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Yerushalayim Shel Zahav

14 Apr

After 2,000 years and 5 weeks of longing for Jerusalem, I have arrived! Thanks to an amazing playlist from Michelle featuring only songs about Jerusalem, my friend Sonya and I danced our way up the trail to Tzur Hadassah right outside Jerusalem where we then took a bus to the city. We’ve walked 506 kilometers (314 miles) from Eilat to Jlem!

The arrival was a bit overwhelming as Jerusalem is an intense and busy place particularly right before Shabbat, but once I got out of the center of the city and my taxi pulled up to my favorite address in Jerusalem where my friends Nancy and Ron live I felt completely in awe that just five weeks ago this is where my journey began.

I was reunited with my belongings that I had brought here for before and after the trail. It was strange and yet wonderful to put on jeans, use face wash, put on perfume, etc. I sat across from Nancy at her kitchen table in disbelief at how far I had come also while I wolfed down the most amazing tasting bread, cheese, and grapes.

This was like no other time I had ever arrived to Jerusalem. First, it was by foot and second it was the day after Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day).

As a group we observed Yom HaShoah when the sunset on Wednesday evening. We had a minute of silence and then a talking circle where everyone shared what was alive for them at this moment of remembrance. Several of the Israelis in the group spoke about their families survival stories. Others shared about the power of remembering, experiences at Yad Vashem, and the impact the loss of 6 million of our ancestors has on their lives. Towards the end a heated discussion erupted about whether one could compare the holocaust with other genocides. Though it was challenging in that moment to hear the tense discussion it was certainly a reminder how important it is to engage in these types of discussions.

The following morning I was standing on the trail by myself with yellow flowers waving in the wind as the siren went off throughout the country to remember the Shoah. I stood there thinking about Jews who passed away in fields and had to run through fields fearing for their life and had to live in fields and forests for years during the war in order to survive. In some ways the flowers and the grass waving in the wind felt like their memories were being lifted and honored as the siren blared. I also felt sad that so many never got to see such beauty here in our home land, a safe haven for the Jewish people.

So, arrival to this holy city of Jerusalem took on extra meaning as I was so aware of how many before me dreamed of and longed to be in this place.

This past week as we walked up to Jerusalem I was giddy as we passed through places where the prophet Micah preached, where Goliath lived, where Israelites took refuge after the destruction of the second temple, we saw ancient wells, an old Ottoman bridge, vineyards, wheat fields, and the most breathtaking storks flying in the sky.

What an unforgettable week…I sat under a fig tree and near vineyards this past week ( as the prophet Micah envisioned) and I rejoiced in Jerusalem (just as the prophet Isaiah preached) with the words…sisu et Yerushalayim… I am truly humbled by it all.

Shavua tov from Jerusalem of Gold! And tomorrow begins the journey to Tel Aviv…

Beginning the Journey

14 Mar

Shalom from the Israel National Trail (Shvil Yisrael)! So far I’ve walked or hiked (cause the trail is definitely not flat and paved) from Eilat to Timna National Park…around 56 kilometers or around 36 miles. The first few days have been beautiful and challenging. I’m not one who loves “first days.” As one of my best friends reminded me we didn’t become friends until the second day of college. There has been much to get used to…no bathrooms, no seamless, no bed at the end of a long day, and a whole new group of people to get to know and learn how to give and receive help from.

Now a few days in I am used to a lot of it and developed routines. I know now when to take my first break after starting the trail in the morning (about two hours in), who from the groups walks at around my pace, and what I need to do to keep my little tent from blowing away at night in the desert wind. One night I did loose my camping chair to the wind, but luckily found it the next morning and now I know if I’m not sitting in it something heavy better be.

The walk itself so far is gorgeous, magical, and definitely hard. There have definitely been moments where I basically have been rock climbing and then there have been moments where I am surrounded by the most magical enormous mountains who feel intimidating and full of strength and comfort all at the same time. I have been singing the words of Psalm 12 often.

I find the downhill the hardest, which I have realized makes sense for life in general. When things are going downhill that usually means things are not so good. So here are a few tips I’ve learned:

1. Walk sideways – sometimes it’s better to take it slow and zig zag as opposed to going down with the path.

2. Keep a soft body- when you tighten up it feels like the trail does too and instead of flowing with each other it’s as if you are opposing sides better to try and relax into going down.

3. Face the mountain – when you are on the side of a steep downhill facing it is better and makes it way less scarier.

4. Trust the downhill- I’ve come to realize my body does not want me to fall so I try and trust that it knows what to do to keep me safe.

Lastly, this group that I’m walking with is called “Walk About Love.” To me this has come to mean I’m doing a walk about love for Israel and I try and keep that love in my heart as I walk so that I remind myself that my feet are on holy ground.

Tu B’Shevat Higiah (Tu B’Shevat is coming!)

16 Jan

Tu B’Shevat Higiah (Tu B’Shevat is coming!)

Tu B’Shevat is here and for the past few weeks in thinking about the arrival of Tu B’Shevat I did a lot of wrestling and a little kvetching in search for a connection to the themes of this holiday.

