Makor Or Shabbaton

MakorOrIt's time to register for the Makor Or Shabbaton at Beth Sholom!

Join Makor Or and teachers Norman Fischer, Rabbi Dorothy Richman, and Rabbi Aubrey Glazer for the beautiful experience of Shabbat from Friday night Shabbat dinner through to Havdalah on Saturday night.

During this joyful retreat, we will practice silent meditation, study Torah, daven the Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat and Saturday prayer services, and enjoy Jewish chant. We will share silent meals and take time to contemplate together this precious gift of life and renewal of the soul. Makor Or Shabbat retreats have always been our favorite – full of joy, depth, and fellowship.

No previous experience with meditation, Hebrew, or prayer is necessary. Out of respect for our members with asthma please do not wear scented products to Makor Or programs.

After registering below, please also email Makor Or Director Ellen Shireman to confirm your participation.

Meeting Dates/Times:
Friday, January 26; 5 - 9 p.m.
Saturday, January 27; 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Meeting Location:
Makom Sholom Meditation Room @ Beth Sholom
301 14th Street @ Clement Street
Tel: 415 221-8736

Beth Sholom Registration Cost:
$100.00

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About Makor Or: Founded January 1, 2000 by Rabbi Alan Lew (z"l) and Norman Fischer, the Jewish meditation practice of Makor Or incorporates sitting and walking meditation, and Jewish chant. Our mission is to bring the clarity and depth of meditation practice to our Jewish life and observance, to facilitate the transformation that Judaism can effect in our lives. Makor Or is a program of the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture.

Norman Fischer is the spiritual leader of Makor Or. He is also a Zen master, founder of Everyday Zen, and a poet. His books include, Jerusalem Moonlight, Taking Our Places, Sailing Home, The Strugglers, and Training in Compassion.

Rabbi Dorothy A. Richman serves as the rabbi of Makor Or. She is a Master Educator leading Kevah Torah study groups, teaching widely in the Bay Area. She has served as rabbi for Berkeley Hillel, Sha'ar Zahav, and Congregation Beth Sholom with her mentor Rabbi Alan Lew (z"l).

Rabbi Aubrey L. Glazer, Ph.D. (University of Toronto), is rabbi of Congregation Beth Sholom. Aubrey’s publications include reflections on contemporary spirituality, including Mystical Vertigo (2013) and he recently completed a study on the intersection of Jewish mysticism and Rinzai Buddhism in the songbook of Leonard Cohen, called Tangle of Matter & Ghost.

Re'eh -- Deuteronomy 11:26 – 16:17

American naturalist-poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once remarked, "Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting."

Emerson’s 1836 essay, Nature, expresses the belief that everything in our world – even a drop of dew – is a microcosm of the universe. This transcendentalist notion is not foreign to Judaism, especially its more mystical streams. We open ourselves to such transcendence through the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes and, in so doing, daring to see beyond ourselves so that we can develop new relationships to all texts, even sacred texts of nature. It's all a question of how we see ourselves in relation to the text and its sacred inspiration.

So when Moses says to the Children of Israel, "See I place before you today a blessing and a curse," they enter an important stage of maturity in their covenantal relationship — that of responsibility. Seeing the consequences of our actions is a sign of growing responsibility. These are proclaimed on Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal as the Israelites are crossing over into the Holy Land. In establishing a Temple, we made a place where the Divine will dwell in essence and Name. This will become the new central address for sacrifices, and in keeping with the overall theology of Deuteronomy, no offerings can be made to the divine outside this locale. Laws of tithing are discussed in detail, including how the tithe is given to the needy in certain years. Here, we encounter one of the first iterations of charity as an obligation devolving upon the Jew to aid those in need with a gift or loan. But all such loans are forgiven on the Sabbatical year and all indentured servants are freed after six years of service.

The theme of seeing concludes Parashat Re'eh. Listing the three pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Pentecosts (Shavuot), and the Feast of Booths (Sukkot) as times when the pilgrim goes to see and be seen before the Divine in the precincts of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the parsha demonstrates that encountering the Divine in our lives is indeed a "seeing into our nature" with fresh eyes. This "seeing" provides hope for such sacred encounters throughout our lives.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's illustration is inspired by mystical visions. It features a stylized eye with retinal ganglion cells and filaments of muscle radiating outward. Of his transcendent experiences, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "All mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me." His peer Walt Whitman described himself as part of a universal weave of "threads that connect the stars, and of wombs and of the father-stuff." Rabbi Arthur Cohen writes of being pressed "to the limit where thought cannibalizes itself in despair, where knowing ceases, where the emptying of the self is undergone and the fullness of God may commence." Mystics, be they American transcendentalists, Hasids, or academics, are not lunatics; their practice is an enthusiastic response to the world as it is – radically interconnected, with each individual indivisible from everything else. Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Korah -- Numbers 16:1 – 18:32

DFacebook_CoverDesign_Korahuring a brief visit to Dublin, the birthplace of Oscar Wilde (October 16, 1854), I was struck by the author, playwright, and poet's quick wit and keen observations about human nature. Wilde once quipped that, "Arguments are extremely vulgar, for everyone in good society holds exactly the same opinion."

