|Posted on March 29, 2021 at 3:20 PM|
This Passover was for me a game-changer. I have led many seders in my life and this was the first one I did all by myself. And it was FANTASTIC!
Previously I had led groups of people, including my family. And I've always felt rushed and that I need to make it interesting and along with all of that, I was the one to make the meal and set the table, etc., etc. It all fell on my shoulders. Stressful. But since my husband died 8 months ago, I've not been able to push myself into anything with the slightest bit of stress. (More on this coming in another aritcle.) But Covid or none, doing a seder all by myself was so nice. I loved it.
I went through a Passover Haggadah that I've always wanted to use but only had one copy of. It's got these wonderfully realistic pictures. Gadi Pollack, an Israeli Illustrator who's published 45 books, is the artist. All of the illlustrations are "based entirely on the teachings of our Sages." It's "unusually graphic" because it comes from the premise that the story of the Exodus REALLY happened. As an example of something just awful that is said to have happened is that the Pharoah had a skin disease (tzaraas) and bathed in Jewish children's blood! This is actually depicted in this book! Ugh!
Aside from its graphic nature, this is an absolutely gorgeous Haggadah. It is called "The Katz Passover Haggadah - The Art of Faith and Redemption." amazon.com/Katz-Passover-Haggadah-Redemption-Bilingual/dp/1583306005
In the back of the book there's an article on proofs that the Exodus was a TRUE historical event. First of all, did you know that many things have been discovered archeologically that prove the event really happened? Yes! But of course, and for many Jewish people, these events have always been seen as part of our history, told from parent to child to grandchild for thousands of years. The author of the article in the back of the book is Rabbi Mordechai Neugroschel. It's titled "The Exodus From Egypt: Fact or Myth?" There he sites an interesting papyrus that was written by an Egyptian Poet, Ipuwer, thousands of years ago. There Ipuwer writes about things happening in Egypt that sound very much like the Plagues that are written in the Torah.
Here's an article you can read about this poet: ohr.edu/838 And here are links to the trailer of a movie I saw once called "Patterns of Evidence". It's about archeological finds that seem to prove the existence of an event like the Exodus. patternsofevidence.com The movie was made by non-Jews but my rabbi's father, Manis Friedman, was featured in it.
I think it's very exciting to learn about the evidence of this great event because I love feeling connected to my ancestors. It gives me a sense of pride when I remember that the actual Torah itself (Old Testament) goes back so many thousands of years. Did you know that every time a new parchment of the Torah is written, if there is even a broken letter - let alone, a misspelled word or any mistake at all - the entire book is found unusable? This is amazing to me - that a book like the Torah was preserved like that for thousands of years!
And remember, the experiences of the freedom from slavery in Egypt, along with the revelation at Mt Sinai, were events that the Torah claims thousands of people went through. So unlike any other religion where miracles and revelations were only witnessed by a few. Our Jewish traditions, like observing the Seder on Passover and telling the story of the Exodus are behaviors that have been passed down for thousands of years. It's a complete miracle that Jews who have lived in the furthest corners of the globe all have the same practices even without any interaction with each other and read from the exact same Torah and observe the same traditions with very little differences. That, my friends is truly incredible.
It makes me excited to be Jewish.
If you want to learn more about classes on the Jewish Holidays, Kabbalah, Jewish History and Judaism itself, go to my teachable website: kabbalahwisdom.teachable.com/courses/kabbalah-and-judaism-101 There you will be able to see some F.REE classes, including my Kabbalah Cards Class.
|Posted on February 2, 2020 at 4:00 PM|
I am taking a class from Rav Doniel Katz in his Elevation Project and decided to post here my homework answering a specific question:
What is the purpose of meditation and emotional transformation from the Torah’s perspective?
Torah and especially Kabbalah explained by Hasidut gives a beautiful understanding of the purpose of emotional transformation and the reasons for meditation. And it all surrounds its answers regarding the meaning of life and why we exist as human beings. It answers the very questions that are the most important in living a life well.
Firstly, if we don’t answer these questions, the healing of a human being psychologically, spiritually and socially isn’t going to be complete. The very answers Torah gives to the meaning of life, allows for the greatest possible healing that any person can have. It goes beyond the simple surface levels that the secular mindfulness and power of attraction ideas put forth because the meaning of life has nothing to do with acquiring a better car or relationship or more money.
