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The Voice of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal
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To Be a Mystic Activist by Rabbi Shefa Gold

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 14:05

To be a Mystic-activist…

The question of this moment is not whether, but how to be an activist. Each of us is called to know and find expression for our part in the emerging dance of transformation. We are the vessels for the force of awakening that is flowing through this world. AND we are each invited to consciously participate in that awakening by sourcing each and every expression or action in the knowledge of our interconnected Being.

We all have moments of mystical awareness, moments of remembering how we are all related, how our fates are bound up with one another. Those moments can be small (sharing the beauty of a sunset) or big (witnessing the birth of a child). Those big or small moments of Unity Consciousness come and go, reminding us of something, but often leaving us fundamentally unchanged, as we return to the consciousness of separation. Of winners and losers.

At some point, there is a shift on this journey of awakening when we turn inward, enter into mystical consciousness and live from that unshakable knowing of our Unity; when we place Love at the center; when we realize that we are the visible manifestation of the Infinite Invisible, the channel through which the Divine flows. 

The first time I called myself a “Mystic-activist,” was when I wrote the introduction to In The Fever of Love, a devotional Commentary on the Song of Songs. That name resonated so deeply and still reverberates through my being as a call and a motivating inspiration. Knowing myself in this way is my liberation.

After immersing myself in Shir HaShirim, the Song of Songs, I wrote, “As a passionate mystic-activist, my intention is to return this sacred erotic text to its rightful place at the center of our religious lives. The Song of Songs is an invitation to enter the Holy of Holies at the center of our own loving hearts. When we take that journey to center and finally turn towards the shining face of the One who has been waiting there, then every facet of our lives begins to shine with the beauty of The Beloved.”

I knew that placing Love at the center, changes everything.

To be a mystic-activist means I must close the door of shame , judgement and blame, and instead walk through the door of creativity and imagination. I must live in the light of what I know to be true. Through this light, I must heal the racism that is my conditioning and find the deeper knowing that we are one Being. Self-transformation becomes the doorway to world transformation.

Kohelet 3:11 says, (God) “makes everything beautiful in its time, and also hides the universe in their hearts.” This is an expression of mystical consciousness. I open to the beauty of this precious moment, and let that beauty send me to the infinite source within, where we are not separate, where we are one great Being, a flower unfurling in the light of awareness.

When I witness suffering and injustice in this world, I experience it happening also inside my heart, where the Greater Being that we are resides. Inside my heart, the oppressor and the oppressed live side-by-side, equal and bound up in their suffering. The love that I bring to all- both friend and enemy, transforms the inner conflict into a dynamic dance of awakening. And I trust in this dance, in the beauty of Grace unfolding in its time. 

When this truth touches me, I can’t just sit back and watch that unfolding, because Iam an instrument of that Grace. I let compassion move me to action.

The question that I ask of every impulse to action or expression is, “Where is it coming from?” Mystical consciousness can be a powerful resource that sends me into the world that I know to be sacred. This reverence softens the edge of my outrage, opens my heart, lifts my despair, and shows me the wide perspective. Mystical consciousness allows me to see through the illusions of separateness and then, through my words, actions and healing presence, to become an awakener.

To be a mystic-activist means to dare to leave behind my small self, and step into a larger identity. It means I must face the reality of this moment with all its horror and beauty, and make a commitment to presence, to love, to beauty and to infinite possibilities.

Responding to the Murder of George Floyd and BLM Protests

Tue, 06/02/2020 - 16:08
Our hearts are broken. Our souls cry out for justice. May the memory of George Floyd be a blessing always. So much can change in just 8 minutes and 46 seconds. We can do better. We must do better. It’s so hard to breathe. Resources for Education and Supporting Communities Resisting Police Violence

Ways To Engage

BlackLivesMatter Resource Card: A collection of resources and links to organizations to support with time and money. An excellent starting point. 

Bail Funds/Legal Help by City: A list of local bail funds and legal aid organizations that need your support.

26 Ways to Be in the Struggle Beyond the Streets: A collection of action items for supporting the ongoing protests.

5 Ways White People Can Take Action in Response to White and State-Sanctioned Violence

Educational Resources:

A Timeline of Events That Led to the 2020 ‘Fed Up’-rising (strong language)

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Olou

National Museum of African-American History and Culture: Talking About Race (includes resources for families and children)

Anti-Racism for Beginners

Justice in America Podcast

The Shalom Center

ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal Welcomes Organic Torah as an Official Program

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 15:59

ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal
PO Box 35118
Philadelphia, PA 19128

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

[PHILADELPHIA, PA | April 22, 2020] ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal is excited to welcome Organic Torah as an official program. Focusing on wholeness, integration and wisdom, Organic Torah works to plant the seeds for a renewed Tree of Life. Organic Torah will extend and expand ALEPH’s current offerings, which include programs such as C-DEEP, Tikshoret Connections, Beloved Land: Israel and Palestine through the Kaleidoscope, the Kesher Fellowship, and Kallah.

Founded in 2011 by Rabbi Natan Margalit, Organic Torah is both a project and a way of being/thinking that integrates ancient Jewish wisdom with new directions in modern thought such as ecological and systems thinking which emphasize networks of relationship, context and patterns of connection.

As a project of ALEPH, Organic Torah will continue to offer publications, conferences, retreats and workshops. In addition, plans are in place to integrate Organic Torah into ALEPH’s existing offerings as well as develop new programming.

“We’ve already been working in close partnership with Rabbi Natan Margalit,” says SooJi Min-Maranda, ALEPH’s Executive Director. “We’re looking forward to learning and growing Organic Torah together.”

