Our mailing address: P.O. Box 5086, West Hills, CA 91307 Telephone: (818) 658-1800 Email: makomohrshalominfo@gmail.com

Your Holy of Holies

Erev Rosh HaShanah

Sept 6, 2021 A few weeks ago, I had an appointment in Playa Vista. I needed to do some writing before my next appointment, back in Century City. I thought about sitting in my car in the lot where I was, but there I was facing a tall building. But knowing the wetlands and ocean were so close, it seemed better to seek an expansive natural area to park. Hesitantly, I decided to drive toward the ocean. All the way, I kept thinking, I don't have time to get all the way to the ocean and back. I was hoping to find a spot close by so I could have a taste of nature and expansiveness as I wrote, yet still have time to get where I needed to be. Soon I could see the ocean. I found a spot with a view of that big, blue expanse, but it was off in the periphery, the side, and I'd have to turn to really see it. I parked and tried, but I couldn't write comfortably and see the ocean at the same time, so I decided to drive on, all the while thinking I'm getting closer to the ocean, yet I should really just sit somewhere and get my writing done before I have to leave for my next appointment. Yet that inner pull kept calling me to the water. Maybe you know that inner nudge that calls you to do the things that nourish your soul… The next thing you know I was driving along the ocean and realized I could drive on this road all day and forget my next commitment. I decided I had better pull over somewhere. I eventually found a street I could turn up. It became clear that if I turned the car around I would have a perfect ocean view straight ahead. So that's what I did. I took some time to stare out into that big blue expanse of water and found such joy in the beauty. It seemed worth the trip to have those moments of awe. After a couple of minutes, miraculously, I got to work. A few minutes later, I looked up and stared out in awe and gratitude for the beautiful scene right before me. Then I went back to my writing. Another few minutes went by, and I happened to look up at the ocean: Out in the distance, I could see the smooth, slow movement of something glistening gently arching up out of the water, before gracefully disappearing back under the water. The movement was definitely not that of a surfer, that was for sure. Then, a couple of moments later, I saw another silhouette nearby the first rise and fall of a smooth arc. Soon I realized the next blurry arc to appear was the back and fin of a …. dolphin! Soon I could see more dolphins here and there, gracefully coming up for air, with their backs and fins gently arcing up out of the water and back down again - one here, another there as they leisurely swam along the coast. Their water reflecting off their skin causing light to dance for a moment. It was beautiful- I was elated! That truly made all the effort finding that inspirational spot worth it. How many you smiled inside or out discovering it was a pod of dolphins? What is it about sea mammals like dolphins that raise our spirits and bring us delight? Is it because from our human-centric perspective they "look" happy? So often their face might strike us as if they are smiling. In Aramaicm the word for dolphin or porpoise is sasgona. There’s a midrash that got its Aramaic name because it "rejoices" (sefaira). Dolphins certainly know how to celebrate life. Perhaps you've seen them playing while riding in the wake of a boat. Besides knowing how to play and enjoy life, dolphins have other messages for us, especially during this time. Dolphins are quintessential teachers of the proverbial action of "coming up for air". As they literally took a breather, I took my metaphorical breather. Who of you enjoys taking a breather at the beach? Isn't it such a marvelous show of beauty? How many of you enjoy just sitting and meditating at the ocean? It's beautiful, right? It's not only the surface beauty dolphins share with us: They also remind us that there is so much more than what we see on the surface of the ocean! There is so much more than what we see in any situation at any given moment. When we are looking at the vastness of challenges we've been facing , especially during these last 18 months during the pandemic, it's harder to look deeper and find all the wonderful things going on which might be currently hidden from our view. One of the powerful Torah readings for Rosh Hashanah is the story of Hagar. She and her son were banished in the desert, their food and water had run out. Hagar was convinced her son was going to die without any water. She cries out to God -hopeless. Then, Torah tells us- her "eyes are lifted" and she sees a well in front of her. Torah specifically does not say God put the well there after she cried out. Instead we read specifically that Hagar's eyes "were raised" and she could see the well. In her hopeless state, she could not see the well right in front of her. There is so much more going on than what we actually see. The dolphins remind us to raise our eyes and look beyond the vastness of a bleak situation. They invite us to look for the beings and the things that bring us awe and inspiration. Sometimes we have to wait for those moments of discovery, sometimes we have to seek them out. As in Hagar's case of at first not seeing the sustenance right before her, sometimes we have to let our eyes be lifted so that we can see beyond what we currently face. Let your eyes be lifted in awe, like Hagar's were. Let your eyes be lifted to see the hidden treasures around you. Dolphins know how to sense treasures with their sonar. Their echolocation not only helps them thrive, it also helps them know when a female in their pod is pregnant. Sensing this, they will form a circle around her for protection. They have also been known to surround and protect pregnant humans, even in very early stages of pregnancy. Some of you may have read accounts of dolphins saving vulnerable humans. The pod takes care of other members when vulnerable. It seems Dolphins can be empathetic. They take care of each other... Because of some of their almost human like traits, during Talmudic times, Rabbi Yehuda called dolphins -people of the sea- bnei yam. These ' people' of the sea form strong bonds with one another. This past 18 months we humans learned a new dimension of pod. We've learned how important it is to stay connected to our community - whether in person safely (masked and distanced, or even outdoors and distanced, on the phone, zoom, whatever works.) If you've ever encountered dolphins while in the water, you might have learned that it's extremely important to keep one's hands at one side. Otherwise a dolphin could feel threatened. If a dolphin sees hands waving around, its instinct is to protect itself and it might attack. They actually prefer people to be swimming, horizontally, with them -at the same level, rather than standing over them. Once again, the dolphins have wisdom for us. In our world situation right now human beings are so easily polarized about a myriad of topics. We may have experienced how differences of opinion can make us question our connections with others. Let's learn from the dolphins healthy pod behavior. Outside of our healthy pandemic pod, when facing anyone in the world at large, even when we disagree with ideas, let's keep our "hands at our sides" rather than raise them in a way that might be seen as an attack. Because of their echolocation dolphins will gravitate towards people who have mechanical implants, and they can seem to be playfully curious when checking out someone, who for example has a metal plate where a bone used to be. So when we see something we believe is strange, an opinion or behavior, let's instead be curious like the dolphin, and use our reflective sonar to listen during disagreements of principle alongside those we disagree with, rather than getting "up in arms' with the person. Like dolphins, we are social creatures. How we handle our differences of opinion during a time when everyone can be easily frustrated makes all the difference. When we disagree with an essential belief rather than the person themselves, we can practice agreeing to disagree, without an attack on the fellows in our greater human pod. One more message from our sea mammal friends. Dolphins also have a message for our inner life this Rosh HaShanah. Depending on who you talk to, dolphins are mentioned in Torah. In the book of Exodus, God gives Moses intricate instructions on how to build the Mishkan, the holy place of meeting where we communed with God in the desert. God tells Moses to make the cover of the Mishkan out of tachash skin . It is not 100% clear to scholars what exactly tachash is. There is controversy throughout the millennium. Some Rabbis argued it's a specific blue color dye, others argued it's a certain animal. Among the good Jewish argument is a cogent case that tachash was a dolphin. Where might they have gotten dolphin skin, you ask? There are dolphins today in the Red Sea off Eilat. Thus, it is possible that the outer cover of this holy meeting place with God was to be made from dolphin skin! What beautiful symbolism: Throughout our days, we need moments of holy time, reflection, wonder, time in nature, time with loved ones, like my moments seeing that pod of dolphins. And, yet, now more than ever, with new challenges together, we need to find moments that feed our souls. We are also in a shmita year, a year when the land lays fallow if we're following our Torah 's wisdom. We need to take the time to lay fallow to replenish, to let ourselves be re-created in our recreation. What brings your soul de-light? That's is what you get to build your holy of holies with this year. Whatever experiences bring you awe, like those dolphins that day for me- those are the fabric that encapsulate our holy place of communion with the Soul of Souls. Friends, In other words, these moments and events and people within which we find ourselves communing with the Soul of Souls, those are the very things that hold our personal holy of holies. There is still another beautiful metaphor here: want to hear it? Ibn Ezra, a great Torah commentator, said this covering protected the meeting tent (Mishkan) from rain. Ibn Ezra and the dolphins are telling us - Don't let any situation "rain on your parade" and ruin your happiness. Not a pandemic, not anything: we must take time to create and enjoy our own Holy of Holies. It's how we fortify ourselves and find spiritual strength to face anything. We all stood at Sinai and received Torah. We were all there and we all received the directions to build a holy Mishkan where we can commune with the Source of All Holiness. It's a temporary movable tent of meeting where we meet the Divine, and it's made with whatever brings you awe. That which brings you profound gratitude and amazement is what forms the very ceiling -encapsulating your holy dwelling place for God. Make sure you take the time and energy to nourish your soul. Traditionally we read psalm 27 read during the 40 days leading up to Yom Kippur. The Psalm posits the idea of having only one thing to ask of God. The Psalmist answers with a personal desire- to dwell in God's house all the days of his life. What might it be like to dwell in the House of the Soul of Souls all the days of your life? Let's build God's house with the very things that bring us awe and deep joy and find out. What are Our Lessons from dolphins for this New Year? Smile!! Take time-enjoy nature and re-create Follow inner nudge Keep your eyes open; Look beyond what you see Stick with the "pod" of our community. Take care of one another. And let's also let ourselves be helped (often harder, yet equally important.) Let's remember to swim "alongside" those we disagree with, even on essential matters. Let's remember we are all in the larger human pod together, and argue important ideas instead of arguing with people. Go to your places of inspiration, go in person or virtually, go to your loved ones safely, or go to your own backyard. Create your inner "Tent of Holy Meeting" with whatever brings you a sense of awe. That personal Holy of Holies will strengthen and protect you during the coming year. May you each be blessed with time to dwell in awe, delight and wonder, and build of those experiences a holy Mishkan, that will sustain your spirit. And may you be surrounded and protected by your community swimming around you, no matter what. Shanah tovah u'mevorechet A good new year filled with life-sustaining moments of awe. Notes 26:14 Exodus
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May 13, 2022 - Facing What Challenges Our Serenity March 12, 2021 - Look March 5, 2022 - Prayer for Ukraine September 6, 2021- Your Holy of Holies Erev Rosh HaShanah
Our mailing address: P.O. Box 5086, West Hills, CA 91307 Telephone: (818) 658-1800 Email: makomohrshalominfo@gmail.com
Blogging Posts May 13, 2022 - Facing What Challenges Our Serenity March 12, 2021 - Look March 5, 2022 - Prayer for Ukraine September 6, 2021- Your Holy of Holies Erev Rosh HaShanah
BLOG WITH RABBI JUDIAHAVAH
Rabbi JudiAhavah DelBourgo

Your Holy of Holies

Erev Rosh HaShanah

Sept 6, 2021 A few weeks ago, I had an appointment in Playa Vista. I needed to do some writing before my next appointment, back in Century City. I thought about sitting in my car in the lot where I was, but there I was facing a tall building. But knowing the wetlands and ocean were so close, it seemed better to seek an expansive natural area to park. Hesitantly, I decided to drive toward the ocean. All the way, I kept thinking, I don't have time to get all the way to the ocean and back. I was hoping to find a spot close by so I could have a taste of nature and expansiveness as I wrote, yet still have time to get where I needed to be. Soon I could see the ocean. I found a spot with a view of that big, blue expanse, but it was off in the periphery, the side, and I'd have to turn to really see it. I parked and tried, but I couldn't write comfortably and see the ocean at the same time, so I decided to drive on, all the while thinking I'm getting closer to the ocean, yet I should really just sit somewhere and get my writing done before I have to leave for my next appointment. Yet that inner pull kept calling me to the water. Maybe you know that inner nudge that calls you to do the things that nourish your soul… The next thing you know I was driving along the ocean and realized I could drive on this road all day and forget my next commitment. I decided I had better pull over somewhere. I eventually found a street I could turn up. It became clear that if I turned the car around I would have a perfect ocean view straight ahead. So that's what I did. I took some time to stare out into that big blue expanse of water and found such joy in the beauty. It seemed worth the trip to have those moments of awe. After a couple of minutes, miraculously, I got to work. A few minutes later, I looked up and stared out in awe and gratitude for the beautiful scene right before me. Then I went back to my writing. Another few minutes went by, and I happened to look up at the ocean: Out in the distance, I could see the smooth, slow movement of something glistening gently arching up out of the water, before gracefully disappearing back under the water. The movement was definitely not that of a surfer, that was for sure. Then, a couple of moments later, I saw another silhouette nearby the first rise and fall of a smooth arc. Soon I realized the next blurry arc to appear was the back and fin of a …. dolphin! Soon I could see more dolphins here and there, gracefully coming up for air, with their backs and fins gently arcing up out of the water and back down again - one here, another there as they leisurely swam along the coast. Their water reflecting off their skin causing light to dance for a moment. It was beautiful- I was elated! That truly made all the effort finding that inspirational spot worth it. How many you smiled inside or out discovering it was a pod of dolphins? What is it about sea mammals like dolphins that raise our spirits and bring us delight? Is it because from our human-centric perspective they "look" happy? So often their face might strike us as if they are smiling. In Aramaicm the word for dolphin or porpoise is sasgona. There’s a midrash that got its Aramaic name because it "rejoices" (sefaira). Dolphins certainly know how to celebrate life. Perhaps you've seen them playing while riding in the wake of a boat. Besides knowing how to play and enjoy life, dolphins have other messages for us, especially during this time. Dolphins are quintessential teachers of the proverbial action of "coming up for air". As they literally took a breather, I took my metaphorical breather. Who of you enjoys taking a breather at the beach? Isn't it such a marvelous show of beauty? How many of you enjoy just sitting and meditating at the ocean? It's beautiful, right? It's not only the surface beauty dolphins share with us: They also remind us that there is so much more than what we see on the surface of the ocean! There is so much more than what we see in any situation at any given moment. When we are looking at the vastness of challenges we've been facing , especially during these last 18 months during the pandemic, it's harder to look deeper and find all the wonderful things going on which might be currently hidden from our view. One of the powerful Torah readings for Rosh Hashanah is the story of Hagar. She and her son were banished in the desert, their food and water had run out. Hagar was convinced her son was going to die without any water. She cries out to God -hopeless. Then, Torah tells us- her "eyes are lifted" and she sees a well in front of her. Torah specifically does not say God put the well there after she cried out. Instead we read specifically that Hagar's eyes "were raised" and she could see the well. In her hopeless state, she could not see the well right in front of her. There is so much more going on than what we actually see. The dolphins remind us to raise our eyes and look beyond the vastness of a bleak situation. They invite us to look for the beings and the things that bring us awe and inspiration. Sometimes we have to wait for those moments of discovery, sometimes we have to seek them out. As in Hagar's case of at first not seeing the sustenance right before her, sometimes we have to let our eyes be lifted so that we can see beyond what we currently face. Let your eyes be lifted in awe, like Hagar's were. Let your eyes be lifted to see the hidden treasures around you. Dolphins know how to sense treasures with their sonar. Their echolocation not only helps them thrive, it also helps them know when a female in their pod is pregnant. Sensing this, they will form a circle around her for protection. They have also been known to surround and protect pregnant humans, even in very early stages of pregnancy. Some of you may have read accounts of dolphins saving vulnerable humans. The pod takes care of other members when vulnerable. It seems Dolphins can be empathetic. They take care of each other... Because of some of their almost human like traits, during Talmudic times, Rabbi Yehuda called dolphins -people of the sea- bnei yam. These ' people' of the sea form strong bonds with one another. This past 18 months we humans learned a new dimension of pod. We've learned how important it is to stay connected to our community - whether in person safely (masked and distanced, or even outdoors and distanced, on the phone, zoom, whatever works.) If you've ever encountered dolphins while in the water, you might have learned that it's extremely important to keep one's hands at one side. Otherwise a dolphin could feel threatened. If a dolphin sees hands waving around, its instinct is to protect itself and it might attack. They actually prefer people to be swimming, horizontally, with them -at the same level, rather than standing over them. Once again, the dolphins have wisdom for us. In our world situation right now human beings are so easily polarized about a myriad of topics. We may have experienced how differences of opinion can make us question our connections with others. Let's learn from the dolphins healthy pod behavior. Outside of our healthy pandemic pod, when facing anyone in the world at large, even when we disagree with ideas, let's keep our "hands at our sides" rather than raise them in a way that might be seen as an attack. Because