Sukkah Guests

Tonight we begin the Festival of Sukkot, our Fall Harvest Extravaganza!  In our day and time this is a most overlooked by liberal Jews.  With so much emphasis on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur the rest of the High Holy Days- Sukkot, Hoshanah Rabbah, Simchat Torah are often passed by.  In the ancient days this festival was known as THE FESTIVAL.  Even though Passover and Shavuot are also Festivals, Sukkot was widely celebrated and very important.

I particularly love Sukkot in contrast with Yom Kippur.  Yom Kippur is introspective and a fast day.  Sukkot is a week of welcoming everyone to your table for feasting. It is the ultimate dinner party holiday.  Not Passover but Sukkot is a week of entertaining in the Sukkah, welcoming family and friends and even our ancestors through the ancient ceremony of Ushpizin.

Ushpizin is an Aramaic word for guests.  We welcome not only real guests into the hospitality of our Sukkah but ancient guests. Traditionally each of the days of Sukkot we welcome the soul of a different ancestor beginning on the first night with Abraham, second night, Isaac, third night Jacob, fourth night Moses,  fifth night Aaron, sixth night Joseph, and seventh night King David!  Each of these seven leaders of our people are present each night but one leader is highlighted. According to the Zohar, Emor 103a, their souls  actually leave Gan Eden to partake in the Divine light of the earthly Sukkot.

This welcoming of the Ushpizin is a very mystical custom. Several Jewish mystical texts explain that each of the seven Ushpizin correspond to a fundamental spiritual pathway (sefirah) through which the world is metaphysically nourished and perfected (Derech Hashem 3:2:5, Zohar Chadash, Toldot 26c; cf. Zohar 2:256a).

Abraham represents love and kindness (Chesed); Isaac represents restraint and personal strength (Gevurah). Jacob represents beauty and truth (Tifferet). Moses represents eternality and dominance through Torah (Netzach)  Aaron represents empathy and receptivity to divine splendor (Hod)Joseph represents holiness and the spiritual foundation (Yesod) David represents the establishment of the kingdom of Heaven on Earth (Malchut).

In the period of counting the Omer between Passover and Shavuot, each week is dedicated to one of these same sefirot but each characteristic of the Tree of Life appears in every week.  Just as each guest representing one of the sefirot is welcomed into the sukkah on a particular day as the leader but all are present every day!

In our day and time it is also customary to welcome Ushpiziot , women leaders of our people including, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel &Leah, Miriam, Hulda, Devorah and Esther.

Come into the Sukkah at Temple this week. Bring you lunch during the day, or one of the many events in the Sukkah this week.  Your ancestors await you!




Bring out your Unconscious Desire

Omer blessing today for day 26 – it is a day of hod shebnetzach. Hod sits opposite Netzach on the Tree of Life. Both are the feet-bringing a person to action. Hod is also the place of where form is given language and Netzach is the place of our unconscious desire. Today is the day a day when Hod in Netzach is a day for us to try to reach into our unconscious desire and give it form and language. So be quiet. Meditate today. Let your deepest inner voices be heard. Set aside some time not just for counting but for letting your unconscious desires come forward.

The Mystical Meaning of the Hebrew Letters

Tonight we begin an amazing three week class with Kabbalist Gahl Sasson.  I want to invite everyone in the LA area to study with this gentle, funny and wise soul!  This class (No previous Hebrew knowledge Necessary) “The Mystical Meaning of the Hebrew Letters” will be a powerful journey into kabbalah as described in Sefer Yetzirah, one of the basic books of Jewish mysticism!  I know you will expand your horizons and deepen your soul!


Here are the details:


The wisdom of the planets and stars are embedded in the 22 Hebrew letters’ shapes, sounds and meanings.

Gahl demonstrates how the Hebrew letters can be used as tools for the better understanding our lives as well as the workings of the Universe. In the workshop we will examine the letters as symbols and storytellers drawing fresh insights to the forces of the heavens and how they influence our personalities as well as choices we make.

*You do not need to know Hebrew to attend*

There are THREE Wednesday Class Meetings this August starting 7:00PM-8:30PM at Kol Ami  1200 North La Brea Av (at Lexington)

Here are the dates:
1. August 17th, 2011 (today)
2. August 24th, 2011
3. August 31st, 2011

$45 for the THREE classes for Kol-Ami members
$65 for the THREE classes for non-members

Register by calling (323) 606-0997 or email

We hope to see you there! I hope to see you there!

