On these SoHo streets

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10/12/2015

On these SoHo streets

Walking through the streets of NYC these days with a crazy beard and skull cap feels different than it used to be. I keep thinking about what’s going on in Israel and Europe – I’m a target over there. So I’ve become more suspicious about how others see me here on these SoHo streets filled with all these happy tourists from all around the world.

Where I live, in addition to frequent “Salam Alekem’s”,  I get “Shabbat Shalom’s”  from the under cover brothers. I get “Chag Sameach’s”  from the Israeli tourists. I get screams of “Moshiach Now” from the car windows of out of town Chabad passerbyers. The words are usually accompanied with a nod of unspoken communication – like, I am also Jewish and I relate to you and you bring out something from me. It feels like they need me. And that feeling makes me feel like I need them.

It’s easy to settle into our surroundings. Into community norms, institutional norms, geographic norms – and that can hold down a soul from chasing the light of its potential.

The body and its surrounding environment cannot fully house the soul. So we are really always in a state of breaking out. Expanding. Growing closer toward the Source. So folks whose souls crave to rise beyond the constraints of their limited physical identities and personalities give me that nod because that part of themselves sees something they can relate to – like, I also have that within, and you bring out something from me. It feels like they need me. And that feeling makes me feel like I need them.

Same with those suffering with self doubt, addiction, depression and all forms of mental illness. Like, I see you live beyond the bounds so the part of me that’s trapped here has hope and strength from seeing you breaking free. Through your Emunah and certainty and faith in Hashem – through that, I have hope. It feels like they need me. And that feeling makes me feel like I need them.

Now is not the time to go undercover. Now is the time to boldly rise toward our own greatest potential, to inspire and connect with others.

The prophets talked about this time thousands of years ago. The sages say that the way to navigate and remain safe today is through Torah and acts of kindness. Torah means the way, the wisdom, the code transmitted by the Source to us, the elixir to life. And acts of kindness means alot, including only seeing the good in yourself and in others and never speaking negatively about yourself or others under any circumstance.

Rav Shalom Arush lays out for us a five step plan to navigate these troubling times,  eloquently elaborated by yours truly:

1. Strengthen ourselves in Emunah. Incorporate our higher wisdom and understanding and stretch further during prayer, meditation and intention in every day actions – to live what we learn and learn more – and continue that cycle constantly for the rest of our lives. Never despairing. Never stopping.

2. Recall Hashem’s love for us, recalling the past miracles done for our nation in 1967, 1973, 1991, and all through recent years until today. And, thank Hashem for our national salvations and our private salvations. Think about our own miracles and take nothing for granted. Thank Hashem constantly. Be in a constant state of gratitude for everything in life. For the most trivial detail.

3.Those who are not yet plugged into the miraculous healing power of the holiest 24 hour period of the week A.K.A. Shabbat – those who have not yet merited to bask in the cradle of light which awaits us at sundown Friday – those who have not yet given themselves the sweet gift of rest and inner peace and connection to the ultimate purpose – those still stuck in the quicksands of today, walking in circles around the ordinary week – should begin immediately to follow their inner Divine spark who craves intensely for the requisite freedom and healing recharge of the Shabbat. Weighing in at number 4 of the Ten Commandments, if you observe the Shabbat it’s like you hold up the entire Torah.

Violating the level of Shabbat that we are personally holding today removes us from the powerful realm of Shabbat, pushing away the greatest gift of purpose, peace and rest and joy that can only be experienced with the assistance of the extra soul that joins us on Shabbat, and the angels who dance around our Shabbat table. And, says Rav Arush, those who observe Shabbat should strengthen their knowledge of the laws of Shabbat.

4. One should ponder Hashem constantly and speak to Him as much as possible.

5. One should encourage others to learn and strengthen Emunah.

Perhaps what is most important to us now, is to love each other like we love our self. To love peace and pursue peace within and between ourselves. This brings peace between the Source and His people.

Blessings,

Etan

On these SoHo streets

All My Heart and All My Soul

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8/14/2015

All My Heart and All My Soul

“From there you will seek Hashem, your God, and you will find Him, if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.”  – Deuteronomy 4:29 Va’Eschanan

He is here.

24/7 here and ready to be found — if we search for Him with all our heart and all our soul.

He said we will find Him –  and to me, finding Him means me perceiving Him more than just knowing He is there. To me, this means the more heart and soul I put into searching for Him, the more I will find Him.

I believe this is true.

That through searching with all my heart and soul I find Hashem more and more. And since I believe this, and have seen it over and over again – how can I waste my time not searching for Him? How can I not be working on summoning up more and more desire from my heart and soul to search and find, search and find?

