Moon Over Maui

A Jewish Mystical Journey through the Year

This Day Counts!

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Apr• 24•12

Every day counts. That’s obvious, really. A cliché, even. But counting every day of this month is the focus of the Iyar moon, which hangs in the sky April 23 through May 21. Iyar celebrates the everyday miracle of being alive (!)

There are times when you know, without any doubt, that a miracle has occurred. Perhaps you’re nearly drowning at sea only to find yourself breathlessly thrown up on the shore to safety. Was it a wave? Was it the Divine hand? Only your heart will ever know for sure.

The focus of the Iyar moon cycle is not these larger-than-life-like “Divine Fireworks.” Instead, Iyar centers on remembering—and counting—every day as a miracle, no matter what. Some days are wonderful and joyous; others are dull, dreary, and draining; some even, God forbid, are filled with sadness, grief, and fear. Whatever your day-to-day experience, it counts. It’s astonishing!

High moments are magnificent, of course: the births and weddings, promotions and holidays. But Iyar is a month of acknowledging and counting every day as a unique and worthy gift.  It is the only moon cycle of the year that has a formal mitzvah associated with every single day of the month: to count the Omer, to count the days, to acknowledge the bounty and the harvest of every day. It is a gift to be alive and participate in this very moment.

Throughout this moon cycle, carve out time to count the days and acknowledge the miracles of daily experience

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. You can make a mental list or write them down. Or, just exclaim them aloud.  Here’s a spontaneous sample listing from my day.

Everyday miracles today, the seventeenth day, which is two weeks and three days of the Omer:

  • I am alive!
  • A fallen Iris bud blossoming in a ramekin of tap water.
  • The self-defined “silly mind” of my exuberant four-and-a-half year old boy.
  • Writing in a public library, where information, comfort, and internet are free (!).
  • The wrinkled nose of my man after he kissed my garlic-rosemary breath.
  •  Driving a 7-mile bridge (25th longest bridge in the world) atop the glistening bay.
  • Sitting upright in a padded chair.
For more in-depth journey of refining yourself during these weeks, subscribe online to a daily omer email.



My gratitude to two New York City rabbis whom I’ve never met in person, but to whom I regularly listen and learn from via the (everyday miraculous!) technology of the 21st century.

Meaningful Life Center, Rabbi Simon Jacobson

Iyyun Center for Jewish Spirituality, Rav DovBer Pinson

Quiet Words Heal Under Nissan’s Full Moon

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Apr• 05•12

Beginning Friday evening at sundown (April 6, 2012), millions of people around the globe will gather under the full moon of Nissan to lounge comfortably, eat good food, drink wine, and talk story. Typically, the topic is the torturous yet always miraculous journey from enslavement to freedom.

The great 16th century rabbi and Jewish mystic Yitzchak Luria separated the Hebrew word for Passover, Nissan’s full moon festival, into two words: Peh (“the mouth”) and Sach (“speaks”) “The mouth speaks.” It alludes to the depth and healing power of your speech: The ways in which your “mouth speaks” affect you, everyone around you, the world, even the universe.

With few exceptions, you are free (and have been since 1791) to say aloud anything you wish (First amendment of the US Constitution, Freedom of Speech). Yet, once a word is spoken it cannot be unspoken. And if uttered in haste or reaction, reverberations cause irreversible consequences to yourself and others.

A classic technique for dealing with reactive speech is to speak in a soft tone of voice or remain silent whenever you are emotionally triggered (Orchos Tzadikum, ch. 12). This technique may be easy to dismiss, especially in North America where people feel entitled and encouraged to express their feelings and voice their opinions. Still, the power of speaking softly will stun you. It may even curve situations toward your favor.

My four-year-old, for example, whacked my leg yesterday releasing his full expression of frustration because I wouldn’t let him wear his cleats in the house. I felt reactive anger flair through my body, but I said nothing. I took a deep breath and remembered my commitment to speak softly this moon cycle

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. “Ouch,” I said, with deep quiet expression. “That really hurt.”  I looked at him, silently counseling myself to say nothing else. Almost without hesitation my boy shifted. He threw his arms around my waist and hugged me close. “I’m sorry, Mommy,” he said.

See for yourself how speaking softly affects you and those around you. The journey from enslavement to freedom—moment-to-moment—may be only a soft word away. I was surprised. Maybe you will be, too.

