The Moon

The Moon

The Moon (Ha’yrah)

הירח

Gazing skyward at night and spotting the moon, I feel greeted by a friend who shows up in many different outfits and moods. Sometimes she appears as a thin crescent in the dark night, sometimes a fully glowing round beacon with a halo. Sometimes she floats above the horizon, a giant orange orb lit by the setting sun. Other nights she peeks demurely from behind a veil of shifting clouds. Most wonderfully, sometimes I gaze up in the morning or at dusk and find her winking at me then, too.

The Moon is important to life on earth, including regulation of tides, influence on nocturnal animal behavior, and even stabilization of the earth’s rotation on its axis. The Moon is also an important symbol in Jewish tradition. We base our calendar and holidays primarily on the moon and its cycles. In Rabbinic tradition, the Moon and its cycle of restoration became a symbol of the Jewish people. In Jewish mysticism. the Moon is associated with the Shechinah, the feminine Divine Presence, and with the role of women in general. Celebrating the new moon (Rosh Hodesh) and blessing the waxing moon (Kiddush Levanah) are ancient traditions that have become important expressions of contemporary Jewish spirituality.

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The first option below is the suggested next step on your journey.  Feel free to browse the following paths and explore in your own time at your own pace.

Moonrise in Oregon

Enjoy a beautiful full moon in nature anytime with this serene and meditative video that starts with verses from Genesis. The video continues with calming views of the Oregon lake and mountains.   Explore the Moon's relationship to time and renewal, or return to...

The Moon, Jewish Time, and Renewal

הַחֹ֧דֶשׁ הַזֶּ֛ה לָכֶ֖ם רֹ֣אשׁ חֳדָשִׁ֑ים רִאשׁ֥וֹן הוּא֙ לָכֶ֔ם לְחָדְשֵׁ֖י הַשָּׁנָֽה׃ This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months; it shall be the first of the months of the year for you. Exodus 12:1  :החדש הזה. הֶרְאָהוּ לְבָנָה בְּחִדּוּשָׁהּ וְאָמַר לוֹ...

Rosh Hodesh: Celebration of the New Moon

Rosh Hodesh, also spelled Rosh Chodesh ("Ch" as in "Bach"), is the celebration of the new Hebrew month, an ancient festival finding renewal among contemporary Jews. Rosh Hodesh means the "head" or first day of the lunar month (just as "Rosh Hashanah" means the "head...

Rosh Hodesh Moon, song by Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael

Its a moon song Bubbling up and over me Darkness, sets my spirit free. Rosh Hodesh, enchanted time to hallow the month Rosh Hodesh (also spelled Chodesh) the new moon, is traditionally a special day of rest and celebration for women. Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael wrote...

Midrash: How the Moon Shrank

וַיַּ֣עַשׂ אֱלֹהִ֔ים אֶת־שְׁנֵ֥י הַמְּאֹרֹ֖ת הַגְּדֹלִ֑ים אֶת־הַמָּא֤וֹר הַגָּדֹל֙ לְמֶמְשֶׁ֣לֶת הַיּ֔וֹם וְאֶת־הַמָּא֤וֹר הַקָּטֹן֙ לְמֶמְשֶׁ֣לֶת הַלַּ֔יְלָה וְאֵ֖ת הַכּוֹכָבִֽים׃ God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule by day and the lesser light to...

The Myth of Moon, Reinvented Over the Ages

The midrash about the Moon's diminishment in the previous post did not remain static over the centuries, but was reinvented to reveal new meanings. Explore the changing face of this ancient legend in depth, through this fascinating article by Melila Hellner-Eshed, the...

Kiddush Levana: A Blessing for the Moon

There is a Jewish tradition to bless the renewal of the moon once each month from three days after the new moon appears and before it reaches fullness. The full text of this outdoor ceremony, translated by Rabbi David Seidenberg, can be found here. Blessing the moon...

Solar Eclipse: A Cosmic Experience

Many people find a total solar eclipse to be an incredibly spiritual experience in nature that opens them to the vastness of the cosmos. It has a wonderful echo of the ancient legend of the Moon, because during the full solar eclipse the moon passes between earth and...

A Guide’s Perspective: Greeting the Moon

To me, greeting the moon is always a special thrill, like running into a wise and beautiful friend who communicates silently. On a physical plane, the moon is necessary to life as we know it, one of the many miraculous factors that makes our planet a hospitable home...

The Hebrew Months

Our Hebrew months got their current names in Babylonia over 2500 years ago and are associated with the signs of the Zodaic. Yes, those odd dates listed on your horoscope should be switched out for the Hebrew months, and the signs have resonances in some of the Jewish...

Tikkun Olam: Half the Sky

In Jewish tradition, the Moon has been associated with women and the feminine. In today's world, one of the most central social movements for Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) is that of achieving full equality and rights for the world's women and girls. Some see the...

Sharing Circle: The Moon

  What is your personal connection to the Moon? Does the Moon ever symbolize something for you? Does tracking its cycles take you back to a more organic relationship to time? Have you watched a solar or lunar eclipse? Stayed up in the wee hours to watch the...

The Sea

The Sea

Basking in the sun and gazing at the waves, swimming and floating in the salt water: a seaside retreat is a timeless way to promote calm and healing. On a spiritual level, the depth, power, and mystery of the ocean evoke our awe and open us to a state of wonder more readily than almost anywhere else on earth. Diving near a coral reef or visiting an aquarium, we see that beneath the surface of the sea are worlds upon worlds of eco-systems filled with myriads of amazing creatures.

Earth might be called the sea planet, since over 70% of our globe is covered with great oceans, which can really be described as one World Ocean. Seas are technically just parts of those oceans that are partly enclosed by land. Oceans and seas are vital to life on our planet: containing 97% of our water, half of our oxygen and absorbing much of the carbon dioxide from our atmosphere to slow down global warming. Over half the world’s people live in the coastal zone, and over 140 million tons of food from the ocean are part of the global diets. But pollution, over-fishing, and destruction of fragile habitats continue to threaten this cradle of our global life.

The Sea is an important part of Jewish tradition. According to the Torah, the formative experience of our nation was escape from slavery through the parting of the Red (or Reed) Sea, and seafaring made its way into biblical stories from Noah to Jonah.  In Israel, the big salt sea to the west is the Mediterranean, but Israel’s lakes are also called “seas,” from the freshwater “Sea” of Galilee (in Hebrew, Ha-Kineret, the harp-shaped lake), down the Jordan River to what we call in English the Dead Sea (known in Hebrew as Yam Ha-Melach the Salt Sea). Our Sages borrowed the Greek word “Okeanus” for Ocean. Spiritually, the Sea can be a symbol of birth or destruction, a place of depth, mystery, and power.

