Inspirations, #2

February 5th, 2012

In my last post, I uploaded a video of the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach singing one of his heart-breaking, heart-opening, heart-deepening songs.

In the new edition of the Oracle of Kabbalah, I write about another song of the great rebbe. This one he never performed or recorded.

“There is a section of the ‘Bedtime Shema,’ the prayers uttered before going to sleep, that invokes the protection of four angels and the Shekhinah, the feminine, in-dwelling aspect of the Divine:

‘In the name of Ha-shem, the God of Israel,
On my right is Michael, on my left is Gabriel
Before me is Uriel, behind me Raphael
Above me and all around me, Shekinat-El.’

Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, zt”l, created a beautiful melody to these words, and his ‘Angel Song’ has become widely popular in Jewish Renewal circles. The story is told that Shlomo originally sang this as a lullaby to his daughters and then forgot it. His daughter, Neilah, however, memorized the song and helped preserve it. It is now sung around the world.”

Here is a lovely rendition of this song:  Angel song

In The Oracle, I go on to describe how to create a five-card “spread” based on this prayer:

For the Angel Spread, prepare to select the cards in the usual, deep, contemplative and prayerful way. Malakh, the Hebrew word for “angel,” means “messenger.” What messages do each of these angels have for us? If you know Reb Shlomo’s song, you could sing it aloud to help invoke the presence of these holy beings.

Choose the first card to represent the message of Michael. The name “Michael” means “Who is like God.” He is the angel of kindness and expansiveness. Place this card toward your right.

The next letter represents the message of Gabriel, the angel of strength and creating clear borders and boundaries. Gabriel’s name means “The strength of God.” Place this card to your left.

The third letter represents the message of Uriel, the angel of light, of vision, inspiration, and of what is dawning. Uriel’s name means “The light of God.” Place this card in the center, ahead of the others.

The fourth letter represents the message of Raphael, the angel of healing. This angel’s name means “The healing of God.” Place this card in the center, below the others.

The fifth and final letter represents the message of the Shekhinah, the feminine presence of the Holy, the way that heaven’s energy has come down into your body and is moving in your body and your life right now. Place this card right in the middle of all the others.

One way to interpet the Angel Spread is to assume that each letter is the voice of that particular angel or the Shekhinah. It is sending you a message, and also singing to you a song of protection. The energies of that letter are communicating to you and watching over you.

The angels might also be showing you areas of your life to cultivate to become more like them. In other words, the letter you select for Michael may point towards ways you can become even more kind and loving within the context of the question or situation you have brought to the Oracle.

The Gabriel letter might indicate the path for you to take to deepen your expressions of strength and discernment vis-a-vis this situation.

The Uriel letter could hint at ways of bringing greater vision and enlightenment into your life. This angel leads the way. It represents the sunrise in the east, the dawning of a new day.

Raphael’s letter describes the context of healing, and suggests ways for you to bring healing to the question or matter you are contemplating.

Finally, the letter of the Shekhinah indicates fundamental circumstances that are at the very heart of your life and the current situation. You are inundated in the energies of this letter. It is above you, below you, inside you, and all around you. This card is a call to open your heart and take in the spirit and power the letter offers. It will bring transformation.

 

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Inspirations

February 5th, 2012

Here is the first in a series of videos highlighting some of the main inspirations and leaders of the Jewish Renewal movement, who taught my late rebbe, Aryeh Hirshfield, may he rest in peace, who in turn inspired me to write “The Oracle of Kabbalah.”

This video features Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, zt’l, who founded “The House of Love and Prayer” in the 1960s and became a revolutionary force in reinvigorating Jewish services with heart-opening songs and deep prayers.

Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

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What makes you come alive?

December 26th, 2011

Last night, on Christmas night, which was also the sixth night of Chanukah, my wife, Rachael, and mother-in-law, Ruth, had dinner at Ruth’s house with Ruth’s good friend, Rabbi Marc Sirinsky. Rabbi Marc shared with us some words from the American civil rights leader, Rev. Howard Thurman (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Thurman).

Rev. Thurman was quoted as saying, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

How inspiring. It reminds me of the chapter on the letter Lamed in The Oracle of Kabbalah. In the “Personal Comments” section of that chapter, I write:

An extraordinary storyteller lived in Boston, Massachusetts named Brother Blue. During intermission at one of his performances, I went up to thank this venerable bard.  Brother Blue was friendly and unpretentious.  He asked me, “What do you do?” I was between jobs at the time and I hemmed and hawed and was starting to say what I used to do, when Brother Blue interrupted me.  Fixing me with sharp eyes, he said forcefully, “What do you want to do?” Again, I hemmed and hawed, and finally he lowered his eyes and let me off the hook.

