Chanukah Lights by Miriam Shulamit Ribner

menorahlitChanukah Sameach!

Miriam Shulamit (Melinda) Ribner is the founder and director of Kabbalah of The Heart and Beit Miriam She is a leading pioneer in the field of Jewish meditation and the author of four books on: Jewish spirituality, meditation, healing and personality transformation. Her words bring into focus the depth of meaning embedded in the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles. Her words create a visual picture that allows the inner meaning of the mitzvah to forge a deeper connection to our soul, nation and Creator. Enjoy her words of meditation and prayer as you light up your home and the world with your Chanukah lights.

Chanukkah, our beautiful wondrous festival of lights, begins this Sunday, December 6th at sunset and continues until sunset Monday December 14th. 

According to Torah, a Jewish holiday is not just a celebration of a particular historical event; rather it is a spiritual transmission of cyclical energies that were available when the historical event originally occurred. Chanukkah is all about light shining amidst the darkness. May we each open to the most beautiful loving transmission of Divine Light this Chanukkah. 


This year, we light candles for Chanukkah to remind ourselves, our friends and our enemies, God is greater than any force of evil. Light triumphs ultimately over darkness.  

This year, we light candles for Chanukkah to remind ourselves we are also Maccabeans. We are also not limited by cause and effect. We are not constrained by logic. We are victors rather than victims. With God, all is possible.

This year, we light candles for Chanukkah to return to the magnificence of who we really are and open to gratitude for the miraculous gift of life itself.  May the light of Chanukkah remove psychic debris we have allowed to enter our body mind temple, cleansing us of doubt, fear and sadness.  In our essence, we are the beautiful radiant light and joy filled beings.  May we joyfully return to being who and what God intended us to be. 

This year, we light candles to publicize the miracle of Chanukkah. If possible, place the menorah near windows, so people on the street can see and be inspired to know that God is in the world and miracles are possible, even today. 



The holiday of Chanukkah celebrates the military victory of  small group of Maccabeans over the vast army of Greece. Chanukkah is spiritually the victory of faith over reason.  Previously a day of cult sacrifice, the  twenty-fifth of Kislev was chosen as the most appropriate day to rededicate the Holy Temple by lighting the menorah, the symbol of the Divine Presence. Any oil could have been used for the menorah, but the Maccabeans wanted a vial of oil that had not been defiled and searched for one. Quite surprisingly, they found a buried vial with pure oil. Looking for a vial of oil that had not been contaminated was an expression of the desire to return to the original purity of their connection with God. And as the legend goes, the oil burned miraculously for eight days, rather than the expected one day. We celebrate this miracle of the light and the return to our true essence. 

In conclusion, these eight days of of Chanukkah are a special time to receive and bask in the light of the Divine, the light of miracles, the light of love, the light of joy.  We know we are coming close to God when our hearts open and we feel gratitude for the privilege of being alive. Chanukkah brings joy and clarity.

Take time to meditate each night when you light candles. During the time, become aware of your gratitude for all the blessings in your life. Gratitude opens the doors of blessing.  

Be mindful particularly to express gratitude and not complain during this time of Chanukkah.

Let this be a spiritual practice during the week of Chanukkah to spend time each day thanking God for all the good in your life, thanking others for all the good they bring to you and others, and even thanking yourself for all the good you do. 

Complaining only brings harshness, pain and challenge in our life. If we complain, it is a sign that we are not happy with God, with ourselves, with others. We are not open to receive blessing in our lives. What a shame to deprive ourselves and not be open to the wonderful light available during Chanukkah. If this reminder helps one person to refrain from complaining even one time, it is worth a lot. Writing these words have helped me already to be more conscious. So thank you. 


Aliyah & Rosh HaShana: Their Commonalities and Connectors

rosh-hashanah-hd-wallpapers-wallpaper-f916b2ed383e62ec91b915de8ba77e0b-big-13089Aliyah & Rosh HaShana: Their Commonalities and Connectors

By Ariella Bracha Waldinger

Every change in perspective creates a new beginning just as every new beginning creates a change of perspective. I love new beginnings and the feeling of a new start. I also appreciate and value a change in perspective, as new and relevant information is presented to me by learned Rabbis and scholars. It awakens a sense of discovery and brings a feeling of vitality in its wake. I believe the excitement and pleasure it engenders stems from a deep place of longing for wholeness and spiritual depth. At the same time, I believe every fear that arises as a result of change, also has at its source a longing for wholeness and spiritual depth.

Both aliyah and Rosh HaShana share the commonalities of new perspectives and are truly new beginnings at their finest. The Ba’al Shem Tov, in preparation for Rosh HaShana said, “Pray like a pauper…… suspend all your sophistication, literacy, and intelligence. Stand vulnerable, with no layers, with your essence exposed before G-d‘s essence. Stand innocent like a child. Then you will reach and see G-d’s face….G-ds essence.”

imagesThis is the exact description of the stance we should take and the awareness we should acquire upon returning home to Eretz Yisrael.  Most of us making aliyah arrive after a long separation in the land of our exiles. Upon coming home, many Jews feel as if they have no sophistication, no intelligence and feel lost and vulnerable with our ignorance and helplessness exposed. Some feel as if they have lost their personal identity and it feels crushing. We lose ourselves in the emotions without a clear understanding of the journey we have embarked upon. And yet, if we can stand innocent like a child with our true essence exposed, ready to receive all the goodness and blessings coming home to the Holiest place has to offer, we will see G-ds essence and He will guide us as His beloved children.

Just as we need to learn and understand the process of preparation for Rosh HaShana, we also need to understand its deep connection to the aliyah process of settling into the land. Similar to the month of Elul directing us inward for the purpose of Teshuva (returning to our true selves) and change, aliyah directs us to look inward to uncover our true selves that have often times been lost in the lands of our dispersion. Rosh HaShana and aliyah impart the need for change and change ultimately breaks things wide open.

Regarding the process called teshuva (returning to our true soulful selves), Rabbi Simon Jacobson says, “Teshuva infuses all our activities with vitality and a deeper sense of our own essence. Teshuva polishes and refines all our activities and makes them sparkle with the fire of the recesses of our soul reaching upward, returning to its source.” It is both a cleansing and healing process and has the ability to restore us to a sense of inner wholeness and G-dly harmony with life.