 

Dive into this Gateway of The Sea to explore the symbolism of oceans, seas, and lakes in our tradition and in our lives.

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Gallery of the Seashore in Israel

Cellist and humanitarian Yo-Yo Ma speaks about the “edge,” the natural or cultural place where environments intersect, as one that always has more life forms and new life forms. Bach taught him to balance going to his center and to the edge. In cultural...

Winter at the Beach

Gazing at the waves is meditative and calming, especially when you have the beach to yourself on a crisp winter morning. Beach at Cape May South Meadows, New Jersey (The Nature Conservancy), Video by JHD, January, 2017  

The Sea in the Bible

The great German Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig said that we relate to and experience God in three ways: Creation, Revelation, and Redemption. The Hebrew Bible (Tanakh)'s depictions of the Sea encompass all three themes, and add one that he left out: destruction....

As the Sands on the Shore

כִּֽי־בָרֵ֣ךְ אֲבָרֶכְךָ֗ וְהַרְבָּ֨ה אַרְבֶּ֤ה אֶֽת־זַרְעֲךָ֙ כְּכוֹכְבֵ֣י הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וְכַח֕וֹל אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־שְׂפַ֣ת הַיָּ֑ם I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand upon the seashore. --Genesis 22:17 The...

Voices of Many Waters by Nava Tehila Ensemble, Jerusalem

מִקֹּל֨וֹת ׀ מַ֤יִם רַבִּ֗ים אַדִּירִ֣ים מִשְׁבְּרֵי־יָ֑ם אַדִּ֖יר בַּמָּר֣וֹם יְהוָֽה׃ Above the thunder of the mighty waters, more majestic than the breakers of the sea,  majestic on high is YHWH. -Psalms 93:4 From Nava Tehila, Jerusalem community for Jewish Renewal...

Gallery: Mediterranean Sea in Israel in Spring

The Mediterranean Sea in Spring, Kibbutz Ma'agan Michael and Habonim-Dor Nature Reserve, by Daphna Rosenberg. Learn a blessing on seeing the sea, or return to the Gateway of The Sea.

A blessing on seeing the Sea

  It's a Jewish spiritual practice to say a berachah, a blessing, when experiencing an awesome, beautiful, or startling sight (or sound like thunder, or delicious scent) in nature. When I suddenly get to that first view of the ocean, I always catch my breath at...

As the Sea fills a Cave

Rabbi Joshua of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, "To what should we compare the Tent of Meeting [that Moses set up in the desert]? To a cave on the seashore. When the tide rises and the sea floods the cave, the sea is not diminished. Thus the Tent of Meeting...

Moroccan Jewish “Song at the Sea”

The Song at the Sea, Shirat Ha-Yam, Exodus 15, with a classic Moroccan-Jewish Melody. Performed by Rabbi Hillel Hayyim Lavery-Yisraeli. Learn more here. Learn about the Parting of the Red Sea, or return to the Gateway of the Sea.

Splitting the Sea with Wind

Picture the splitting of the Reed (or Red) Sea. Based on the movie versions, we tend to visualize Moses raising his staff, so that the waters part instantly—supernatural special effects! But the Torah (Exodus 14:21), offers a more naturalistic depiction of the...

Two Seas: Giving and Receiving

There is an old parable about two seas in Israel, one fresh and one very salty. One, the Sea of Galilee, in Hebrew is called Yam Kinneret  יָם כִּנֶּרֶת‎ in Hebrew, because it is shaped like a harp, kinor. This freshwater lake teams with fish and is ringed by rich...

Ocean Breathing

I learned "Ocean Breath" from a wonderful yoga teacher, Marcia (Me-esha) Albert, at the original Elat Chayyim retreat center in Accord New York (now incorporated into Isabella Freedman retreat center). Based on yogic foundations, this breathing technique takes a...

Gallery: As Above, So Below

I am captivated by the reflections of sky in a lake,* especially when sky and water seem to merge. On a spiritual level, it reminds me that in each of our souls is a reflection of the divine, the tzelem Elohim. We can perceive the reflection of what is "above" most...

Torah as Coral, Coral as Torah

We have heard the expression "Sea of Torah." But how about Torah as coral? Part One: Torah As Moses came down the mountain with the Ten Commandments carved on two stone tablets, he found the people worshiping a golden calf. As recounted in Exodus 32:19, Moses threw...

Tikkun Olam: Saving Our Seas, Saving Us

Famed oceanographer Sylvia Earle explains that just a few decades ago, human beings imagined that the world's oceans were so vast, there was no way that humanity could harm them. The ocean was seen as bottomless basket of resources for humanity, providing us with...

Refugees at Sea: Can we help their waters part?

Our Jewish redemption story centers on a rescue at sea. The parting of the Red (or Reed) Sea as described in the book of Exodus is the paradigm our own people's redemption from ancient slavery and oppression, remembered in our prayers and holiday observances...

Sharing Circle: The Sea

What is the meaning of The Sea in your life? Do you live near a sea, ocean, or lake, or visit often? Which one(s)? Do you go there for healing, spirituality, adventure? Have you ever lived through a flood or other natural disaster (or helped to rebuild) and what was...

Seasons

Seasons

Seasons (Onot)

עונות

The blossoms and buds of spring, the hot sun and cool water of summer, the colors of autumn and the chill of winter: each season has its treasures to offer.

The seasons and cycles of the year point to larger seasons and cycles in our lives. The Bible (Tanach) and the wisdom of our Sages emphasize timeliness, “a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” Learning to live with wisdom is also learning to value and honor the seasons of our lives, the seasons of our relationships.

Seasons have a new and urgent significance today. The Bible describes unseasonable weather, such as rain or drought out of season, as a sign of divine displeasure with human sin. For modern people such notions once seemed naive. Now, in this age of Climate Change, they have new relevance, as we yearn to preserve the natural seasonal rhythms of God’s earth.

עֹ֖ד כָּל־יְמֵ֣י הָאָ֑רֶץ זֶ֡רַע וְ֠קָצִיר וְקֹ֨ר וָחֹ֜ם וְקַ֧יִץ וָחֹ֛רֶף וְי֥וֹם וָלַ֖יְלָה לֹ֥א יִשְׁבֹּֽתוּ׃

So long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease.

Genesis 8:22

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The first option below is the suggested next step on your journey.  Feel free to browse the following paths and explore in your own time at your own pace.

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...