As we set sail into Elul with Rosh Hashana just around the bend I’m thinking of these past few weekly Torah portions. It’s crystal clear that the Source wants us to embody and live His commandments so that He can bless us in full measure.

And when we stray – like electric fences guarding the perimeter of the Garden of Eden, He blesses us with “curses” to wake us up, shake us free from unconsciousness and steer us back to serving Him with joy only so that we can receive more and more of His blessings. Our greatest joy.

The Torah and the holy nation are one. And the Torah lays out the blueprint for our lives.

We are to refine ourselves through the wisdom of the Torah – to purify ourselves so that we can be most fit to receive the highest levels of joy intended for us – because the Source created this world to give us the highest levels of joy – and we were created with a huge capacity to attract and house those high levels of joy intended for us.

The Torah is wisdom. The interpretations of the Torah by the prophets and sages have distilled the deeper meaning contained within the Torah into digestible vapors of wisdom for us. As we delve deeper into the Torah and grow in its ways we develop higher perceptions of its holy words and the Source’s intention – all so that we can practice in deeper ways, purifying our vessels to receive deeper and deeper levels of joy from the Source.

He said He won’t abandon us in Va’eschanan. That means that He will never abandon us.

And He told us how to find Him. By searching with all our heart and all our soul.

It’s time to start searching with all of my heart and all of my soul.

אני לדודי ודודי לי (I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine)

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Shabbat Shalom & Chodesh Tov.

Blessings,

Etan

All My Heart and All My Soul

The Atheist’s Out

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3/20/2015

The Atheist’s Out

You don’t have to believe in “God” or the “Source” or any of this – but I think that all of us, as we move along through life start to comprehend cause and effect.

Even on the most basic level – we put our hand on a flame and get burned so we learn to not put our hand in fire to avoid pain – or if we help another person and we feel great, we become more inclined to help again – to satisfy our base or intellectual desire to experience a euphoric rush of endorphins in our cranium. tms_eeg Tight rope walkers need to do more than walk straight. They need to believe they can make it across. An eruption of doubt midstream can cost them their lives. Faith is similar. Faith activates an internal steadiness through our journey. And when it becomes shaky, we are subject to a collapse in our foundation.

The more we fortify our faith the steadier we traverse through our experiences. Once we see how faith works and we practice it for some time, the physical manifestations of it become as real as the energy we get from eating a bowl of Wheaties for breakfast. The physical cause and effect becomes established and apparent.

We leave behind our past levels of “blind faith” as we concretize our new found understanding of how faith evolves to a very real reality – very much like getting a good night sleep gives a child energy, and eating a healthy diet with exercise helps us feel better. It moves from faith into plain old understanding.

And “faith” becomes our passage to the next level up – we take the “blind” out of “blind faith” and realize the only thing blinding about faith is the closed eyes of those who lack it and the blinding illumination of those who are blessed with it. In fact, faith opens the eyes of the “blind”. Faith contributes to healing – faith contributes to joy – faith brings meaning.

Even starting off on a pure psychological level without the whole spirituality thing, and keeping things simple to accommodate the access point of those lurking amongst the masses, it’s a winning way to live with a life of faith. Do you have faith that you will receive your next fresh breath of air? Why? Because you received millions of prior breaths? Because you’re used to it, or the 9% of your brain that scientists say you can use “understands” it?

Faith is the key to unlock the deeper storyline of our lives. Faith is the bridge from here to the higher levels of understanding – and when we get to those higher levels, its faith again that’s the bridge to take us higher.

It’s the passage to higher perception – and when we exercise it we see physical results – so to those with faith, they really don’t look at it as “faith” like they did before they had faith. It evolves to more of a knowing or confidence – and the concept of faith ascends to lead us to the next level of understanding.

That’s why people blessed with faith just can’t seem to stop talking about it – and thank God for that altruistic, yet hedonistic mentality – as faith unlocks a higher level of pleasure to those who indulge in it.

I can understand why people think of faith as a strategy for people who can’t think for themselves. “The fool believes everything,” King Solomon writes, “the wise man understands.” Emunah (the faith I’m taking about), however, is an innate conviction, a perception of truth that transcends, rather than evades, reason. Quite the contrary – wisdom, understanding and knowledge can further enhance true emunah.

Shabbat Shalom & Chodesh Tov, New-Year-New-Moon

Blessings, Etan

The Atheist’s Out

The simple steps of The Seeker of Life

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3/3/2015

The simple steps of The Seeker of Life

Rebbe Nachman’s main desire and goal was to have us perform actual physical actions of holiness without any sophistication.