As a practice, try speaking in a soft tone of voice for the eight days of Pesach (Friday, April 6 through Saturday, April 14). Don’t raise your voice. Don’t allow your “mouth to speak” without consideration. Be as intentional with your words as possible and, no matter what, commit to speaking quietly.

Let me how it goes and what you experience.

Happy Passover!


Please note: The practice of speaking softly, is found in Orchos Tzadikum, a 14th century classic book of ethics written by an anonymous author. I read about this practice in the books: Gateway to Happiness, by Zelig Pliskin, and Jewish Spiritual Practices by Yitzhak Buxbaum.

A Personal Sigh of Creation

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Apr• 02•12

Beautiful Nissan is a moon cycle filled with promises and miracles. No matter how challenging or shocking or devastating life is sometimes, the waxing Nissan moon is a symbolic assurance that nothing is relentlessly difficult forever. Our experiences shift. Whether we are “ready” or not, spring comes again. And it has. Officially, spring has arrived.

Even with lingering downpours and colder weather, we have arrived in the season of new birth, new beginnings, and fresh starts. Life is moving on. Dreams are breaking from their hardened shells of confinement, and blossoming into reality. It’s time to exhale, sigh, and relax a little.

Every moon cycle, according to the oldest book of Jewish mysticism, the Sefer Yetzirah, has a Hebrew letter associated with it. For the moon cycle of Nissan, it is the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the hey.

Hebrew is a gender-based language. When hey is added to the end of a Hebrew word, it turns that word into feminine form. In the Jewish tradition, four letters—two of which are hey— represent the name of God. Therefore, the letter hey is a symbol of divinity, and specifically, feminine divinity.

The Sound of All Creation

Take a moment to exhale. While you are reading this, right now, actually breathe in through your noise and then exhale with a sigh through your mouth. That whispered whoosh—“haaaaaaaaaa”—is the sound of the letter hey. It is your breath moving from within you and within the Universe. There is no utterance you can make without your breath, which means the letter hey —“haaaaaaaaaa”—is the beginning of every spoken sound

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Try it. Make some noise. Every verbal expression originates from the hey—“haaaaaaaaaa.”

Modern and alternative medicine has proven that making time to exhale is good for you. Intentional breathing provides moments of pause, of respite. It calms your parasympathetic nervous system. Halts the “fight or flight” impulse. Delays reactions. And, truth be told, just feels good. So, sigh. Whenever you remember, take a sweet inhalation through your noise and exhale with the hey—“haaaaaaaaaa.” Do this frequently, whenever you remember, and especially during these next few weeks under the Nissan moon.

The Nissan Moon Springs Healing from Speech

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Mar• 23•12

Spring officially begins in the moon cycle of Nissan (which begins this weekend, March 24, through April 23, 2012). In fact, one of the names of Nissan is “the month of spring.”

During the days of Nissan, the area of healing is centered on speech1. That is, everything you say aloud this month affects you. At every time of year, speech influences your wellbeing —both what you say and what is said to you. During the Nissan moon, however, healing is even more particularly linked with your words.

All emotions are worthy, so allow yourself to feel everything; however, during this moon choose wisely what you say aloud. What you verbalize during Nissan connects to and affects your spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical healing. If your words are insulting, for example, you will amplify distress. If your utterances are considerate and gracious, warmth and kindness will radiate from you.

Intentional speech isn’t easy. What you say aloud often happens quickly without considering implications of injury or charm. You might be yelling at your neighbor for blocking your driveway before you realize that you are ruthlessly venting. Or you may tell someone that she’s beautiful, without noticing her younger sister’s hurt feelings at not being acknowledged. Don’t let that happen this moon cycle. Recommit to being conscious of what you say.

When you become angry during the Nissan moon, for example, you may commit to focus on truthful communication instead of verbal insults. Staying mindful of the healing affects of speech, you might tell your mother (instead of yelling at her or remaining silent) that when she does not ask how you are it makes you feel as if she doesn’t care about you. You may choose to further articulate your inner desire, and add that you wished the two of you were closer

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Are You Talking to Yourself?

It’s beneficial this moon to make the time to talk aloud. One way to do this is to schedule a few talking dates with yourself and/or with the Divine2. Choose in advance the times you commit to having an open-ended conversation with yourself and/or the Divine, and mark them on your calendar. The appointments can be as short as five minutes or for as long as you like. When the time comes, be sure you won’t be disturbed and honor your appointment.