A Time to Every Purpose

אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים יְהִ֤י מְאֹרֹת֙ בִּרְקִ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם לְהַבְדִּ֕יל בֵּ֥ין הַיּ֖וֹם וּבֵ֣ין הַלָּ֑יְלָה וְהָי֤וּ לְאֹתֹת֙ וּלְמ֣וֹעֲדִ֔ים וּלְיָמִ֖ים וְשָׁנִֽים׃ God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate between day and night; and they will...

Seasonal Scenes at Rockefeller State Park Preserve

I've entered the world of Four Seasons with my move to Westchester County, New York. Here are some photos I took at one of my favorite places, Rockefeller State Park Preserve. Return to the Gateway of Seasons.

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...

Living in the Season

Seasons are very different in each of the places I have lived. In South Texas, a short spring quickly stretches into a long, hot, heavy summer, followed by a pleasant fall and mild winter. In both Israel and Northern California I experienced Mediterranean Climates...

Stick Season

By Rachel Barenblat, The Velveteen Rabbi  I used to own a long, soft, narrow-wale corduroy dress that always seemed to call to me around this time of year. Its colors were muted: taupe and pale purple and deep fir-green. One day I realized that it matched the...

The Reason for the Season

by Rabbi David Zaslow There is an organic flow between all of the Jewish holidays that mirrors the cycles in nature. In the Creation story, we learn that “there was evening and there was morning, the first day” (Gen. 1:5). Jews continue to mark the beginning of the...

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....

Sephirah: Reviewing Your Life in Seven Year Cycles

Years ago, I learned from the late Rabbi David Wolfe-Blank about a spiritual practice of reviewing one's life in seven year increments, a Sephirah (counting) of life. It's a great exercise to do around your birthday or anytime you want to take stock. The Shmittah or...

Yield to the Moment and the Moment Yields to You

Rabbi Avin the Levite said: All who try to force the moment (literally, "the hour") the moment forces them, and all who yield to the moment, the moment yields to them.        כל הדוחק את השעה שעה דוחקתו וכל הנדחה מפני השעה שעה נדחת מפניו Talmud Berakhot 64a   I'm...

Seasons in the Era of Climate Change

by Stephen Jurovics, Ph.D. Each of the seasons of the year can evoke, for many of us, an image of what we most enjoy about that period. It may be the sequence of warm spring days with clear blue skies during which the outside world exerts a strong pull and diminishes...

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...

Sharing Circle: Seasons

Do you have a favorite season? What do you love about it? What about the season of life you are experiencing right now? What lessons and gifts does it offer? Please comment in this Sharing Circle to get the conversation started about the seasons of our lives. Featured...

Darkness

Darkness

Darkness (Hoshech)

חושך

We tend to equate light with good and darkness with bad. But darkness is the inseparable partner of light; indeed, we cannot see one without the other. Our modern world is lit up 24 hours a day; even when we turn off the lights at bedtime, our homes glow with blinking lights from our various electronic devices. We need dark nights as much as sunny days, to maintain our circadian rhythms, allow us rest and promote our health. 

On a spiritual level, we may fear darkness because it symbolizes times of struggle or even despair. Yet we know from life experience that it is often those dark times of life that forge our greatest growth.

Conversely, darkness may be a gift, inviting us to restfulness, inwardness, intimacy. Natural beauty, art, and aesthetics require a balance of light and shadow. Modern theologians of many faiths are recognizing that darkness is just as necessary to our growth as light.

God “forms light and creates darkness” (Isaiah 45:7, quoted in the traditional Jewish morning prayers). Indeed, according to the Torah’s account of creation in the first chapter of Genesis, darkness exists before light is created. There is evening before there is morning, and so all Jewish holy days begin with sunset and not with sunrise.

So head out into the night and explore this Gateway of Darkness to explore the symbolism of darkness and night in Jewish Tradition and in your own life.

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The first option below is the suggested next step on your journey.  Feel free to browse the following paths and explore in your own time at your own pace.

Ambiance: Forest at Night

Featured photo: "Sunset" by Laurence Louis, via Flickr   Learn about "Dark Nights of the Soul" in the Torah, or teturn to the Gateway of Darkness

Dark Nights of the Soul

Many pivotal biblical encounters with the Divine take place during the darkness of night, when dreams, blessings and visions are imparted. and one of the most important is when our forefather Jacob wrestles with a mysterious stranger. Jacob (Ya'akov) was left alone....

You Want it Darker, by Leonard Cohen

Enter the darkness of the human experience in the powerful music of Leonard Cohen, of blessed memory, from his last album, interspersed with the Hebrew word, "Hineni," here I am, and words from the Kaddish, "Magnified and Sanctified." Continue to learn about facing...

Enter the Darkness to Greet the Dawn

Can we face the darkness of our own depths? Individuals and societies who can't face their own shadow side will often project it on others. A fairly literal translation of Genesis 1:2 would be: The earth was unformed and void -- and darkness on the face of the...

Song: Evening the Evenings

"Evening the Evenings" by Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael Based on the traditional Evening Prayer   Featured Image: Sunset in Chobe National Park, Botswana, Elisheva Danan Explore the Darkness Before Creation with Rabbi Fern Feldman, or return to the Gateway of...

The Darkness Before Creation

When I explore my own nature, or experience the sacred, most often I feel a deepening into darkness.  Although dominating theologies create binaries, in which light is good and darkness is evil, when we recognize the multivalent nature of all that is, we see wave upon...

Darkness: A View from Kabbalah

by Rabbi Fern Feldman The Zohar imagines the process of creation as a flowing forth from a deep spring or well. In this image, the source is in the depths, and the flow goes up, (rather than the more common western image of source as up, with the flow going down.)...

The Darkness Before Creation: A Meditation

In this guided meditation, Rabbi Fern Feldman takes you on a short journey back through the creation story to be held in the dark waters, and hear what wisdom you may find there. Featured Image: Waipi'o Valley, big island (Hawaii), Elisheva Danan   Learn about...

Redemption in Darkness

by Rabbi David Seidenberg Hanukkah (Chanukah) is about darkness as much as light. Rabbi David Seidenberg teaches about the necessary interaction of the two in a mystical celebration of the holiday: The menorah teaches us about the unity of the light and the dark....

The Bedtime Shema

Bedtime Shema songs by Jordan Franzel and Lisa Tzur. Adapted from the Sh'ma for Bedtime in the Siddur, the Jewish Prayer Book, this composition was written in Jerusalem for the URJ Eisner Camp of Great Barrington, MA. It was published in the Shireinu series, the...

