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Posts Tagged ‘Debbie Friedman’

Middah (character trait) focus: Sending light and healing energy

Note: I will be Counting the Omer for a total of 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom. For many, this is simply the Counting the Omer; for me, it is a time to actively reflect on different middot (character traits) that will lead me to my own rebirth.

Over the years, I learned so much from watching how those I respect, walk in the world. Some of my most valued lessons come from my teacher Debbie Friedman, of Blessed Memory. From Debbie, I learned the power of prayer and song in the healing of body, mind, and soul. I will never forget how powerful it was to hear her sing Mi Shebeirach (for healing) and Light These Lights. Each time she sang the words to her songs/prayers, I felt her students and her audience transform.  Debbie always sang her healing prayer first and then the audience joined her; each and every time she sang of healing, the energy was palpable.  Every person in those auditoriums believed that their prayers could impact what was happening and it did; the healing energy went exactly to where it was supposed to go.  In fact, Debbie transformed many prayers over the years as she brought meaning using her interpretations and melodies as a tool for making prayers meaningful.  The power of her prayers can be felt each time I go to a healing service or sit in services as an entire community sings Mi Sheberirach for those that are sick both physically and spiritually.  While hearing an Debbie Friedman sing her songs was breathtakingly beautiful, hearing her songs carried on by others is also touching and beautiful.

Take a moment and listen to my friend Dr. Scott Mandel’s students as they sing Light These Lights.  As director of Pacoima’s group, he was able to inspire his choir to reach inside themselves and create what I believe Debbie herself would find inspiring.

Pacoima Singers–12, 13 & 14 year olds from the Pacoima Middle School Television, Theatre & Performing Arts Magnet in Los Angeles. Web site: pacoimasingers.com

After I light the Shabbat candles each and every Friday night,, my own family sings Light These Lights. Before singing it, I ask each person to visualize those in their lives that are in need of healing; we sing this short song many times until we have completed sending out healing to those in need, those that we know and those that we don’t yet know.

Debbie believed in the power of healing circles and the power of song to heal not only those we love as well as those that love those who are ill; she also inspired all of us to reach inside ourselves for the bigger world too.  When my son was critically sick, people prayed for Aryeh.  People chanted, sang, and prayed traditional prayers as well as healing chants/songs; each prayer made a difference.  Whether or not the songs and prayers saved Aryeh, I might never know, but what I can tell you is that I think it didl Aryeh’s body, mind, and soul healed over time. The work was hard and seemingly impossible at times, but nonetheless healing for all of us happened.

There are so many folk singers and spiritual artists that are sending out their healing energy into the world.  May we all join in and create our own healing energy to send out to the world.  May we all do our part to make a difference.

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Everyone needs someone to guide them as they walk through their life.  As a child, I was no different.  While I needed to dodge what was happening at home, I also needed the direction to grow in spite of what was happening to me and around me.   While the elders cared for me and supported me, none of them let me wallow in my pity parties; each gave me tools to survive and ultimately thrive.  The ‘elders’ in my life kept me alive by simply opening the door and allowing me to walk through it.

Where does the journey begin?
Where will we go?
Hours pass, the answers might change
As we keep moving along.

words by Debbie Friedman z’l and Tamara Ruth Cohen

As a young girl, I found drugs more intriguing than most anything else in life.  By the time I was 11 years old, I was enjoying a few of the ‘lighter’ drugs on a regular basis.  At 14 years old, I had tried or was using nearly every street drug available to me with the exception of heroine.  Funny, I distinctly remember that I prided myself on never shooting-up.

And then sometime around the spring following my 16th birthday, I stopped and I let go of all of the drugs that had been part of my young life.  One day, I woke up to the realization that I didn’t want to be like my mother.  During much of my childhood, my mother was a very sick soul and an abusive monster.  I didn’t know what it meant to choose a different path, but I believed that I wanted to be better and very different from the person who birthed me.

Over the years, I’ve come to understand that while I was really alone throughout my childhood, there were some angels that touched my life along the way.  The most important person for me was a man named Mike Gimbel.  Mike was real, a recovering addict, a therapist, and someone who believed in me.  And he was the person that helped lead me towards a different life.  Mike probably saved my life by somehow helping me believe that I could change the course of my life in every way.  While he was a social worker, he also reached me by going out of his way to be present when I needed him most.  I remember two or three times, he picked me up in his car and listened as I dealt with the crumbling of my heart and soul.

Mike Gimbel

Mike Gimbel is he man that had the most profound impact on my life, he gave me the tools to save myself.

