Showing posts with label Spirituality. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spirituality. Show all posts

September 12, 2019

What’s Your Fantasy Synagogue

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "What's Your Fantasy Synagogue."
We all go to synagogues that we like in some ways and don’t like in others, but have you ever thought about what your fantasy synagogue would be like if you could make one?Last Shabbat, we were invited for lunch by some wonderful friends who had been sports writers, and the topic of fantasy football came up, where people compete for coming up with the best team by picking their own players and forming their ideal team. I said, half jokingly, wouldn’t it be great if we could do the same thing with synagogues and pick the best aspects of each and make an ideal house of worship for ourselves where we could pray, learn, grow, and experience holiness and community. 
In the article, I detail "the best of the best" when it comes to synagogues and the ultimate ideal synagogue is of course, in the coming of the Mashiach and the rebuilding of the Temple. 

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 
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March 2, 2019

Jerusalem Center of The World

I love this map by Heinrich Bunting, a German Protestant pastor and cartographer. 

This beautiful artist and thoughtful map was published in 1581.

It shows the 3 continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa as 3 leaves of a clovers with Jerusalem at the center. 

Jerusalem, Israel is the focus, nexus and crossroad between these 3 worlds of Western, Asian, and African civilizations. 

Israel is so multi-cultural and holy to the 3 major monotheistic religions of the world (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism).  

Light, healing, peace, and prosperity should emanate from Jerusalem to the whole world and G-d should bless us from his heavenly abode.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Wikipedia)
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September 15, 2018

Reflections B4 Yom Kippur


Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Reflections Before Yom Kippur."

"I get up in the middle of the night, and I’m still 3/4 asleep. My mouth feels dry, and I walk over to the mouthwash to refresh. I reach for the bottle, but I grab the image in the mirror..."

Hope you enjoy this true story and the parable for living our spiritual lives and not just reach for the ego image in the mirror.

May you be sealed for another year in the book of life. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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July 23, 2018

Tisha B'Av @Kotel - Ushering In The Redemption


Last night, as Tisha B'Av (the commemoration of the destruction of the first and second Holy Temples in Jerusalem) was nearing conclusion, we watched these beautiful videos of:

1) The singing of Ani Ma'Amin at the Kotel yesterday in 2018. 
2) An amazing NCSY kumzitz, including at the beginning, the singing of Kol Berama Nishma/Rachel Mivakah at the Kotel a few years ago in 2015.

"A voice is heard in the Heavens, lamentati​on, and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children;​ she refuseth to be comforted​ for her children,​ because they are not. Thus saith the Lord: Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears; for thy work shall be rewarded,​ saith the LORD; and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. And there is hope for thy future, saith the Lord; and thy children shall return to their own border. "

Both are so beautiful, and we imagined G-d looking down from the Heavens and being moved to rebuild the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and bring his amazing presence closer to us once again on Earth. 

Oh let it be!  ;-)
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July 2, 2018

How Do I Choose?

So I thought this was an interesting topic for the sermon on Shabbat by Ben Shemony. 

It was about how we are confronted in life with whether to follow our impulses or our values. 

I think there is a lot to this topic...

Some may see it as the little good angel standing over one shoulder and another bad angel standing over the other trying to convince us what to do when it's decision time.  

Others may be perpetually torn between temptations or pleasures of materialism and the flesh versus of pursuing what you know to be spiritually good and right in this world. 

Either way, as human beings, we are a complex make-up of both body and soul.

Do we give in to temptation and do what feels good--more money, more food, more clothes and jewelry, more houses, cars, and yachts, more vacations, more carnal pleasures from the proverbial "wine, women, and song" or do we pursue the path of spirituality, serving our maker, caring and giving and doing good for others and the world?  

It sounds simple, but our impulses tell us one thing and our values tell us another. 

Are we being selfish or selfless?

Perhaps, too much of anything is bad for us--even too much giving and selflessness--we need to care for ourselves too--we are mortal, we have needs, we have to nourish ourselves, and we need to live. 

But you can't be a glutton or a slave to your impulses--you can't take and not give, your can't indulge until you make yourself sick, or take at the expense of and harm to others.

Like all things in life, there is a need for balance.