Dreams

Nightime and sleep bring us to the world of dreams.  If you’re a dreamer (we all are), read on: this post is about you. by Rabbi David Evan Markus “I have a dream.” With these words, dreamer Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. propelled the American nation along the arc that...

Tikkun Olam: The Dark Sky Movement

For three billion years, life on Earth existed in a rhythm of light and dark that was created solely by the illumination of the Sun, Moon and stars. Now, artificial lights overpower the darkness and our cities glow at night, disrupting the natural day-night pattern...

Losing the Dark

“Losing the Dark” is a joint production of the International Dark-Sky Association and Loch Ness Productions. It is available for free use in a variety of formats and languages. Listen to a Nighttime Podcast, or return to the Gateway of Darkness

Nighttime Podcasts

Nighttime can be a good time to turn off screens and snuggle in bed with a good book...or a great podcast. Nocturne is a very creative and thought-provoking podcast about life at night. I don't usually listen to it at night, because it's too interesting! Produced by...

Sharing Circle: Darkness

Enter the Sharing Circle to share your thoughts about Darkness and Night in our tradition and in your own life. Are you a night owl? Do you keep a lot of lights on to avoid the dark, or seek it out? What's your experience with dark skies? Have you ever seen the Milky...

Flowing Water

Flowing Water

Flowing Water (Mayim Zormim)

מים זורמים

Going With the Flow

From the Sabinal River at my childhood ranch in the Texas Hill Country, to the creek at the former Elat Chayyim Retreat Center in Upstate New York, to Big Chico Creek two blocks from my house in California, flowing water has always been integral to my spiritual and emotional life.

And so it has to much of humanity. Rivers are the arteries of the world, providing vital water and habitat for fish, birds, animals, and humans.

Great rivers have shaped civilizations and are considered sacred to many cultures. Our earliest ancestors, Abraham and Sarah hailed from the Fertile Crescent land of the Tigris and Euphrates.

Israelite consciousness was forged by Egypt’s Nile, whose annual flooding brought food to the masses along the Nile Delta, where baby Moses was saved in a basket hidden among the bulrushes.

Crossing the modest Jordan River (Joshua 3), our ancestors arrived in the Land of Israel, known primarily as a land of creeks and wadis that flow in the rainy season, a “land of brooks of water,” (Deuteronomy 8:7). The biblical word for a continually flowing, large river is Nahar נָהָר, while a seasonal brook/wadi or just a small stream is called a Nachal נַחַל. Rabbi Herbert Weiner suggested that the yearning for rain to fill the rivers of Israel drew our ancestors’ gaze heavenward and influenced our spiritual people’s development.

Rivers and creeks are often seen as symbols of time and life, always flowing and ever changing. As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “No one ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same person.”

Psychologists, artists, and athletes speak of being in a state of “flow,” or heightened creativity and focus achieved through mindfulness.

Float down this Gateway of Flowing Water to explore the symbolism of rivers, streams, and creeks in Jewish tradition and in your own life.

Background Photo: Nile River and Nile Delta from Space (NASA), via Wikimedia Commons

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The first option below is the suggested next step on your journey.  Feel free to browse the following paths and explore in your own time at your own pace.

Ambiance: Sitting by a running stream

Featured photo by JHD, Mill Creek, California View a Gallery of Flowing Water images, or return to the Gateway of Flowing Water

Gallery of Flowing Water

Flowing creeks in Northern California, photos by Julie Hilton Danan  

Torah Study: Named by the Rivers

Flowing water can be considered as a metaphor for change as it runs continually down the riverbed. It can also be considered as a metaphor for change in terms of making a crossing. In fact, the Jewish people gained two of our names from crossing rivers. Our first...

Flowing Water in the Psalms

The Psalms (Tehillim) of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) are replete with imagery from nature, including beautiful and poignant references to flowing water, both calm and stormy. Here are a few: A Psalm of David: YHWH is my shepherd; I shall not lack. He makes me lie down...

Flowing Song

This song by Rabbi David Shneyer is from his album "Psalm Songs from Rock Creek," a title which evokes both Psalms and flowing water. This lively melody reminds me of a rapid, rushing brook. The lyrics, from the Jewish liturgy, ask God to answer our prayers and to "Do...

Water wears down stone

How did Rabbi Akiva get started? They said at age 40 he had not even begun to study. Once he was standing at the mouth of the well and said, "Who carved this stone?" They said, "The water that drips constantly every day," and they also said to him, "Akiva, haven't you...

Flowing Water in Hassidic and Mystical Thought

In Hassidic and mystical thought, a river can be a symbol of the Shefa שֶפַע the abundance or flow from God to humanity. There is a sense that if we can serve properly and pray with true intention, we will open the faucet, as it were, to receive the divine flow into...

Wading as a Spiritual Practice

One of my favorite meditations in summer is to put on a pair of immersible sport sandals and go wading. It forces me to slow down and be in the moment, connecting with nature in multiple senses Take a wading meditation with me. . . Feel the cool, cool water on your...

A Guide’s Perspective: Life is But a Stream

    Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden Flowing water has always been a part of my...

Being in the Flow

 Psychologists have explored the concept of being in a State of Flow, when we essentially become one with our actions. I sometimes feel that the Shefa, שֶפַע the divine abundance of life is flowing freely, while at other times I feel that I am swimming against the...

Reb Zalman Teaches About the Flow of Life

My teacher, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi taught that the concept of free will can be compared to a river. Life is seldom smooth as Lake Placid, and not usually like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, but it is often more like shooting the rapids. We don't get to...

Tashlich: Can water carry away our mistakes?

Tashlich is a Jewish New Year's custom that originated in the Middle Ages and is traditionally done on the first day of Rosh Hashanah (on the second day if the first day is on Shabbat). We to go to the banks of a stream or other natural body of water, and symbolically...

A Poem

From TODAY IS FOREVER I stroll often in a nearby park — old trees wildly overgrown, bushes and flowers blooming all four seasons, a creek babbling childishly over pebbles, a small bridge with rough-hewn railings– this is my little park. It’s mild and gentle in the...

Video: Moments of Eternity in the Passing Flow of Life

  Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are...

Personal Creative Ritual: Tashlich for Letting Go

My situation had no ritual, and that nearly sent me into despair. As a rabbi, I lead rituals to help people deal with change and loss. Joyful yet sometimes stressful occasions like weddings, brit ceremonies, b'nei mitzvah.  Sad passages like funerals, shivah and even...

Yield to the Moment and the Moment Yields to You

Rabbi Avin the Levite said: All who try to force the moment (literally, "the hour") the moment forces them, and all who yield to the moment, the moment yields to them.        כל הדוחק את השעה שעה דוחקתו וכל הנדחה מפני השעה שעה נדחת מפניו Talmud Berakhot 64a   I'm...