In fact, allowing a person to answer the most important questions of his life surrounding meaning and purpose from a Torah’s perspective has nothing to do with acquiring anything other than re-building the personality from the inside. It holds that we are responsible for our Inner World. And it affirms that any of the challenges that we find within our Outer World is exactly what we need to recreate ourselves and thereby recreate our external world.
Torah posits that the inner world can be filled with fallen beliefs that are not true. It is these beliefs that get addressed and transformed through a connection to a Higher Truth. As the fallen beliefs and emotions contact Torah, they are uplifted and we create a Higher world down in the lowest of all levels of worlds. This is the plan and purpose of our existence. We are creating a heaven on earth.
The ultimate purpose of our existence is that we are the bridge between the Divine and the earth through the transformation of our consciousness. And the only way to bridge the two is through our own choice to access the Good, Healthy and True. This way, we enable Hashem to gain the pleasure of accomplishing His Original Plan, to give the Ultimate Good which is the experience of His Divinity. But we can only experience that if we choose it for ourselves.
Consciously choosing what we most need to learn from our challenges is the beginning of a connection with the Higher realms. Meditation and prayer help us to access those Higher realms and bring them down into the lower ones thereby transforming ourselves so that we connect more and more to our own Divine Souls and selves. The ultimate outcome in Torah and Hasidic thought is to become supernatural beings in the image of the Divine, living on an earth where the spiritual is seen and experienced everywhere.
As we become more and more like Him, the actions we do in the world are aligned more and more with goodness and truth. Our challenges externally and internally become the very places we open up a channel for Divine Light. They enable us to see the depth of the blocks we have to that Light and enable us to choose differently. Victimhood becomes a way of the past as we access our true potential.
|Posted on October 28, 2018 at 5:05 PM|
I just had to write today in response to the recent tragedy in Pittsburgh. I especially wanted to share with you the Jewish response to any tragedy or darkness and that is to reach for the Light.
My rabbi, Yochanon Friedman, of ChabadbytheSea.com said something that inspired me to send out this email: we need to respond to this tragedy by bringing more kindness and holiness into the world. I have a card that represents this:
You can find my rabbi's beautiful teaching here in his latest video: https://www.facebook.com/ChabadbytheSea
I have had many sorrowful things happen in my life. And with the biggest ones, my battle with breast cancer, my husband's illness, I have had the pull towards responding with more darkness within my own soul and hear my inner child kicking and whining, "I don't want to go down this path!!!" And yet slowly and surely, I find the strength to hold to the Light and focus myself on where I am headed and what good will come out of this. If I didn't believe in G-d and G-d's hand in everything and believing in the promise of Geulah, I would never get through this dark exile called, life.
My plan is to have a new Kabbalah Cards class prepared to teach in S. Cruz by the last night of Chanukah when all the candles are lit - Sunday, December 9th - a day-long class. (hold me to it!) That's one thing I hope to do in response to this tragedy. I feel like my purpose is to help people know the beauty that lies within the holy Jewish Kabbalah traditions and teachings - for all people but especially for Jews, to help them feel pride in their awesome heritage! Here's a fun song about that:
There are around 150 of you on my email list. How did you get here? Several ways:
You signed up for my free online Kabbalah Cards Class at kabbalahwisdom.teachable.com/
You are a relative, friend, classmate, client or previous client
You are a student of mine in S. Cruz or have come to a free class
However you came to my email list, I welcome you and hope that I have helped you in your reach for the Light. And I hope you will spread more kindness and holiness in response to the tragedy. Let's build Geulah and bring it NOW!
If you wish to receive a Jewish calendar, just email me with your address. I will send you one! They have an explanation for all of the holidays inside and beautiful art, along with candle-lighting times for S. Cruz. They also let you know what Torah portion we read that week!
Much Love and Light,
|Posted on September 2, 2018 at 4:35 PM|
I have had the idea to write about this for many weeks now and just wasn't feeling comfortable enough to do so until today. This subject will reveal a lot of my own blocks and insecurities but I have been thinking it would be more interesting for me to get real than to give you some facts about Judaism and Jewish holidays.
Today a new caregiver showed up to give me respite with my husband every Sunday. I am so grateful for that and feel so blessed to have that support. But Visiting Angels usually calls me prior to a new person coming - just to give me their name and ask if a new person would be OK. They hadn't called me this time. So when "Sayyid" showed up with a backwards baseball cap and a long string of beads on a necklace that was mostly hidden by his shirt, I went into a panic. My first thoughts were about there being a conspiracy at Visiting Angels to not tell me that a Muslim man was showing up to my oh so Jewish appearing house with all the mezuzot on every door! No hiding!!!