Certainly our spirit should guide our animal. 

If and when our animal is dictating to our spirit then we are in real trouble. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 15, 2018

Making A Real Difference

I saw this sign posted at an organization's office. 

I thought it was a nice way to motivate people working there. 
"What people are saying:
You are making a difference."

Later in the sign, it says:
"The work you do is important."
Isn't this really what is critical to people--that what they do is important. 

Yes, we need to earn a living and pay our bills. 

And sure, we'd like something left over to save for a rainy day. 

But our lives are more than materialism. 

We are spiritual beings inside. 

At the pinnacle, we need to know that our lives mean something!

- That we are touching people's lives. 

- That we will be remembered for the good we did. 

- That our good deeds and words will live on. 

- That our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren (etc.) will carry the lessons and message forward. 

- That we've contributed in some meaningful way to the fight of good over evil in this world and the next. 

- That we've shown proper respect and worship to our L-rd/Maker/Sustainer. 

When we make a difference, it's about so much more than what money can buy. 

It's about our soul, our contribution, and even destiny.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 29, 2018

The 3 P's Do NOT Matter

So I heard Joel Osteen give a great speech. 

He said that it's not any of these things that make a person worthwhile:

1. Possessions
2. Performance
3. Popularity

But rather, it is a person's inner self and soul that determine their value. 

Each person is a son or daughter of G-d.

I agree that our personal worth is a matter of how we act as human beings in choosing right over wrong and good over evil; and it is not based on how much we have, how successful we have become, or how much we are liked. 

In the end, a person must return to their maker alone to answer for their actions.  

You can't take anything with you.

Materialism and vanity all fade away and only your spiritual inner self will pass over and live on.  

So how will you spend your time and attention--chasing vanity of vanities or doing good in all your words and deeds? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 27, 2018

The Most Precious and Beautiful Song

Sing the most precious and beautiful song to the King of Kings.

Sing from the Earth.

Sing throughout all the Heavens.

Sing from the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars.

Sing with all your heart and soul to the Almighty G-d.


Sing the most precious and beautiful song to the King of Kings.

Sing from the People.

Sing throughout all the Angelic Host.

Sing from the Animals, the Fish, and the Fowl.

Sing with all your heart and soul to the Almighty G-d.


Sing the most precious and beautiful song to the King of Kings.

Sing from the Begining of Time.

Sing throughout the End of Time.

Sing in the Morning, the Noon, and the Night.

Sing with all your heart and soul to the Almighty G-d.



Sing the most precious and beautiful song to the King of Kings.

Sing from the Mountains.

Sing throughout the rolling Valleys.

Sing in the Forests, the Cities, and the Seas.

Sing with all your heart and soul to the Almighty G-d.


Sing the most precious and beautiful song to the King of Kings.

Sing from every Tree.

Sing throughout the sprawling blades of grass.

Sing from every drop of dew, pouring of rain, and howling of wind.

Sing with all your heart and soul to the Almighty G-d.


Sing the most precious and beautiful song to the King of Kings.

Sing from each Word.

Sing throughout all your Deeds.

Sing in the Thinking, the Doing, and the Speaking.

Sing with all your heart and soul to the Almighty G-d.


Sing the most precious and beautiful song to the King of Kings.

Sing from every beating Heartbeat.

Sing throughout all your Breaths.

Sing in your Comings, your Goings, and Wherever you are.

Sing with all your heart and soul to the Almighty G-d.


Sing the most precious and beautiful song to the King of Kings.

Sing with your Material wealth.

Sing throughout all your Spiritual awakenings.

Sing during your Journey, at your Milestones, and when you arrive at your Destination.

Sing with all your heart and soul to the Almighty G-d.


Sing the most precious and beautiful song to the King of Kings.

Sing from your successes.

Sing throughout all your failures.

Sing during your tryings, your learnings, and your growing.

Sing with all your heart and soul to the Almighty G-d.

(Note 1: Incredibly, this is my first song and it came to me early on the Shabbat where we read the portion of the Torah when G-d miraculously led the Israelites through the split sea and they sang the "Shirah" (song) of thanksgiving to G-d for saving and redeeming them from slavery to freedom, and I didn't even know it was this Shabbat!)

