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Yom Kippur: Teshuva is Awesome!

Yom Kippur is known as the ‘Day of Atonement’, the when we are forgiven for our sins. This not as simple as some magical ritual that wipes the slate clean. Judaism acknowledges that God can only forgive for sins between ‘Man and God’, for sins that occur between ‘Man and Man’, between a person and their neighbor, the forgiveness must happen between them. Why do people need to forgive in the first place?

It says in the Torah ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. This mitzvah seems so obvious a child can understand it. ‘If I am just like everyone else then I shouldn’t do something to someone else that I know would hurt me.’ Yet people do not always listen to this mitzvah, and they sometimes hurt each other. After being hurt, the pain, the lack of understanding why, ‘why would someone do something so irrational as to hurt another human being!?’, could make someone want to put up a wall against the person who hurt them.

It says in the Midrash (a body Jewish spiritual teachings written around 2000 years ago) that Hashem created the world with the quality of ‘Din’ and saw that no one could survive so Hashem threw in the quality or ‘Rachamim’. ‘Din’ means strict ‘judgment’ if a person does good, they receive good, if a person does bad, they receive bad. If we lived this way considering the amount of mistakes people make they would not be able to stand for very long. ‘Rachamim’ is the quality of ‘mercy’, it means having every right to be angry to exact justice, but instead to act with kindness. Forgiveness is taking the wall down that we have put in front of our heart.

After being hurt its easy to hold a grudge, to psychologically hold on to the thorn we believe was put in our heart by whomever hurt us, and to point the finger of blame at whomever we believe to be guilty. Besides individuals a person could also blame ‘the system’ or ‘society’. What I have learned is that to hold a grudge against someone takes energy, like if I were holding a heavy object against a wall, I would have to exert effort to maintain the object there. If someone wanted to give me hug, or if I wanted to paint or cook, I wouldn’t be able to because my hands would be occupied holding that object there. So too, when I am holding a grudge against someone, I have to burn psychological calories to keep that grudge there. That is energy I could be using for something else, to be more loving in a relationship, to engage in acts of creativity or kindness, but until I put down that grudge, that energy is stuck maintaining a wound from the past. Forgiveness is putting down the thorn of anger in our heart, allowing that wound to heal and opening our hands.

There is a Midrash that says before God created the world, God created ‘Teshuva’. Teshuva has many meanings on it most primordial level it means to ‘return’, on a more practical level it means to regret our mistakes and to turn towards goodness. People make mistakes. Sometimes we even do things we know are not best for ourselves. If we hold a grudge against ourselves and others for not doing what is best for us, we could spend a very long time being stuck over something that happened in the past. Teshuva on its highest level means to return to the Infinite Source from which we all come. Teshuva was made before the world, and therefore before time, this means teshuva allows us to start over and step out of being slaves to what happened in the past. The primacy of our ability to return, to fix our actions, was created even before our ability to act.

Yom Kippur is the day of ‘atonement’ the of ‘at-One1-ment’. When we forgive, we are also doing teshuva and are able to spiritually stand in that place before creation. Before the past, before the future, we are able to stand in the Infinite present moment in which God is re-creating the world ‘something out of nothing’ every single second. When we forgive, we are returning to God, we are returning to Love, and we are setting ourselves free. We are affirming the possibility of goodness and life for whomever hurt us which is what we ourselves want even if we have made mistakes. May Hashem bless us that this Yom Kippur we are forgiven by God, ourselves, and each other and be written and sealed for a good and sweet year in the ‘Book of Life!”

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Repair The World: Hannukah

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This Hanukkah: Bring Light into the Darkness

by  | December 19, 2011 | 0 comments

This Hanukkah: Bring Light into the Darkness

Photo by Nerissa’s Ring via CC

Whether you spell it Hanukkah or Chanukah – the holiday season is here, which means it’s time to light the menorah, exchange presents and, of course, eat latkes. But beyond landing a gimel on the dreidel and raking in the Hanukkah gelt, this ancient holiday holds a deeper message that’s relevant for today.

Hanukkah, often called the festival of lights, celebrates the story of a small group of people changing the system when everyone else thought it was impossible. During the time of the Hannukah story, ancient Israel was not a particularly friendly place for the Israelites. The Jewish religion was being outlawed, celebrating the sabbath risked the penalty of death, and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem had been defiled. A small group of Jewish warriors known as the Maccabees, rebelled against the Greek-Syrian rule and, against all odds, succeeded in igniting a revolution that drove them out from the land.

