Archive for January, 2013

Teaching always jazzes my soul.

Prayer makes my soul sing.

Blending both is pretty close to ecstasy.

Last week, I had the opportunity to navigate the world of prayer in a way I have never before experienced.  I was asked to be a substitute teacher for an amazing adult education class on Basic Judaism.  The subject was in essence about navigating liturgy.

my favorite siddurim

my favorite siddurim,           not my only ones

At first, I was apprehensive! I am so off beat when it comes to my own prayer practice.  I love prayer, but in my own practice incorporates many modalities not found in most of the communities I have lived and worked.  I wanted to share my love of prayer while still helping people develop the foundation or understanding to feel more comfortable within worship services.

With a heavy heart I began thinking about how do I honor the community I work while sharing the excitement for prayer that is intrinsic in my own spiritual practice.  As soon as I started the heavy heart was replaced with my excitement for teaching.  I loved this class; nearly every learner was engaged in some way.  And in the end, I brought my full self into teaching.  In truth, I could have taught for another two or three hours, but that wasn’t in the cards.  🙂

Later, I realized that I hope to one day teach a full liturgy course to engaged adult learners. I want to teach much of what I did with a focus on specific prayers and where they come in the service.  I want to share how I use chanting, drumming, movement, and reflection within my prayer practice.  I want to empower those that want to play with prayer to play.  I want folks to learn that prayer is within their heart, but it can also be found in some phenomenal siddurim (prayer books) too. Growing a strong foundation within prayer comes from knowledge.  Perhaps one day, I will have the opportunity to do just that.  Until then, I will find the prayers within my soul and keep on praying.  The good news is that since the class last week, I have heard from 7 of the students either with questions or with excitement. . . so maybe, just maybe. . . 🙂

Many people have helped guide my spiritual journey.  Beautiful souls that have prayed with their entire  being have guided me with their teachings and with their full heart.  Musicians and singers, cantors and rabbis of all denominations, the CAJE community, the Renewal community, and Reconstructionists have all  inspired me to embrace prayer with my entire being.  My teachers have come from so many different places; it was with these experiences that I stepped into the adult education class last week.

One of my favorite prayers is the Barkhu.  In the Barkhu, the leader calls the kehillah, the community, to prayer.  And one of my favorite versions was adatped by Lev Friedman.

Barkhu,  Dear One, Shekhinah, Holy Name, when I call on the Light of my Soul, I come home.

This call and response Barkhu helps center me and reminds me of the power that is not only around me, but within me.  After I pray using this version of Barkhu, I feel fully ready to become one with prayer and to reach within myself to pray with an open heart.

May we each be called to the prayer of our hearts as we navigate the world around us.

Read Full Post »

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” ~Joan Didion


Writing is what I do.

This morning, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  I woke up feeling alone and struggling with a sense of loss.  My guess is that, I need a solid day off to do nothing.  I also realize that taking the time is not an option in this moment.  Reality means that I have to create significant pockets of downtime so that I nourish my spirit.  Working around life’s realities will take me a lot further than focusing on what can’t be.

While I have faced a lot of loss this year, I have also been rendered many gifts.  Both realities are true.  My guess is that most of us face a dichotomy of realities at any moment in time.  The question is how do we decide to navigate all of our feelings and find the balance we need to move in a healthy direction.

The good news about the doldrums is that I always know I can navigate them a little easier if I take time to reflect through my writing.  Darkness has never served me well; I know that for certain.  Yet if I don’t acknowledge my journey within darkness, I will never be able to do the healing work of moving through it.

The longer I am awake, the more centered I feel.  Sometimes you just have to go through your feelings so you can make it to the other side of them.

Writing is the gift I give myself.  When I took the time to write this morning, I allowed myself the space to feel, move through the darkness, and then ultimately to release the darkness so that I could feel better. Yay!

Moving through today, I will take the time I need to walk gently, rest as I can, and write through my darkness.  Writing brings me balance.

May each of you take time to nourish yourself; you deserve it.