(Note 2: I would love if someone can put this to music and make this into an amazing song to G-d.)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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January 14, 2018

Beyond Money

Okay, I don't impress easily, but I got to tell you somebody really did.

Tring to keep their confidentiality, let me just say this...

A couple returned some money to us, but they went truly above and beyond. 

They returned some money that technically they were entitled to, and I never would've imagined that they should give it back to us. 

When I saw the check and what they did, I really couldn't stop myself saying how amazing this couple is. 

They are a religious Jewish couple, and I just feel that what they did was such a "Kiddush Hashem" (their behavior is a sanctification of G-d's name in the world). 

Some people pretend to be religious on the outside, but inside their behaviors don't reflect it. 

In this case, the people were generally religious not just on the outside, but on the inside as well.

Their doing righteous literally was uplifting for my soul to see that there really are such incredible people in this world. 

Yes, some people are bad--do bad--and we can get not only disappointed but depressed that they seem to thrive anyway. 

So to see the good in people--extra good--it renews my hope in mankind and in G-d Above who shows us the way and can inspire us to behave morally and ethically amazingly.  ;-)

(Source photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 8, 2018

Yearning For Redemption


Just an impression from my recent trip to Israel. 

There is such a yearning for people to do good and to merit the coming of Mashiach (Messiah) towards the ultimate redemption for mankind. 

It's on every street corner and light post.  

Whether it's eyes gazed on the righteousness of Rabbi Nachman or The Rebbe--as we used to sing as kids in NCSY:
"We want Mashiach now!"

Whether Mashiach is an actual person or a spiritual revelation in the world leading to redemption--it represents an unprecedented enlightenment, holiness and a spiritual healing, and love and peace for mankind. 

While we strive to earn our daily bread, it's nice to have a part of us that also seeks a greater good and achieving betterment for the world. 

Any small or big things we can do in our lives to contribute to Tikkun Olam ("fixing the world"), it's purposeful, hopeful, and uplifting to try. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 6, 2018

The Traveling Chassidim


We went to Havdalah with the Traveling Chassidim at Aish HaTorah in Rockville. 

It was so wonderful and spiritually uplifting. 

At around mark 11:00, I get to wear the shtreimel hat and I get to drop the shtreimel hat (that was funny)!

These Chassidim from Monsey and Brooklyn were so wonderful. 

They leave their communities and homes to come out for Shabbat to other Jewish communities around the country and do beautiful outreach. 

So giving, loving, and caring with their whole families. 

The music, song, and joy they bring are beyond words. 

The Traveling Chassidim are wonderful and they make a terrific Havdalah at the end of the Shabbat. ;-)


(Source Video: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 26, 2017

@The Great Kotel in Jerusalem


So we made it to the Kotel in Jerusalem yesterday.

What an amazing experience.

It's been too many years.

Definitely, one of the top moments of my life.

As we entered the old city and walked through the narrow ways toward the Western Wall of the Temple, my heart and breathing was racing and I could feel the spiritualness getting closer and closer. 

When we finally arrived at the Holy Wall, I was just completely overwhelmed and saying over and over, OMG!

We took some photos, and then immediately when to pray at the wall. 

I think I got lost in prayer and didn't realize how long I had been standing and clutching the Holy Wall of G-d's ancient Temple. 

I truly believe that our prayers ascend to Heaven at this special spot of G-d's earthly abode. 

I wanted to fall to my knees, but stopped myself repeatedly as this is not generally the Jewish custom. 

But in my mind, my body, and soul was prostrated completely before G-d Almighty.

I put myself in His hands.

We can only do our best, and the rest is all in His control.

We can try to make the best decisions we can, but the real guidance in life comes from Him and His will for us. 

We learned in Yeshiva, not to ask in prayer for specific things in life to happen for us, but rather to ask G-d to do what is right in His eternal mind for us. 

This is right...submit to the King of Kings and let Him show us the way for us.

What are the right words to say to G-d?

At the end, thank you and please continue to help us, your children. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 17, 2017

What Is Wisdom?

Some thoughts today on what is wisdom:

- Knowing you know nothing--and you can prove it (ah, humility)!