Water Rocks: A Poem by a Pastor Friend

“Water rocks!” –for Standing Rock Sioux and all sacred life (Micah 6:8) Bucketing, barreling long-awaited runoff.  Delighted, barefoot, and cold I imagine myself a Rwandan girl except I have not missed school; I am not without choice. But water is essential too for...

Tikkun Olam: River Activism

When it comes to water, air, and climate, there really are no national borders. Learn about some great Tikkun Olam organizations that focus on Rivers in the US, Mideast and Worldwide. Riparian Zones are the ecosystems on the banks of rivers, creeks, and streams. They...

Sharing Circle: Flowing Water

Join the Sharing Circle of Flowing Water to explore any of the themes in this Gateway. How do you achieve a sense of flow? Is it something you do consciously? What activity in your life gives you the greatest sense of being in the flow? I would also love to hear about...

Earth

Gardens
Trees
Wilderness
Holy Land

Water

Flowing Water
Water From Underground
The Sea
 

Air

Mountains
Wind
Seasons
Wings

Fire

Light
Darkness
Rainbows
The Moon

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Water From Underground

Water From Underground

Water From Underground (Maya’anot)

מעיינות

Soaking in water is a welcome activity at many retreats. I remember the day before my rabbinic ordination at Elat Chayyim Retreat Center (now part of Isabella Freedman Retreat Center), doing a mikveh (ritual immersion) in a chilly spring-fed creek at a secluded spot in the woods, then moving on to warm up in the the retreat center’s wooden hot tub. It was a spiritual immersion–water symbolic of Torah and life–while simultaneously a very physical, healing experience.

Underground water can also represent our hidden imagination, dreams, and the unconscious mind underneath the surface of life. Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi has described Aggadah, the lore/legends/symbols of our people, in terms of a vast “aquifer,” an underground source of living waters that enlivens our civilization. Without drawing on these sources, we feel spiritually dehydrated. “Filling our own well” has become a metaphor for the kind of nourishment that we need in order to live our fullest lives and to serve others with a full heart.

For the Eternal Your God brings you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills. (Deuteronomy 8:7)

Immerse in this Gateway of Water Under Ground to explore the symbolism of wells and springs in Jewish tradition and in your own life.

Start On Your Journey

The first option below is the suggested next step on your journey.  Feel free to browse the following paths and explore in your own time at your own pace.

Sound Track: Creek in an Australian Underground Cave

Featured Image via beautiful-views.net Learn about wellsprings and visions in the Torah, or return to the Gateway of Water From Underground.

Wellsprings and Visions

The Hebrew word for "well," Be'er, באר can be read, "to elucidate, make clear." The Hebrew word for "spring," Ma'ayan, is related to the words for "eye" and "looking" (ayin, ayen, עין). Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, speaks to an angel at Ein Hamayim (spring or "eye"...

Keeping a Spiritual Journal

Almost everyone has spiritual experiences, but often they fade with time unless we have a vessel to contain them. A journal can be one such vessel. I think that the hands-on experience of journaling in one's own handwriting can itself be a spiritual practice. If you...

Torah Study: Well as Meeting Place

Wells play an important role in the Torah. Abraham and his son Isaac measure wealth in terms of the many wells they have dug (Genesis 26:12-22). The Torah has a number of stories about matches being made at a village well. That makes sense since the job of drawing...

A Midrash: Wellsprings as Source of Divine Inspiration

The Midrash takes the biblical story of Jacob meeting Rachel at the well, and "runs with it," insisting that the scene, with its evocative well, three (mystical number) flocks, and stone (gateway to the well) holds many symbolic allusions to future Jewish history. In...

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...

Miriam’s Well

Many women of the bible make their entrances by a well, and many commentators have noted the well as a feminine, womb-like symbol, a hidden source of life. The most famous well in Jewish lore is the Well of Miriam, the sister of Moses. The entire congregation of the...

The Cup of Miriam

To symbolize Miriam's Well, many modern families add a cup of water to their Passover Seder table, much like the cup of Elijah. You could use any beautiful goblet or make your own, as simple as painting glass or in other media. Here is are some ideas for ceremonies...

Mayim Chayim: Virtual Mikveh Meditation

Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, author, psychotherapist. and rabbi, has prepared this Virtual Mikvah Meditation to help listeners purify and renew ourselves by letting go of old patterns. After you experience it in meditation form, you might want to bring some of the same...

Ritual Handwashing: a Mini Mikveh

Washing hands in the ritual way is like a mini-mikveh. The traditional way is to use a cup of water (there are special two-handled cups that can be purchased, or just use a regular cup)when getting up in the morning, after going to the bathroom, and before saying...

A Guide’s Perspective: Meditation by a Spring

The waters emerge from deep within the earth, from the southern end of the Edwards Aquifer. The Blue Hole, or San Antonio Springs, is the headwaters of the San Antonio River. The flow varies depending on rain, and since it had been a record year for rain, the spring...

Guided Mikveh Meditation to Prepare for Shabbat

Another Mikveh meditation Rabbi Haviva Ner-David and Shira Gura (read and recorded by Rabbi Julie Danan) to help you prepare for Shabbat. You can experience this relaxing meditation either seated comfortably or lying down. Mikveh Meditation for Erev Shabbat by Rabbi...

Mikveh: Traditional and Personal Rituals of Immersion

A Mikveh is an in-ground ritual pool which can be a natural gathering of water (such as a spring, spring-fed river or the ocean),or an indoor mikveh constructed according to Jewish law. Immersing in the Mikveh is associated with rebirth and purification,and today is...

Tzedakah: Clean Water

It has been estimated that a billion people in the world lack consistent access to clean, safe water for drinking and sanitation. We are truly blessed to enjoy indoor plumbing with fresh, clean water that flows hot and cold from our taps, while in many parts of the...

Water at Sycamore Pool Dam

Gazing into water can foster a meditative state. If you can't get out to see some right now, here is a view from the small dam that makes a swimming pool in the creek at Bidwell Park, Chico California.

Guided Meditation: Miriam’s Well in the Desert

Enjoy this guided meditation on your inner Wellsprings, based on the legends of Miriam's Well, written and read by Rabbi Julie Danan. The imagery in the meditation is based on teachings from the Midrash and ancient Jewish lore. Featured Image: Natural spring mikveh...

Sharing Circle: Water From Underground

Filling Your Well Some of the ways I fill my well are: Torah study, prayer, meditation, time in nature, exercise, talking to loved ones, going on retreats. For some people it may be gardening, art (doing or appreciating), poetry, literature. Right now, are you...