The same is true of aliyah, as it moves us into the aspect of total integration with the Jewish nation on all levels. It gives us the opportunity to infuse all our activities in the acclimation process with vitality and a deeper sense of our essence. A Jew living in the land can make his mitzvot sparkle with the fire of deep connection in the Holy Land of the Jewish nation. The prophet Ezekiel states,” I will gather you out of all the countries. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean. From all your uncleanness and from all your idols will I cleanse you.” (EZ.36:24-25) This cleansing creates an amazing feeling of inner wholeness and G-dly harmony which is likened to teshuva.

In this week’s Torah portion of Nitzavim, relating to the ingathering of the exiles (Dev. 30:3-5), Rabbi Moshe D. Lichtman in his commentary teaches that Rashi explains that when the Jewish people go into exile, G-d accompanies them and suffers with them and when they return to their land, G-d returns with them. The Rav explains that just as aliyah is good for the Jew on a personal and national level, it is also good for G-d. Not only does a Jew returning to his homeland bring back G-d, he brings back the Shechinah as well (Eretz Yisrael in the Parashah by Moshe D. Lichtman).The same Divine truth relates to teshuva and Rosh HaShana.

Elul and Rosh HaShanah are a compelling time frame of divine energy which allows accessibility to the inner realm of the soul. They allow for a powerful individuation process which initiates one into a truer and deeper state of being. And yes, aliyah is the same process.

Teshuva and aliyah are both fraught with advances and setbacks, successes and failures. Just as we would not reject doing teshuva during Rosh HaShana, we should not reject the possibility of making aliyah, nor the challenges that go along with it.


Our ultimate aim as Jews is to fulfill the Divine mission we were charged with. As we traverse the path of returning to our true selves and returning to our homeland, we arrive at a more mature and conscious awareness of our true reality as an integral part of the Jewish nation. Ultimately we will discover that we have the ability to evolve and create a deep conscious connection to God, ourselves and our nation.

In truth, our life choices must reflect the vision of our higher selves which we long for. Each of us must choose to become the master of his soul journey, as we strive to steer our souls into an expansive, uplifting and soulful life, serving G-d and our nation with all of our gifts and talents.

May we embrace all our new beginnings and new perspectives revealed through the deep teachings and experiences embedded in both Rosh HaShana and aliyah and may we understand, THESE ARE NEW BEGINNINGS AT THEIR FINEST!

May all new immigrants truly acquire the understanding of the great Blessings they have brought into the world through making aliyah. May you allow nothing to stand in the way of your successful aliyah knowing you are in the Land G-d personally has His eyes on every single day. May you personally feel the privilege of serving THE KING OF KINGS IN HIS PALACE….ERETZ YISRAEL.

To all of Klal Yisrael: May this year be endowed with the deepest clarity of G-dly purpose, joyous experiences and meaningful relationships along with health and well being. When the shofar sounds, may it usher in a good, sweet year granting you fulfillment of all your personal and spiritual needs.

La Shana Tova! And Kesiva V’Chatima Tova!

With Love and Blessings, Ariella Bracha









The Tu B’shvt Seder: Insights into Living and Drawing down Blessings


The Tu B’shvt Seder: Insights into Living and Drawing down Blessings

By Ariella Bracha Waldinger

The festival of Tu B’Shvt, the “New Year of the Trees,” began at sundown on Tuesday, Feb. 3rd, 2015. The original purpose of Tu B’Shvt was solely related to the land of Israel and its laws of tithing fruit and orlah during Temple times. Rashi explains, the Land of Israel is not like any other land: it is HaShem’s special Holy Land and has an entire array of special commandments that must be observed in the land, and nowhere else. Many of the commandments deal with trees and their fruit. However, since we are without the holy Temple, and cannot perform the special commandments, we celebrate the festival in a different way.

שבעת_המיניםThe Kabbalists of Tzfat, in the northern region called the Galilee, established a special “Seder” in the 1500’s. The meal is similar in structure to the Passover Seder and involves drinking 4 cups of wine (or at least taking a few sips). The mixture of red wine and white in the four successive cups is likened to the progression of seasons from winter white to the full red of autumn. They also relate to the four spiritual realms described in the Kabbalah. The most important part of the ceremonial meal is partaking of the seven species for which the land of Israel is praised: wheat, barley, figs, pomegranates, grapes, olives, and date-honey or dates. The celebration also involves eating particular fruits in a specific order (Seder) and reading mystical passages which relate to the inner meaning of the day itself, the fruits and the Land.

One of the most important Rabbinic authorities, the Magen Avraham states that it is the custom to eat many different kinds of fruit on this festival. Some say it is recommended to eat a minimum of 12 fruits as the number 12 corresponds to 12 permutations of G-ds four-letter name. Others teach, we should eat 15 and some say 30. Whichever number you choose, remember, by eating fruit on this day, we can rectify the sin of Adam and Chava, who ate the forbidden fruit. Tu B’Shvt has the ability to repair one’s eating for the entire year since the spiritual fall of Adam and Chava came about through impulsively eating from a tree.  Partaking of the different fruits and eating them with mindfulness, enables us to create a spiritual elevation and expansion which creates holiness.

Fruits grow because G-d wills it. Fruits add flavor, color, variety and fragrance to our lives. They awaken our senses. They remind us that the journey of life is full of joy and spiritual pleasures. When we serve G-d with joy and thankfulness, we are said to be eating from the fruits He planted for us. The blessings we recite before eating help us focus our minds on the vital energy embedded in the food, which gives us the energy to serve G-d. We thus elevate the food beyond its taste. When we do not recite a blessing, we deprive the world of the divine beneficence that could have been channeled into it by means of the blessing. Eating a fruit for the first time in its season is considered one of the auspicious occasions for a special blessing of joy called Shehechiyanu. The Torah teaches us that through the physical act of eating for the purpose of strengthening ourselves to do G-d’s will, we create rectifications and unifications between the spiritual and physical worlds. It also teaches us that the real pleasure of eating comes not from the physicality of the food but from the spiritual “word of G-d within the food.”

tubshvtsederplateIn Kabbala, the flow of G-ds beneficence is called the “Tree of Life.” The roots which are metaphysically connected to the upper spiritual worlds at their root source send down divine emanations to the fruits below, causing them to grow. It is taught that Tu B’Shvt helps us to align with holy eating when we eat in a state of mindfulness, linking the variety of the fruit with their deeper message. The fruits become the vehicle for understanding their deeper meaning which initiates us into the spirituality of eating. It is important to understand that reciting a blessing before eating draws down a flow of divine energy through the fruit or other food and restores the soul. Thus to encourage the flow of divine life energy from above, it is fitting on Tu B’Shvt  to eat many kinds of fruits and recite blessings over them with this intention. As we partake of the delicious fruits and delicacies we have the ability to expand the boundaries of holiness thereby permeating the world with the light of wisdom. In fact in this way we open a flow of kindness into the world.