- Knowing when to ask--like the infamous directions when you're lost or how to use the latest new technology.

- Learning from all others (everyone has something they can teach us).

- Wisdom = Knowledge + Experience (you've gotten an inkling about some truth out there, and you've had a chance to test it out). 

- Seeing that people's outer bodies are just the superficial, material cover for their inner souls. 

- Realizing that doing for others is so much more rewarding than doing for ourselves. 

- Following the great truths of morality and responsibility.

- Keen awareness that we are not alone in the universe--G-d is everywhere.

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 3, 2017

DC Lights It Up - Just Physical or More








Wanted to share these beautiful lights from around Washington, D.C. 

They are all sort of magnificent!

But even while I am marveling at them, my mind is tearing another way...

I am thinking, there is physical light, yet in so many ways the world seems dark. 

We have lots technological progress to be proud of, and yet there are big problems all over the horizon.

- Nuclear and missile proliferation, and rising cyber threats.

- Rising global terrorism and potential for military conflicts

- Spiraling national debt and the trust funds for social entitlements running out

- Rising discrimination and associated hate crimes

- Family strains and the decline of marriage

- Challenges in confidence with organized religion 

- World leadership at a crossroads. 

We need light--but not just the physical type. 

Transparency, enlightenment to solve big problems and a spiritual awakening to ensure good wins out over evil are all on order. ;-)

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 26, 2017

Faces of The Metro and The Times





Do these people look happy and fulfilled or are they looking more vacant, exhausted, and miserable to you?

Is it the Metro? 
Is it Washington, D.C.? 
Is it their work? 
Is it family issues? 
Is it the economy?
Is it health problems?

For a superpower country with supposed incredible wealth, might, and freedom to enjoy it all--what the heck is going on.

Should we blame the politics and fighting? 
Should we blame the fake news optics?
Should we blame our gnawing adversaries (Axis of Evil Russia, Iran, North Korea...)?
Should we blame materialism and consumerism (and a corresponding lack of spirituality and values in our lives)? 

We have the greatest advances in history--revolutionizing energy, transportation, healthcare, communications, and more--so much to advance our well-being, to savor, and seemingly endless more to come. 

Why aren't people smiling?
Why aren't people jumping for joy more? 
Why aren't people even awake with eyes open to enjoy the life's journey?

There should be great hope in the future--with fruitful life there is hope and with hope there is excitement and joy--but without hope all is meaningless and lost.  

What is going on out there--psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, clergy?

We are trying to do everything right.

So where are we going wrong-wrong-wrong? ;-)

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 12, 2017

The Knowable and Unknowable

So as we all do, I often come across challenging and perplexing issues or problems in life. 

And my nature is to try to understand them, solve them, fix them--is it survival or the challenge or both?

But then we come across some things that are just beyond our [mere mortal] understanding or ability to simply fix them. 

I remember as a youngster learning in Yeshiva about when it says in the Bible that G-d hardened Pharaoh's heart so that he continued to refuse to let the Jews go from their enslavement in Egypt.

And the classic mind-bending question is how could G-d harden his heart if Pharaoh retained free will which we all have to choose good or evil.

Did G-d harden his heart or did he have free will--which is it?  And if G-d hardened his heart, then how could Pharaoh and the Egyptians be punished for something they didn't fully control? 

One explanation is that by facing the punishing plagues, Pharoah was losing his free will to decide what to do with the Israelites, so by hardening his heart, G-d was actually restoring his free will to choose once again...interesting. 

Of course in life, there is also the philosophical dimensions of so many seeming contradictions such as the cliche about what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.

Which wins out if one is unstoppable and the other is unmovable?

No, I don't think these are just riddles, but the testing of the abilities of our human minds to understand further and further into the mysteries of G-d, creation, and the universe. 

So what do we do in life when confronted by things that are seemingly or really beyond our human capacities? 

- We ponder these weighty matters and sometimes we get frustrated and rip our little-left hair out or laugh at ourselves as to why we can't just get it.

- We look to understand the deeper spiritual meanings of these challenges in the context of our earthly lives. 

- We try to solve and fix what we can within the confines of our spaghetti brain matter and flesh and bone bodies. 