Wilderness

Wilderness

Wilderness (Midbar)

מדבר

Midbar in Biblical Hebrew means Wilderness, particularly the arid wilderness of the Desert.

Central to our people’s formative experience was the life of the desert nomad described in the Torah, from our earliest patriarchs traversing the Negev to the forty years our people wandered in the Sinai. Prophets frequented the desert as a place to escape persecution as well as a space to commune with God. Two thousand years ago, the Dead Sea Sect, thought to be the Essenes, retreated to the Judean wilderness desert from the turmoil of Jerusalem and wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Midbar presents two faces in the Torah. In one sense it is the opposite of the Garden; it is untamed and uncultivated, awesome and dangerous. The desert is a symbol of all those times that we lose our way and wander aimlessly, as individuals or as a society.

The other aspect of Midbar is a positive one. It represents openness, possibility, receptivity. Wandering in the desert was the paradigm of letting go and letting God. The Torah was given in the Midbar; is it a coincidence that the same Hebrew letters מדבר that spell Midbar, desert wilderness, also spell Medaber, speech? The emptiness of the desert and its vast spaces and the awe it evokes allow for communication with the divine.

Deserts are important ecosystems and supply many benefits to the earth. Three hundred million people worldwide live in deserts. We must respond to global climate change lest spreading deserts and devastating droughts characterize our future on planet Earth.

Wander this Gateway of Midbar to explore the symbol of Wilderness and Desert in Jewish tradition and in your life.

 

Start On Your Journey

The first option below is the suggested next step on your journey.  Feel free to browse the following paths and explore in your own time at your own pace.

The Book of Wilderness

The fourth book of the Torah, known in English as the book of Numbers, in Hebrew is known as Bemidbar which means, "In the Wilderness [of Sinai]." On a psychological level, "wandering in the desert" can represent a state in which we have become unmoored from our lives...

Make Yourself a Desert Wilderness

Freed from slavery in Egypt, our people entered the Midbar, the desert wilderness. Far from civilization, in the shadow of a mountain, we received divine revelation amidst the sparse landscape of earth, air, fire, and water.A beautiful Midrash teaches that the open...

Desert Oasis

The desert oasis is an important biblical image. The beauty and life-giving power of water in the desert suggest a source of spiritual as well as physical refreshment. Ein Gedi, Spring of the Goat Kid, an oasis near the Dead Sea, is known as the place that future king...

Building a Sukkah, symbol of desert wanderings

The week-long fall harvest festival of Sukkot is celebrated by building a temporary outdoor hut, the sukkah, and spending as much time as possible living in it. This annual ritual re-enacts the lives of our ancestors as desert wanderers (and later as farmers...

Eco-Meaning of the Sukkot Plants

by Rabbi David Seidenberg The four species of the lulav [waved in blessing and praise on the holiday of Sukkot] represent the four types of ecosystems in the land of Israel: desert (date palm), hills (myrtle), river corridors (willow), and sh'feilah or lowlands (etrog...

BeMidbar: Finding God in the Wilderness

"My time in the desert has helped me understand why God so often seems to speak to people when they are in the wilderness." Rabbi Barry Leff And the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai …Numbers 1:1 ...I’ve been spending a lot of time in the desert lately....

Guided Meditation: Miriam’s Well in the Desert

Enjoy this guided meditation on your inner Wellsprings, based on the legends of Miriam's Well, written and read by Rabbi Julie Danan. The imagery in the meditation is based on teachings from the Midrash and ancient Jewish lore. Featured Image: Natural spring mikveh...

Learning to Love the Desert

Long ago I learned to love the desert. I never saw myself as a desert person, much prefering the verdant trees and rivers of the Texas Hill Country or the piney slopes of the Rocky Mountains to what I saw as the dry ugly plains of West Texas. But living in a desert...

Environmental Apprenticeship in the Arava Desert

  In Israel, you can experience the beauty of the Arava Desert and a unique community at Kibbutz Lotan, whether at their desert guest house and spa or their environmental educational programs, like the Green Apprenticeship, in which my youngest daughter...

Wilderness Heals Us and We Heal It

Midbar as Wilderness not only protects the health of our planet, but also provide venues of emotional healing for human beings, including... Disadvantaged and at-risk inner city kids (and here's another) Veterans suffering from stress or PTSD People recovering from...

Ritual: Your verse in the Bible, and mine

יְשֻׂשׂ֥וּם מִדְבָּ֖ר וְצִיָּ֑ה וְתָגֵ֧ל עֲרָבָ֛ה וְתִפְרַ֖ח כַּחֲבַצָּֽלֶת The wilderness and the parched land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. --Isaiah 35:1   There is an old custom to conclude the Amidah (standing prayer) by...

Inspiration at a Thornbush

Moses' first encounter with the Divine in the wilderness is at bush that burns but is not consumed. According to the Midrash, the choice of a "lowly thornbush" is God's way of showing that the Shechinah, the Divine Presence can be found anywhere (Exodus...

My Mother’s Spiritual Journey

My daughter Arielle once bought me a bookmark at a local store, embellished with a quotation from Henry David Thoreou, "In Wildness is the Preservation of the World."I knew that saying from a poster that we had at our Ranch in Texas, that had accompanied a Sierra Club...

Passover in the Desert with Wilderness Torah

Passover in the Desert with Wilderness Torah  is an annual multi-generational celebration that takes the spring Festival of Freedom back to its wilderness and dessert origins. The rustic communal camping event takes place during the last few days of the Passover...

Sharing Circle: Wilderness and Desert

Wilderness and Desert Experience How do you empty your mind of clutter and find the awe? Have you had a formative or healing experience in the desert, or in any wilderness setting? What does the Midbar mean in your life, whether as an actual location or a state of...

Trees

Trees

Trees (Eitz)

עץ

One of the first things I noticed at Elat Chayyim (“Tree of Life”) Retreat Center near Woodstock, New York, were the huge trees, especially some venerable giant pines growing outside the dining area. As days went by, the trees seemed to me more than just features of the landscape, but rather as fellow beings who partook in the love of the environment, creatures from whom I could learn. It was not so fanciful when I learned that Jewish tradition compares trees to human beings. Humans seem to rule the animal kingdom while trees are the most developed of plants. Both receive nourishment from our roots and aspire upward toward the light, and as Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi pointed out, both trees and human beings never stop growing. Moreover, he often pointed out that the growing edge of a tree is on the outside, and so we–and our tradition–must continue reaching outward in order to be renewed.

