New Post on Rosh Hodesh

New PNew Moon from Space Station, NASAost about Rosh Hodesh (also spelled Rosh Chodesh), has been added. It’s all about the Jewish celebration of the New Month as an ancient and contemporary festival for women, for families, for everyone! Find this new pathway in the rapidly growing Gateway of the Moon.

I’ve also been continuing to update the Resource Guides, both for online resources and for real-world Jewish retreat centers, outdoor adventures, and organic farms.

New Guest Post in the Gateway of Seasons

I’m so honored that Rabbi Rachel Barenblat has allowed me to share a post from her celebrated blog, The Velveteen Rabbi. Since we are both transplanted Texans (myself via California) to the U.S. Northeast, I really resonated with Rachel’s feelings about New England’s “Stick Season,” in late autumn, when the trees are bare of  colorful leaves but before the first snowfall coats them with glistening white. She has learned to treasure the dormancy and subtle beauty of this time of year, encouraging us to be fully present and learn from each season as we live it. Contemplate her gentle reflections on “Stick Season,” a new pathway in the Gateway of Seasons.

I have also added a new picture on that Gateway page that shows one of my favorite trees through three seasons of the year.

Here’s my instagram photo of a local tree in full autumn glory and then a week later in its bare leafless beauty:

Updates about retreat centers and farms


Backyard Pomegranate in California, JHD



Although most of my updates are about adding new Gateways (content pages) and Pathways (posts), Wellsprings is also a bit like a garden that needs regular trimming, and planting to keep it thriving. Today I’ve updated the listings of retreat centers and outdoor adventure programs, and added some information on Urban Adamah, a Jewish farm in Berkeley, California, to pathway post about community gardens.



New Post in the Gateway of the Moon

Thank you to the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem for permission to repost Melila Hellner-Eshed’s in-depth exploration of the development of an Sun and Moon by Molly 258ancient Jewish legend about the moon. Previously I was only linking to this fascinating article, but now you can read the whole thing here on Wellsprings, illustrated with great moon photos and a painting by Marc Chagall. Enjoy!

Creative Commons photos are linked back to their original sites so that you can explore the work of that photographer. Remember, you can see photo credits on hover, except for the large “Featured Images” for each post, which are credited and linked (where applicable) at the foot of each post.

More Moon Lore: Gateway of the Moon

Follow Wellsprings on Instagram

If you enjoy the nature photography on Wellsprings of Wisdom, I invite you to follow Wellsprings on Instagram. All of the photos(and videos) there are my personal work–or should I say, play? I share them in the hope of helping people to see the world with new eyes, to appreciate the beauty of our natural world (and some of our human creations) and our capacity to enjoy it all as a divine gift.

New Gateway: The Moon

I’m just Bass Lake Full Moon, Cantor Mitzi Schwarz emerging from the busy Fall Holiday season to launch a new Gateway page: Gateway of the Moon. The Jewish calendar, many rituals and colorful legends center on the Moon. This Gateway has just started, so check back to watch it grow and to learn about the meaning of the moon in Jewish tradition and as a symbol for the changes and cycles of our own lives.

Wellsprings Posts to Enrich your New Year

Yemenite Style ShofarAs a congregational rabbi, this is my busiest time of year, so new posts may be a bit slow in the coming weeks. However, you can find several holiday related posts on Wellsprings of Wisdom that I hope will add to the meaning of the season for you.

Learn about the meaning of the Shofar and listen to the call of a shofar blown outdoors. Take it deeper by learning how the shofar is used as a symbol of justice, social activism and Tikkun Olam (repairing the world).

Other posts highlight outdoor, nature-based rituals of the season, such as the Rosh Hashanah custom of Tashlich, “casting off sins” into a flowing stream. Learn about the custom here. I also share about a personal tashlich ritual that I created to deal with a difficult life transition, and share photos of the beautiful Northern California creek where I performed it. While on the subject of Tashlich, enjoy a poem about a creek, “Today is Forever,” translated from Yiddish of Malka Heifetz Tussman by Marcia Falk, and shared from her wonderful book for the season, The Days Between (linked in the post).

After the Days of Awe (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) comes Sukkot, the harvest festival, which focuses on life out of doors by dwelling in a hut called a sukkah. Here is a post about the sukkah and the holiday and its symbolism. The post links to holiday retreats in the US East and West coasts.

As I write this, Hurricane Irma is battering Florida. I wish safety and calm to everyone there, and urge those of use who are far away to contribute both our prayers and our tzedakah (charity, righteous giving) to help those who are impacted.

Wishing everyone blessings of a Shanah Tovah! Be written and sealed in the Scroll of Life for a good and sweet New Year.

For a Good New Year!

Getting ready for Rosh Hashanah with a Shofar Call in Nature

In the month of Elul, leading up the Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, it is traditional to blow the shofar daily (except Shabbat). Here Rabbi Sarah Leah Grafstein sounds the ram’s horn in the awesome setting of the Grand Canyon. The shofar calls us to awaken, arise, return to our true nature and mission in life. This is also a time to prepare for the new year by giving tzedakah (charity, righteous giving), mending relationships, remembering the departed, and doing an “accounting of the soul” (cheshbon hanefesh), meaning self-reflection in preparation for the New Year. Rosh Hashanah starts this year on Wednesday evening, September 20.