Torah, on the other hand, teaches us about respecting a diversity of opinions. Such respectful but creative tension [makhloket] comes to be understood in the aftermath of Korah.

By inciting a mutiny against Moses, Korah is justly decrying a hierarchy that he sees as unfair. He proclaims his own brand of spiritual grandeur — "We are all holy!" This is a very real, egalitarian challenge to the hegemony of Mosaic leadership and its preferential granting of the priesthood to Aaron. In the end, Korah and his mutineers are consumed by fire as the earth swallows them up. Why then does Scripture later mention (Numbers 26:11) that "the children of Korah never died?"

The sages of the Mishnah picked up on the cues from Korah and went on to teach the following in Tractate Avot 5:20: "Any dispute [machloket] for heaven’s sake will ultimately endure; while any dispute [machloket] which is not for heaven’s sake will not endure. What is a dispute for heaven’s sake? This is a debate between Hillel and Shammai. What is a dispute that is not for heaven’s sake? This is the dispute of Korah and his assembly." In other words, there is a difference between petty squabbling and good arguments that allow for growth amidst real difference. Shammai and Hillel exemplify what it means to be involved in disputes for heaven’s sake, given that before either one would launch his own argument, his first step was to cite the opposing position; only after having done so would he then make his own argument. This posture displays a deep respect for opposing points of view and the realization that truth is discovered as part of a process that emerges in civil dialogue.

The vibrancy we yearn for in our Jewish lives comes by living in that creative tension between the Mosaic path and the Korahite path. The challenge before each of us is how to create that single vessel within community – to make space to foster the creative tension to enable our moral grandeur and spiritual audacity to be fully lived.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's artwork is an illustration of tzitzit tied with a thread of techelet, wool dyed blue with blood extracted from a sea snail. Why this image? At the end of last week’s parsha, Moses was tasked with telling the Israelites that God commanded them to "make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments, throughout their generations, and they shall affix a thread of sky blue on the fringe of each corner." (Numbers 15:38) Many of our traditional biblical commentators believed that this "unbearable law" (Pseudo-Philo) was the final straw for Korah and his allies, and therefore gave rise to Korah’s rebellion. But, as James Kugel points out in his How To Read The Bible (2007), "Korah was not really interested in changing the system, merely in taking it over. He was thus a dangerous demagogue." Here, we see the techelet tied to the tzitzit according to the instructions given by Rabbi Abraham ben David (c. 1125–1198), also known as the RaBad or Raavad. Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Re'eh -- Deuteronomy 11:26 – 16:17

Facebook_CoverDesign_ReehWhat does it mean to really "see"? To better appreciate "seeing" – for which Parashat Re’eh is named – let us consider the experiential dimension of a quiet state of mind. The practitioner of Zen meditation sometimes experiences an event known as kenshō, literally meaning "seeing nature" and understood as an awakening from our fundamental ignorance. Experiencing kenshō is not the same as achieving Nirvana, but it does grant one a glimpse of the "real" reality.

While Zen practitioners turn to Buddha, Jews turn to Moses, as both seekers are yearning for guidance about how best to "see." Judaism starts with the act of looking back, of seeing what has come before with fresh eyes. In so doing, we can develop new relationships to all texts, even our sacred tomes. Whether or not we succeed depends on how we see ourselves in relation to the text and its sacred inspiration. So when Moses says to the Children of Israel, "See I place before you today a blessing and a curse," they enter an important stage of maturity in their covenantal relationship — that of responsibility.

Seeing the consequences of our actions is a sign of growing responsibility. These are proclaimed on Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal as the Israelites are crossing over into the Holy Land. In establishing a Temple, we made a place where the Divine will dwell in essence and Name. This will become the new central address for sacrifices, and in keeping with the overall theology of Deuteronomy, no offerings can be made to the divine outside this local. Laws of tithing are discussed in detail, including how the tithe is given to the needy in certain years. Here, we encounter one of the first iterations of charity as an obligation devolving upon the Jew to aid those in need with a gift or loan. But all such loans are forgiven on the Sabbatical year and all indentured servants are freed after six years of service.