There are differing opinions on the order and presentation of the Tu B’Shvt Seder. The following one is a Seder guide from Rabbi Yerachmiel Tilles of the Ascent center in Tzfat, available at

The first 12 fruits of this Seder and their meaning: 1) Wheat is the basis for our sustenance but only after we have labored to grow, harvest and prepare it. It is a staple of most diets and is compared to Jewish law. For the Seder, You can bake or purchase a cake or cookies or anything that is made primarily from wheat flour. 2) Olives yield the best oil only when they are crushed. Olive oil floats on top of all liquids and does not mix. Olive oil represents wealth and abundance and brings light into the world. 3) Dates are a metaphor for the righteous. The date tree is both lofty and fruit bearing and is impervious to the changing winds. 4) Grapes can be turned into many varieties of foods and drink. Each Jew has the potential to be successful in some aspect of Torah in his own unique way. 5) Figs must be picked as soon as they ripen because they can quickly go bad. We too must be quick to do good deeds before the opportunity is spoiled. 6) Pomegranates are said to have exactly 613 pips which are equal to the number of mitzvot in the Torah. They remind us of the merits of the Jews. 7) Etrogim are considered to be an extremely beautiful fruit and are of great importance for the holiday of Sukkot. They remain on the tree throughout the entire year benefiting from all four seasons. In fact, the Etrog lives on the tree from year to year and when the new crop grows, the one from the previous year still exists on the tree. From this, we learn that the Torah teaches us to observe and learn from  the past. 8) Apples take 50 days to ripen and just as the apple tree produces fruit before its leaves, so too do Jews perform mitzvot without totally understanding them. 9) Walnuts are divided into four sections corresponding to the four letters of G-d’s name. Walnuts have two shells which have to be removed: one hard and one soft which is likened to Jews. 10) Almonds signify enthusiasm in serving G-d, for the almond tree is always the first to bloom. Aaron’s rod sprouted specifically almond blossoms. 11) Carobs take longer to grow than any other fruit and they remind us of the necessity to invest many years in Torah study in order to attain worthwhile and clear understanding thereby bearing fruit. 12) Pears represent longevity which is related to our mitzvot which will live on into eternity.

After finishing the delicious fruits and delicacies that G-d has provided for us, we close with a heartfelt blessing of thanks to our Creator. Through the vehicle of the Seder, we have partaken of fruits, wine and other delicacies, which remind us of the four facets of the Seder: the Temple Service, the Land of Israel, the fruits of the Land of Israel along with our commitment to G-ds land and the spiritual rectification brought about through mindful eating. We have become re-oriented to a renewed perspective of our true mission in G-ds holy world, as we come to understand that pure pleasure is rooted in the soul’s desire to serve G-d. We have gained insights into living as well as drawing down blessings.  We have come to realize that the entire physical world is one big beautiful metaphor teaching us deep spiritual concepts with G-ds love as the focal point. And so, as we finish the Seder, may we merit to savor and hold onto its depth, truth, wisdom and beauty, thus hastening the coming of our long awaited Moshiach and our Holy, Magnificent 3rd and final Holy Temple which will bless the entire world with peace and goodness for all mankind.

With Blessings for a joyous, bountiful and spiritually charged Tu B’Shvt Seder, Ariella Bracha

Zot Chanukah

Chanukah the Eighth Day: a Force to be reckoned with

By Ariella Bracha Waldinger


The 8th day of Chanukah is almost upon us and it behooves us to glean a deeper understanding of its profound dimensions, in order to access its dynamic power.

The 8th day of Chanukah is called Zot Chanukah and it encapsulates all of Chanukah. The number eight alludes to the departure from the natural world into the supernatural realm…..the realm of the spiritual. In fact, the number eight represents the uniquely Jewish concept that man has the ability to transcend his nature. Rav Yitzchak Ginsburg states that eight symbolizes the power of the soul to contact light and emit light. No wonder Chanukah, the festival of Light, which represents G-dly wisdom, is celebrated by lighting a Chanukah Menorah just like in Temple times.

The most auspicious act you can do on the 8th night of Chanukah, after lighting is to meditate on your powerful, light filled Chanukah Menora. A beautiful meditation is to visualize a waterfall of cascading light spilling out from your fully lit menorah and flowing over your entire body, like a torrential waterfall, drenching you with the deepest Torah wisdom (represented by your lights) and infusing every pore and cell of your being with an astonishing closeness to Hashem, the source of all light. Another beautiful meditation is visualize your candles dancing to the music of your soul fed by the enormous bounty of spiritual insights embedded in the holiday.

After your meditation, take an imaginary ride on the inter-galactic energetic force field called Zot Chanukah and see what it looks like from above.


Zot Chanukah: a view From Above

Radiant Lights of opalescent beams ascend upwards and dance though the skies.

Making their way heavenward, they catch the updraft of the powerful emotions of joy and awe spilling out of Jewish homes.

They begin to merge at the higher elevations looking like a billion iridescent fireflies, as the light of the cumulative eight nights and eight lights consummate the union of 36, a metaphor for the hidden light of creation—the Divine Infinite Light!

Spiritual fireworks explode into the heavens. The angels and celestial beings sit on air mattresses in the billowy clouds in the higher spiritual elevations watching the cosmic light show, as the lights rise and return to their G-dly source.

The angels, gazing at their luminescent magnificence, eagerly fly upwards to embrace the light and dance with the shower of sparks trailing behind their powerful turbo updraft.

The lights, broadcasting the name of HaShem, rush through the air currents intertwining like multi-wick Havdalah candles in the sky.