During much of Jewish history, the only observance of this day was by eating fruit associated with the land of Israel. I’m not a big dried fruit and nut fan, (which is just a minor complaint). What bothers me more is that I have often found that Tu B’Shevat often gets translated into a celebrate Israel day, which feels far from the intended agricultural meaning of the holiday. While I am happy to celebrate the wonders of the land of Israel, I do not believe that Tu B’Shevat is about celebrating Israel as a sovereign nation. This is not the case for all Tu B’Shevat celebrations.

Many American Jews have turned this holiday into a Jewish environmental day, where the rituals of the Tu B’Shevat seder are used to remind us of our connection to the earth and our responsibility for caring for our environment. We recall a particular midrash on this day that teaches, that we are suppose to be partners with G-d in caring for all of G-d’s creations.

Our Kabbalistic tradition provides us with a spiritual twist to the holiday.  The tradition teaches to look at trees as symbols of human beings as we read in the book of Deuteronomy, “For a human is like the tree of the field” (Deut 20:19). For the Kabbalists, eating a variety of fruits on Tu B’Shevat is a way of improving our spiritual selves. Each fruit that one should eat is connected to four levels of creation. Through consumption we symbolically go through each of these levels in hope of awakening and nourishing our spiritual selves.

After much wrestling with what this holiday means, this year I have found that Tu B’Shevat resonates with me through the words of the poet Marge Piercy in her poem entitled, “New Year For The Trees.” Piercy’s poem tells it like it is. She begins her poem with these words, “It is the New Year of the Trees, but here the ground is frozen…” Our Trees are snoozing while in other parts of the world things have already begun to bloom. As Piercy’s poem continues, she writes about what is blossoming here. She calls us to pay attention to what aspects of nature are active right now playing their parts in the cycle of our own seasons. As we trudge our way through the cold, Piercy and Tu B’Shevat can awaken us to appreciate all that must occur in our winter season now so that we can rejoice in the buds and sparkles of spring in just a few months time.

To read Marge Piercy’s poem click here:

Wishing everyone a Happy Tu B’Shevat…eat some fruit, hug a tree, breathe in some fresh air and be thankful for the inter-connectedness of all living things!

Molly’s Top Ten Ways To Spice Up January and February

15 Jan

Molly’s Top Ten Ways To Spice Up January and February

Sometimes these next several weeks can feel like a drag…or they actually do drag on and on and on. And you think to yourself if I have to stuff myself into my big puffy winter coat one more time I am going to scream. Well, I’ve been thinking about some ways to keep the spirits up and the cider or rum (or both) spiced. Here’s my top ten ways to spice up January and February (and March…oy…let’s hope not too much of March):

1. Buy a new a pair of shoes. – Or really something new for your wardrobe to keep yourself interested in your winter clothes. Nothing says fun like a new pair of shoes with that same warm pair of pants you’ve been wearing every other day. Plus, it’s a great time to shop with so many end of season sales!

2. Go see a Broadway show. I know it’s expensive, but it’s really worth the splurge and a fun and unique activity during the cold. If you don’t live in NY go see something that you don’t typically think to make plans to see… a comedy show, a concert…entertainment warms the heart and the soul!

3. Keep eating things that are peppermint. – I think it’s totally still acceptable to eat and drink peppermint things even though the holiday season is over. Having a sip of a peppermint mocha or hot chocolate will remind you of that joy that really was only a month ago and is quite a refreshing treat. We can keep ‘the most wonderful time of year’ going for a little longer!

4. Get a massage. – Treat your body to some relaxation, as your muscles are probably tight from the cold and from sitting in doors more often than when it’s nicer out.

5. Pick a day where you aren’t going to schlep anything. –Let’s face it, schlepping in the winter is way worse than schlepping in the spring, summer, or fall. It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s windy…you are in your big coat…who needs it?! Pick a day where you are just going to stuff your wallet, phone, and keys in your pocket and go hands free.  It’s so liberating not to schlep!

6. Watch movies that you didn’t catch last summer. – There’s nothing like watching movies geared toward warm weather to get you out of the cold winter mind set. Movies that I missed last summer that look fun and entertaining are: “The Way Way Back,” “The Heat,” (I’ve always had a soft spot for Sandra Bullock) and “The Internship.”

7. Make a fun winter play list. – I love celebrating whatever is happening in the moment…like wearing red on Valentine’s Day or dressing up in my best colonial clothes on Patriot’s Day in Boston, so of course a playlist celebrating some winter themed songs feels like a fun thing to do.  Here are some ones that came to my mind:

“Hazy Shade of Winter” both the Simon and Garfunkel version and the Bangles version

“February” by Dar Williams

“Urge for Going “by Joni Mitchell

“Cold As Ice” by Foreigner

8. Read one of Martin Luther King’s speeches. Always inspiring and important to read his words.

9. Figure out your summer vacation plans. – Nothing like a few hours on trip advisor looking at beautiful places to keep your mind off the winter cold.

10. Make something from scratch. Great time for making something delicious from scratch…I’ve been thinking about sourdough bread or a lamb stew.

11. (One for good luck.) Volunteer – Take some time this winter to volunteer, our shelter at the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue can use people to sleepover and/or make dinner, I also recently saw a news story about this food pantry that seeks volunteers:

Here’s to keeping things warm, spicy, and exciting all winter long!

Rabbi Molly G.

Hello, my name is Molly!

26 Nov

Join me as I take you on a ride through observational humor, musical theater numbers and an occasional recipe for a slamming red velvet cake.