This is where the Menorah, the symbol of Hannukah comes in. The final victory for the Maccabees came when they removed the foreign statues from the Holy Temple and rededicated it. (The word ‘hannukah’ itself actually comes from the word ‘to dedicate’) As the story goes, the Maccabees rekindled the lights of the menorah and a miracle occurred because  although they only had enough oil to burn for one day, the light of the menorah burned for eight days.

Flash forward to today: When you light a menorah each night of Hanukkah, you plug into a story that is thousands of years old. And you make a bold statement: you become a light in the darkness, you stand up for a strong and meaningful Jewish community, and you cast your vote with hope and change, even when it seems impossible. In other words, you believe in – and are willing to act for – miracles.

Starting tomorrow, give the gift of Hanukkah miracles through Repair the World’s “Eight Nights of Service.” Keep an eye out for great service and volunteering ideas for each night of the holiday.

This article was contributed by Eitan Press who works as the Social Media and Blog Director for The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development.

An article from the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development on St. Francis of Assisi.

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On the Spirituality of Sustainability

By Eitan Press

In this post we are going to offer what will be the first of three teachings on the ‘spirituality of sustainability’ from the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths. Besides the external changes we need to make in order to live more sustainably, what are the changes that needs to happen on the inside? The spirituality of sustainability seeks to answers to this question.

Our first post in this series is based on the writings of St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis (1181/1182 – October 3, 1226 ) is known for his love of all of Gods creatures, it is said that besides preaching to people, he also preached to animals. His statue often appears in many gardens with birds resting on his shoulder. His love of peace inspired St. Francis to travel to Egypt and seek rapprochement with the Muslim world and after his death, it was the Franciscan order that was allowed to stay during Muslim control of Palestine after the fall of the Crusader kingdom. The Franciscans were known as the Christian “Custodians of the Holy Land”. St. Francis wrote a canticle or song called ‘In Praise of the Creatures’ that holds an important key to sustainable thinking. Here a passage from the canticle where he sings about nature:

“Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!

All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

To you, alone, Most High, do they belong.

No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,

especially through my lord Brother Sun,

who brings the day; and you give light through him.

And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!

Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;

in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,

and clouds and storms, and all the weather,

through which you give your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water;

she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,

through whom you brighten the night.

He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,

who feeds us and rules us,

and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you;

through those who endure sickness and trial.

Happy those who endure in peace,

for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.”

In this canticle St. Francis is talking to God, praising God through expressing his gratitude for the natural world God created. Through his words one can see that St. Francis was reverential and respectful of nature, referring to the natural world as his family. The sun is his ‘brother’, the moon is his ‘sister’. Nature was a part of St. Francis and he a part of it. This attitude is a crucial ingredient in in understanding the spirituality of sustainability.

Often, humankind relates to the natural world as if humanity is separate from and ‘other’ than it. Nature is seen in terms of its utilitarian purposes, as a resource to be consumed. This map of our connection to nature is based on a false dichotomy. The danger of looking at the environment simply as a resource, is that it allows for a much more callous attitude towards it, one in which if we are destructive and wasteful, it is not affecting us, just that object ‘over there’. If we think and act towards nature with this perspective we are undermining our own survival, for we are part of the ecosystem we are destroying. The most simple example is trees.

We breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Trees absorb in or ‘inhale’ carbon dioxide and then retain the carbon in their trunks (which reduces greenhouse gases) and release or ‘exhale’ oxygen. Trees are known as the “lungs of the world.” According to National Geographic forests now cover 30% of the worlds surface, but every year the earth is losing area equivalent to the size of Panama to deforestation. If things continue as they are we could lose much of the worlds forests in less than 100 years. This is not good for the trees, the animals, insects and countless other forms of life that make up these ecosystems including us, the human race. We all need to breathe.

This brings us back to St. Francis and the spirituality of sustainability. “Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.” The solution is not just change on the outside through more sustainable practices, but also change on the inside in terms of how we see ourselves in relationship to nature, we have to change our map. St. Francis saw himself, as interconnected to nature, rather than divorced from it, he was of nature, and nature was of him. Planet earth was not an object but his ‘Mother’. Seeing ourselves and nature as one family which is an interdependent whole, is important medicine we need to live more lovingly, responsibly, and sustainably towards the gifts the Infinite has given us.

Rosh Hashana Blog originally published on Repair The World

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Repair the World

Returning to Our Best Selves on Rosh Hashanah

by  | September 27, 2011 | 0 comments

Returning to Our Best Selves on Rosh Hashanah

Apples and honey: only part of the story. Photo by Jeremy Price viaCC

This essay was written by guest contributor, Eitan Press, of theInterfaith Center for Sustainable Development.

Apples and honey are tasty, but sweet rituals are just one aspect of what Rosh Hashanah is about. Rosh Hashanah translates as the ‘head’ Rosh of ‘the year’ Ha Shanah. In the Jewish tradition it is a time for self reflection and introspection, a time for new beginnings, a time to ask the questions: ‘Who am I?’ ‘What kind of life have I been living?’ ‘What do I want to change?’

According to the story of Rosh Hashanah the fate of our coming year is decided during the high holidays. Our financial fate, our health, our relationships, who is going to be written into the Book of Life and who is not, are all decided on this day which is why Rosh Hashanah is also called ‘Yom HaDin’, the day of Judgement. It’s also why one of the traditional greetings during Rosh Hashanah is, ‘May you be written and sealed for good in the book of life.’

A number of years ago the night before Rosh Hashanah, I was walking on the street and I overheard a woman speaking to someone about “writing off” a friend because she had neglected to call her back. The two phrases ‘to write someone off’ and ‘to be written in the book of Life’ began to contrast themselves in my mind. I began to realize that, at times in my own life, I have not only written off other people but, for reasons that seemed good at the time, I have written myself off as well. Unfortunately, people write themselves out of life all the time. They write off their bodies because they think they are not good enough, they write off their personalities because they want to fit in, and they write off their dreams because of external pressure and despair.

I saw that if I wanted to be written in the book of life, I had to live an existence that was an affirmation of my life. And, I had to write everyone else in the book of life too – which means treating them with the love, respect, and the compassion they deserve.

Rosh Hashanah is also considered the birthday of the world – the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve. According to Jewish mysticism, the energy of the creation of humankind is available for us to access on this day. That means we can start over and return who we really are – to our good authentic selves. In Judaism the act of returning to our highest self and living from there is called ‘teshuvah.’ Rosh Hashanah is one of the best days of the yearto connect to teshuvah.

There is a saying from the sages which goes, ‘nothing stands in the way of teshuva.’ This means that if a person wants to change their life for the good, nothing can stop them. If the most powerful prayer is a prayer put into action, then Rosh Hashanah is our time to take active steps, like the ones below, that will guarantee us inclusion in the book of life. This Rosh Hashana may, we all be blessed to do teshuvah, be the people we want to be for the rest of the year, and be written and sealed in the book of Life!

Teshuvah Action Steps

  • Call out the good. Pick someone in your life whom you interact with on a regular basis, write down five good things you see in this person and them tell them. Do the same thing for yourself!
  • Write a letter describing what you would like to have written into the book of your life for the coming year. Pick three simple goals based on your letter to start building your life.
  • Volunteer your time for a cause you believe in! Find an issue you want to do something about, find an inspiring organization who is working on this cause, and arrange to volunteer to help do what they are doing.
  • Tzedakah. Set aside some money to donate to an organization you believe is doing good work or to a person who is in need.



Interview From Repair the World

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Repair Interview: Eitan Press of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development

by  | August 31, 2011 | 0 comments

Repair Interview: Eitan Press of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development

Photo courtesy of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development

For the last several decades, many of the world’s major religions have looked inward to explore what their ancient teachings and ethical systems have to say about people’s relationship with and responsibility to the environment.

Now, an organization called theInterfaith Center for Sustainable Development in Israel is bringing these conversations together for a cross-cultural, interfaith look on environmental protection. The reasoning? If two minds are better than one, then many minds (and hearts) are even stronger – especially when it comes to something as important as climate change and a healthy environment.

Today ICSD works to promote “the cooperation and training of religious leaders, teachers, and seminary students for environmental sustainability.” Over email, ICSD’s Social Media and Blog Director, Eitan Press, told Repair the World, about the role the world’s religions can play in the environmental movement, what it means to work together across differences, and how his own love of nature fuels his work.

What is your own background with environmental work? Was it always something that spoke to you?
My background in environmental work is centered around volunteering, formal, and informal education. To share some of my experience, I taught at GIFT Yeshiva in Baltimore MD, and my students there had not received much exposure to nature so I created and taught an ecology curriculum where we went on walks in the woods, studied population growth, sustainability, and watched National Geographic videos (simple stuff but it inspired them and deepened their connection to nature).