 But the point had been made.  The Lamed, the goad, of his remark struck home.  What do I most want to do?  What is my deepest passion?   And what does the Holy want of me?  What is my destiny?  Frederick Buechner wrote, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Brother Blue’s words focused all these issues for me.  His simple, yet powerful question continues to urge me forward, helping me clarify my intention and move towards my heart’s desire.  Lamed prods each of us,  “What do you want to do?”

Or, as Rev. Thurman puts it, “What makes you come alive?”

What makes you come alive? Please share it here if you’d like.

 

By Richard Seidman, www.oracleofkabbalah.com

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Why Do Chanukah and Other Jewish Holidays Last for Eight Days?

December 22nd, 2011

Why do you think many Jewish holidays last eight days?

Here’s my drash on the subject from the chapter on the eighth letter of the Aleph Beit, Chet, in The Oracle of Kabbalah:

Gary Snyder writes in his poem “Walking Home from the ‘Duchess of Malfi’”:

Pains of death and love,
Birth and war,
wreckt earth,

bless
With more love,

not less.

This way of blessing is not an easy way. Chet’s is not an easy path. It takes time to ripen into the wisdom, chokhmah (another Chet word), of embodying this attitude towards life and fear. Many Jewish holidays last for eight days, suggesting that a period of time is required before we pass through the gateway and reach completion. Transformation doesn’t usually happen all at once.

The eight days of Chanukah, for example, honor the cycling of time at the winter solstice and recall the miracle of one day’s worth of oil lasting for eight. By eating and living in humble sukkot, huts, for the eight days of Sukkot, we remember the forty years that the Jews dwelt in huts during their sojourn in the Sinai. In the Diaspora, Passover is observed for eight days to commemorate the escape from Egypt and the Hebrews’ long years of wandering in the desert. By lasting for eight days, these holidays allow us to deepen into sacred time and to feel more deeply how our ancestors struggled through the challenges of life.

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The New Oracle of Kabbalah eBook is Now Available

December 20th, 2011

Thanks to the Puddletown Publishing Group in my old hometown of Portland, Oregon, USA, a new and improved edition of The Oracle of Kabbalah is now available.

You can purchase it through the iTunes Store, at Amazon.com, or at Barnes and Noble.

For more information, visit www.oracleofkabbalah.com.

The preface to this revised version of the book begins:

This edition of The Oracle of Kabbalah is a revised and expanded articulation of the mystical teachings of the Hebrew letters first published in 2001.

I wrote the original edition between 1997 and 1999. Since 1999, much has changed for me personally and, of course, for all of us who were alive back then.

Just three days after The Oracle’s publication, “9/11” took place when the two towers of the World Trade Center in my hometown of New York City were destroyed by terrorists. The book found its way into the world during this time of collective trauma and sorrow, and then during the violent reaction of the misguided war in Iraq, which proved once again Martín Prechtel’s point that grief, un-metabolized, inevitably turns to violence.

I remember the people who have passed away during these past thirteen years. There’s an African proverb that elders are wise because they know more dead people. By that standard, I have gained in wisdom since the original publication.

My mother, Phoebe Seidman, died in August 2008. My brother and I and our wives were blessed to be with her as she took her last breath. Her final words to me were, “Have a good trip.”

A few months later, a friend from early childhood took his own life.

And a few months after that, Rabbi Aryeh Hirschfield, the main inspiration for my book and my connection to Jewish mysticism, drowned, leaving hundreds of students and friends and congregants, as well as his family, suddenly bereft.

Even though I wasn’t young in the 1990s when I wrote the first edition, when I look back to that period of my life, I seem to myself naïve, acting as if I had all the time in the world. Now, with both of my parents dead and my beloved rabbi no longer in this world, and my being closer to eighty years old than to thirty, I have a more acute sense of the passage of time and of the strangeness and preciousness of life.

It’s a great honor to share with you, in the midst of the strangeness and preciousness of life, my musings on the Hebrew letters and how they might influence and inform our lives today. I hope you enjoy the new and improved Oracle.