Growing up was hard, really hard.  The journey lead me to be self-reliant.  There was no one who could really keep me safe or healthy except for me.  Mike was probably the most influential angel, but there were others who took time to make the difference.  One man was a mentor/leader in my Alateen (a group for children of alcoholics) community, his name was Tom Beam.  Tom opened his heart and gave all the love he could to his children.  I don’t believe he had any of his own, but he had hundreds of teens that looked up to him. Even after I drifted away, Tom always remembered my birthday by sending me a birthday card and calling me too.  Without fail for a decade or more after I fell off the Alateen journey, Tom remembered me.  There were years when no one else celebrated my life with me.  To be fair, the good news is that my brother always remembered my birthday regardless of where he was and what he was doing.  So at least I was remembered.  As long as I needed Tom, he would pick me up in his big Volkswagen Van; sometimes he would make sure I was eating, sometimes he would take me back to his house, and sometimes he would just sit with me while supporting me as I navigated my dark moods.

And then there was Goldie Gorn.  Mrs. Gorn was the principal of the religious school where I grew up.  She took time to listen to me and to allow me to cry.  She also gave me a huge gift a few years before her death; she helped make it possible for me to leave my home at 16 years old and go to Israel for 11th grade.  At Kfar HaYarok, my school, I was given wings to fly and the belief that my childhood would not destroy me.  Without Mrs. Gorn’s nudge and my brother’s perseverance, I would not have taken the final leap towards becoming a healthy human being.  Well maybe not that healthy. . . .very few teenagers are healthy, but I was moving in the right direction.

As a teenager, I must have been a profoundly sad being.  Melancholy was part of my every step.  How could it not be?  But these three ‘elders’ believed in me and helped me become the person I am today.  Each elder had several things in common, they:

  • were authentic in the way they walked in the world.
  • listened with an open heart.
  • believe every word that I shared and that allowed me to share a little more of myself.
  • gave me tools to help myself.
  • nurtured me sometimes with love, sometimes with a warm meal.
  • cared not only for me, but for many others.
  • and so much more. . . .

I feel so blessed that Mike Gimbel, Tom Beam, and Goldie Gorn took time to guide me through a part of my life.  I would not be who I am today without having them helping me navigate the journey called life.

My hope and my prayer is that I am walking the walk that these ‘elders’ modeled for me.  As I write this blog, I realize I have work to do.  How about you?

PS – If I lived in Baltimore, I would sit at Goldie Gorn’s grave; I would try to find Tom Beam’s grave and visit his church too; and I would welcome the opportunity to give Mike Gimbel a huge hug and thank him in a very personal way.  I would not have been half the person I am if it wasn’t for these loving souls.

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Recently I honored my soul in ways I had never considered as an option before.  Taking the leap of faith was extremely scary and I was blessed with an amazing outcome.

A little more than a month ago, I resigned from a job that was damaging to my soul on a core level.  While the community I worked for was loving and fabulous; there were also some significant hurdles that challenged me and sometimes hurt me on a core level.  I had lost my voice and I had stopped soaring in a way that made me proud.  The blessing was that as I look back, I believe that I was able to manage my darkness privately and thrive for the community.

Moving forward isn’t always easy and I wasn’t quite certain how I was going to navigate this journey, but the journey unfolded beautiful with very little navigation needed.

Less than 24 hours after writing my resignation letter, I received the call from the leadership of Temple Emanu-El in Tucson, Arizona.  The timing could not have been better.  I called out and the universe responded.    Not only did the universe respond; she responded really clearly.

Somehow, all the pieces of the puzzle fell and are continuing to fall into place.

Sabino Canyon – Can’t wait to see it

The beauty is that I am hopeful that I am moving to a community that will give me wings to do what I love to do as a Jewish educator in a supportive environment too.  Rumor has it that Tucson, is a place that will nourish my soul.  May both be true.

Many have asked how my children are moving through this journey.  They are doing it with a lot of grace and sadness too.  All of us have loved living in DC, but it is time to experience something new.  I am certain we will all be back soon and the boys will be back even sooner.

Now let’s hope the universe opens up for them too.  May Tucson have Dungeons and Dragons, among other role-playing games.

Throughout this journey, I found myself singing Debbie Friedman’s  Lechi Lach.  Below is a link of not Debbie signing her song, but many of my favorite musicians singing her song.  This song is definitely helping me stay sane as pack up and head to the southwest.

With love, light, and blessings,

Chava

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