“It takes great wisdom and a lot of effort for a person to completely throw away his mind and serve Hashem like an animal” (Sichos Haran)

At moments when we feel electrified with blessings, the wind at our back – and the Divine sparks within our experiences are set aglow with sweet expansive light – just then must we remember, that the way to remain supercharged through connection with the Creator, is through total humility – serving Him in complete and simple faith.

As humans, it is our obligation to utilize and maximize our highest faculties which set us apart from the animal kingdom.

Yet, intetestingy, we learn and see that the most evolved, highest form of connection and service of the Source – is achieved through simplicity – serving the Source like a simple animal – expressing through our higher reasoning, and mastery of choice and will, to adhere to a hierarchy of Divine spiritual energy – at the pinnacle of which rests the throne of the King Himself – and we are his sheep.

It is taught that the concept of “throne” implies the Source “involving” Himslef in the physical world – in our lives – and when the Source is “sitting” on His Throne, His “presence” is “lowered” and right here with us – personally shepherding and custom crafting our journey.

One blessed with open eyes will see this clearly every moment. One setting off on the journey to higher clarity will see this in increasing flickering signals. One detached from the realm of holiness and Divine will, heaven forbid, walks in the dark – surrounded with walls of iron.

There are sheep that are zoned out in identification with the material world – sheep en-route to their slaughter – as the physical experience ends just around the bend – and there are sheep who set their footsteps toward the shepherds of wisdom – the sages – united, dancing in the synchronized sacred herd of serving the Almighty.

Israel Meir (HaKohen) Kagan (1839-1933) AKA The Chofetz Chaim (Seeker/Desirer of Life) was one of the most influential sages during the late 19th and early 20th century. He wrote powerful works on gossip and slander – on the importance of guarding the tongue, and the power of speech – on the value of being kind to one another, and various ways to do so – and on the great importance of yearning for redemption.

The Chofetz Chaim’s expectation of the immediate redemption was so strong that he would always carry special garments to change into once the redemption begins. In modern day hip-hop cultural terms, that’s “gangster”.

Recently, what is being claimed as “the only video existing of the Chofetz Chaim” has surfaced – and is available, for your convenience, in a link listed below.

To me, those foot steps of the great sage, The Chofetz Chaim, in Vienna, 1923 – showcase the depth of humility, wisdom, sanctity and awe of a giant shephard.

Serving the Source with total simplicity, awe and humility is a perquisite to rising to the heights of spiritual wisdom.

Simple faith, means day after day chipping away at our exterior to reveal our inner essence. Simple faith means walking with the knowledge of where we came from, where we are going, what our role is, and who is running the show.

Walking in humility – with gratitude – unlocking the most enjoyable and sustainable levels of spiritual and physical joy possible.

As we set sail into the holiday of Purim, which commemorates Divine deliverance from plots which seek to destroy us – let us balance this great joy with the intense gratitude to our Creator and Sustainer for having our back during tough times until today. Let us rise early, in simplicity and joy, and intense presense – with wide open eyes, as we exchange reciprocal gifts of food and drink – disperse charity to those in need – celebrate with festive meals – unite to recount the storyline of deliverance – mask our identities in costumes – and consume what we fancy in public celebration.

Ah frielichen Purim! (I wish you a joyful Purim)

Blessings,

Etan

The simple steps of The Seeker of Life

From the depths I call out

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2/6/2015

From the depths I call out

Here I am on the floor at Newark Airport JetBlue gate 17A – waiting to board a flight to Florida.

The back pain has gotten more intense. Today it’s been non-stop, peaking while checking in bags after a 30 min car ride of torturous lower back compression. I’m at a steady 9.9 on the pain scale.

Pain has a way of testing your faith. After its annihilated your patience and inner peace it’s next opponent is you – to break you from faith. To show you the beautiful view of doubt from the edge of the cliff.

Even after we see the sea split for us, we are destined to experience test after test of our faith. And each time the test feels special. “Maybe this is the one that requires surgery?”, “maybe the Dr. Sarno wisdom is very helpful but not for everyone in every situation?”, are the thoughts rummaging through my certainty. I feel like I’m just waiting for a sudden burst of enlightenment and joy to overcome me – to be back to normal having made it through this test. My kids look at me keeled over, out of the corners of their eyes, offering to help carry things, worried about me.

So here I am on the ground writing this post.

My phone just rang…

Guess who just called me right at this moment? Yup, Rav Dror Moshe Ben Emanuelah Cassouto – the lion of Emunah – my soul brother in Jerusalem – my light in this moment of darkness. And here’s what he told me:

The fact that you are in this condition is a sign that your prayers have already been answered. You are talking about connecting completely to the Source and elevating your physicality – and this is your opportunity – your invitation.