But If they had told me his name prior to his coming, would I have said no? Of course not! But so goes the Jewish PTSD.
Once I chatted with him briefly, thanking him for doing my dishes, my fears that he was going to hate us subsided.
The first time I ran into anti-Semitism in my life was when my girlfriend/neighbor said that her mom told her she knew my mom was Jewish because she used foul language. To this day I have never told my mom that she said that. And I sort-of believed her or at least began to question my own heritage.
This "friend" revealed this to me when we were younger than 10 but her actions only got worse once we were older. I remember in middle school she tried to convert me and got me scared that my Judaism was a "dead religion" and if I couldn't stand being in silence without listening to music then the Devil had a hold of me. I learned early that "friendly" Xtians only wanted to "help" me not end up in Hell, so trying to convert me was their attempt at being nice.
So I did develop a chip on my shoulder though perhaps you could just call it Jewish PTSD.
I also developed an insecurity about my own religion. Maybe my friend was right. The Judaism I was taught and grew up with surely did lack what I was looking for. Was it "dead"?
Later in high school I found Chabad. At the time I was stunned by this Hasidic sect. I had no idea that Jews in black hats and long beards still existed. Plus, I was astonished that they actually practiced the central Jewish prayer, The Shema, in a way that it was intended, "when sitting in your house, when walking along the road, when lying down, and when rising up..." I was smitten at that moment when I found a LIVE, breathing, Living Judaism in Chabad.
And I have been enamored with Chabad ever since. It has helped me come to know the Judaism that the Holocaust, pogroms, forced conversions, and suicide bombings has never been able to silence. It's a Judaism that is vibrant, enjoyable, deep, mystical and radiant. It has introduced me to an incredibly prolific 3,000 years of writings to study, learn, ponder and feel pride in. It has answered the most basic and profound spiritual questions my limited mind can come up with. It has helped me to deal with my life and my challenges. It has given me something that I want to teach others. It has given me my purpose to help other Jews know how great their heritage is and how they too can apply it to their lives.
It has given me my passion: Kabbalah. My favorite class right now is Rav Doniel Katz's The ElevationProject.com
These days I am still connected to Chabad and feel so lucky to get to participate in High Holiday Services at the famous Dream Inn with it's fabulous view! It will be magical.
One time I told a friend that I thought Judaism was the best religion of all that I have studied. She made me feel like I shouldn't say something like that. That instead I should be more open to validating others' religions and spirituality. But I wondered, if someone who was of a different religion told her that they thought theirs was the best, would she have had a problem with that? Or was that just my Jewish PTSD danger signal going off again?
But honestly, in my humble opinion, it IS the BEST! And I only want to learn from the originators of the Bible and know the deepest translations in it's original Hebrew language from the people who know the download direct from Moses!!! Like this one:
Truly, I have my guard up still and have spent my time immersing in and feeling pride in my own backyard. And there is nothing wrong with this. And through the years, as I have felt more confident in the beauty and depth of my own traditions, I have had my Jewish PTSD shrink a bit and have been able to resist all of the other attempts at conversion that have come my way without a huge guard up. And as my own insecurity in my background dissipates, I am more open to others holding their own beliefs.
Happy Jewish New Year!
|Posted on July 27, 2018 at 8:40 PM|
Today I pulled my Teshuvah card for the day and wrote in my journal that I am returning to believing I am surrounded by love and worthy of support. It seems appropriate to the challenges I am going through in my life of being a caregiver for my husband.
It also seems appropriate for today, the blood moon, eclipse and Jewish day of love.
I'll bet you didn't know that today is a Jewish holiday. Yes! and it's a day that celebrates LOVE!
In the Talmud it says that this day, the 15th of the month of Av (called, Tu B'Av), is a day that was celebrated with dancing maidens all dressed in white. It was a day for finding your "Bashert", your soul mate. During times when the Temple still stood, men would go out into the field to find their bashert on this day. And it was celebrated as a day that was even more important than Yom Kippur!
The Talmudic story does tell us about an actual event but it also uses the metaphor of dancing maidens to explain the differences between the souls of human beings. When it comes to the ability to love Gd, Hashem, there are 3 differences. And so I think it explains what it means to love, be loved and experience love.
1. There's the person who is full of love naturally. This kind of soul is just made that way. If you have this kind of soul, you are so lucky.
2. There's the person who can create love even if it doesn't come naturally. This is the kind of soul who is able to generate loving feelings through thought and action.