There doesn’t need to be any formal ending or beginning to this conversation. You can simply begin. If you don’t know what to say, start by saying: “I don’t know what to say…” and talk about that.  Or, begin by listing everything for which you are grateful: your breath, your children, the clothes you are wearing, the food you’ve eaten, the weather, and so on. From there, you may describe where you are standing, you can mention how you are feeling, you can review your day, you can state aloud that you feel awkward or happy or bored or grateful, and then expand on why you have those feelings.

The goal is to speak for a certain amount of time. If you are at a loss for words, repeatedly ask yourself a question. For example, freedom is a significant theme of this moon cycle (more on this in a later post). During Nissan, millions of people all over the world celebrate Passover, a holiday when family, friends, and strangers comfortably sit together, share a meal, and retell the story of the Jewish people’s historical journey from slavery to freedom. So, during your appointment with the Divine, you could ask yourself aloud: “What comes between me and personal freedom?” “What is freedom?” “Am I free?” Answer yourself without overthinking. The point is to talk, to allow yourself to speak freely and aloud without restriction.

Talking to yourself and/or to the Divine may feel weird at first. But try it. You don’t have to speak loudly. Your declarations can be whispered beneath your own breath and audible only to you and/or to nature. You can cry, whine, exclaim, murmur, sigh, yell, scream at the top of your lungs—whatever sound and words come from you is acceptable. It may be easier to do if you are outside in a garden. Or perhaps you would feel more comfortable in a room with a closed door. Or in your car. Wherever you are, pledge to make a few appointments to talk out loud this month.

Let’s Talk about That

Nissan is also an auspicious time to talk with others. Take note: With whom in your life would you like to converse?  Reach out to those people and schedule a talking date. If the person lives close to you, you can suggest a walk together or to meet at the coffee shop. If they live too far away to physically meet, you can choose a favorite location in which you will sit and talk with them on a telephone or visually connect and talk with them on the computer.

Conversations during Nissan are healing regardless of their purpose. Your talking date may be very pointed and intentional, or one that is enjoyable and untroubled. You can use talking dates to work out friction or simply to connect with someone.  Whatever is the objective, speaking this month will contribute to your vitality and strength.

The moon cycle of Nissan provides the opportunity to embrace the fresh start of spring and to receive healing by speaking out loud with care and intention.  To appreciate this moon’s spring cycle: Make the time to say it out loud.


1. Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation, translated by Aryeh Kaplan (1997).

2.  Hitbodedut, “being alone with God,” is an ancient Jewish mystical meditation technique brought into popular use by Reb Nachman of Bretzlov, grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement. Students of Reb Nachman spent at least one hour a day outdoors pouring their hearts out to the Holy One.

Divine Hand Weaves a Majestic Tapestry

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Mar• 07•12

My dog Tora (Japanese for Tiger) died a few weeks ago. In his final moments, as he lay in my lap, I viscerally felt his 12 years of life swirl its way through me: him as a pup; as an agile and energetic youngster; him chasing balls and birds and rocks; as an elder slowing down, losing his hearing, his sight, his enthusiasm, his bladder control (!). He came alive in those final moments of his death. Tears of love and joy and laughter intermingled with sadness and loss and grief.

Tora's Last Hurrah. Yosemite November, 2011

As Tora died, death slipped through the crack of my broken heart, peered around, and made itself comfortable. Three more people in my life have died since, and two others have experienced sudden and dramatic health shifts that have tilted them toward life’s end. These weeks—filled with so much death and illness—have made me shake. I’ve been afraid to even talk or write about it.

Meanwhile, I’ve been learning, sharing and meditating on the healing qualities of the Adar moon: Joy and Laughter. I’ve smiled internally, but secretly I’ve felt like a fraud. As I see the cherry blossom trees against the blue winter sky, I sincerely smile. When I’m standing exhausted at the end of the day and my four-year-old boy is still bouncing and hopping and screeching, I find a true smile within me. But the buoyancy of Adar’s joy and laughter has eluded me. I’ve felt grateful, yes; but also scared, sometimes numb, even a little paralyzed.

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The growing moon of Adar (which is full on Thursday night) urges me to go deeper. My journey, I know, is in alignment with the Jewish mystical moon cycles. The Jewish holiday of Purim, which is celebrated (by those living outside of Israel) the night before the full moon of Adar, acknowledges the thin veils between life and death.  It underscores the hidden Divine Hand weaving life’s majestic tapestry. It illustrates how life situations are one way and then suddenly another for no outwardly apparent reason. The Purim story teaches us: We don’t control the outcome of what happens; however, we do choose how we bring ourselves to every moment of our lives. When we survive to live another day, thank God! A joy it is to be alive!