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The Hebrew Letter Nun and the Euro Cup Final

June 28th, 2008

נ 

This post is the first in an ongoing series in which I’ll explore the perspective that The Oracle of Kabbalah brings to contemporary events. Since I’m somewhat of a soccer fanatic (“fanatic” is where the word “fan” comes from), I’ll begin with the final game of the Euro Cup, due to be played in Vienna this Sunday, June 29.

Spain is playing Germany for the championship.  Spain has not won a major tournament in 44 years, whereas Germany can claim several World Cup and Euro Cup championships in that time span.

I was curious what the Oracle might have to say about the upcoming match.  I shuffled the cards and chose the letter, Nun.

Nun means “fish.”  The Oracle of Kabbalah says, “Like fish swimming amid the changing tides of the sea, Nun is at home in the changing circumstances of life.”  I feel that the team that plays with the most fluidity and that is willing to change tactics and approach according to the vicissitudes of the game – injuries, penalties, weather conditions, etc. – will be the one that emerges victorious. 

The questions for reflection at the end of the chapter on Nun read, “Am I clinging to any outmoded self-concepts and old, negative patterns of thinking and acting?  How can I let go of these and swim more freely in the currents of my life?”

My prediction is that the Spanish players and coaches will free themselves from believing in the widespread notion that they falter at the highest level competitions. I believe that the Spanish squad will indeed let go of these old patterns, and that they will play with more joy and fish-like fluidity than the Germans, and they will be crowned the Euro Cup champion.

I can’t wait to see what happens.

Til next time,

Richard Seidman

To learn more about The Oracle of Kabbalah: Mystical Teachings of the Hebrew Letters, visit http://www.oracleofkabbalah.com.

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Return to the Land of Your Soul

April 11th, 2008

This morning, feeling somewhat overwhelmed by how many projects I am simultaneously juggling right now, I turned to The Oracle of Kabbalah to see what insight it might provide me. I chose the letter, Resh.

The chapter on Resh (which incidentally was the hardest chapter of all the ones in the book for me to write because of the traditionally negative commentaries regarding this letter) quotes from “Return Again,” a song made popular by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, of blessed memory. The song goes, “Return again, return again, return to the land of your soul. Return to who you are, return to what you are, return to where you are, born and reborn again.”

The Oracle of Kabbalah comments, “To return is to turn again, to come back. Have we lost our way in this confusing world? Have we lost sight of who we are or who we want to be?”

The letter inspires me to breathe deeply, to step back from the tasks that seem so pressing and take a broader view, a deeper perspective. All of a sudden, the many projects I am dealing with don’t seem so burdensome. The mystery of life seems more imminent. I feel refreshed.

The Oracle of Kaballah says, “The twenty-two letters of the Aleph Beit are the primordial building blocks of creation. As one of these twenty-two building blocks, Resh, with its meaning of ‘new,’ shows that the power of renewal is built into the very structure of existence. Ra’ananut, ‘freshness,’ is present at every moment.”

Blessings,
Richard Seidman

To learn more about The Oracle of Kabbalah: Mystical Teachings of the Hebrew Letters, visit http://www.oracleofkabbalah.com.

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Welcome to the Oracle of Kabbalah blog

April 3rd, 2008

The Hebrew word for letter, ot, also means “sign” or “wonder” or “miracle.” For thousands of years, Jewish sages have taught that the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet, the Aleph Beit, embody wonderful and miraculous powers. This blog, along with my book, The Oracle of Kabbalah: Mystical Teachings of the Hebrew Letters will explore the ancient teachings regarding the Hebrew letters and how these teachings can be made practical in our contemporary lives. Welcome!

To kick things off, I will now choose at random one of the 23 cards and see how the letter selected illuminates the launching of this blog.

And the letter chosen is…Kaf!

Here is a little of what The Oracle of Kabbalah has to say about this Hebrew letter:

“The characters in fairy tales, as in dreams, embody archetypes that point to qualities within each of us. Kings and queens are key figures in stories around the world. Sometimes in these tales, princes or princesses wander lost in the world, unaware of or cut off from their royal heritage. They must undergo various trials and deepen in wisdom and life experience before they can claim their rightful place on the throne. The letter Kaf is the dream, the fairy tale, of inner kingship and queenship. Kaf calls us to claim, in our own lives, sovereignty and majesty .”

Ah, this is indeed a dignified letter with which to inaugurate this blog.

May you all find your rightful place of sovereignty.

Goodbye for now,

Richard Seidman

To learn more about The Oracle of Kabbalah: Mystical Teachings of the Hebrew Letters, visit http:www.oracleofkabbalah.com.

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