I also ran a ‘zero waste’ summer camp with green programming called the Jewish Superhero Experience in Boulder CO, for the Aish Kodesh synagogue. Here in Jerusalem I teach and volunteer to do more grassroots activism like organizing neighborhood park clean-ups, and 5-minute spontaneous trash pick-ups at local festivals, (its amazing how much trash a small group of inspired people can clean in five minutes), anything to deepen in people an awareness of their inherent connection to the natural world. My inspiration to get involved with environmental work really starts with the joy and wonder of ‘environmental play’ in the woods and streams of my backyard when I was a kid, and my desire to preserve and share that experience for future generations.

What was the inspiration behind creating The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development?
I asked this question to Rabbi Yonatan Neril, who founded and directs the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development. He said, “I believe that religions can be forces for positive change in the world, to promote coexistence, sustainability, and peace. Profound teachings related to sustainability exist within the world’s major faiths, and I feel that it is crucial that these teachings be brought to the consciousness of billions of people in faith communities to help promote sustainable solutions.”

How did you first get involved with ICSD?
I met Rabbi Yonatan at a PresenTense event in Jerusalem, he was one of their ‘Fellows’ pitching a Jewish social entrepreneur project, and I offered to volunteer to plug into what he was doing. We started talking and I learned he was an eco-activist before he became a Rabbi, and he began teach me Torah that really showed how being Jewish is connected to caring for the earth. I am also passionate about both religion and the internet as vehicles for social change, so when Rabbi Yonatan started the ICSD and there was a need to do social media work, I stepped in.

What makes ICSD stand apart from other environmental organizations?
One reason the ICSD stands apart is because we are an interfaith organization and part of our mission is to use the collective power of our religious traditions to help live lighter on the earth. We are also different because we believe religion has a central role to play in creating a more sustainable world. Religion and sustainability are connected in part because religions the world over teach about the need to go beyond the selfish ‘ego,’ and unchecked consumerism, i.e. filling the ‘hole’ with more ‘stuff’, is one of the causes of environmental destruction. When people live more soul-centered lives and less ego-centered lives, they feel less of a need to consume, start living more consciously, and this leads to more sustainable behavior. Our ecological problems are connected to spiritual problems, and in order to restore our balance with nature on the outside we also need to change on the inside. That’s within the domain of religions.

Can you tell me a bit about the impact you’ve seen so far?
So far the biggest impact I have seen is the Interfaith Eco Forum we held at the American Colony Hotel here in Jerusalem. We brought together leaders from the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths – Bishop William Shomali of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Deputy Minister of the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Religious Affairs Haj Salah Zuheika, and American Jewish Committee International Director of Inter-religious Affairs Rabbi David Rosen to speak on a panel about sustainable living and climate change. These panelists also endorsed a Holy Land Declaration on Climate Change calling for adherents of the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faiths to engage in “undertaking a deep reassessment of our spiritual and physical relationship to this God-given planet and how we consume, use and dispose of its blessed resources.”

I also spoke with nuns, Christian Arabs, and other people with whom I generally would not have met that I had really good interactions with. It was inspiring to witness cooperation between members of different faiths (that many times are associated with conflict) for a good cause, and so that’s a positive impact from Jerusalem. The event received coverage in about 15 media outlets in five languages, meaning that several million people likely heard about it.

How can people get involved?
People can get involved on a lot of levels, first through volunteering, we are looking for more writers who value interfaith projects and sustainability to contribute content to our site. We also are seeking to build our online community (readers can like us on Facebook) and are looking for constructive ideas and feedback so people can contact us. Financial support is also welcome, and also the prayers and good wishes of anyone who feels connected to what we are doing can also help us succeed.

Rosh Hashana Letter from 2008 thats still good.

I am writing to you from the Holy City of Jerusalem, and am praying that you all have a truly good and sweet New Year.  I wrote down some thoughts about Rosh Hashana, it is more personal than scholarly but I hope and pray you may find them helpful. Here it goes.

There are certain words that for many people, have almost lost their meaning, like Love, Truth, Happiness, I have even met people who do not even believe these things exist but are just fictions created by man.  Usually these very same people are also in a tremendous amount of pain, and are also armored and numb so they don’t have to feel their pain.   There is a word that has come to the foremost part of my mind this past week, since last Motzei Shabbat when I began saying Selichot which is mercy.  Mercy or Rachamim is what allows life to exist.   Mercy is why it is OK to not be perfect, mercy is what we pray for on Rosh Hashanah, and mercy is what we all need in this world and what we need to have on each other and ourselves.