Thousands of years ago, as the Purim story goes, the entire population of Jewish people was nearly annihilated. The heroine, Ester, went before the King, revealed her vulnerable identity, and pleaded for her life and the life of her people. She succeeded. She was exposed

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I gather inspiration from Ester’s story.  Within me is an inner willingness to gather my courage and meet with the Holy One one-on-one. To readily admit life is finite. The sunsets needn’t get brighter. Life’s beauty needn’t be more tangible. But I must face death. Allow it. Be with it. Act to prepare, as best as possible. And plead—fervently—on behalf of my precious life and the life of my people.

Smile, You Are in Adar

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Feb• 22•12

The healing energy during the next four weeks of the Adar moon is joy and laughter. That means the more you can laugh and enjoy yourself this moon cycle, the better off you’ll be

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. Crack a smile and your whole situation may tilt toward true healing and enjoyment. This is true on the most simple of levels and on the most profound.

What is joy to you? One way to tap into the joy deep inside of you is by noticing what is joyful in the physical world and choosing to smile about it.

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For example:

  • Smile at the new buds on the cherry blossom trees.
  • Smile at yourself in the mirror while you’re brushing your teeth.
  • Smile at your partner, your daughter, your son.
  • Smile at your pet.
  • Smile as you sip your Chai latte in the morning.

Ultimately, if you can smile and laugh more—both on the inside and on the outside—you’ll reap the benefits of this moon’s healing energy.

When Life is Rough, Smile Anyway

Of course, there will be times this month when it may seem impossible to smile. Perhaps you are ill, or sad, or experiencing difficulty. At these times, practice smiling anyway—even if it feels forced. This doesn’t mean that you override your true feelings; instead, allow yourself to feel whatever is present and smile with it anyhow.

For example, my husband and I were on a romantic date last year, which included dinner, dessert, and a movie. After strolling arm-and-arm to an ice cream shop and enjoying its special flavor of the month (chocolate raspberry truffle!) we decided to go see a romantic comedy.

We were having a wonderful time as we were driving to the movie when—WHAM!—we were rear-ended by a hit-and-run driver. The accident immediately seemed to change the tempo of the evening from fun to frustrating.

Although we were fortunate that neither of us were injured, my spirits were more than a little depleted. As I reported to the police officer my version of the experience, I noticed the reflection of the Adar moon in the window of the cop car. I looked over at my husband who, handsome as can be, winked at me as he leaned against the stop sign pole licking what was left of his ice cream cone. The smile that spread across my face was genuine. Although the immediate situation wasn’t enjoyable, that smile shifted my entire disposition.

Joy Is the Greatest Healer

According to Kabbalah, joy is the greatest healer. Take advantage that the healing and growth during the moon of Adar, which come from a source of joy and laughter. There are many moons (such as Tammuz and Av) when growth comes from that which is learned through pain and suffering. Be assured, pain and suffering eventually do find you; you do not need to search them out. Joy, however, is your birthright, your natural state.

During these weeks of Adar, practice joy:

  • Smile a lot, even if you don’t feel like it.
  • Whenever you can, pause, breathe, and release a chuckle from your heart.
  • Say yes! to that which connects you to Divine flow.
  • Identify and express the slivers of joy or laughter you’re able to find in daily encounters, even those that are challenging.
  • Laugh aloud.
  • Make a joy list of items, people, and situations that make you smile, laugh, or feel connected to yourself and/or the Divine.
  • Read your joy list aloud and smile!

Adar is the last moon of the calendar year. It is magnificent that at the end of this year’s annual twelve-moon cycles (which began with Nissan and concludes with Adar) the healing energy for the journey is joy and laughter. Now that’s something to smile about.

The Taste of Healing

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Feb• 14•12

If there were ever a time to be more aware of how and when and why you eat, do it for this final week of Shevat. Specifically, focus on the taste of your food, which, according to the Sefer Yetzirah, brings even deeper-levels of healing into the world—into ourselves—during this moon cycle.

Sarah Yehudit Schneider, a Kabbalist living in the Old City of Jerusalem, says that if everyone in the world ate with deliberate consciousness, the planetary shift would be so profound that the world would be healed of all suffering. Imagine!