“For is a tree of the field human” (to withdraw before you in a siege, Deuteronomy 20:19)? The biblical verse prohibiting the logging of fruit trees during a siege can also be read literally as: “For a human being is a tree of the field” Ki ha-adam etz ha-sadeh כִּ֤י הָֽאָדָם֙ עֵ֣ץ הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה

In forests, jungles, orchards, and cities, trees are essential to life on earth, since they provide oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide and remove pollutants, while also providing countless expressions of beauty, shade, food, wood, and soil conservation. Read about the “top 22 benefits of trees.”

Trees have been sacred to many cultures and religions. In Judaism, we have pomegranates decorations on our Torahs, apples and honey for the new year, citrons and palm branches to wave on Sukkot, and many other customs, texts, and motifs involving trees and their fruits.  Trees have great importance in Jewish tradition as symbols of wisdom and Torah. In mystical thought the Tree is a symbol of the flow of divine energy into the universe.

 

Join me in this Gateway of Trees to explore the symbol of the Tree in Jewish tradition and in your life.

Start On Your Journey

The first option below is the suggested next step on your journey.  Feel free to browse the following paths and explore in your own time at your own pace.

Wind in the Trees and Ambiance at Tejon Ranch, California

Listen to the wind and the birds and insects in the trees, or if you are indoors enjoy this recording. Featured Image: TejonWest by RangerX via Flickr See the famous fruit trees of Israel, or return to the Gateway of Trees.

Gallery: Famous Fruit Trees of Israel

The five famous fruit trees of the Holy Land are noted along with two grains as the "Seven Species" (Shivat Haminim, (Deuteronomy 8:8). Embrace their bounty in artwork, Sukkah and home decorations, and foods for Jewish celebrations, especially Tu Bishvat (New Year of...

Torah Study: The Tree in the Garden

At the heart of the Bible's first story, humanity in the Garden of Eden, two trees play a central role, the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life And out of the ground the Eternal God (YHWH Elohim) made grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for...

The Tree of Life: Divine Wisdom

Are we really exiled from the Tree of Life? While the book of Genesis depicts the exile from the Garden of Eden and it's Tree of Life, elsewhere Bible declares that the Tree of Life is available to us in another form.   She is a tree of life to those that hold on...

Video: Ne’ot Kedumim, Israel’s Biblical Landscape

  Learn traditional blessings for eating fruit, or return to the Gateway of Trees.

From our Sages: The Story of Honi

Honi (or Choni) ha-Ma'agel (the Circle Maker) was a second century tzadik (righteous person) who was kind of a cross between Johnny Appleseed (or Carob-Seed) and Rip Van Winkle. Honi was known for his ability to pray successfully for rain in times of drought, while...

Blessings for Fruits and Trees

Every time we eat a piece of fruit from a tree, we have an opportunity to pause and appreciate the divine force that flows through all creation and brings this delicious bounty to our lips. We can do this with a spiritual practice of saying a berachah, a blessing,...

Meditation for Mindful Eating of Fruit:

 You can make eating a piece of fruit into a meditative experience. Say the blessing and consider what a gift has come to you from God's bounty. Our Sages saw the blessing as a kind of thank-you or payment, as it were, for partaking of God's creation. I am filled with...

Tu Bishvat: The New Year of the Tree

My youngest daughter's friends were impressed that Judaism celebrates a New Year of Trees, marked by planting and honoring trees. Here’s a round-up of how to observe this special day. Tu Bishvat means the 15th Day–at the full moon–of the Hebrew month of Shevat,...

The Tree of Life in Kabbalah

In Jewish mystical thought, the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life were intended to flourish together in the Garden, but human beings forsook the vital Tree of Life to pursue knowledge alone, introducing duality to the world and preventing the ideal Edenic state...

Guided Meditation on Tree of Life in Our Bodies

This is a guided meditation on the Sephirotic energy in our bodies, based on the teachings of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. According to Kabbalistic tradition, the world was created with 10 Sephirot. In  Jewish mysticism, the Tree of Life refers to much more than a...

Hugging the Tree of Life

By the end of my first retreat at Elat Chayyim, I had internalized the paradigm of living fully in the mystic’s “Four Worlds” of body, emotions, mind, and spirit and I wanted to commune physically with a  tree. I approached a great Pine (I think a White Pine) that...

Tikkun Olam: Trees and the Environment

"Planting a tree" for a happy occasion has become almost a Jewish stereotype, but it really is a huge mitzvah. The classic way to plant a tree in Israel is through the Jewish National Fund.  In over a century, they have planted 250 million trees and helped to...

Rainforests: Lungs of Our Planet

  The scenes in this video help me to see the rainforests as the lungs of our planet. The Rainforest Alliance is a network of people working together to preserve forests and the communities that depend on them, in 78 countries around the world. Learn how to get...

Sharing Circle: Trees

Trees in Your Life Join the virtual circle and share your  reflections. Did (or do) have have a tree that played a big role in your life? What kind of tree, where was/is it, and what is your relationship to it? How do you protect, enjoy, and celebrate trees? Please...

Earth

Gardens
Trees
Wilderness
Holy Land

Water

Flowing Water
Water From Underground
The Sea
 

Air

Mountains
Wind
Seasons
Wings

Fire

Light
Darkness
Rainbows
The Moon

Take a Virtual Retreat

Making the Most of Your Retreat
Sacred Obligations & Boundaries
Your Guide
Our Sacred Sources
Additional Resources

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Contact Us

(235) 462-4623
info@divilibrary.com

Follow Wellsprings

Wind

Wind

Wind (Ruach)

רוּחַ

Wind (in Hebrew ru-ach רוּחַ, “ch” as in Bach) is invisible, borne on the air, and beyond human control. It can be gentle and restorative or powerful enough to cause great destruction. And the added mystery is that within each one of us is a tiny wind—our breath—keeping us alive from moment to moment. Ruach is the power of animation, whether stirring the branches of a tree, scattering seeds, lifting flocks of birds, or enlivening a human being. In the Tanakh, Hebrew Bible, the word Ruach can have all these meanings: wind, breath and spirit. A related word, Rei-ach, means scent, which holds the key to many precious soul memories.

Join me on this path in this Gateway of Wind and Spirit to explore the rustlings of Spirit in Jewish tradition and in your life.

Start On Your Journey

The first option below is the suggested next step on your journey.  Feel free to browse the following paths and explore in your own time at your own pace.

Ambiance: Windy Jungle in Kauai

Featured Image: Kauai coast, by Elisheva Danan Learn about the science of wind, or return to the Gateway of Wind.  

Why Does the Wind Blow?

