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 »

(This blog was adapted from a blog I wrote for my work blog)

A new tradition has begun.  Each week, I will be sharing an environmental teaching to my students and then blogging about it for both work and then also on my personal blog.    My hope is to offer a bissel, a little, Torah and an insight on how to take the teaching home.


“It is not up to us to complete the task (of repairing the world).
Yet neither are we free to desist.”
~Pirikei Avot 2:16

In order to make this world the best that it can be, we have to begin by doing our part wherever we can.  While each of us has a job to do, we can’t do it alone.  In order to make a difference, we have to work as a team with others.  Essentially that means that while you have to do your part to make the world stronger, healthier, better, you don’t have to do it alone and you don’t have to complete the work you started.  Just take one step and begin the journey. Ultimately you will find if you are doing the work, others will join you.

When I asked our students how they would do their part to take care of the environment, I heard a lot of great answers.  I was touched by the engaging conversation and the fact that many wanted to respond.  Our students care.   I was especially touched by the children that said that they always ride their bike to school instead of taking the bus or a car.  I also loved that many children carry a bag with them to pick up trash when they are walking outdoors.

With that in mind, I began to reflect, how can I refine what I am already doing?  And I came up with some ways..  Walking or biking more would be good; I will start walking or biking to work one to two days a week if not more. I will cook from scratch more often; I am pretty good now, but I should do better. And finally, the boys and I will start turning off electronics for an hour or so each night so we can read together, cook together and walk Maddie, our dog, together.  The goal is to nourish our relationship while also using less energy.

Another idea is taking shape for my family on a personal level even though it was inspired by my new Religious School Initiative, Turning Trash into Treasure.  For school it is simple, turn trash into art projects and school supplies.  What could that same initiative mean to our home.  Well here are some ideas and I’d love a few more.

  • When you are done with a book or other household object, pass on or pay it forward.
  • Old plastic containers can be used to collect water from rain showers; the collected water can be used to water plants. Recycling costs in many ways; if you can use without recycling – yay!
  • If you have an old towel, wrap up your next gift box with the towels.
  • Old towels can be used as cleaning rags.
  • Compost – I need to finally start doing that!
  • Use what you have instead of wasting or ignoring it.

There are many other ideas that I am missing; I’d love to hear your ideas.

All of the ideas above help minimize your carbon footprint.   You can also do things,

  • buy local produce
  • shop close to home
  • grow your own produce
  • bike or walk as often as possible
  • limit how much trash you create
  • enjoy life from where you are

For more information about minimizing your carbon footprint; there are many links on the World Wide Web for you to explore what it means to consider your carbon footprint and how to calculate your carbon footprint.  Each of us can easily and sometime with challenge do so much more to help strengthen our environment.  All you have to do is take one step in order to make a difference.

One of my favorite songs is The Garden Song written by David Mallett song by many of my favorite folk artists:

Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe
And a piece of fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
‘Til the rain comes tumbling down

This song reminds me that we are all on the journey of life; my hope is that most if not all of us take time to consider what little and large things we can do to make the environment healthier than it is.  All we have to do is take one step or many steps.  While you don’t have to complete the work yourself, living consciously and thoughtfully can ultimately make a difference for our world and repairing what ails her.

Read Full Post »

Nothing in life is a given, yet we can choose how to walk along the way.

Registering that reality can feel like a gift or feel like a challenge.  I can usually maneuver whatever comes my way.  I can choose to wrap myself in in my cocoon  or I an spread my wings and keep navigating forward.

butterflyBranson MO

Photo courtesy of
Judy Caplan Ginsburgh

The warmth of the cocoon is sweet and comforting; spreading my wings and fluttering about like a butterfly is pure ecstasy.  Both choices are the dichotomies for how I walk through life.  Sometimes I nestle into my thoughts and feelings as I face life somewhat privately or quietly; sometimes I flutter about reaching for new horizons or moving gently in the world.  There is a place for embracing life quietly or actively; life is what you make of it.

We can learn lessons from all of our different realities or we can grow stagnant.  Learning from life’s realities is a key to moving forward.  If you sit in darkness and despair for too long, little is gained.  At the same time if you let the joy of a moment flood you with happiness for too long, you also gain little.  Balance comes from not only acknowledging life’s realities, but also actively engaging in life’s journeys.  Feeling is important.  Acknowledging your thoughts/feelings is essential.  Sitting where you are for as long as you need can be healthy.  No one can dictate the right amount of time one needs to nestle into an emotional space, except for the person facing their own lives.

This month, I have faced many moments of fear, loss, pain, emptiness, anger, and relief, balance, hopefulness, peace.  Life’s dichotomies have been a little too intense at times.  My breathing has sometimes been labored; my emotional and physical state has been wobbly too.  As this period of time wanes, I am really grateful for my beloved friends and family who have allowed me both the space to sit quietly and the space to fly.  I have felt loved and held in a cocoon of inner warmth; I have also been free to flutter wherever my heart and soul took me.

Life is a journey of the unexpected; the gift is that I always have the power on how I will navigate.

May each of us find the balance to navigate life’s realities in a way that serves us well.

Read Full Post »


Sitting here at Café Passé, thinking, dreaming, writing . . .


Seems to be what I do these days.

I think about the role I play in society.

I think about where I am going.

I think about how I am going to get there.

And when all is done, I think some more.

I think about what is going on around me.

I think about the tears I feel in my soul and the tears that others feel.

And when that is done, I sit and I think about the world around me and I think about how I will one day make a difference.  Will there ever come a time in my life when I truly touch the lives of others?

Today, as I ordered my Hot Chai, I found myself laughing inside.  I can’t just order a drink without thinking/considering.

  • Is it organic?
  • Is it fair-trade?
  • Did I remember to say that I was drinking here? I don’t want to create trash.

I wonder if I have the guts to borrow a TV and create a Fair-Trade Chocolate evening.  Has my time come now to follow my derekh, my prana, my path?  There are three different ways to say the same thought, yet each expression means virtually the same thing.  Has the time come for me to use my voice?  Can I be articulate?

So many thoughts are racing through my head as I sip the Hot Chai Drink and not the Hot Chocolate I really want.


Dreams don’t really come true, do they?  I am just not certain.

Basically, I have to ‘pray as if only Gd exists and act as if I am the the one that can make a difference.”

So many prayers, hopes, and dreams are on my subconscious;

I keep reaching for the stars only to struggle with  where my dreams land.

I dream of a safe world where no one I love hurts.

I dream of holy place that brings health and joy to all that enter.

I dream of a world full of both inner peace and peace for all.

I dream of growing a strong foundation filled with the inner strength to navigate this world.

I dream of filling my container with light and spreading that light into the world around me.

So many dreams, so many hopes . . .so many hopes, so many dreams.


With my words, I weave my thoughts and my dreams into reality.

With my words I grasp for the wisdom to navigate the world around me and I grapple within my journey and the journey of the universe I live.

I explore; I create; I build the life I want.

With my words and the words of others, anything becomes a possibility.

All I truly have is the words of my soul; the words that make me who I am in this moment.

Only through my writing am I true to myself and to the possibilities of my soul.


With each breath, I visualize a warm light radiating through my entire being.

With each exhalation, I visualize that same light transferring into the world around me.
May I find the balance to do the holy work that I was brought in this world to do.  May we all find the balance to do the holy work that we were brought in this world to do.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »