Archives for February 2012

Torah Reflections: February 12 – 18, 2012

Parashah (portion) Mishpatim – Our Highest Spiritual Principles    
Exodus 21:1 – 24:18

When a person’s ox injures a neighbor’s ox and it dies, they shall sell the live ox and divide its price; they shall also divide the dead animal. If, however, it is known that the ox was in the habit of goring, and its owner has failed to guard it, that person must restore ox for ox, and [the neighbor] shall keep the dead animal. [Exod. 21:35-36]

These verses follow the chapter containing the Revelation at Sinai and are part of what the rabbis call the Book of the Covenant, detailing the first rules derived from the Ten Commandments. Though taken at the literal level, these rules might appear antiquated and no longer relevant to our post-modern lives (who among us owns an ox anymore?); they are, at a deeper level, far more than simple rules and legislations.
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Compassionate Listening…Healing the World from the Inside Out

Compassionate Listening…Healing the World from the Inside Out

Taught by Andrea Cohen

The Sh’ma calls us to a deeper listening; a listening that reaches beyond our words to the One Silence that is at the source of Being. The V’ahavta invites us to love; to love with our whole self the One Who manifests as all that is. Our tradition teaches us that the two are intimately connected. Listening is an act of intimacy; a place where we are able to open ourselves to the other’s truth non-judgmentally, and stand in the other’s presence with greater compassion and understanding. Listening is, indeed, the key that unlocks the gates of love.

Compassionate Listening is a practice that seeks to fling these gates wide open for us. Its powerful tools help transform the energy of conflict into opportunities for understanding, intimacy, and healthy relationships in families, the workplace and in our community. It is a practice that provides a road-map to cultivating the wisdom of the heart as the key to real peace “from the inside out.”

Explore the some of the Core Practices of Compassionate Listening, of deep Sh’ma-ing, and learn the skills necessary to bring them into your daily life:

  • Holding Compassion for Oneself and Others
  • Suspending Judgment
  • Maintaining Balance in the Heat of Conflict
  • Listening with the Heart
  • Speaking from the Heart

Andrea Cohen, M.A., M.S.W., is a Certified Compassionate Listening Facilitator and Senior Trainer. She is author of Practicing the Art of Compassionate Listening and a former Bet Alef member.

Please contact Shellie if you are interested in the Tuesday series beginning in April–or the possibility of a one or two day workshop. Location will be determined based upon participants.

Torah Reflections: February 5 – 11, 2012

Parashah (portion) Yitro – One With The One  
Exodus 18:1 – 20:23

Now Moses went up to God. The Eternal One called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob and declare to the children of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Me. Now then, if you hear, deeply hear My voice, and keep My covenant, you will be to Me a special treasure among all peoples, for all the earth is Mine. You shall be a kingdom of priests, a holy nation’. These are the words that you shall speak to the children of Israel.” [Exod. 19:3-6]

Thus begins chapter 19 in the book of Exodus, the chapter leading up to the Ten Commandments and Revelation at Sinai. Moving beyond the literal level, I read this chapter as a transmission of a spiritual encounter couched in the literary form of myth. Though the words of Revelation meet us in the next chapter, chapter 19 describes the moment of awakening.

These early verses might, therefore, detail the initial meditation from which the unfolding chaotic, awesome and terrifying vision unfolds. “Moses,” the “house of Jacob,” as well as “the children of Israel,” represent different layers of consciousness being addressed here. Our inner Moses, the always already enlightened part of self, is the one to ascend and channel this transmission. The “house of Jacob” represents the level of ego consciousness, while the “children of Israel” the more spiritually inclined aspects of consciousness.[1]
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Torah Reflections: January 29 – February 4, 2012

Parashah (portion) B’shalach – At The Edge of The Wilderness 
Exodus 13:17 – 19:16

Our Torah portion opens with liberation: “Now when Pharaoh let the people go…” [Exod. 13:17] As we approach biblical stories as myth, we no longer read the text literally; but see it, instead, as the expression of a universal spiritual unfolding. To us, therefore, our text speaks here of our inner Pharaoh-the voice of fear and exclusion within. This inner Pharaoh is finally releasing the grip that perpetuated the illusion of our separate sense of identity. In this first step on the spiritual journey, a spark of light enters into our consciousness that illuminates for us the darkness in which we had forgotten we live, having become numbingly habituated to it. Once the spark is perceived, once the tiniest flash of light has come through, there is no turning back, try as we may.

In the biblical myth, we learn, two paths are laid in front of us; a direct path to the Promised Land of enlightenment and a more circuitous path: “God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was nearer; for God said, ‘The people may have a change of heart when they see war, and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people round about, by way of the wilderness at the Sea of Reeds.” [Exod. 13:17-18] Our mystics teach, arguably, that in the early stages of one’s spiritual journey, the direct path might not be the preferred one for it is fraught with inner “battles” that could overwhelm one who is unprepared, causing him/her to abandon the journey altogether. Alternatively, this have been a warning directed at those who, even in biblical days, might have been tempted to shortcut the journey by using mind-altering substances, and ran the risk of not only hurting themselves physically, but also psychologically ill-equipped as one might be to face the inner demons one might awaken in the process.
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