Are You Down for the Count?

Happy Passover one and all.  I hope your Seder was joyful and yummy too.

Tonight many will celebrate a second seder but what makes tonight so different is the counting of the omer.  It begins on the second night of Passover and culminates 50 days later in our next festival of Shavuot.  Each night (or the next day) we count off marking the passing of time in anticipation of the gift of Torah at Mt. Sinai.  We are waiting for the Divine Revelation.

This spiritual practice of counting the Omer (an omer is a measure of barley) is commanded in the Torah.

You shall count for yourselves — from the day after the Shabbat, from the day when you bring the Omer of the waving — seven Shabbats, they shall be complete. Until the day after the seventh sabbath you shall count, fifty days… You shall convoke on this very day — there shall be a holy convocation for yourselves — you shall do no laborious work; it is an eternal decree in your dwelling places for your generations. -Leviticus 21:15-16, 21

For seven weeks we count each day.  The mystics help us count by invoking aspects of the Divine each day and each week.

The seven aspects of God are


Gevurah=Justice and Discipline

Tiferet=Harmony and Beauty

Netzach=Endurance or Eternal

Hod=Humility, Glory

Yesod=Foundation, bonding

Malchut=Sovereignty, leadership

Each of the seven weeks are dedicated to these in this order and each day of the week is dedicated to these in order.  So tonight the first night is Chesed in Chesed.  It is a night of loving kindness in lovingkindness.  Tonight focus your heart, your soul, your essence on the totality of love. Love of self, love of family and friends, love of life, love of God.  Love in the face of hate or hurt. Receive it and give it freely.

Tomorrow night will be Gevurah in Chesed.  Justice  or Discipline in love.  Think about how we express love and the boundaries it requires.  It takes practice to love and takes patience to love.

Thursday night will be Tiferet in Chesed or beauty in Lovingkindness.  Beauty is not just the superficial beauty but beauty of the soul.  How will you express this idea of beauty in lovingkindness-through gentleness? Through consistancy? Beauty in lovingkindness in the poignant opprotunity to help someone achieve their goals.  Help some one out today from a place of selfless love.

So you can see how this unfolds.  The next day is Netzach in Chesed and then Hod in Chesed, then Sunday is Yesod in Chesed and Monday night is Malchut in Chesed.  Then we will have completed the first week and on to the next week’s counting which will be defined by Gevurah!

And onward toward the fiftieth day and Shavuot.

So are you ready to count?  Ready to practice a different kind of spiritual discipline and ready to give and receive at a deep soul level?  Get counting!

Unlocking the Secrets of Ancient Wisdom!

One of the most asked questions that I get as a rabbi is “What is the Kabbalah and how can I learn more?”  The mystical tradition in Judaism is en vogue.  And people have serious questions about the esoteric view of our faith.  Perhaps they are more curious about it because it was suppressed in parts of Judaism. The American form of Judaism-Reform, Conservative and Modern Orthodox Judaism all have their roots in the Enlightenment, rational thought of the 17th and 18th and 19th centuries.  And much of the mystical parts of Judaism were stripped from these forms of Jewish expression. Although they are still lurking there.  And this is what others want to discover.

Perhaps we hunger for this kind of learning and meaning because all of our emphasis on the scientific and rational aspects of Judaism (which there are many) haven’t always answered our doubts. We see science as having important answers about the world and our universe but not the answer to everything.  They are still mysterious about nature, space and humanity!

So we want a different language to explore our lives and its meaning. Hence people’s fascination with Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism.

If you would like to understand too–come to an introductory workshop by master teacher Gahl Sasson.  The workshop is entitled Kabbalah and the Tree of Life: Unlocking the secrets of Ancient Wisdom. Gahl is a wonderful teacher and astrologer and mystic.  He will lead a two-hour workshop tomorrow at Kol Ami on Jewish mysticism and meditation.  And then there is a ten week follow-up course on his book of mediation and practice, ” A Wish Can Change Your Life”

Join me.  7 pm  Congregation Kol Ami 1200 N. La Brea Av West Hollywood.

The fee for the workshop is 18 for temple members 25 for non members. All are invited.  You don’t have to be Jewish to attend.  Come learn a new way to look at the world and life!