Intention is to holiness like enzymes are to nutrition. If you eat a meal, but do not have the correct enzymes, the nutrients of the food just go right through you, without value. Similarly, if you perform a neutral act (such as eating) without proper intention, there is no value to it in its relation to healing the world.

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Even with the best of intentions, though, we forget what we are doing. And before we know it, entire meals are prepared, eaten, and finished. To shift toward greater consciousness:

  1. Slow down.
  2. Do your best to be intentional.
  3. Say a blessing before and after you eat any food. 
  4. Remember from where your food comes.

Another wonderful story about Reb Zusya (who’s death day was at the beginning of this moon cycle, Shevat 2, 1800)

“The holy way of the holy Rebbe Reb Zusya was that after the Morning Prayers he would not tell his servant to bring him something to eat; he would just say aloud, ‘Master of the World, Zusya is very hungry, please see that his meal is brought to him!” And when the servant heard this he knew to bring the food. … [One morning] the servants decided that they would not bring [Reb Zusya] anything to eat until he asked them explicitly. But that morning, on his way to the [ritual baths] before prayers on a rainy day, the rabbi had had an encounter with a crude visitor from out of town. This person, not knowing the rabbi (who was always dressed poorly), and thinking him to be just an old beggar, had, for a joke, pushed him off the sidewalk and into the mud

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. When he found out later that this was the holy rabbi, he immediately went to beg forgiveness—and took with him some liquor and cake as a token for the rabbi to taste after his prayers. Of course, he entered just when the rabbi called out, as always, for God to give him his food” (Jewish Spiritual Practices, p. 233).

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We are provided for. The level of our comfort and ease—especially when it comes to the availability of food and nourishment—is profound. This moon cycle, which ends next Wednesday at sundown, is an awe-inspiring opportunity to awaken ourselves to the blessings pouring from the heavens. And to practice, both the receiving of nutrition from the Divine, and our opportunity to return and raise those sparks of light even higher through our own participation and intention.

A Day of Song and Gratitude

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Feb• 02•12

This coming weekend is an opportunity to awaken and declare aloud—through song!—the gratitude and miracles of being alive. Soon, winter and spring begin the official dance of transition: some days remain dark and cold, while others begin to dawn the warmth of liberation and possibility.

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Beginning Friday at sundown, the Sabbath of Song is a 25-hour period dedicated to singing expressions of thankfulness and praise. You may be in the depths of great challenges, still feeling the winter cold permeating your being

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. Or perhaps you already are feeling the kiss of spring awakening inside of you. Either way, this is the weekend to raise your voice and sing praises: You are alive!

Shabbat Shirah, the Sabbath of Song, commemorates the miracle of the Exodus, the Jewish people’s safe passage across the Red Sea, and the unquestionable knowing of Divine presence and protection that embodied the people then and now.

Whether you are undeniably content or facing severe challenges, open your mouth—especially this weekend—and allow sound to rise from your lips. Sing for your breath, for your life, for day-to-day existence. Celebrate the Divine unfolding, which promises light from darkness, birth from death, grace from despair.

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For 25-hours beginning at sundown on Friday, Feb. 4, do this (if you want):

Sing: As much as possible, just sing! Sing anything. Words, songs, prayers. Sing along with the radio or your favorite MP3. Sing aloud to the Divine. Hum, sing, croon your gratitude and blessings. Divine intervention is your birthright and your song is one of the highest forms of prayer.

Operatic Conversations: You can intone your sentences instead of talking them, as if you are in an opera. For instance, when you awaken, chant aloud to yourself, family, and/or housemates, “Good morning.” Ask your children in singsong, “What shall we have for dinner?” Serenade callers by answering phones with a melodious, “Good day.” All the while, allow your “songs” to rise in gratitude and blessing. (This is a fun one to do with kids—or with the kid within you!)

Birdseed: Join in the custom of putting out birdseed this weekend to encourage song to fill the air. Birdsong is spontaneous and continuous—a reminder to us all. Also, the return of birds from their winter migration patterns alludes to the coming spring.

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What Are You Eating?

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Jan• 30•12

Your interaction with what and how you eat during this moon cycle of Shevat increases healing,  according to the Sefer Yetzirah. Not the nutritious healing that the modern medical establishment has been drilling into us for years. Nor the healing your critical voice may have been harping about for even longer! Healing by eating during the moon cycle of Shevat occurs on a deeper level.