The lights having risen heavenward can now broadcast the deepest meaning of the Chanukah message from a higher vantage point and energetically emblazon their message on the heart and soul of the Jewish nation, as we once again return to our day to day lives.

We can then take the life-force of the energy and depth of the lights and with a spirit of renewed dedication live with more noble actions in line with our re-dedication to G-d and His Torah.

Savoring Sukkot in Israel


By Ariella Bracha Waldinger

succotmarketSavoring the joy of Sukkot preparations and the entire holiday experience from start to finish is one of the greatest spiritual pleasures in the world, especially if one lives in Eretz HaKodesh. Celebrating Jewish holidays in the Diaspora is meaningful but it cannot compare to the depth of joy and vitality that is connected with celebrating holidays in our national homeland, especially the holiday of Sukkot. From purchasing the Sukkah, to buying the decorations, to purchasing food, one can feel the joy permeating the Jewish people.  An energetic spirit of unity and happiness fills the air as shoppers meander through the thoroughfare of stores and shops and outdoor markets to purchase their goods. One can get spiritually high with the smiles and good-will that greets each encounter. It is so powerful to watch families shopping together, laughing and moving with a new infused soulful rhythm. It gets me excited, brings me joy and makes me laugh out-loud. The air seems to be infused with the fragrance of freshly laundered clothes, as we emerge from the Yom Kippur experience newly cleansed.

succahs1Sukkot, the festival of booths, commemorates the time period when the Israelites lived in the desert in booths, i.e., temporary dwellings, after the Exodus from Egypt, on their way to the Promised Land. It is the 3rd holiday celebrated in the month of Tishrei and one of the most significant and joyful Jewish holidays. Interestingly, Jews in many countries, towns and cities in the Diaspora are required to get a permit to build a Sukkah. This year Dutch Jews were advised against building Sukkah’s due to their Muslim neighbors and fears of vandalism. Sukkah’s are built everywhere in Israel and no permits are required. You will find Sukkah’s on sidewalks, on rooftops and balconies and everywhere in between. Building a Sukkah is mandated in the Torah with strict guidelines and everything needed to build a Kosher Sukkah is readily available here at a reasonable price or on monthly payments without interest. Additionally, stories of miracles abound regarding families who could not afford Sukkahs and suddenly they received funds or a Sukkah itself from a hidden source.

Sukkot is one of the three pilgrimage festivals. This means that in ancient times, when the Temple was standing, Jews across the Land of Israel would make a pilgrimage with family and friends, to Jerusalem. They would travel the distance with music and great revelry. They would decorate their animals and offering baskets with beautiful adornments. They would ascend to the Temple to offer their animal and grain sacrifices along with their luscious first fruits because Sukkot is also known as The Harvest festival.

In the Bible, Sukkot is also called, “the time of our rejoicing” and as such, we find that it is incumbent upon us to create deep, meaningful and especially joyous experiences during the Sukkot holiday. In Eretz Israel, this is easy to do, because the country abounds with an array of special family events for residents and tourists alike. These events bring great joy and pleasure to the people of Israel.

Israel is the Jewish state and our ancient Jewish homeland given to us by G-d Himself. As such, our Jewish holidays are part of the national calendar for the entire country. Banks, businesses and offices are closed for the holidays. In Israel, the first and last days of Sukkot, which are Torah mandated holidays, are national holidays, so it provides vacation time for many families. Most offices are only open in the morning on the intermediate days and many are closed altogether for the entire holiday. People use the time to be with their family and travel throughout our beautiful country.

birkatkohanimJerusalem is the center for Sukkah events. The number one attraction is Sukkah hopping, to check out the variety of Sukkahs and their decorations. This is free and is fun for all family members. The best Sukkah to check out is the Safra Square Sukkah because it is considered the largest in Israel. It is located in downtown Jerusalem and is more than 1,000 square-meters. It features activities for children and a number of performances. The Old City also holds great interest with its many Sukkahs in every nook and cranny. is a great site for a list of fabulous Jerusalem Sukkot events. Another once in a lifetime experience is the extraordinary mass blessings that the male descendants of the priestly class, the Kohanim, who served in Temple times, give to the Jews who gather at the Kotel (Western Wall). This year the Birkat Kohanim, takes place during the morning services on Sunday, October 12th at 9:30 and 10:30am. These Blessings given by hundreds of Kohanim have enormous spiritual power and only occur twice a year: during the intermediate days of Passover and Sukkot. Last Passover, there were 60,000 people in attendence, so if it is important to you, you must arrive early.

Tel Aviv has a story teller’s event along with biking and beach events and concerts. The Negev and Dead Sea area have music and dance festivals, and other outdoor events. Haifa has a variety of family events along with a film festival. The Galilee has a hot air balloon festival and many other nature events. Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund will be leading free walks and tours in Parks and along nature paths throughout the country. Activities also include a night hike, a health walk, and a story-tellers festival. Sukkah’s have been erected and will be available at each site. For information view:

The Hula Valley, located in the North is a Bird Watchers paradise, as it is a stop-over for hundreds of species of migrating birds. The Valley includes a National Park with a great movie on the Hula, lake and trails, with lots of turtles, a bird viewing site that is covered and water buffalo. A second Hula location has bikes to rent and golf carts. For more information contact

Nearly every kosher restaurant in Israel constructs a Sukkah on its premises. This makes traveling around the country possible as it enables Jews to honor the biblical commandment to eat in a Sukkah for 7 days.  All of the holiday offerings and events in Israel serve to highlight the reality of life as a Jew living in our biblical homeland. Celebrating Jewish holidays in the Land of Israel is a higher form of celebration, as it merges the holiness of the Land with the holiness of the people, holidays and all the mitzvot attached to them.  One can more deeply feel the bond between G-d and His nation in His beloved Holy Land, as they blend together like the fragrant ketoret.  Rav Avraham Yitzchok HaCohen Kook OBM, first chief Rabbi of Israel states in the commentary of his book, “Lights on Orot” that Eretz Yisrael has an exalted essence with an inner attachment to HaShem that is beyond intellectual assessment. He states that Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael is a Divine necessity of creation which allows for Divine inspiration to flow through the land and people as the Divine national soul of the nation becomes enlarged. From the merging of the two entities, we become conduits for receiving the exalted spiritual content which is otherwise beyond our spiritual grasp.