    Learn some Torah about the power of wind, or return to the Gateway of Wind

The Power of Wind

Winds can be fearsome and awe-inspiring. Even today, with all our advances in science and technology, we are still at the mercy of powerful winds like hurricanes and tornadoes. The prophet Jeremiah declares the weather as signs of God’s power over nature: “When His...

Splitting the Sea with Wind

Picture the splitting of the Reed (or Red) Sea. Based on the movie versions, we tend to visualize Moses raising his staff, so that the waters part instantly—supernatural special effects! But the Torah (Exodus 14:21), offers a more naturalistic depiction of the...

A Daily Spirit of Gratitue

Modah Ani 12, chant by Rabbi Shefa Gold Ruach also means "Spirit." Rabbi Shefa Gold has composed 36* chants for "Modah Ani," I am thankful, the short prayer of gratitude recited upon awakening each morning. These chants are free to download and also available in a...

Elijah: God is not in the wind

Jewish folklore portrays Elijah the Prophet (Eliyahu HaNavi) as a kindly old man who visits our Passover Seder to drink his cup of wine. In the Tanakh/Hebrew Bible, Elijah was known as a zealous champion of monotheism and opponent of idolatry. Since Elijah ascended to...

Elijah’s Spirit Shared

Another important story of Elijah the prophet uses the word Ruach in the sense of spirit. When Elijah ascends to the heavens in a fiery chariot, his student and disciple Elisha receives a double portion of his spirit.   Elijah took his mantle, and rolling it up,...

A Double Measure of Spirit

My mother Betty Hilton, of blessed memory, was a truly righteous woman who overcame challenges including early widowhood to found several spiritual groups for women. She became a leader in our local Jewish community, and ultimately served as a professional hospital...

The Holy Spirit: Ruach Ha-Kodesh

The term "Holy Spirit" is first found in the Bible and extensively developed in rabbinic understanding. The early Rabbis referred to Ruach (also spelled Ruah) Ha-Kodesh, the Holy Spirit, in two distinct ways. First, the Holy Spirit is the force of divine...

A Shabbat Experience: Relax in a Hammock

A hammock is the perfect place to hear the wind. In the hammock between two oak trees at our ranch in the Texas Hill Country, I imagined the wind in the branches as the echo of the long-gone ocean that had flowed there millions of years ago. Near Mt. Lassen,...

Song: “I Am Alive”

This chanting song by the late Rabbi David Zeller is from the teaching of Rebbe Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl. He marvels at the breath of God enlivening us. And who is this aliveness I am? Is it not the Holy Blessed One?   Learn the power of meditative breathing,...

Meditative Breathing

Our breath, our inner wind, keeps us alive. I learned from Reb Zalman and from Rabbi Arthur Waskow, that the divine name YHWH represents the breath of life. The sounds of our breath are the very sounds of that sacred unpronounceable name. God is as close as our...

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...

Blessings of Scent

This website can bring you a video or recording of wind's image and sound, but it cannot convey the feel of the wind in your hair, scent of a pine forest in the Cascade mountains, or the heady perfume of orange blossoms and jasmine in an Israeli spring. For that you...

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...

The Shofar: Holy Wind, Holy Sound

    Breath and wind are instrumental in playing the sacred instrument, the Shofar, or ram's horn (or sometimes an antelope horn) that is blown on Rosh Hashanah and at the end of Yom Kippur as a call to repentance, a spiritual wake-up. The word shofar is from...

Tikkun Olam: The Shofar Calls to Justice

The blowing of the shofar is also a call to take action for justice in the world. Jewish advocates for social justice consider the call of the shofar a demand for righteous action in the world. Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center has often used the shofar as a...

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...

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...

Sharing Circle: Wind and Spirit

Sharing the Spirit Join the virtual Sharing Circle and comment here to share your experiences with wind, spirit, scent, or any of the other themes in this Gateway. A few questions to get you started: Is there a scent that has an important association or memory with it...

Mountains

Mountains

Mountains (Harim)

הרים

Growing up in Texas, we spent many of our summer vacations in the alpine loftiness of the Rocky Mountains. It was an experience of exaltation, seeing farther and feeling more expansive by going higher and higher.

Back home, climbing the bluff near our ranch afforded 360 degree views of the Texas Hill Country. Here there was a little climb, but the magnificence came not so much from being above it all, but from the sensation of being in the center, able to spin around and see all the surrounding countryside in a circle.

For our ancestors, ascending a mountain was a chance to get the perspective of being airborne. Mountains are regarded as sacred places in many religions and cultures. For Jews, formative experiences of our people took place atop hills or beside mountains. Going up a mountain, having that higher perspective, entered our spiritual lexicon. Aliyah is the language of ascent that we use to describe a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, moving to Israel, or coming up to bless the Torah in the synagogue.

Half of the human population depends on vital resources, especially water, from highly diverse and fragile mountains ecosystems. (Learn more about Mountain Ecosystems on The Encyclopedia of Earth.)

Psychologists use the metaphor of a Peak Experience to describe life’s high points and experiences of transcendence. Spiritual practice is not just about attaining the heights, but about bringing down and containing the energy from life’s summits.

Wander and climb through this Gateway of Mountains to explore the symbolism of mountains and peaks in Jewish tradition and in your own life.

Cascades Mountain Range, Charles Danan

Start On Your Journey

The first option below is the suggested next step on your journey.  Feel free to browse the following paths and explore in your own time at your own pace.

Soundtrack: Mountain Ambiance in the Himilayas

  Featured Image: By (WT-en) Wikid at English Wikivoyage (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Learn what the Bible says about peak experiences, or return to the Gateway of Mountains.

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...

Peak Experiences in Our Lives (Plus a Midrash)

"Peak Experience" is a term coined by Psychologist Abraham Maslow to describe the times of emotional transcendence in human life. "Maslow envisioned moments of extraordinary experience, known as Peak experiences, which are profound moments of love, understanding,...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

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...

Musar: Ethical Development as an Ascent

Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair says, "Heedfulness leads to cleanliness, cleanliness leads to purity, purity leads to separation, separation leads to holiness, holiness leads to modesty, modesty leads to fear of sin, fear of sin leads to piety, piety leads to the Holy Spirit,...

Sharing Circle: Mountains

Peak Experiences Have you had an experience of trial, vision, spirituality or exaltation in a mountain environment? Have you had a "peak" experiences (at any altitude)? What was it like? Do you have any practice or do anything to nurture peak experiences? If you have...

“Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve; they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion.” ― Anatoli Boukreev, Mountaineer   In memory of Ben Horne  Featured Image: Denali, Alaska. "The mountains are calling and I must go."--John...