King David reached his level calling out from the depths – the lowest places – like the floor you are laying on now. We need to separate inside what we are going through physically and who we are spiritually – and focus on our spiritual being – who we really are. And when we fully perceive from the perspective of who we really are, we will be able to accomplish what we need to accomplish here, un-distracted and unaffected by the physical challenges.

Then he said to just smile and enjoy the ride.

Faith is all you can really hold onto when the whirlwinds come. When the shock to your identity hits and reality resets – what’s most important to you flashes bright as vulnerability overtakes you.

A wise sage recently told me that since I started writing these posts, and sharing wisdom with others – I’ve become a ״guinea pig״ – given the opportunity to practice what I’ve been preaching and to share my process with others. When you share what you believe in, and you’re put to the test – it kinda forces you to exercise your faith. That’s what gives you the power to go further, to merit coming closer to the Source and to have higher levels of wisdom to offer.

Well, with help from the Source, I hope to soon be sharing stories of recovery – but in the meantime, thanks to all of you who have reached out and shared your love and concern – I’m gonna keep digging deeper to uncover the subconscious sources of tension behind this pain – but in the meantime, I’ll take my brother’s advice and just smile and enjoy the ride.

May this Shabbat bring increased faith to all those who are in constriction – strength to those who are battling with challenge to dig deep and remember the ultimate purpose – where we are going – who we are. Eternal souls.

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Blessed and grateful,

Etan

From the depths I call out

Rosh Chodesh – Ladies Night Out

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1/23/2015

Rosh Chodesh – ladies night out

Rosh Chodesh is the name for the first day of every month in the Hebrew calendar, marked by the birth of a new moon.

Fresh out of a few hundred years of crushing slavery, the first commandment the nation of Israel was given as a people is the mitzvah of celebrating Rosh Chodesh, the New Month.

As a free people for the first time in ages, there was at last, a good reason for us to be aware of the time – to be in tune with life cycles – to hone into our relationship with the Source who lifted us out from constriction and delivered us to expanded awareness. The moon represents the nation of Israel whose job it is to reflect the Creators’ light into the world. Having just left slavery, we are free at last to serve the Creator – free to fulfill our purpose in creation – free to manifest the purpose of creation. It was finally “our time”, not the time of our task masters.

A new moon – a new energy – a new opportunity to re establish our relationship with the Source of all – and to draw in new mazel (drip from above).

It is wise to seize the opportunity to draw in the new energy and blessings which originate from this magical day of the month – a day which has its own set of laws and traditions sprinkled throughout.

One thing about Rosh Chodesh is that it’s all about the WOMEN – Feminine spiritual witchcraft is brewing at this time, so get wise or watch out.

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According to kabbalistic teachings, women share a special relationship with the moon, and as such they have special reason to celebrate Rosh Chodesh, the new moon.

Some women abstain from work on Rosh Chodesh, absorbing the energy of the day as their exclusive holiday. Whichever way a woman chooses to connect to the incredible power of Rosh Chodesh – there’s a whole lot to connect with – and she should feel supported and be encouraged to separate from all the minutiae of life and bask in its restorative glow.

The special connection between women and Rosh Chodesh goes back to the episode of the golden calf, when the women declined to participate in the collection efforts by refusing to surrender their jewelry for use in making the idol. As a reward, they were given Rosh Chodesh as a day which they can draw special blessing from.

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The Lubavitch Rebbe elaborates on this a bit and explains that the women’s non participation stemmed from their greater faith. Though they had just spent more than two centuries in idolatry steeped Egypt, a fact that explains why the men caved so quickly at a hint of trouble – the women’s faith remained unshakable, and they considered the idea of making an idol totally unthinkable.

The Rebbe further explains that Judaism is based on this strong faith, which at times can become “fuzzy “– it’s the women who remain steadfast in the faith and pass it on to their children – the future generations.

This explains their special connection to Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Chodesh celebrates the monthly renewal of the moon – after it wanes to the point of disappearance. Rosh Chodesh celebrates the concept of perpetuity through life’s peaks and valleys – and it’s the woman who, through her steadfast faith, ensures our nations survival – it is she who ensures that no matter how much we wean we will always be renewed.

When things seemed dark and hopeless, the women knew that light was just around the corner.

Like the moon becoming bigger and brighter only after it vanishes completely into darkness, the women knew that brighter times were on the way. They were willing to believe in the power of renewal and trust the Source no matter how difficult things seemed.

Rosh Chodesh teaches us that everything can and does change. It’s when a situation hits its bleakest point that the light appears again.

Shine on.

Etan

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Rosh Chodesh – Ladies Night Out