fourspeciesMy dear fellow Jews, I bless us all that we merit coming home, both physically and emotionally to the truth and beauty that is available to be tapped into in our Holy Land. I bless us that we permit ourselves to truly become conduits to receive the exalted spiritual content present in all the holidays while residing in G-ds beloved Holy Land

Chag Sameach! With Love, Ariella Bracha




Coming Clean: the Teshuva of Yom Kippur



By Ariella Bracha Waldinger

Great-Canyon-Lake-lake-wallpaper-landscape-1366x768Who doesn’t love taking a long, soothing hot shower to clean away the dirt after a long day of work? The hot water has the ability to literally wash away the grit and grime allowing us to emerge feeling wholly cleansed and miraculously restored. It feels so invigorating. What a fabulous feeling! The services and atonement on Yom Kippur can be compared to taking a shower, because they have the power to cleanse us spiritually, in a healing shower of forgiveness and renewal. Just as the body requires physical cleansing, so too the soul requires spiritual cleansing. Yom Kippur is the most elevating day of the year, the day set aside by G-d for this spiritual cleansing because the focus of the day is totally spiritual. The powerful prayers of the day have the ability to unite the body and soul due to the mandated requirements of the day.  As a result of the unifying aspects along with a heavenly effluence of divine mercy, we become spiritually transformed and cleaned from the inside out.

The opportunity to “come clean” is the greatest gift….the greatest truth we have been given and the cleaning agent is free. The cleaning agent is called teshuva and it has the most extraordinary power to cause the dirt, i.e. the wrongdoings, to yield to its cleaning ability and disappear. And yet, if we do not use this cleaning agent, the dirt remains clinging to us. It is interesting to note that the term “coming clean” really means owning up to anything that has us trapped or addicted. It means admitting to something to which it is hard to admit. “Coming clean” means getting real and getting to the core of what is preventing the dirt or stains from being removed. Often, it is the power of resistance to change and the power of admitting the truth about ourselves to ourselves, others and G-d. Remember, admitting our mistakes can be painful and yet it frees us from the agony that gnaws at our unconscious mind. When we avoid teshuva, we pay a price, as we lose an aspect of our inner vitality.

We began our cleansing teshuva process in Elul and worked through the month to remove the stains. On Rosh Hashana, we crowned HaShem as King and now on Yom Kippur, through the entire service of the day and the teshuva we do, HaShem completes the task of our atonement through His forgiveness. Interestingly, on Yom Kippur we do not shower or wash at all or anoint ourselves with oils, lotions, or creams because our bodies, through the elevation of our souls, become receptacles for G-dliness to permeate our being. No physical washing is needed as a spiritual cleansing occurs throughout the entire Yom Kippur day.

In the book, “The Song of Teshuva,” A Commentary on Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook’s Orot HaTeshuva, by Moshe Weinberger, it states in Chapter Four that “Teshuva preceded creation and is therefore the foundation of the world. Teshuva rectifies the damage and thus brings the world back to its foundation of supernal essence which is the world of freedom. The spirit of teshuva hovers in the world and gives the world all of its ability to attain beauty and glory. The Rav states, that teshuva takes place on all levels, in all worlds. Everything is returning to G-d on a progressively rising tide of teshuva, and souls grow increasingly filled with a new life, as a result of the light of teshuva entering into them. This is a continuous process and inspires people to come back to Hashem: to learn more Torah, to pray more and to perform more mitzvot. As light flows from above, from the world of teshuva that preceded creation, we work to become better.  When we do teshuva, our energy is reinvested into that treasury, that well-spring and then it comes down again more intensely and reflects back to us or to others. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches that even a person’s mere thought of teshuva can have a tremendous effect on the cosmos. This is the nature of a person’s contribution to the wellspring, to the treasury of teshuva.

Chapter five states “when a person does teshuva and rids himself of his unhealthy attributes, he is unburdened and this leads to joy. Teshuva is a form of spiritual evolution, as it is a process that takes place deep within a Jew, propelling him forward towards perfection and health. The author says teshuva is the healthiest feeling of the spirit and that the soul feels natural delight. Teshuva is a powerful, dynamic light of freedom that when achieved can shine in its fullness and strength. Without teshuva, a person could not find tranquility in the world and his spiritual life would not be able to be developed in the world. Through teshuva, the world will rise to its true revival as the new revelation will draw everyone’s heart with its splendor. Teshuva gives a person serenity and security, as it puts back together the pieces of our fragmented selves. The longing for perfection and greatness is the foundation and essence of teshuva because with the knowledge and presence of teshuva, he can move forward and perfect his life.

Chapter six states that teshuva had to precede the world because it is the foundation upon which the world is built. There are many people who view teshuva with a negative viewpoint, thinking it takes one away from life. But that cannot be, because teshuva being the foundation of life is natural and healthy.  The process of teshuva is in the nature of a wedding with the divine. Yom Kippur, the wedding day is a day of tremendous potential and unparalleled joy. This fact makes a person cry but it is not in sadness. A wedding brings with it many responsibilities which can be frightening, but it is good and creates tremendous joy.

key holeThus, we perceive that Yom Kippur: the Day of Atonement is in reality a day of complete REBIRTH on all levels. As we “come clean” with our confessions of wrongdoings, we “come clean” from G-ds gift of atonement.  Rav Kook concludes with an astonishing insight and states that “even greater than teshuva, Yom Kippur has the ability to restore man’s desire for Hashem. It has the potential to rekindle our relationship with G-d in the deepest way, if we truly desire it. Thus forgiven, cleansed and renewed, we can re-enter life in a deeper, sweeter more G-d connected way of great wholeness. We have received a spiritual infusion of holy forgiveness and sustenance that can carry us through the year enabling us to sanctify our moments with purity and spiritual richness adding great blessings to the world.

With blessings for a deep, soul attuned, awareness of the depth of Yom Kippur and all its potential to enable us to return to Hashem in complete teshuva and bring Moshiach and our beloved Beit Hamikdash. May all of Am Yisrael be written and sealed for a blessed year of only revealed good feelings completely cleansed in mind, body and soul.