Read Full Post »

Artwork courtesy of the Museum of Psalms

Artwork courtesy of the Museum of Psalms

My father loved music; his entire world was influenced by the music or our times.  For part of  his life, he was a music promoter;  he also owned the only wholesale record store in the Baltimore-Washington corridor as well as a few small record stores too.  But beyond that, he loved listening to music and sharing all he knew about the artists and performers who wrote and sang each piece.

My father also hated the sound of my voice; he used to tell me to sing softly.  The good news is that he never told me to stop singing, so I didn’t.

In July 2001, my father was barely hanging onto life as he lived out  his last days in hospice.  For a couple of nights prior to his death, the hospice nurses suggested that ‘tonight might be his last’.  So on one of his last nights, I sat with him all night.  Throughout the night, I sang his favorite show tunes as well as many other songs that he had always loved so dearly.  As the night wore on, I felt his life ebbing away as I watched his body seemingly become a skeleton without his soul.

So, I took out my very worn Book of Psalms and chanted/sung it for hours.*   As the morning sun started to rise, my father sat up for his last time; I was never sure how he had the strength.  In fact, even though it was his body sitting up, it felt like the most surreal moment of my life – it felt like he was being lifted up by angels.

The last words, I ever heard my father speak were perhaps the most beautiful too.  My father sat up in his bed and asked if I had heard the beautiful music.  With tears streaming down my face I told my father that perhaps it was the malachim (the angels) calling him home.  With that, my father gently laid back down and closed his eyes for the very last time.

*In Jewish tradition, people often chant from the Book of Psalms when people are either seriously ill or dying.

Read Full Post »

Honoring yourself enough to let go when it is time to move forward can become a gift in the long run. ~Chava

There are so many beautiful landscapes that guide me as I walk in the world.  Each day, I find myself wondering how I might navigate through the metaphors that keep me sane as I walk through life.  The bottom-line is that the hardest landscape I actively explore is that of my heart.


Doodle is courtesy of Chava
Shema Koli (Hear My Voice)
Living with Soul Honesty, Striving for Soul Honesty

With each breath, as with each step, I am climbing mountains, riding waves, and engaging in life.  I am learning to trust the universe as I both reach for the stars and let my roots go down into the earth.  With each passing moment, I navigate.  Some might say I over-think life, I’d say that I actively engage in life.  I take the Tour de Life and I try to make it the best I can.

The older I get the more I realize that my voice matters.  While it might not matter to others, it matters to me.  And the more sure I am about this, the more I trust my thoughts and my feelings, the more they matter to others too.  Personal integrity or authenticity propel me forward, not only with others, but with myself too.

In the last few months, I have been profoundly busy navigating life and feelings.  Since my Trek to Tucson, I have had to learn how to live more alone and to build a different relationship with my sons; I have had to build new friendships and seek those that would be good for my life and that I have something to offer their lives.  And I had to figure out how to retain those I love while living so far away and having little time.  The journey hasn’t always been so easy.  Navigating life and those you want in it takes patience and dedication; it also takes discernment and real honesty.

Figuring out life has been intense at times.  Through writing, I have been able to weed out my thoughts and keep perspective.  I have also been able to explore what feelings, emotions, things, people, attitudes, etc. . .serve me well.  Ironically, I am learning that some of the above “stuff” needs to go.   There are two things, I am working on as I let go. I am working towards listening more especially to the silence between the words.  And I am trying to enjoy what is more and strive for perfectionism less.

As I do my current Dance of Life, I am striving to walk in this world with an inner warmth and a sincerity that is both inwardly true and outwardly real.  Navigating life means constantly asking myself, “Chava, where are you? What do you need? What do you want? What’s really happening in your heart and in your soul?   In order to live with my own personal integrity, I have to actively engage in life and while figuring out how to to do the Dance of Life.

Read Full Post »

Washington 1:1:10

Finding peace within the storms of life makes it possible to ride the waves with a little more ease.  ~Chava

With each breath, I wonder. Where will life’s journey take me and those I love?  I don’t take even a moment for granted.  I love deeply; I feel deeply; I live deeply.  The intensity is part of my soul and with that intensity I choose to live.

Tomorrow is not a given; it is a hope.

