March 19, 2016

Jerusalem Half Marathon 2016: Staying Connected

Posted in Family, running, spirit tagged , , , , , at 8:56 pm by degyes

Jerusalem Half Marathon 2016 - start.jpgWhen I compare how little enthusiasm I had during the weeks leading up to this year’s race, with the pure, unmitigated, and open-hearted joy I experienced during the actual run, I’m only reminded of how important it is to consciously and actively work to perform the heavy lifting needed to move beyond energy draining karmas (read: ambivalent moods) and, as the famous athletic shoe company instructs, just do it.

I found myself deeply moved by the masses of Am Yisrael–and our dear friends and supporters, many of whom came at no small expense, to participate–running in this year’s event. I was moved to tears several times seeing how many participants were running in memory of victims of war and terror, as well as those participating to raise awareness and funds for those whose lives have been impacted by war, illness, poverty, and various misfortune.

I was also quite overjoyed seeing my lovely and wonderful wife, Ilana Sobel, *** four different times (!!) *** during the course of the race!! Thank you, sweetheart, for tracking my route and turning out to cheer me on … and for the great photo of me chugging away at km 11.

Jerusalem Half Marathon 2016 - at km 11.jpg
As you may recall from my post following last year’s race, I really connect with my Dad’s memory during the Jerusalem run, especially when things happen that can’t be explained in any rational framework. Last night, a very dear overseas friend with whom I hadn’t been in touch in some months, contacted me asking what impressed me as a deeply mystical question, one that’s quite out of my league … but right up Dad’s ally. That I was able to provide an answer by scanning him a page of Dad’s Kabbalah Notebook left me with an immensely connected feeling, which augmented quite powerfully during the last 4 km today, when my physical energy is rather drained, and I’m running more on resources of the Spirit.

Jerusalem Half Marathon 2016 - finish.jpgThank you all, dear ones near and far, for reading my post. And biggest thank you to the Ultimate Timeless Experience and Eternal Companion for bringing about the Conditions of Life on Earth for this moment to happen.

 

ברוך אתה יהוה, אלוהינו מלך העולם, שהחיינו וקיימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה.

October 11, 2015

Dvar Torah – Beresheet – Tzvi and Ne’eman’s Bar Mitzvah

Posted in Commentary, Family, Torah tagged , , , , , , , at 11:05 pm by degyes

Ma’aseh Beresheet

בראשית was your Grandfather Yitz’s favorite parsha. He taught that בריאת העולם, the Creation of the World, was the greatest act of Love that God ever performed … and continues to perform. What a wonderful thing that you both got to read Grandpa Yitz’s favorite parsha, and that you did it so beautifully.

We also know that the Creation of the World wasn’t only an act of Love, it was also a tremendous act of Will … of רצון, and that the Creation of Humans, which happened shortly after, was no less an act of Love and Will.

However, as Ne’eman pointed out in his D’var Torah, it didn’t take long before the Humans that God created weren’t exactly acting in sync with God’s Will, as their behavior both inside and outside Gan Eden would demonstrate.

Eating from the עץ הדעת was just the beginning. By the end of the parsha, sadly, Man has become consumed by evil … and God is preparing to destroy the world. And as Tzvi just discussed in his D’var Torah, society had collapsed and the moral structure of the world had fallen apart.

What can we learn from this story? The world’s very first story?

We have to wait a few months … or maybe a few thousand years … or perhaps a few billion years, to transition from בריאת העולם to מתן תורה, when we receive a set of commandments that we can apply toward Guiding Human Life on Earth.

But we’re still left with the question: How do we bring our own Will into alignment with God’s?

We have lots of great teachings — and teachers. Yet we live in a time when it’s not always entirely clear to us what we ought to be doing with ourselves, our time, our attention, and even our thoughts.

When do we go out and seek answers from our Sources? And when do we focus our attention inward and seek answers from within?

When do we look for guidance in the law, and when do we look into our own hearts?

Tzvi and Ne’eman, I think you’re both developing a toolbox to help you wrestle with these questions. I’d even say you’ve both been working on gathering those tools for a while already.

We hear a lot these days about the importance of making good choices. The news is filled every day with stories about people who made poor choices.

Yet how do we know whether the choices we’re making are the right ones?

In trying to answer this question, I wrote down a few ideas that I thought of today to help guide you.

  • Choose good mentors.
  • Choose friends and companions not for their popularity and status, but for their honesty, integrity, and decency; because they can help you become better people.
  • Strive to do what’s right, not necessarily what’s popular.
  • Be kind to Planet Earth … and to its people.
  • Remember that people are never perfect. None of us will ever be. Be patient with people.
  • And then, have patience, and even more patience.
  • Remember that the easy answers are often not the right ones. Take time to really think!
  • Most importantly … Keep adding to this list!

I love you boys. I’m happy for your accomplishments. And I’ll admit … I’m proud of you.

Thank you Ilana for making the impossible a reality.

Thank you Mom for your wisdom and love.

Thank you dear friends for your kind support, and for making our simcha so special.

May we all merit experiencing מעשה בראשית … constant creation and renewal … in every moment of our lives.

Mazal tov!