3. Last, is the person who doesn't know how to create a feeling of love and can't receive the love that's given and doesn't know love even when it's right there. This is the kind of person who the Talmud says needs to be bedecked with jewels from Hashem. This person can learn to feel love and beloved.
Read this article if you want to know where I got this stuff: chabadbythesea.com...
So I bless you all with the ability to feel love when it's given to you, generate love if you're just not feeling it, and feel the kind of love that wells up naturally from the depths of your soul.
|Posted on June 8, 2018 at 6:25 PM|
You might be surprised but as a therapist, I work with mostly non-Jews. I live in Santa Cruz, California and most of California except for pockets in the Los Angeles area is predominately Christian. In fact, growing up, I was the only Jew in most of my classes. One time in elementary school I forgot to bring in a hard-boiled egg to dye for Easter and was punished by the teacher. So you might say, I have been quite acclimated to living in a Christian society.
As a Jew growing up in what's called a "Judaeo-Christian" society, you also get bombarded with the ideas prevalent within the Christian dogma, like punishment, hellfire and damnation, and along with that: fear of the Devil. Many of my clients report rejecting the Christianity of their youth because it made them feel so badly about themselves and in so much fear. But no matter what religious upbringing you have, seems there's no escape from the idea of a punishing G-d. That's why I love studying Hasidic Kabbalah. It makes me realize that "Judaeo-Christian" is a misnomer - there is no real Judaism in it.
In real Judaism, as taught in the Hasidic Kabbalah I've learned through Chabad, G-d is not the old, angry man in the sky. In fact, the only "hell" is what you feel after dying when your soul does a life review. There really is no need to "Imagine no hell below us and above us only sky." Ha!! John Lennon would have liked to know the truth instead of the co-opted dogma brought by the sons of Esau who are still trying to steal back the birthright. There is no Satan either. In fact, when you only have One G-d, there is nothing else, "Ain Od Milvado". "The satan" is merely an angel of G-d who tries to trip us up so we are able to have free choice. If you have many gods then you will get a Satan, right? (here's a good, short video on this: https://youtu.be/W1ZmGdLGZgM)
In real Judaism there is no emphasis on doing the right thing in order to get into heaven either. In fact, "right and wrong" comes from Adam and Chavah (in Hebrew her name is NOT Eve/evil) who ate the apple from the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil thereby giving us a world of natural consequences and free choice.
The emphasis in Judaism is instead not about getting to heaven but on making this world a heaven on earth.
This month on the Jewish calendar, contains the holiday where we commemorate the day that we received the Torah, including the 10 commandments and the 7 Noahide Laws. This information was given to us so that we share it with the world and so things would go well here on earth. By knowing the Divine Order of things, we can for the most part, work with, instead of against, the laws of cause and effect. Ultimately though, we will go beyond the laws of cause and effect when we have finally built a heaven on earth. Then our lives will be miraculous.
The Critical Inner Parent is the part of us developed in childhood that wants us to believe in crime and punishment. It creates the idea of a scary G-d/Parent who judges and punishes. It's an immature perspective on G-d that we use to try to keep safe. It is a false safety based on the hope that we can avoid bad things happening - which we really can't. In truth, things happen that cause and effect can't predict - which is why we have the question, "why do bad things happen to good people?" In Hasidic Kabbalah though, we learn that the "bad" things that happen are the way we co-create a heaven on earth and become unlimited.
Next month on the Jewish calendar, we confront the story involving our building a golden calf right after hearing the voice of G-d at Mt. Sinai. (How could we have done such a thing?) For this class I will explain the Jewish calendar through the lens of my year of cancer treatment. So this will give everyone in the class a way of understanding why I teach this class and how you too can see your own life mirrored in the energies present in the Jewish calendar.
Hope you can join the class in Soquel, CA. Please RSVP if you want to attend. Next class is a week from today: Sunday, 6/10 at 1pm.
P.S. If you are Christian but don't follow the religion and want to know what the Torah (Old Testament) has for you, there is something called "The Noahide Laws", which were given to all of the descendants of Noah, i.e: everyone. Go to AskNoah.org to answer any of your questions and 7LawsofNoah.com
|Posted on May 4, 2018 at 8:20 PM|
Doesn't it seem random that there are 7 days in a week? Why not 10? Over the millennia different cultures have tried to establish other configurations to the week but none of them have stuck. The month makes sense - the number of days in the moon cycle. The year is the number of days that the earth rotates around the sun. But why 7 for the week?