- At the end of the day, we acknowledge our human limitations, and look to the Heavens for answers or at least for Divine guidance and protection along the way.

While we cannot understand everything or always reach our destination that we set for ourselves that should never prevent us from trying our hardest and going as far as we can on our journeys--and letting the next person, and the next person pick up the torch and carry it forward. 

In the Jewish prayers, we say that the matters of the earth are for our exploration and striving, but the ultimate secrets of the Heaven are for G-d alone. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 7, 2017

How Much Can You Love Something?


Notice that the title of this blog is not how much can you love G-d or someone...

Those can be virtually infinite. 

I remember my dad was so devoted to G-d and his family. 

He used to say:

"I would go through fire for my family [and of course G-d]."

And we all knew from his daily actions that he meant it! 

But how about for things--how much do some people love their things?

I read today in the Wall Street Journal how David Rockefeller's estate of paintings, porcelain, and silver was slated to sell for $700 million!

That's a lot of prized possessions of [lovely] material things!

But even things that aren't so pricey are incredibly beloved to many people. 

In these photos, someone who must really love bowling has adorned their home and property with dozens of bowling bowls. 


Literally on the fence and in big piles as decoration in the yard all around the home. 

True, it's colorful, novel, and sort of interesting, but really you love bowling that much!

Yes, we are want to be comfortable with our special things especially when they provide good memories and sentimental feelings.

But whether a bowling bowl house or a Rockefeller estate, it's only truly worth something if there is G-d and loving people in it with you. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 21, 2017

Breaking The Bounds Of This World Thinking


Coming from the Metro, someone stopped me and gave me this card for meditation, and I thought it was really insightful. 

"Changing the human mind to infinite universe mind"

Our minds are constrained by our mortality, materialism, and physical limitations of space and time. 

But if we free ourselves even momentarily from these, we can enter into a sort of limitless universal mindset.

"Human is incomplete because human are living inside human mind world which is one's lived life and thoughts."

We are beset by a near endless barrage of life's fears and worries--like that we can't fully perceive the metaphysical and spiritual world that is the real and meaningful one for us. 

"One can live forever and [when] he has escaped pain, burden, stress, and the countless kinds of agonies; his old self has disappeared and so it is great freedom."
Through mindfulness, centered and balanced thinking, we can go above the "false world" and enter the "true world."

Doesn't this ring fundamental and true?

What an amazing approach to thinking that we can use elevate ourselves above what we live and see every day. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal via Rockville Meditation)
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March 7, 2017

Is Man An Angel Or Beast?

So is man an angel or a beast?

On one hand, we see small and great acts of love, kindness and generosity. 

People feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, donating clothes to the poverty-stricken, and standing up to defend those that are abused, discriminated against, and victimized.

Every day is an opportunity to be a gracious, heavenly angel!

At the same time, we are witness to horrible acts of hate, cruelty and inhumanity.

The strong preying off and committing gross acts of violence against the weak, the rich elitists taking from the poor lower-class, the powerful violating the human rights of the masses and ruling with a brutal iron fist. 

Every day is the possibility to act the vicious, lowly beast!

It's a choice as we stand here teetering on the world we are injected into. 

The angel and the beast fight within us. 

Our souls yearn to emulate the spirit of our Holy Creator, while our bodies look for raw physical and material satisfaction. 

It is truly a battle that rages within us, and can tear any or all of us apart. 

Yet, our mission is for good to overcome evil--in everyday small and large ways.  

To fight the urges that torment us and to rise, rise, with the wings of an angel to reach our potential and fulfill our destiny. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 
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January 5, 2017

Undergoing A Spiritual Awakening


My wife sent me this beautiful photo about spiritual awakenings. 

She found it on a new age blog, but I really thought it was great. 

As I contemplated this, I felt like I was reaching some truths.

Because when we are released from the constraints of the purely physical and material world, we can elevate ourselves to an expanded realm of both perception and inner peace.

So here is what the essence of a spiritual awakening is to me:


Hope you like this and I would welcome others' thoughts on this.

Happy and peaceful new year to all.

Andy

(Source Graphic on Spiritual Awakening: Andy Blumenthal)

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