September 1, 2014

Yitz – An Affirmation of Life

Posted in Family, Philosophy, spirit tagged at 5:10 am by degyes

ויפח בעפיו נשמת החיים, והיה לאדם נפש חיה

And God breathed life into man, and gave him a living soul.

This is not a eulogy. This is an affirmation of a life lived fully and abundantly.

For Dad, this is not an end. This is a transition. Yes, we are all very sad. It’s not easy to say goodbye, especially to a man who exuded such a profound sense of love, warmth, and kindness, not only to his family and friends, but to all Human Beings, and really to all living creatures.

For Dad, yesterday marked the beginning of a transition from the physical world – a place of constraint and limitation – to the dimension of pure Spirit, an abode of uninhibited connection with the Oneness of the Source; what Dad referred to so comfortably and often quite casually as Adonai – his Eternal Friend.

These past decades have seen Dad venturing out on a courageous path to pursue Universal Truth, taking him beyond the realm of convention and established dogmas and doctrines, as he strove to achieve a constant and always-available connection with God.  He achieved this so beautifully and creatively through a unique blend of Jewish mysticism with enduring truths gleaned from various and diverse sources that stood the test of time, and expressed themselves by the imperative to trust God and show kindness and care to all Humans.

This meant evolving and cultivating a way of being, feeling, and living, fueled by Divine Energy that Dad was able to experience and share in this world – at times quite powerfully, at times subtly, often intuitively, and most importantly, expressed through Chessed … pure, undiluted, loving kindness and respect for Life in all its wondrous manifestations.

It was one of Dad’s core teachings that the body is a vehicle in which the soul rides during its journey on this planet. When that ride is over, and the body – the external shell — is cast aside, the soul can then experience the limitless freedom of reconnection with its Source; where no obstacles stand in the path of fully communing with God in all the ways our Human faculties could ever attain.

יהוה נתן, יהוה לקח, יהיה שם יהוה מבורך

The Lord gives, the Lord takes, blessed is the name of the Lord.

May all of us – inspired by the beautiful soul that is Yitz – merit to achieve the tender patience, the gentle kindness, the warm generosity, the sincere menschlikeit, the big-hearted readiness to forgive, the receptivity to the deepest human needs, and the enduring courage to pursue Truth.

Bless you Yitz for being a light-holder and for being an example of one who truly lives and teaches others to live.

Bless you Dad on your continuing journey.  Go with God. We know that for you, there’s no other way.

We love you.

July 1, 2013

Our Very Best Selves

Posted in Family tagged , , , at 12:42 am by degyes

Some Thoughts on Mom & Dad’s 50th Anniversary.

One of the Biblical narratives that’s always been most significant for Dad is the Genesis story and its account of the creation of the universe. The Biblical “Big Bang” is an awesomely powerful story. But no sooner is the world created, and we’re treated to a detailed accounting of what really characterizes our day-to-day existence; that is, human relationships in the most complex and intimate sense.

Just a bit further on in Genesis is the story of how a man is expected to leave the home of his parents and “cleave to a wife,” as Adam joined with Eve. Today I would ask that we pause for a moment, and open ourselves just a bit to hearing that voice that speaks to the highest parts within us; that we consider the Biblical metaphor of cleaving, perhaps in an entirely traditional framework, but perhaps in less traditional contexts, or maybe in ways that weren’t imagined at the time it was first said.

The metaphor teaches us about the specialness, the holiness, and the need for coupling. What’s the ‘take home’ message here? That real cleaving means sticking with one another and staying together, truly joining, giving each other the love and support that’s needed to really build a life with one another.

We’re witnesses to this today, as we gather in celebration of Mom and Dad’s wonderful marriage. What are we learning? That success in marriage — in any committed relationship — means growing together despite most often being very different people.

50 Years of Phyllis and Yitz (2)

It’s not only a pleasure for me, but a privilege to be in the presence of so many couples who’ve been together for so long, over the decades, through good times and bad, or should I say, through easier times and less easy times. It gives me a very warm feeling that among those present today are several couples whose weddings I even attended so long ago.

While we’re celebrating one really big anniversary, I think it’s fair to say we’re also celebrating marriage and being a great extended family and circle of friends.

When I told various people that I was traveling to attend my parents’ 50th anniversary celebration, the result was, of course, many warm congratulations, but also some puzzled looks of incredulity. While recognizing what an achievement 50 years of marriage represents, I think people also experience, on some level, a sense that such a celebration so much flies in the face of what’s common in our throw-away culture and modern society of instant gratification, of disposability, of I want it all and I want it now. Some folks just can’t believe it. Well, let’s believe it!

Rabbi Nachman taught that each of us has an indestructible part that nothing can erase or destroy. This is the part of ourselves that we rely upon in moments of distress and despair. We might not always know what to call it, but it’s what gives us a doorway out of our own darkest moments, and enables and inspires us to reach out in support of others.

I think that so much of marriage and coupling is being able to see that special element in one another, as well as in ourselves, and to remember it when it’s seemingly dormant or otherwise not so easily apparent.

Thank you, Mom and Dad. Thank you for sticking together, for loving one another, for loving us all. Thank you for making us a great family. We love you.

June 30th, 2013