Most of our healthy habits and choices around consumption rely on some aspect of will: “Eat this; don’t eat that.” “This is good for me; this isn’t.” But for true and lasting affect, you must “listen to this advice: heal your soul at its source and don’t just rely on self-control,” says Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, of blessed memory (To Heal the Soul, p. 8).

Shevat provides the opportunity to do just that! The key: awareness and gratitude.

When the Israelites made a mass exodus across the desert, fleeing their constricted lives as Egyptian slaves, they were super hungry and thirsty. But there was no food in the desert, nor time to prepare it. For nourishment and hydration, they were dependent on the Divine—a miracle! Small round balls that tasted like honey doughnuts, and looked like coriander and mustard seeds, fell from the sky day after day. Each morning (with the exception of Shabbat), they were only allowed to take enough for that one day (The Living Torah, Kaplan, p. 339).

For most of us, modern day circumstances aren’t as obviously dire. For some, such as the poor, sick, or homeless, it is more apparent. But even those of us who are living in relative (or excessive) comfort rely on the Divine—a miracle!—when it comes to our food. The resources required every day to grow food, bring food into our homes, to cook, serve, eat, and digest food is a Divine miracle. But we forget!

Instead, most of us walk into a restaurant or a market, order and buy what we want, and consume it with relatively little awareness.

Throughout the moon cycle of Shevat, return to the basic hunger and gratitude of our history’s earlier times. Use this moon cycle to wake yourself up again and again—meal after meal—to the miracle of food. To the gratitude of being satisfied. To eat healthy meals, or indulgent desserts, or satisfying snacks with awareness and gratitude. To use this moon cycle of Shevat to “heal your soul at its source.”

A daily practice (Try it if you want!): I’ve never before cooked with or eaten coriander or mustard seeds, but this moon cycle I have a small dish of them in the center of my table to remind me of the “gift of food” that comes from the Divine. (The food that fell from the sky in the Egyptian desert most closely resembled coriander and mustard seeds.) Before each meal, I sprinkle a little pinch of them on my meal

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. It wakes me up a little, reminds me to only eat as much as I need for that one meal, to satisfy my hunger for that one “day.” And then, when a little pop of coriander randomly fills my mouth with taste, I’m reminded again to: breath, connect with myself, with the Divine, with the miracle (!) of food, and deep gratitude that I’m able to consume it. I take a moment of respite: One inhalation. One exhalation.

Before I eat anything this month, I am trying to remember to say aloud a blessing (even if it is barely a whisper). Sometimes, the blessing is brief, such as: “Thank you.” Often, it is longer. It can be in any language. But, according to the Kabbalists, if you say a blessing before and after you consume anything, the light of healing increases within you and in the world. (Eating as Tikun, Schneider.)

Please note: Flanking any neutral act, such as eating, with blessings increases healing in the world. Later in the moon cycle I will write about this practice, which was taught to me by Sarah Yehudit Schneider in the Old City of Jerusalem. May you eat with gratitude and awareness, and may your nights and days be filled with healing and light.

The Holy Reb Zusya

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Jan• 26•12

The Holy Reb Zusya of Blessed Memory (1718-1800)

This post is in honor and blessing of the great life and teachings of the holy Reb Zusya, of blessed memory, who died on the 2nd of Shevat (today) in the Gregorian calendar year 1800.

The first Reb Zusya story I ever heard instantly pierced my heart, and became a steadfast narrative “compass” that  continues to help me chart my course through life’s unfolding journey

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The story goes like this:

Lying on his death bed, Reb Zusya was very upset and crying, tears streaming down his face.

His students asked with great concern, “Reb Zusya, why are you upset? Why are you crying? Are you afraid when you die you will be asked why you were not more like Moses?”

Reb Zusya replied, “I am not afraid that the Holy One will ask me ‘Zusya, why were you not more like Moses?’ Rather, I fear that the Holy One will say, ‘Zusya, why were you not more like Zusya?’”

I am in debt and deep gratitude to Reb Zusya, to his students, and to the students of his students, including the generation of students in which I currently live. I’ll share more Reb Zusya stories on this website during the moon cycle of Shevat. For many centuries to come, may the wisdom and teachings of the holy Reb Zusya continue to be accessible, and to readily affect people and their life choices. Especially yours…

On Reb Zusya’s tombstone are the words:

“One who served God with love, who rejoiced in suffering, who wrested many from their sins.”

(Cited in The Tales of the Hasidim by Marin Buber, p. 251)