Rabbi Natan Margalit currently serves as the Project Director for ALEPH’s recently launched Earth-Based Judaism certification program for clergy and leaders. He is also on the faculty of the ALEPH Ordination Program and a member of the Va’ad, which is an academic council comprised of core AOP faculty and directors of studies.

“ALEPH has already been a wonderful partner with Organic Torah on retreats and programs designed for young adults seeking to deepen their connection to Judaism through ecology, farming and wilderness experience,” says Rabbi Margalit. “So, it only makes sense to expand this collaboration. ALEPH’s goals and values align with those of Organic Torah and joining ALEPH means we can greatly expand our capacity to do the work that we already do, reaching a wider audience and working with some of the best people in the Jewish non-profit world.”

Rabbi Margalit was raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. As a young adult he lived for twelve years in Israel and received rabbinic ordination at The Jerusalem Seminary in 1990. He earned a Ph.D. in Talmud from U.C. Berkeley in 2001. Natan has taught at Bard College, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College. He is currently a member of the Va’ad (steering committee and core faculty) of the Aleph Ordination Program, and serves as Chair of their Rabbinic Texts department. He is also the Director of the AOP’s new Earth Based Judaism Track. Natan is Founder of Organic Torah, a non-profit which fosters holistic thinking about Judaism, environment and society. Natan is also Director of the Open Circle Jewish Learning program at Hebrew College. He lives with his wife, two sons and their dog, Pele (named for the Hebrew word for wonder, and also the Hawaiian goddess, not the soccer player) in Newton, MA. 

Founded in 1993, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal envisions a contemporary Judaism that is joyous, creative, spiritually rich, socially progressive, and earth-aware. ALEPH brings spiritual vitality and passion into the daily lives of Jews through programs that empower leadership, build communities, and generate powerful experiences and practical resources. ALEPH currently has about 40 network affiliates/communities located both in the US and abroad.

For more information, please reach out to SooJi Min-Maranda, Executive Director of ALEPH, at soojim@aleph.org or (215) 247-9700 ext. 240 or Rabbi Dr. Natan Margalit, Founder/President/Principal Teacher of Organic Torah at natanm118@gmail.com or (617) 894-0105.

Spiritual Curriculum for this Time of Pandemic: Working With Fear

Thu, 04/02/2020 - 11:58

Working with Fear
By Rabbi Shefa Gold

The general consensus and our deep conditioning tell us that it is our fear that will keep us safe. … that if we know all the horrible things that might happen, we’ll be better able to deal with them … that our fear will keep us vigilant against danger… that expecting the worst will help us guard against disaster. 

What if this consensus is totally wrong? What if the truth is that all fear is ultimately toxic, and that it prevents us from truly accessing the deepest wisdom and the greatest love? Fear (that is sustained and not just a momentary startle) raises the level of stress hormones, lowers immunity, sends us to our reptile brain, shuts down our connection to the higher brain functions like empathy, understanding, intuition and love. Fear separates us and blinds us to the miracle of our interconnectivity. Fear shuts down the heart, keeping it from receiving the blessings of this precious moment. Fear is …

Fantasized

Experiences

Appearing as 

Real

I like this acronym because it reminds me that fear is happening in the mind. If I can create just a bit of distance and perspective about my fearful thoughts, I can notice when they emerge, and release them with compassion. In a moment of fearlessness, I can choose wisdom, assessing the risk before me with clear-eyed deliberation, and act in alignment with the force of the Great Love.

Yes, fear happens in the mind. I get startled and that sense of alarm activates a cascade of fearful imaginings. “What will happen to this fragile world, to my health, my finances, to all my loved ones?!” These questions inevitably lead me towards anxiety and despair.

What the real and useful questions can be are, “How shall I live the gift of my each and every moment? Will this moment be fueled by that fear? How can I release the illusion of control, and surrender to the Divine Will that dwells within me? Will my worries cloud the possibilities of joy, right here, right now? How can I rise to the extraordinary challenge that this moment holds, with all my faculties at the ready?”

I believe that anything we do from fear is tainted or somehow distorted and might do as much harm as good.  Doing that same action, sourced in love, can by its very essence, transform the doer. If anything might keep me safe, it will be my clear-headed, open-hearted presence… my ability to respond wisely to the gifts and challenges of this moment. 

What an amazing opportunity for practice! Every time we have the presence of mind to release fear as it is arising, we strengthen that spiritual “muscle,” and we build the capacity for unconditional joy, infusing every moment with an inner buoyancy and steady calm, no matter the weight of outer catastrophe or the disturbance of unexpected turbulence.

As I investigate each moment of fear or anxiety as it arises, I suspect that all these thoughts have their root in the Fear of Death. That root-fear holds me captive in its chains of limitation. When I am held hostage by that Fear of Death, I can’t know the truth of my infinite Soul. And it is in knowing, really knowing myself as a Soul, that I am liberated. 

As a Soul I experience Life, and Death, as a great adventure. I am open to learning from everything and everyone. I welcome joy and sorrow in equal measure. As a Soul I dive into this amazing story of loss and redemption, and yet I remember that forms and identities come and go. The small “I,“ (mochin d’katnut) will be swept away while the large “I,”(mochin d’gadlut) will know itself more deeply and thoroughly because of this journey.

When I know myself as a Soul, my root-fear of Death fades and recedes and no longer fuels a life that is driven by fear. Those thoughts still happen, but they no longer compel.

This time of pandemic holds an extraordinary opportunity for facing our fears, turning towards love, awakening to the truth of our interconnectivity and knowing ourselves as radiant Souls that shine God’s light. This is the light that heals and makes whole a world that feels so broken.

©2020 Shefa Gold (For more teachings, visit www.rabbishefagold.com.)