With Love and gratitude, Ariella Bracha





Elul: Spiritual Recovery and Rejuvenation


By Ariella Bracha Waldinger

תמונות למאמרים_1The Hebrew month of Elul is an amazing time of new possibilities and new beginnings. It arrives at our metaphorical doorstep and greets us with a spiritual gift basket of goodies filled with deep meaning and significance enwrapped in its energetic force field.  For most people, a calendar is merely a tool to keep time, so to speak, which marks the passage of days and events relevant to our lives. However, in the Jewish world and predominantly in the Holy Land, the calendar connects time to history and transcendence.

Rabbi Shimon Jacobson writes, “The Jewish calendar is a spiral staircase that winds up and around, cycling the events of history and drawing us into its energy and embedded spiritual potential.”  Each month of the Jewish calendar arrives with its inherent spiritual dimensions from which we can draw new life force. The month of Elul arrives with a spiritual uplift. Its deeper meaning channels its energy force field of rebirth, recovery and rejuvenation into the world, so we can access it. The month of Elul truly longs for our full attention, as it has much to teach us about love, life and returning to our true selves.  We have the ability to tap into its energy of renewal, rebirth, forgiveness, empowerment and joy, if we take the reins into our hands and commit to the process. This process of returning to our true selves can only come about through a carving out of sacred time in which to do the work. Committing to do the work means that you are gifting yourself with opening the spiritual basket of goodies that were left on your metaphorical doorstep as the new month emerged.

Each month of the Jewish year presents us with a unique manifestation of G-dliness. According to the Book of Formation attributed to Avraham Avinu (our patriarch), each month of the Jewish year has a Hebrew letter, a zodiac sign, one of the twelve tribes, a sense  and a controlling limb of the body that corresponds to it. The Book, “Mishnas Chasidim” by Rabbi Emanuel Chai, a sacred book of Kabbalah based on the Zohar and the writings of the Arizal, adds that each month also possesses G-ds ineffable name lettered in a different way. In other words, every aspect assigned to the Hebrew month becomes a Divine channel through which Hashem’s blessings flow. Each month has a Divine objective and through developing our awareness of its spiritual dimensions, we can refine our conduct, improve a specific character trait and draw closer to Hashem.

Beautiful insights into the Hebrew months from Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsberg can be found on the web-site About Elul he explains the following: Yud is the letter of the month and is the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It represents the beginning of the essence of divine mercy. He explains that all created forms begin with an essential point of energy and life-force which is the point of the letter Yud.  A similar word in Hebrew is Yad which means hand. The Yud of Elul is the left hand which is the controller of the months’ sense—the sense of action and rectification. Yud also represents humility, feeling its smallness in comparison to G-ds greatness. Acquiring humility is necessary to do true teshuva.

The mazal of Elul is Virgo represented by the virgin which symbolizes G-ds beloved bride Israel, the bride in the Song of Songs who says to her groom, “I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me.”  In Kabbalah, the “mother” remains forever (on the spiritual plane) a “virgin” which means in a continual state of teshuva and tefilah.  The sense of the month is action. Taking action allows us to rectify the blemishes or broken states of the soul.  This sense is especially powerful during Elul if we do not despair and if we commit to doing the work of repair. Additionally, the sense of action is the strong inclination to fix a broken object (to save a situation) rather than throw it away. It is also the sense of organization and management. The left hand is the controller which actually controls the sense of action. Action is required if one desires to move forward.

250px-GadGad is the tribe associated with Elul and his special talent is to organize. He organized his men into camps to lead the Jewish army into battle. The name Gad also means “good fortune.” It is truly the good fortune of Israel to be G-ds beloved bride and this good fortune reveals itself through the means of our good deeds, especially those intended to rectify our blemishes and beautify ourselves, as a bride for her groom. Gad was a master of boundaries as he was able to fight and lead the other tribes in conquering the land and maintaining the borders of Israel. Gad is the soldier among us and within us.

I see Elul as a month of spiritual recovery and reclamation—a sanctuary in time for inner exploration and discovery—in order to reclaim our genuine soul powers and become rejuvenated. In a beautiful shiur I attended, the teacher, Emuna Witt, said, “We must begin Elul in a state of readiness in order to receive all the blessings embedded in her gift basket. She reminded us not to judge anyone in a negative light the entire month of Elul. The Torah teaches that we will be judged on Rosh Hashana how we judge ourselves and others.  Additionally she reminded us that we have the power to bless each other all the time through our words, thoughts and actions. She reminded us that we need to get rid of petty thinking during Elul and allow the power and energy flow of Elul to endow us with new thinking and big hearts. She said something very beautiful: every year a new light descends into the world and this new light enables our souls to grow and blossom. Since our souls have been growing, they may have acquired some weeds or bugs along with the new blooms and therefore, we have to do teshuva in a new way. This aspect of a new and deeper teshuva creates a soul expansion, like the flower beds in our overflowing gardens, and we essentially weave new garments for our souls.

The truth is that throughout the year, we struggle to live our beliefs and uphold our Torah principles. We sometimes lose our balance and need to fight to regain our footing. Elul is thus a time to re-evaluate our direction and life purpose, so that we do not hold onto behaviors that do not support our goals. We let go of the negative aspects of the past in order to be open to greater opportunities through which we can better express our divine purpose. This is the month in which Moshe ascended up the mountain a third time in order to receive the second set of tablets containing G-ds commandments. This suggests the reality of being given second chances to make amends for past mistakes.

60DaysI highly recommend the Book by Rabbi Shimon Jacobson, “60 Days: A Spiritual Guide to The High Holidays” as the perfect accompaniment to gain spiritual insight into the two months of Elul and Tishrei.  It is a practical workbook that guides the reader along a beautiful journey of discovery that lends itself to delving into the depths of the holiday in order to excavate its treasures.  It is filled with daily historic facts, exercises and inspiration. It brings alive the holidays and their depth of meaning in order to bring relevance and spiritual inspiration to our daily lives and aide us in the process of spiritual refinement.

I bless each of us that we may consciously choose to tap into the powers of refinement embedded in this Holy month of Elul. I bless us that we take a personal leadership role in our own lives and commit to rising to our greatness as Jews—G-ds chosen people. I bless us that we fall in love with refining and defining ourselves in deeper more meaningful ways and that our souls feel it and we bask in the joy of renewed life.