The theme of seeing concludes Parashat Re'eh. Listing the three pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Pentecosts (Shavuot), and the Feast of Booths (Sukkot) as times when the pilgrim goes to see and be seen before the Divine in the precincts of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the parsha demonstrates that encountering the Divine in our lives is indeed a "seeing into our nature" with fresh eyes. This "seeing" provides hope for such sacred encounters throughout our lives.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's artwork is an abstract depiction of an advance guard of Israelites marching into the Promised Land. The forms of the soldiers are rendered so as to call to mind territorial maps – provisional, likely-contested borders sketched over the same plot of land. "For you are crossing the Jordan, to come to possess the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you, and you shall possess it and dwell in it." (Deuteronomy 11:31) Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Makor Or High Holidays Intensive

MakorOrIt's time to register for the Makor Or High Holidays Intensive at CBS!

The High Holy Days (or High Holidays) mark the most intense period of the Jewish sacred year. Beginning with the month of Elul, we spend six weeks in preparation, prayer, meditation, reflection, and repentance (teshuvah, return) as we re-tune ourselves to our spiritual lives, pausing from our task-oriented activities to take stock of and rededicate ourselves.

The theme of this eighth Makor Or High Holidays Intensive is Cheshbon HaNefesh, or examination of the soul. The Intensive offers us a format for our practice, as well as guidance and community. It consists of five meetings, daily practice, and reflection between meetings, weekly contact with a chevruta partner, and a private interview with our teacher, Norman Fischer. The weekly meetings include meditation, instruction, and discussion.

No previous experience with meditation, Hebrew, or prayer is necessary. Out of respect for our members with asthma please do not wear scented products to Makor Or programs.

For more information and to RSVP, please email Ellen Shireman.

Intensive participants are also encouraged to attend our daylong High Holidays Meditation Retreat held at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco (JCCSF), led by Norman Fischer and Rabbi Dorothy Richman, on Sunday, October 9th. This day will be open to all, including those who will not attend the entire Intensive.

Intensive Practice Period:
Thursdays, September 15, 22, 29 & October 6th

Meeting Times:
Thursday, September 15; 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Thursday, September 22; 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Thursday, September 29; 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Thursday, October 6; 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

Meeting Location:
Makom Sholom Meditation Room @ CBS
301 14th Street @ Clement Street
Tel: 415 221-8736

Registration Cost:
$125.00
To pay, write a check payable to: Everyday Zen
Mail to:
Makor Or Director
196  Bocana Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

* * * * *

About Makor Or: Founded January 1, 2000 by Rabbi Alan Lew (z"l) and Norman Fischer, the Jewish meditation practice of Makor Or incorporates sitting and walking meditation, and Jewish chant. Our mission is to bring the clarity and depth of meditation practice to our Jewish life and observance, to facilitate the transformation that Judaism can effect in our lives.

Norman Fischer is the spiritual leader of Makor Or. He is also a Zen master, founder of Everyday Zen, and a poet. His books include, Jerusalem Moonlight, Taking Our Places, Sailing Home, The Strugglers, and Training in Compassion.

Rabbi Dorothy A. Richman serves as the rabbi of Makor Or. She is a Master Educator leading Kevah Torah study groups, teaching widely in the Bay Area. She has served as rabbi for Berkeley Hillel, Sha'ar Zahav, and Congregation Beth Sholom with her mentor Rabbi Alan Lew (z"l).

Korah -- Numbers 16:1 – 18:32

Facebook_CoverDesign_KorahRenowned meditation practitioner and founder of Plum Village Retreat Center, Thích Nhát Hanh (b.1926) once remarked:

"It's very important that we re-learn the art of resting and relaxing. Not only does it help prevent the onset of many illnesses that develop through chronic tension and worrying; it allows us to clear our minds, focus, and find creative solutions to problems."

How does Torah teach us about such creative solutions if not through creative tension [machloket], which is symbolized by the story of Korah?

By inciting a mutiny against Moses, Korah is justly decrying with his own brand of spiritual grandeur — "We are all holy!," he proclaims. This is a very real, egalitarian challenge to the hegemony of Mosaic leadership and its preferential granting of the priesthood to Aaron. In the end, Korah and his mutineers are consumed by fire as the earth swallows them up. Why then does Scripture later mention (Numbers 26:11) that "the children of Korah never died?"