Of course, in Genesis, the 7 day week was established on creation of the world. In Hasidic Kabbalah, there is a system called the Tree of Life where the number 7 shows up in the order of G-d's manifestation. Like the blueprint for the creation of the universe, these 7 are portals to the Divine and aspects of the deepest mystery. It is said that there are 4 worlds and each was created with these 7 aspects, including the "lowest world" which is the one that we find ourselves in. And as we are a microcosm of the macro, these 7 are imprinted in us on our bodies and make up what are called our "soul powers".
Just to confuse you, there are actually 11 soul powers and are referred to as 10! But 4 are considered to be on a deeper, more spiritual level, while the 7 referred to above are where we mostly focus our lives.
By the 2nd night of Passover, we begin to examine and refine these 7 soul powers. Each day for 49 days, we go through a period called, "Counting the Omer" where each one of the 7 is looked at from all sides of its manifestation, one soul power per week.
The Soul Powers (in brief):
Chesed - Loving-kindness
Gevurah - Discipline
Tiferet - Compassion
Netzach - Perseverance
Hod - Humility
Yesod - Bonding
Malchut - Sovereignty
Today we are delving into the Bonding within our Surrender. Complicated? Here's a copy of the email you can sign up for describing in more detail what we are examining:
Iyar 18, 5778 · May 3, 2018
COUNT THE OMER REMINDER
34th Day of the Omer
Tonight, Thursday night, May 3, 2018, we count thirty-four days, which is four weeks and six days of the Omer.
For detailed instructions on how to count the Omer, blessing text, omer calendar, and more information, please click here.
A Spiritual Guide to the Counting of the Omer
Forty-Nine Steps to Personal Refinement
Day Six of Week 5: Yesod of Hod
Humility should not be a lonely experience. It ought to result in deep bonding and commitment. There is no stronger bond than one that comes out of humility. Does my humility separate me from others or bring us closer? Does my humility produce results? Long term results? Does it create an everlasting foundation upon which I and others can rely and build.
Exercise for the day: Use your humility to build something lasting.
You can subscribe to this email here: Subscribe
So, what does this all have to do with 7 days of the week? Each day of the week corresponds to one of these 7 Soul Powers. Human life is a path toward uncovering and connecting to and manifesting the Highest Levels of existence through daily life. And in the midst of our counting - yesterday - the 33rd day, was a holiday connecting us to one of Kabbalah's most masterful of Rabbi's - Shimon bar Yochai, who wrote the Zohar and passed away on this day. Perhaps you felt the energy yesterday.
Here's a link to read more about the holiday of Lag BaOmer. (Which also happens to be my birthday on the Jewish calendar!)
Here's a link to my Pinterest where you'll find all kinds of pins that help you learn more about Judaism and Kabbalah.
Our next class will be on Mother's Day! From 1-3pm in my Soquel office. Please RSVP. I will be talking about the 50th day after we finish the Counting and the month containing the holiday of Shavuos, when morality came down to earth.
Hope you have a beautiful weekend.
|Posted on April 6, 2018 at 7:35 PM|
How often has your life felt like a series of waves? Some days, the body surfing is like a smooth, fun ride - easily floating over the top. At other times, the waves can get quite large and break at the top. During those times you may find yourself holding your breath and diving into the middle, knowing that you'll be able to breathe again once the wave passes. Then there are those times when life feels like being hit by a tidal wave! I have had many times in my life when I've been hit by a tidal wave.
In fact, I am just now recovering from a tidal wave that hit me last year.
What I so love about studying Kabbalah is that it gives me the perspective I need for whenever the tidal wave hits me. It tells me that every challenge I go through in life has been custom-created for the development of my soul. If I can remember that the major tenant of Judaism comes out of its deepest, most beautiful story of the Jewish people's exodus from slavery, then I can find my way out of feeling victimized by my circumstances. I can remember that every exile, every feeling of being trapped between the enemy and a sea, has only one outcome: a miraculous splitting of the sea and a journey to the "Promised Land".
That is the bottom line. There is a final outcome promised for all of our hard labor. In Hebrew, it's called, "Geulah". In English the word translates as redemption but it represents so much more than that. It's the promise of a future world that we can't even fathom from our present state of consciousness.