May we all be written and sealed for a healthy, happy, life deeply connected to the King of Kings and all of Am Yisrael.  Ariella Bracha Waldinger
























Aliyah: Repairing Your Soul Bond to Israel




by Ariella Bracha Waldinger

The month of Menachem Av contains the epitome of the dichotomy of life: extreme highs and lows.  The name of the month, Menachem Av, means the consoling father and thus we have to look for this aspect of comfort and consolation as key factors in the month.  The 9th of Av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, when horrendous calamities befell the Jewish nation, contains a litany of destructive events that took place on that day in our history in the very month of our supposed comfort. Then a mere 6 days later, we celebrate one of the most joyous days in the Jewish calendar…the 15th of Av. What’s going on?

The origins of the destructive events that transpired on Tisha B’Av began when the Jewish people accepted the negative report of the spies. Maharal (Netzach Yisrael ch.8) explains the following: when the Jews were redeemed from Egypt, G-d was actually submitting them to a new process of creation, whereby a new national entity called “Israel” would be fashioned–a nation whose collective soul would be inextricably bound-up with the teachings of the Torah and with the Land of the Torah–Eretz Yisrael. When the Jewish people accepted the negative reports of the spies, they dramatically transformed their essential nature and ripped the Land of Israel from the core of their being. They didn’t merely accept the spies’ report intellectually. By shedding real tears, they expressed the depth of their soul’s antipathy for Eretz Yisrael, thereby severing their soul-bond with the Holy Land. The Maharal concludes by saying that in order to forge a new soul-bond with the holy soil, the same tears that once dissolved our link to the Land of Israel, must now be shed in love and yearning for our homeland so that our souls can truly merge with the land.

Rabbi Nachman Kahana of the Old City Jerusalem, who has lived here for 50 years (and published over 40 books of Talmudic discourse) writes in his book,” With All Your Might/ Parsha Va’etchanan”  that the academically-accepted definition of nationhood constitutes: a defined geographical area, common language, designated national goals, shared responsibility, mutual interdependence and perhaps more. He goes on to say that Jewish nationhood includes all of the above, with two additional factors that do not and cannot exist within any other national group. 1) We did not achieve nationhood through the accepted, evolutionary stages of family, tribe and nation. We were coalesced, fused, bonded, sealed, integrated, and synthesized, at one precise moment by our Creator, Blessed Be He, to serve as His personal representative in this world. 2) The Jewish nation as a whole is collectively responsible for the spiritual compliance of every individual within the nation. This was the major implication of the ceremony that was held in Eretz Yisrael, by the mountains of Gerizim and Eyval near Shechem ( Rashi Devarim 29;28) which transformed the individual intimate relationship with HaShem into a new relationship that merged every single Jew into ONE EXCLUSIVE, DISTINCT, UNIQUE AND UNRIVALED NATION.  It is taught that a person out of touch with his inner soul hardly appreciates the spiritual losses of not taking up residence in the Holy Land.

Rav Kahana asks us to compare how the Jews outside the Land, rank in these aspects that define Jewish nationhood: 1) a defined geographical area: This area was established by G-d for us in Eretz Yisrael. A Jew who is not living in Eretz Yisrael surrenders a major facet in his ties to Eretz Yisrael and Torah. 2) A common language: Our language is Ivrit and the vast majority of orthodox Jews outside the land can barely hold a conversation in Hebrew. 3) Designated national goals: The national goals in foreign lands tend towards the same goals of the gentiles in those lands. Jews very often go further than their gentile neighbors to prove their allegiance to those lands. 4) Shared responsibility: If one does not live in the Jewish homeland, he cannot truly share in the responsibilities inherent in life nor in its future goals. 5) Mutual interdependence: It is comforting to have AIPAC and other friends in high places but as we witnessed over the past 6+ weeks, when push comes to shove, it is the families in Israel who truly fight the ground battles to the point of even sacrificing their sons and daughters for the Jewish nation.

I personally believe that it is the concept of nationhood that gives the deepest comfort inherent in the name of this month. What a powerful consolation to have been given a land, language, national goals, shared responsibilities and mutual interdependence. When the Jews in the desert denied their birthright, they broke a soul-bond as the Maharal states. Thus making Aliyah reconnects all aspects of that bond as we understand from Rabbi Kahana’s list. Aliyah then truly allows the core aspects of nationhood to coalesce and helps us to manifest our latent potential and true power.

The month of Av also brings us Tu B’Av—the 15th of the month of Av—which was the time of an ancient festival that originally marked the end of the wood-chopping season in the Land of Israel. The work stoppage, so to speak, gave the young men time to search for wives. The maidens of Jerusalem (according to the Talmud) dressed themselves in white on the 15th of Av and went to the vineyards, singing and dancing, and the young men followed after them. The result? This day became a festival of matrimony thereby creating new generations ready to sustain Jewish life. Once again, we come to understand from this, the joy of the nation being united in their land, marrying and insuring the continuation of the Jewish people. The Jewish people are not just a religion. We are G-ds chosen people with a divinely chosen homeland and a divinely chosen mission. When we come together, as we have done recently, we not only comfort each other, we bring comfort to G-d and to our own souls.

I bless you to reflect deeply on the aspect of how G-d comforts us in so many ways and then reflect on how you comfort G-d. His own house has never been rebuilt, but he gave us this precious festival on the 15th to remind us of the significance of building up the generations of Jews and sustaining the life of the Jewish nation in our Divine inheritance.

With Love, Ariella Bracha

Swimming in the Torah Channel Called Shavuot


By Ariella Bracha Waldinger

Breaking waves and currents of wondrous flowing water

Spread out over the expanse of the world

As the currents of the Torah of Shavuot begins to descend from the heavens.

Its imminence permeates the world and saturates the air, sea and land,

As it swirls and twirls like a thermal cloud updraft or a raging river.

Its fragrant bouquet of truth permeates and perfumes the air and water with its continuous holy movement.

And I, like a small child reach up my hands to grab at the goodies of Torah delights.

I don my bathing suit to splash in the breaking waves of Torah knowledge.

I play in the water channels of its depth of interactive currents of wisdom knowing it is mine for the taking……My G-d given Divine birthright as a Jew…..a breathtaking gift from G-d.

I take delight in the calm part of the water as I interact with its ebb and flow at the seashore.