Tragedy can touch us at a moment’s notice; sometimes it does.  And tragedy is not only simply about loss of life; sometimes it can be about loss of what was.  We have all suffered loss of some sort or another.  A friendship is severed; a beloved becomes suddenly ill; a moment changes everything.  And while loss can penetrate our being, it doesn’t have to define our every step.  Or if it does, may it be for good.

I am no stranger to tragedy.  I have experienced pain, violence, sudden loss, and seriously ill children.  Years of my life have been altered by events that should never have been experienced.  And yet today I smile freely and I appreciate the gifts that life offers.  Life jazzes my soul; every turn leads to an open door full of possibilities.

With the knowledge that things can change in a moment, I actively engage in life.  I don’t allow frustration or anger to dominate my inner peace for any length of time.  I strive to surround myself with people that put a smile on my face, warm my heart, and inspire both myself and others to grow.  And when tough moments come, as they undoubtedly do, I meet each moment head on and let it go as soon as possible.  Life is too sacred to wrap myself in darkness.

Living life fully is not optional for me.  With the knowledge that life can’t be taken for granted, I try to honor my soul and the soul of those around me.  One of the people I admire most in my life, I admire from a distance.  This person actively engages in life; he does that which excites him and he pushes himself to the limit.  While I do the same in different ways, I do not choose to do it physically.  Unfortunately, I really can’t any longer; I used to.  The good news is that I navigate other amazing roads and new journeys at every turn.

The words below resonate for me.  While life is not a given and tomorrow might not come, I can still keep moving forward in whatever way works for me.

“If you can’t fly then run,

if you can’t run then walk,

if you can’t walk then crawl,

but whatever you do,

you have to keep moving forward.”

~Martin Luther King Jr. 


Read Full Post »





Photo courtesy of
Wendy Harris Delson

With Tu B’Shevat, the New Year for the Trees, coming, I wanted to have our Religious School community reflect on what being an integral part of the bigger picture could mean for each of us when we talk about the environment and all interconnected relationships. So, I taught them about the acronym PAIR.


Remember that we are part of many different partnerships within life.  We are part of our families, our Temple, our schools, our community, Israel, the world.


Within those partnerships we have to be aware of what is going on in the world around us.



The interconnectedness means that we are in a relationship not only with one another, but also with the land, the skies, and everything related to our environment.



Knowing that we are all interconnected means we have a HUGE responsibility to honor the interconnectedness of life by taking responsibility for the environment that we live.  This means that it is incumbent upon us to consider our actions within all relationships.  On a daily basis we interact with not only people, but with the environment around us.


There is a beauty in watching the children as they grow to realize that they are part of a larger picture.  This knowledge has the ability to impact how we walk in the world.  Each of our children, just like each human being has the ability to make a difference by walking gently and remembering the bigger picture.

While we often think it is ‘all about me’, it isn’t; we are part of a bigger world and we have to do our part to make this world, our environment, the best that it can be.  If we all work together, we can each do our part to impact our world for good.  PAIR is only one tool to help us remember our place and then inspire us in how we move forward and then ultimately how we engage with our bigger environment.

Read Full Post »


best 2 helpersFB

Friday nights rock in our house; regardless of what’s been going on all week, we always make time to just chill and enjoy one another.  A couple of Fridays ago was no exception.

What started as a good meal with some great company ended as one of the most fun evenings of all time! At some point during the meal, our company asked if we had covered any of our trees in prep for the upcoming frost.  I laughed.  Why would anyone ever consider covering nature?  And then I thought about the concept of ‘survival of the fittest’.  While  thoughts of ‘survival of the fittest’ and ‘letting nature do what nature does’ were in the back of mind, the stronger desire to refrain from wasting nature rang even louder.

So with laughter in our guts and a mission to save our oranges from the harsh desert environment, Dovi and Aryeh led the way while Maddie (our dog) and I followed.   We went outside and picked oranges for well over an hour.   We had a blast and ended up with three large containers of the most amazing oranges I have ever had!  Yummy!!!

Never a dull moment. . . Chava




Read Full Post »

Older Posts »