Fire

 

אש

Fire goes together with Light in Jewish tradition. The Torah describes light as God’s first act of creation, “Let there be Light!” Light is intangible and yet essential to life, fostering its association with the divine. According to Jewish mysticism, the original divine light, the boundless Light of creation, preceded the sun, moon and stars, that mark and guide our passages on earth. Fire is associated with divine revelation at the Burning Bush and Mt. Sinai. It is powerful, potentially dangerous, and yet essential to civilization.
Through this Portal are Gateways that explore symbols of light and fire. Time, directions, seasons, are all illuminated by the heavenly bodies. The rainbow spectrum has mystical and modern meanings. We associate light with the divine, but also acknowledge the spiritual renewal to be found in the dark.

 

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Tzedakah for Spiritual Ascent

There is a Jewish mystical concept that by the merit of giving tzedakah (or learning Torah or doing a good deed) in memory of a loved one, we can help their soul ascend on its journey (aliyat ha-neshamah) in the next world. A humanistic understanding of this would be...

Seasons of Life

In addition to affirming the goodness of seasonal rhythms, the Bible also affirms the seasonal rhythms of human life, as in the well known section of Kohelet / Ecclesiastes: There is a season for everything, and a time for every desired purpose under heaven....

Tikkun Olam: Clean the Air

I sometimes think of streams as the arteries of our planet, forests as the lungs, and wind as the breath.Yet millions of children and adults breathe polluted air.  To live healthfully on the earth, we need to clean our air, the breath of life, both by better everyday...

Tzedakah for Mountain People (and others)

People living in the Himalayan mountain range have the highest rates of blindness in the world. This may be the result of genetic predisposition, high altitude, sunlight, diet, or a combination of all these factors. The amazing Himalayan Cataract Project brings high...

Turn, Turn, Turn

What better way to hear "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)" then this clip from 1966 featuring the composer Pete Seeger playing with Judy Collins (even as she gets stuck on the lyrics at one point, it only makes it more charming and nostalgic). The...

Autumn Gallery

Click on this image to activate a gallery of beautiful scenes from Autumn at Rockefeller State Park Preserve. They document the season from its early pastels and oranges to the golden peak, though an early snowfall and into bare branches.All photos by...

Poem: Who has Seen the Wind?

by Christina Rossetti Who has seen the wind? Neither I nor you: But when the leaves hang trembling, The wind is passing through. Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I: But when the trees bow down their heads, The wind is passing by. Share your thoughts on the...

Wings of Peace: Draw Water in Joy

Wings of Peace,  Rabbi Aryeh Hirschfield  <http://rebaryeh.com/> This beautiful song in Hebrew and English by the late and much beloved Rabbi Aryeh Hirschfield is about "drawing water in joy" (Isaiah 12:3) from the living well of God's spirit. After I listen to...

Breathing Meditation

This breathing Meditation is a simple way to connect to your soul and to feel the divine gift of every breath, Rabbi Julie Danan   Featured image: Great Blue Heron over Swan Lake, Rockefeller State Park Preserve, New York, JHD Enjoy and bless a scent, or return...

Torah Study: Peak Experiences in the Bible

The Bible has many references to important experiences associated with mountains: Moriah, Sinai, Nebo, Carmel, Tabor, and so on (most of them on the scale of hills). Here are four biblical themes associated with mountains and ascent: Test "God tested Abraham, and said...

Moses’ Peak Experience, Beholding the Divine Presence

In Exodus 33-34, Moses asks to behold God's presence, literally, "to see God's face." God responds that Moses can see God's "back" only, because no one can behold God face-to-face and live. Moses then ascends Mount Sinai alone, stands in a cleft of a rock and receives...

A Peak Experience on a Peak in Jerusalem

During one of my first visits to Jerusalem, on Tu Bishvat, the early spring New Year of Trees, my then fiance Avraham and I climbed the stairs to a rooftop on a building in Mount Zion, in the Old City. The feeling evoked my childhood ascents to "the bluff," a small...

Moroccan Chant of Psalm 24

  Traditional Moroccan Jewish chant, sung by my husband Avraham Danan Who shall ascend into the mountain of the LORD? And who shall stand in God's holy place? One clean of hands and pure of heart . . . Psalm 24    Featured Image: By Tommy from Arad (Chebicka...

Dirge for the earth and climate change

A haunting ancient Jewish melody with lyrics in Hebrew and English, chanted by Cantor Richard Kaplan. Dirges (kinot) of Tisha B'av, the summer fast to commemorate the destruction of the ancient Temples in Jerusalem, are here combined with visuals of our planet's...

Pilgrimage to Forgiveness

by Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan, Ph.D. My husband and I are on a pilgrimage to Mt. Baker.  Yes, a pilgrimage. There’s nothing else to call it. From our home 100 miles away, we watch the mountain every day. A glaciated volcano, white giant, heavenly being, silent witness,...

A Guide’s Perspective: Encounters With Birds

When I get too wrapped up in my merely human concerns, all I need to do is to look outside my window or take a walk in the park to enter a different world, the world of birds that surround us everywhere.  (In fact, I hear them chirping as I write this post). Here...

Scents Feed the Soul

  Neuroscientists and psychologists tell us that the sense of smell is closely connected to memory and emotion. Scents can tie us to our traditions (the smell of challah baking or latkes frying), and to Nature and places of the soul. I remember that when we moved...

Tikkun Olam: The Audubon Society and Bird Conservation

We've heard the expression, "a canary in a coal mine," to make a metaphor of the way in which birds can serve as indicators of toxic environments. Although canaries are no longer carried into mines to test for carbon monoxide, the fates of birds and other winged...

Doves and Eagles: Two Paradigms of Biblical Spirituality

Two of the most prominent birds in biblical tradition are very different in nature: the dove and the eagle. The gentle dove that dwells close to earth is an important symbol in Jewish and other ancient Near Easter religious traditions. After the Great Flood recorded...

Going Up and Coming Down the Mountain

While most people have peak experiences at one time or another, there are two challenges: their rarity and their evanescence. Peak experiences may be rare and fleeting "highs" lost in the rush of events and the passage of time. But if we can integrate them as part of...