Then I lay stretched out upon a life raft of devotional offerings all meant to satisfy my soul. Open armed; ready, willing and able to receive the all of it,

I allow it to drench my soul like a warm, cascading waterfall of healing, cleansing, life-giving energy.

Receptive to its gift of light, love, peace, wholeness and harmony, I will it to grant me the ability to transcend my mundane existence.

I choose to adopt its life affirming guidelines for my life, consciously choosing to grab hold of the coattails of its permanence.

Then, wrapped in the torrents of G-dly truth, I affirm my acceptance. Na’ase v’nishmah! I allow my newly enhanced soul to catch the wind, and rise upwards like a hot air balloon filled with the life force of Torah acceptance.

And like a newborn soul savoring the nourishment from its mother, and recognizing her love,

I begin to understand that my acceptance has permitted me to tap into the Torah Channels of Shavuot,

I have mindfully honored the holiday with all its treasured gifts in a process of becoming whole and it feels extraordinary.

Chol HaMoed Pesach in Israel, 2014


by Ariella Bracha Waldinger

My heart goes out to my fellow Jews around the world whose holiday lasted one day longer than the seven enjoyed by Jews in Israel. The additional day means more meals to cook, more food to eat, more work to do and more money to spend plus the inconvenience. The fact is that every Jewish holiday celebrated outside the Land of Israel requires two days instead of one with the exception of Rosh HaShana. The Talmud (Beitza4b) comments on the fact that the two-day festival was a custom of our forefathers that cannot be changed. Tshuvot Hageonim (166:29) states that two days of a festival outside the Land of Israel was planned from the outset by HaShem.  My husband says it’s like having to go to summer-school because you didn’t apply yourself to the subject matter i.e., Jewish History and Bible history. We were given the Land of Israel to live in and if we don’t, we pay a price one way or another.

The real truth for me personally is that I feel sad that my fellow Jews do not get to experience the parks, people and pleasure of touring Israel during the Intermediate days of the Passover Holiday and the rest of the year as well. This year the weather was perfect; mostly sunny and warm with cooler nights.  The country is ablaze with fragrant garden flowers, bushes dripping with blooms, gorgeous flowering trees and exquisite wildflowers but the best sight of all is our fellow Jews and their families savoring the country and its Jewish holiday.

According to a Jerusalem Post article several million hikers, picnickers and campers took to the National Parks throughout Israel during the holiday of Passover. During the week of the holiday, the KKL-JNF was offering free entry to all its forests along with free walking tours and events for children and families. The National Parks Authority planned numerous activities around the country including sand sculpture contests at beaches and several festivals with music. Where else can you get free access to G-ds beloved gift of nature in all its beauty, plus planned activities for children…..all in honor of the Passover holiday?

One of the best features of life in Israel is free camping at parks and beach areas.  During the intermediate days of the holiday, the entire areas are completely covered with pitched tents and lots of children running around with glee. There is no reservation system and no fees. Camping sites in national parks in America are $20.00 per site per night but they are booked months in advance and are difficult to come by. Entrance fees in most National Parks in America are $25.00 per vehicle.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThe north is THE PRIMARY LOCATION for National parks in Israel and there are plenty to choose from. Additionally living in the north, as we do, we are also very close to the Mediterranean Sea. During the intermediate days, we visited Nahariya in the Western Galilee. It was established in 1934 by German Jews fleeing the Nazi’s. It is a popular seaside resort town with beautiful beaches. The entire city is very flat which makes it perfect for both biking and walking along its lovely Seaside promenade. After meandering along the promenade, we dined in a lively restaurant with yummy food. Outside the Land of Israel, it is rare to find a Kosher restaurant set up for Passover meals.


rosh hanikraAfter lunch, we drove five miles North to the gorgeous, dramatic white cliffs situated above the azure blue Mediterranean, to view the Rosh Hanikra grottoes. Rosh Hanikra is in the northwestern corner of Israel on the border of Lebanon. According to the Virtual Israel Experience web site, in ancient times Rosh Hanikra was along the trade route between the northern civilizations in Lebanon and Syria and the southern ones in Palestine, Egypt and North Africa.  The place was then known as “The Ladders of Tyre.” It has been a gateway in and out of Israel since ancient times. In 1934, the British dug a tunnel for a railway to run between Haifa and Beirut to enable supplies to go from Egypt to the North. It was blown up in 1948 to prevent the Lebanese army from crossing into Israel.

The entire area of the Park was packed with carloads of holy Jews enjoying the sights. There is a two-minute cable car ride down to the shore with access to the caves that lie beneath the cliffs. The caves or grottoes have been carved out by the pounding of relentless waves. Today huge bursts of seawater surge at your feet and footpaths inside the cliffs lead from one cave to another where one can hear the echo of waves crashing against the walls.  Another great feature of this gem of a destination is the restaurant perched atop the cliff with a spectacular view of the Med and the coastline. My friends and I drank in the beauty and movement of the shimmering water like thirsty wanderers in the desert. We had a difficult time saying good-bye to this gorgeous natural wonder but our next adventure awaited us.

free_israel_photos_places_akko_port_1920We decided to continue with our beach theme and drive to Akko, an ancient port city, whose history begins 4,000 years ago.  Fodor’s Tour book describes Akko as the walled Old City located in the modern town of Akko. It is an enchanting mix of mosques, ancient markets selling anything and everything, museums, vaulted Crusader ruins, Turkish Inns and lots of fish restaurants. Akko is a city with a fascinating history that includes battles fought against Napoleon’s army in 1799. In ancient times its strategic position on the coastal road that linked Egypt and Phoenicia made it the principal port on the eastern Mediterranean. Alexander the Great set up a mint in the city in the 3rd century and was operational for six centuries. One can spend several hours touring the fascinating Old City with its old world charm. We mingled with the crowds, enjoyed the attractions and savored watching the children in the rental boats on the Sea. The port was filled with pretty boats of various sizes and locals were swimming in the chilly waters. The day was coming to an end and it was time to head home. We had truly felt the Pleasure of being one with the Nation of Israel in its beautiful Parks and Cities in its Biblical Home Land.  The Passover message rang out loud and clear through our travel adventures as we felt the Freedom of Being a Proud Jew in The Sovereign country of Israel.  People, Parks and Pleasure all wrapped Into One Big Package of Joy during the Intermediate Days of The Festival of our Freedom. WHAT COULD BE BETTER?