There is so much pressure on people right now not to mess up, to be perfect.  There was even a game show on TV recently called The Weakest Link, where if a person made a mistake they were labeled ‘the weakest link’ and were ejected from the game. Many of us are afraid that we will be the weakest link in our own lives, that maybe secretly we are, and because of this fear, and that we will be ejected form our own lives if we are not perfect. That if we show any blemish, flaw, or weakness, we will be removed, that we wont deserve love.

Mercy says you deserve love even if you are blemished, that you deserve love even if you are not perfect, that you deserve love even if you don’t know the answer to the thousand dollar question, that you deserve love and help even if you or to weak or don’t know how to help yourself.  It is mercy that allows us to do Teshuva because it allows the weak the opportunity and chance to become strong, it allows those who have fallen so deep into sin, that they no longer know the difference between good and evil, to re-learn how to choose good – how to be good and how to do good, and even if they don’t learn it , it is mercy that gives them the chance to learn it, to walk the path of Teshuvah.

On Rosh Hashanah we come before God as people who have messed up, and because God is merciful we pray for what we need in order to live and more. We pray that we have the life we want to live.  But there is a question… which is do we deserve it and how do we get it.  In this coming year how do we make our life a vessel for what we are praying for?

Rosh Hashanah is called Yom Ha Din, the day of Judgement, because on this day, based on our past actions, and God wisdom,  it is decided what we are going to get. But it is also the birthday of the world, the anniversary of the creation of man, and the day that the energy of man comes into the universe.  That means on this day we can start over, we can return who we really are, our good authentic selves.  That is why at this time we are called to do Teshuva, to return to who we are and Teshuva is how we come to deserve the life we want.

There is a saying from the sages which is ‘nothing stands in the way of Teshuva.’  This means that if a person wants to change their life for good, nothing can stop them, that they can overcome any obstacle. The most powerful prayer is a prayer that is put into action. What actions can we take that will guarentee us to be written in the book of life. Actions that are a reflection of Teshuvah

A few Rosh Hashanas ago, for a very good reason, I was walking out of a bar, the night before Rosh Hashanah, and I overheard a woman speaking to someone, and I heard her saying that so and so had not called her back and so she had written her off. The phrase  ‘to write someone off’, essentially means that if they were God, they would not write this person into the book of life.   I saw that many times I have not only written off other people, but for reasons that seemed good at the time written off myself.  People write themselves out of life all the time. How many young people, write off their bodies because they think they are not good enough, or write of their personalities because they want to fit in, or write off their dreams because of external pressure and despair.

I saw that if I wanted to be written in the book of life, in terms of how I lived, I had to write myself into the book of Life.   I had to live a life that was an affirmation of my life, that my life was valuable and special and worth living, and that I had to write everyone else in the book of life too. That I had to treat them with the love, respect, and compassion they deserved as someone who was alive.

‘ Nothing stands in the way of Teshuvah’, this means that not only should I write myself into the book of Life, through living a life worth living, but that the story I write, through the life I live, should be one that is a reflection of my highest self, or my greatest potential.  If I do this then I will have all of those good things in my life.

But there is another question, which  is what if we don’t know who we are, what if we don’t know what  we want, what if we don’t know what our highest potential is. This is where the Shofar comes in. The Shofar is blown in three ways, Tekiah, Shevarim, and Teruah.  They are modeled after the sounds a human being makes when they cry.   It is taught that during this time we are supposed to pour out our heart to God. One of the most amazing things in the world is that our hearts are always there, even if we forget them , and in our hearts, is the potential for our dreams and aspirations.

But how do we pour out our hearts? What if we don’t even know how to do that? That is where pain comes in. Many of us may not know what’s in our hearts but we know where we are hurting and in pain. Many of us are numb, numb to our pain,  many of us in fact do self destructive things like overeating,  drinking to excess, workaholism or some other forms of escape, which creates more pain to try to numb the pain we are already feeling

( I am speaking about psycho/spiritual pain not physical injury) . But it is pain, that is actually the route to our heart, the reason we are in pain is because our hearts are in pain. Pouring our your heart, means telling God all the places your are hurting, and why you are hurting, and all the things you are yearning for, it means going through all the layers of frustration and anger, bitterness, hatred, and dreams, and loneliness, and joy, and pouring all of it out before God, through prayer, through singing, through crying, and in this act, what happens is we become un-numb, we begin to melt , we begin to feel alive again.  In allowing ourselves to feel our pain, it begins to lift, and we unfold and unclench where we were once tense and compressed, the very pain we have been armoring can become a shofar that connects to our heart and allows us to cry out from it.

