrounding a wedding.

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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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