The sages of the Mishnah picked up on the cues from Korah and went on to teach the following in Tractate Avot 5:20: "Any dispute [machloket] for heaven’s sake will ultimately endure; while any dispute [machloket] which is not for heaven’s sake will not endure. What is a dispute for heaven’s sake? This is a debate between Hillel and Shammai. What is a dispute that is not for heaven’s sake? This is the dispute of Korah and his assembly." In other words, there is a difference between petty squabbling and good arguments that allow for growth amidst real difference. Shammai and Hillel exemplify what it means to be involved in disputes for heaven’s sake, given that before either one would launch his own argument, his first step was to cite the opposing position; only after having done so would he then make his own argument. This posture displays a deep respect for opposing points of view and the realization that truth is discovered as part of a process that emerges in civil dialogue.

The vibrancy we yearn for in our Jewish lives comes by living in that creative tension between the Mosaic path and the Korahite path. The challenge before each of us is how to create that single vessel within community – to make space to foster the creative tension to enable our moral grandeur and spiritual audacity to be fully lived.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's artwork is a depiction of the chasm which opened under Korah and his allies. Numbers 16:32: "The earth beneath them opened its mouth and swallowed them and their houses, and all the men who were with Korah and all the property." Although the text of the parsha does not describe the chasm in any detail, it is imagined here as a great, volcanic sinkhole. Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Rabbi's Message: 7th Day Passover 5776

CoverDesign3_PartingSeaNow that the seders are over, where is Passover leading us? What is the spiritual texture of the journey that leads us onwards as we reach the seventh day of Passover?

The seventh day of Passover is a time for reimagining what our world would look like — without Pharaoh, without the Angel of Death. It is a messianic moment on the journey to the Promised Land. We invite you to join us to explore the nuances of this spiritual texture!

This Friday at 9 a.m., Rabbi Moshe Levin and congregants from Congregation Ner Tamid will join our community in the Gronowski Family Chapel for a frielich celebration of this messianic moment (with some water surprises!) followed by an enhanced lunch together as joint Conservative communities.

The journey then continues on Saturday morning, with Zohar and meditation at 8:30 a.m. in Makom Shalom. I will share contemplative teachings from the Zohar on the secret of the seventh day of Passover followed by festival services and Yizkor. (This secret concerns a calving doe and a snake…)

This coming Shabbat of Passover offers many opportunities for us to delve deeper than the matzah meal into the heart of the matzah ball itself as we embrace the splitting of the Reed Sea, birthing a new spiritual reality. In our ongoing journey for freedom of the spirit, we will cross the narrow passages of our personal Egypts and emerge more passionate about Jewish communal life together, exploring what Job asked: “Can you really see the calving of does?” (Job 39:1).

Come join us on this spiritual journey and fall in love again with Judaism truly lived.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: The artwork that accompanies this post is an abstract representation of the parting of the Reed Sea. Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Directing the Heart for Hanukkah

LeadAs you gather with family and friends these eight nights of Hanukkah, I would like to share with you a wonderful practice that may deepen our experience of the holiday. Opportunities for blessing surround us at all times; they are liminal moments. How can the joyous act of lighting a hanukkiah be transformed into a profound, meditative experience? Meditation is about awareness, and awareness hinges upon intention. This guide is about harnessing intention to open a deeper awareness of all the wondrous experiences that take place around you during the ritual lighting of the hanukkiah.

This practice was inspired “The Seven Seekers,” a story by great Hasidic master, Reb Nahman of Bratzlav. The practice of directing the heart is drawn from this story of a wedding feast that lasts seven days. During each day of the feast, one beggar shares a blessing with the bride and groom who are married in the darkness of the forest. Every time we light another candle on the hanukkiah, we have the capacity to draw forth another spark of blessing. The beggars' gifts reveal potential that was hidden in plain sight. With each candle, these gifts are illuminated as blessings, made lucid by the light of the hanukkiah.

1st Candle: Blessing of long life
1stNight The gift of the Blind Seeker: To see beyond a blink —
You think I am blind. In fact, I am not blind at all, but to me the time of the whole world is not worth a moment’s fleeting glance. I am very old and still very young: despite my great age, I have not even begun to live.

Blindness is in fact acuity of vision so great that one does not perceive the details of mundane existence. Rather, one learns to see everything from the perspective of eternity. The duration of time is not merely measured by years, months, and hours; time matters in our lives in terms of the content and the significance of events that fill it. Consider one extraordinary moment of touching eternal time that you have experienced this year and how to carry forward that awareness into life. This is the gift of blessing being offered in this candle.