When Yosef finally cried out and revealed himself to his brothers all of Egypt heard, because underneath the make up, and the costume and the gold and jewelry was a simple, Yid who loved his father and brothers.  When we return to ourselves , when we call out from our hearts, it is a great revelation of light in the world.

May God bless the Jewish people and all of the world the this Rosh Hashanah, that our hearts be softened and filled with mercy and that our voices resound with prayers that renew ourselves and all of the world, and that we be written and sealed in the book of life for a good and sweet life.

From a Seed to a Tree (originally published 3.27.2010)

Every once in a while I have a glimpse that who I am is much more than I think I am , it is a glimpse of my unclaimed un-actualized potential, I have spent many years trying to live up to this potential to let this glimpse become a permanent horizon in which I live and travel.

This quest has also led to a lot of traveling, traveling both in outer space, and inner space, exploring different religions, bodies of knowledge, methods of healing, communities, and chance encounters that were more than coincidental. I have walked a path that has guided me in slowly learning more about the mysterious and miraculous nature of this world, and this life we are given.

But this path has led me to a threshold I thought I would never cross,  an  even deeper entrance into actualizing my potential that for me is a road less travelled, though it has been trodden by many.

I am talkign about the act of  settleing down. So far my path ahs been very much associated with movement, with traveling  from one place to another, and it has been an adventure that I am humbled to have been allowed to experience and I feel in me an indescribable grattitude to have lived it.  Now  my path is taking me is to being in one spot, and on the surface that might seem like the end of adventure but I dont think it is.

For a long time I associated settling down  with authoritarian voices trying to control me,  people said I needed to get  ‘grounded’.   To me grounded meant sitting in a corner and wearing a dunce cap, I had no interest in being grounded.

But I am coming the end of my second Ulpan here in Israel, and I have been praying since towards the end of my first ulpan for guidance towards my next step and recently this guidance which usually is intuitive and surprising, has informed me that settling down is my next step.

For many reasons this guidance makes sense and one of the reasons is rooted in TuB’Shvat. The new year for trees.  My name is Eitan, which is associated with strength and one of the metaphors thats used is a big tree, people draw me pictures of trees without me asking them to.  I love trees and nature.  I live on an agricultural kibbutz.

This past TuBshvat I organized  a seed planting project with a friend. There are now baby pea and bean plants growing in the bottoms of soda bottles scattered  around the Ulpan.  To celebrate the holiday,  I planted a small oak seed in some dirt in a half bottle hoping it would grow.   I had no idea if it would sprout or take root or any of that.

Aftera few weeks of mild anxiety I saw a root at the bottom of the plastic cup, about a week and a half later a little stem popped its head above the dirt and there is now a tiny oak sapling sitting in a plastic cup over the air conditioner jutting outside my window.

The thing about seeds is they travel,  some seeds have little helicptor blades to spin through the air, some seeds have parachutes like dandelions, some seeds have velcro like burrs to hitch rides on passing by animals or people and some seeds are tasty and get eaten and pooped somewhere else.  Seeds like oak nuts have  within them the potential to grow into a huge tree, something so much bigger than what they are , but its only when this seed settles down, that it puts down roots and starts growing up, and it is through this process it becomes a tree.

So what I got  from this intuition  is that I need to settle down  if I want to fulfill my potential.  I need to plant myself, like my Oak seed  and put down roots. Also just like my oak seed  is  starting out with a small little place , so God willing I am going to rent a little room.

And on that note whats great is that where I am settling is in Jerusalem, and there is really no other city I would want to settle in. The extent to which my heart feels glad that I am settling in Jerusalem, the physical sense fo well being that I get when I think about settling in Jerusalem and the spiritual sense of destiny that I feel, is  wonderous and Avraham Joshua Heschel said that wonder is one of the key foundations of the Jewish life.

I am wonderous that I got an answer to my prayer, through a seed, through a mystery, and through a holiday, and God willing now I will be able to live that prayer, and through settling down grow from a seed into that tree, and spread my branches far and wide and nestle others in my deep roots,  and provide shade and fruit for others on the path, and to start living that glimpse in a a new phase  life, in a new journey on my path.