True Freedom, can only be found within our consciousness. Every time we challenge a limiting belief, we find another road to freedom in a Promised Land. Limiting beliefs are usually formed by our fears. The tidal wave hits and then come all of the ways we become entrapped and enslaved. "I can't, I should, I'll never, It's too much/too hard/more than I can handle, it's always like this and will always be, I'm wrong/defective/being punished, etc., etc." And while some of that is true: we are only human, right? There's still a Power greater than ourselves Who has big Plans for this world.
Holding to those Plans, sets us free. That's when the miracles happen. Because truly, we can't do any of this all by ourselves with our own puny, limited perspectives.
Happy Passover to you and yours. May we all reach the Promised Land with ease and grace and peace. Next year in Jerusalem!
|Posted on March 6, 2018 at 6:15 PM|
Imagine you were taken against your will to be part of a King's harem. Would you be scared? Excited? Then, he chooses YOU to be his next queen!! And then he gives permission to kill all of your relatives. Now that's the kind of Valentine's Day story full of palace intrigue, meaningful coincidence and horror that's pretty standard for most Jewish holidays. "They tried to kill us, we won, now let's eat."
The new month on the Jewish calendar, starting with tonight's new moon, contains a very special holiday called, Purim. It's like Halloween where people dress up but instead of getting candy, we give out food baskets and charity. Instead of dressing in scary costumes, we dress our kids and kids-at-heart in the clothes of the heroes and villains of the story of Esther. So when you think of the energy of the month of Adar you must think of fun, joy, celebration & meaningful coincidences.
Adar has always been special to me ever since 9 years ago when I was going through cancer treatment and I wore a blond wig. It just seemed so appropriate to the energy of the month. I even saw my clients wearing this blond wig and some of you may remember it!!
Here's a picture of myself back then:
We are given the task on the holiday of this month to drink alcohol until you can't tell the difference between the hero of the story and the villain. It felt so appropriate to be wearing a blond wig where it didn't seem like me and it didn't seem like I was sick.
This month last year was a tragic one for me. My father died. In fact, his Yahrzteit, anniversary of his death is on Adar 7 - next Wednesday. It will make it one full year. The amazing coincidence was that I got to see him before he passed away. Plus he died on my 7 hour drive back home only a couple of hours after I left him. Then, afterwards when I was looking through an old poetry book of his that he had given me, I found a note from him that said, "read at my funeral"!! A meaningful coincidence if I ever had one. And I did, I read it at his funeral!!!
The date that he died on the Jewish calendar is a very auspicious one too - the famed Moses was born and died on that very same day!
Just recently, my good friend and rabbi's wife sent me a Youtube video that for me encapsulates the essence of the month of Adar. So I am sharing it with you here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OObV5DTf3Uc I laughed uncontrollably at that Youtube.
My blessing for you on your journey this month is this: May you find joy even in your darkest moments and have the ability to laugh in the face of any challenge that comes your way.
Many Blessings to you and yours,
|Posted on January 22, 2018 at 7:30 PM|
Today is the first day of the month of Shevat on the Jewish calendar. Each new month starts with the new moon and an astrological sign. So on the Jewish calendar, today is the first day of the month of Aquarius. By the full moon, we have a special holiday that honors trees - and especially fruit trees.
It's actually the birthday of the tree and the ancient rabbis in Israel would say that this is the day when the sap rises in the tree. The Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chassidism, created a "seder" for this holiday, where the participants eat 15 types of fruit! So it's become a custom to eat the fruits of Israel, "If at all possible, the fruits should include the seven species for which the Land of Israel is praised: wheat, barely, figs, pomegranates, grapes, olives and date-honey." http://www.aish.com/jl/hol/hm/48969601.html?s=fb I usually bring as many of those as possible to my class in S. Cruz for the month of Shevat.
I love trees, they are so majestic and awe-inspiring, especially the redwoods that we have here in SCruz. I can be in a redwood forest and brought directly into a place of reverence, silence and holiness. Those trees are my favorite. (I definitely need to get myself to them on a regular basis! Write that down on your self-care to-do list, Allison!)
This month's class in SCruz will delve more deeply into the Tree of Life in preparation for the counting of the Omer in the Spring. I get psychological when I teach this and try to incorporate my understanding of the Tree with the idea of the Inner Child/Tiferet in the heart center. Our connection to Keter/Divine Will, Pleasure & Desire is the way I see that Inner Child being taken care of so that our hearts can open.
Yes, in Jewish thought, Desire is actually a good thing to connect to. So what is the deepest desire of your soul? This is the deepest Desire that your Creator had in creating you! Let's all start this secular new year enjoying sharing the fruits of the trees of our own lives. That is my prayer for you and for me!