It is traditional to read Psalm 27 daily to build our faith and confidence. Here is a wonderful translation by my teacher, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi of blessed memory. And here is a recording of him reading it.


New Post: Learn Ocean Breathing

Ocean Breathing is a Waves on beach in Puerto Rico, JHDyogic breathing technique that I learned from Marcia (Meesha) Albert at the old Elat Chayyim Retreat Center in the Catskills. While it takes a little practice, it is a wonderful calming technique, kind of like your own portable beach. Find audio and written instructions in this New Post in the Gateway of the Sea. As a bonus, enjoy a virtual trip to the beach in Australia.

Prayers and Tzedakah after Hurricane Harvey

Nature can be beautiful, but can also bring powerful destruction. My thoughts are with those in my home state of Texas living through the devastating floods of Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath. Jewish tradition urges us to pray, and also to anchor our prayers by giving tzedakah (charity, righteous giving). In that spirit, here are some place that you can donate to help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey: 

Jewish Federation of Greater Houston

Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund (Greater Houston Community Foundation)

Hurricane Harvey on Radar

More Eclipse Resources


Many people find a total solar eclipse to be an incredibly spiritual experience in nature that opens them to the vastness of the cosmos. More eclipse resources, from practical, spiritual, and particularly Jewish perspectives have been coming my way in recent days, so here are some more wonderful materials for share. (Thank you to Rabbi Riqi Kosovske) for sharing several of these.)

For spiritual reflections from a Jewish perspective, I loved Dr. Tamar Frankiel’s beautiful post on Rosh Hodesh Elul (the new Hebrew month prior to Rosh Hashanah), and its relationship to the eclipse. Another inspiring Jewish resource is Sun and Moon, Together, a free downloadable e-book by Prof. Nehemia Polen and daughter Adina Polen. This “mini literary magazine” includes deep teachings for adults on the moon in Rabbinic tradition, and an illustrated story to share with children.

To continue the theme from the last “What’s New” post in more depth, you can read Rabbi Joshua Heller’s teshuvah (response) to the question of whether one should offer a traditional Hebrew blessing on seeing the eclipse–and which one to say.

Finally, here are some great general guidelines for viewing the eclipse and meaningfully and safely. For those of us who are not in the path of “totality,” there are ways to watch the celestial event remotely.

The previous “What’s New” post has blessings that can be said for the eclipse.



Blessings for Eclipse?

Many people will be traveling to view the full solar eclipse the will be seen across the United States on August 21, 2017Eclipse, 2012, JHD. Here is a webpage with links to all kinds of information about this celestial event. Although traditionally, no Hebrew blessing was said upon seeing an eclipse, as in earlier generations people viewed it as a bad omen, today many people view it with wonder and find it appropriate to say a prayer from tradition. Rabbi David Zaslow recommends the blessings below.

Perhaps a blessing practice can help us to see the Eclipse in a more positive, modern light, as a fully predictable natural event that evokes awe and wonder at creation. Still, the traditional sense of the Eclipse calling us to teshuvah, to repairing and mending our ways, is always worthwhile.

Image: Photo that I took during a solar eclipse in California, 2012, using a binocular projector. (In case you needed a reminder, never look at the sun during an eclipse as you can damage your eyes. The linked article will provide some ideas for safe ways to view it.)



For more eclipse resources, read the next “What’s New Post.

New Post: The Two Seas

There is a famous legend about two seas: the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) in the North of Israel, and the DeaDead Sea Boat Ride, Yair Aronshtam, via Flickrd Sea in its south. One gives; one is said to only receive. Read this new post  in the Gateway of the Sea to learn the story and my personal take on the deeper meaning of giving and receiving for our ethical and spiritual lives.

Tikkun Olam: Saving Our Seas

Cape Cod National Seashore, JHD

The Gateway of the Sea continues to grow! I just added another Tikkun Olam (“repairing the world”) post, on what we can do to help save our seas and oceans…which really means to save humanity’s future on our planet! In this post, which includes a short video, you will get ideas and guidance on how to make better personal choices for our ocean, connect with worthy organizations to support, and meet an inspirational woman and an amazing child who will inspire you to learn about and care for our ocean world.

Coral and Torah

Observing the solemn season around Tisha B’Av, we think of the destruction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, and the Jewish exile from our ancient homeland. TCoral reef ecosystem at Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Photo cedit: Jim Maragos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serviceoday many Jews find new meaning in Tisha B’Av by taking this fast and this season as a time to ponder contemporary issues like the plight of today’s war refugees as well as the destruction of natural habitats on Planet Earth. At my synagogue observance, we added some poetry from The Shalom Center as a dirge for the destruction of natural habitats, such as many of the world’s precious coral reefs.

As we conclude this season of remembrance, which began three weeks ago on the very day said to be the day on which Moses broke the first set of Tablets of the Covenant, I offer this reflection on Torah and Coral in the Gateway of the Sea, based on a teaching of my late Talmud teacher, Rabbi Judith Abrams. It includes a wonderful video about Coral Reefs and a link to an organization where you can get involved.