2nd Candle: Blessing of good life
The gift of the Deaf Seeker: To hear beyond need —
You think that I am deaf. In fact, I am not, but to me the whole world is worth nothing, so why should I listen to its cries of want? All the sounds in the world are brought forth by want; everyone cries for what s/he lacks. I, however, live a good life and lack nothing, and so these wants are not for my ears.

Deafness to the vanities and troubles of the world sometimes allows the gift of the good life before us to emerge more clearly. Too often, we get caught up in the white noise of life, keeping up with the Steins and the cries of pain uttered by those who think they are enjoying true abundance. Yet what emerges is nothing more than gratification of ephemeral needs. Living a good life is about remaining focused on eternal pleasures. Lasting relationships are the gift of blessing offered in this candle.

3rdNight4thNight3rd Candle: Blessing of mellifluous life
The gift of the Tongue-tied Seeker: To speak poetry —
You think that I am heavy of speech. In fact, I am not really a stutterer at all. I am unwilling to speak, because all that humans say lacks praise of the divine. In fact, I am extraordinarily eloquent; I am a master of poetry and speech, and when I begin to speak, there isn’t a creature on earth that does not desire to listen, and in my words there is all wisdom.

Stuttering is often indicative of a high spiritual level. When speech is lofty, we often only hear fragments of it. Like Moses, the stuttering seeker has the wisdom to bridge the material and spiritual worlds by relating to the divine utterances that flow through the created world. Awareness of both the totality of time and the uniqueness of each individual minute is the gift of blessing offered in this candle.

4th Candle: Blessing of melodious life
The gift of Twisted-neck Seeker: To be beyond spirit —
You think I have a crooked neck. In fact my neck is straight and fine, but I twist it to prevent my breath from mingling with the vanities and ephemeral pleasures which fill the world. My throat is beautifully formed, and I have an excellent voice, with which I can imitate every sound in the world that is not speech.

Music is symbolic of the creation of harmony. The Twisted-neck Seeker can discover the inner connection between things and draw them together, creating harmony. No matter how disconnected we feel in exile from each other and from the Divine, redemption will come when all the gifts of these seekers are integrated. Listening to the music of your soul as it opens you to a more melodious life is the gift of blessing offered in this candle.

5th Candle: Blessing of joyous life
The gift of the Hunchback Seeker: To be humble and contain much —
I am not a hunchback at all; in fact, my shoulders are so powerful as to be the little that contains much.” The Hunchback Seeker, like Jacob, is the pillar that supports the structure of all our worlds. While it seems as though the Hunchback Seeker can apparently bear nothing, the opposite is true. The ability to control the world is to perceive the infinite within the finite. Living life fully requires cultivation of humility to make space for others, and most importantly to make space for the Divine presence to dwell in our midst. Knowing your place in the world and in those relationships that allow for the light of the other to shine forth is the gift of blessing offered in this candle.

6th Candle: Blessing of balanced life
The gift of the Handless Seeker: To be dexterous in healing —
You believe that my hands are stumps, but they are really quite sound. In fact, they are extraordinarily powerful, but I do not use my strength in this world, because I need it for another purpose.” The Handless Seeker, like Joseph, has a unique ability to act on the material world, to heal the pain of the world by extending more light and love into it. By returning to your authentic self and sharing in acts of justice and righteousness with others, the giving here becomes a receiving. How you choose to extend more light and love into the world is the gift of blessing offered in this candle.

7thNight7th Candle: Blessing of redemptive life
The gift of the Footless Seeker: To be footloose in the dance redemption —
This day of the story is never told, but Reb Nahman hopes we shall complete it on our own. The Footless Seeker, like David, brings redemption. It is the dancing of David through the power of the feet, grounded on earth but reaching the heavens, that represents the deepest conviction of ‘emunah. Considering how to extend redemptive consciousness into the world is the gift of blessing offered in this candle.

8th Candle: Blessing of integration
The gift of this final candle is the overflow that comes with redemptive consciousness. It is an opportunity to return to that opening acuity of vision and now begin to integrate it into our lives. Seeing everything from the perspective of eternity allows us to see every moment of life as extraordinary, every moment as touching eternal time. These eight lights are now installed in my soul so that I may continue to carry forward that awareness into life. This is the gift of blessing offered in this candle.

Blessings,
Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Image credits: Lead image, Flickr user Bart (CC BY-NC 2.0); 1st, 4th, and 7th night candles by Flickr user slgckgc (CC BY 2.0); 3rd night candles by Jordan Sangerman (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)