of their echolocation dolphins will gravitate towards people who have mechanical implants, and they can seem to be playfully curious when checking out someone, who for example has a metal plate where a bone used to be. So when we see something we believe is strange, an opinion or behavior, let's instead be curious like the dolphin, and use our reflective sonar to listen during disagreements of principle alongside those we disagree with, rather than getting "up in arms' with the person. Like dolphins, we are social creatures. How we handle our differences of opinion during a time when everyone can be easily frustrated makes all the difference. When we disagree with an essential belief rather than the person themselves, we can practice agreeing to disagree, without an attack on the fellows in our greater human pod. One more message from our sea mammal friends. Dolphins also have a message for our inner life this Rosh HaShanah. Depending on who you talk to, dolphins are mentioned in Torah. In the book of Exodus, God gives Moses intricate instructions on how to build the Mishkan, the holy place of meeting where we communed with God in the desert. God tells Moses to make the cover of the Mishkan out of tachash skin . It is not 100% clear to scholars what exactly tachash is. There is controversy throughout the millennium. Some Rabbis argued it's a specific blue color dye, others argued it's a certain animal. Among the good Jewish argument is a cogent case that tachash was a dolphin. Where might they have gotten dolphin skin, you ask? There are dolphins today in the Red Sea off Eilat. Thus, it is possible that the outer cover of this holy meeting place with God was to be made from dolphin skin! What beautiful symbolism: Throughout our days, we need moments of holy time, reflection, wonder, time in nature, time with loved ones, like my moments seeing that pod of dolphins. And, yet, now more than ever, with new challenges together, we need to find moments that feed our souls. We are also in a shmita year, a year when the land lays fallow if we're following our Torah 's wisdom. We need to take the time to lay fallow to replenish, to let ourselves be re- created in our recreation. What brings your soul de-light? That's is what you get to build your holy of holies with this year. Whatever experiences bring you awe, like those dolphins that day for me- those are the fabric that encapsulate our holy place of communion with the Soul of Souls. Friends, In other words, these moments and events and people within which we find ourselves communing with the Soul of Souls, those are the very things that hold our personal holy of holies. There is still another beautiful metaphor here: want to hear it? Ibn Ezra, a great Torah commentator, said this covering protected the meeting tent (Mishkan) from rain. Ibn Ezra and the dolphins are telling us - Don't let any situation "rain on your parade" and ruin your happiness. Not a pandemic, not anything: we must take time to create and enjoy our own Holy of Holies. It's how we fortify ourselves and find spiritual strength to face anything. We all stood at Sinai and received Torah. We were all there and we all received the directions to build a holy Mishkan where we can commune with the Source of All Holiness. It's a temporary movable tent of meeting where we meet the Divine, and it's made with whatever brings you awe. That which brings you profound gratitude and amazement is what forms the very ceiling -encapsulating your holy dwelling place for God. Make sure you take the time and energy to nourish your soul. Traditionally we read psalm 27 read during the 40 days leading up to Yom Kippur. The Psalm posits the idea of having only one thing to ask of God. The Psalmist answers with a personal desire- to dwell in God's house all the days of his life. What might it be like to dwell in the House of the Soul of Souls all the days of your life? Let's build God's house with the very things that bring us awe and deep joy and find out. What are Our Lessons from dolphins for this New Year? Smile!! Take time-enjoy nature and re-create Follow inner nudge Keep your eyes open; Look beyond what you see Stick with the "pod" of our community. Take care of one another. And let's also let ourselves be helped (often harder, yet equally important.) Let's remember to swim "alongside" those we disagree with, even on essential matters. Let's remember we are all in the larger human pod together, and argue important ideas instead of arguing with people. Go to your places of inspiration, go in person or virtually, go to your loved ones safely, or go to your own backyard. Create your inner "Tent of Holy Meeting" with whatever brings you a sense of awe. That personal Holy of Holies will strengthen and protect you during the coming year. May you each be blessed with time to dwell in awe, delight and wonder, and build of those experiences a holy Mishkan, that will sustain your spirit. And may you be surrounded and protected by your community swimming around you, no matter what. Shanah tovah u'mevorechet A good new year filled with life-sustaining moments of awe. Notes 26:14 Exodus