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What We Can Learn From Pesach Sheni

In this week's Torah portion Behaalotecha, we encounter a unique event known as Pesach Sheni, or the "Second Passover."

According to the Book of Numbers (9:1-14), the Israelites were instructed to observe the Passover festival on the fourteenth day of the first month of Nisan. However, some people found themselves ritually impure and unable to participate in the Pesach Offerings. And yet they didn’t want to miss out, so they approached Moshe, seeking guidance and a chance to partake in the Pesach offering.

In their genuine yearning for connection and desire to make up for missing out, they petition Moshe, who then turns to G-d for an answer. The divine response was surprising: a second chance was granted. A new date was established, exactly one month later, on which these individuals could bring their Passover offerings and fully partake in the ritual offerings.

Pesach Sheni teaches us that redemption and growth are not limited to a single moment, but rather an ongoing journey. Sometimes we just need to be open to new possibilities.

This significant event carries profound implications for our daily lives. It serves as a reminder that we are not defined by our failures or missed opportunities but rather by our capacity to learn, grow, and seize new chances that come our way.

The people who missed the Pesach Offering were not passive. They didn’t throw up their hands and say , “Too bad, we missed out.” Instead they beseeched Moshe and asked most assertively “why should we be kept back just because we were accidentally made impure?” (Numbers 9:7 ) "ואמרו האנשים ההמה אליו , אנחנו טמאים לנפש אדם ; למה נגרע לבלתי הקריב את קרבן השם במועד בתוך במעד בתוך בני ישראל?” Mindfulness practice can help us to seize or make the most out of missed opportunities. By learning to cultivate our awareness of what we are experiencing through paying attention to our feelings, physical sensation and thoughts --with acceptance and kindness to ourselves-- we can acknowledge what we are feeling, and also not dwell on or ruminate on what could have been. We can allow ourselves to be present in the here and now, and notice and be open to possibilities around us. In our fast-paced and often chaotic lives, we may find ourselves consumed by regrets, dwelling on missed opportunities, or feeling trapped by past mistakes. However, Pesach Sheni reminds us that every day offers a new opportunity for growth and transformation. By practicing mindfulness, we develop the capacity to see beyond our perceived limitations and embrace the endless possibilities that exist in the present.

Try this short practice: Find a comfortable place to sit where you won’t be disturbed. Bring your attention to your breath. Notice the sensation of the breath entering and leaving your body. Feel the gentle rise and fall of your chest or the subtle movement of your abdomen. Allow your breath to anchor you to the present moment, grounding you in the here and now. (pause) As you continue to breathe, acknowledge any thoughts or emotions that arise. So if feelings of sadness, disappointment, or uncertainty arise as a result of any setback, difficulty or impasse you are experiencing, observe them without judgment. Recognize that it is natural to feel this way, and allow these emotions to be present without resistance. (pause) Notice any sensations in your body as you imagine the possibilities that lie ahead. Are there any areas of tension or tightness? Breathe into those areas, allowing them to soften and release. Allow yourself to be open and receptive to whatever you’re feeling in this moment.

And now remind yourself of your own resilience and inner strength. Recognize that you have overcome challenges before and have the capacity to do so again. Trust in your ability to navigate this new path and create a life that aligns with your values and aspirations. (pause) As you continue to breathe, bring your attention to the present moment. Let go of any thoughts or worries about the past or future. Instead, focus on the opportunities that exist right here, right now. What small steps can you take today to move forward and rebuild your life?

Our past limitations or circumstances needn’t define our future. What if we tried to look beyond our perceived constraints and embrace possibilities that exist now? How would you like to move on from a disappointment or misfortune in your life? Just as those who were ritually impure and unable to participate in the initial Passover offering were granted a second chance, we too can overcome obstacles and seize opportunities for personal and spiritual development. Pesach Sheni serves as a powerful reminder that second chances and taking a new path are inherent in our daily lives. Mindfulness can help us to be fully present and learn from our past experiences, recognize these openings, and create a future filled with growth and possibility.

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Updated: May 25

Lessons from Shavuot

Tomorrow we celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, which literally means” weeks” and marks the end of the seven weeks of counting of the Omer that started on Pesach.

We celebrate receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai by learning Torah, and some stay up all night to learn. The Torah refers to Shavuot as חג קציר (Festival of Reaping),an agricultural holiday when the wheat was harvested in the Spring .

It’s also referred to as Chag Aviv (the Spring Festival) which marks the beginning of the new planting season.

The Torah also mentions the holiday as Yom HaBikkurim, when people would bring Bikkurim or offerings of their first and best fruits as an offering to the Temple.

Shavuot requires no special preparation, unlike other holidays such as building a Sukkah or cleaning out our chametz for Pesach.

Besides counting the omer, how else can we prepare ourselves more to connect to the holiday? What other significance might we find in Shavuot?

Out of many themes and explanations of the holiday, there is also an idea of receiving (the Torah) and also of giving (from our finest fruits and the seven species of the Land of Israel).

We received –and continue to receive– this gift of laws with love and we also are meant to give wholeheartedly.

Many of us are better at giving than we are at receiving.

In many cultures and religions, giving is encouraged and even commanded, but receiving? Not so much.

Maybe we were brought up to believe that It is a sign of weakness or selfishness to receive and we should be self-reliant. Maybe we don’t feel worthy. And maybe we don’t trust the giver’s intentions.

Do you feel embarrassed when you get a compliment? Do you discount what the person says?

Are you uncomfortable in accepting gifts and find yourself saying, "You shouldn’t have”?

How do you respond when someone offers to help you? Do you feel awkward or tense in your body?

Receiving from others increases the feeling of connection to them.

It deepens our relationships and makes them less one-sided and more reciprocal.

And it makes the other person feel good too!

Family therapist and author John Amodeo writes about mindfulness and how to deepen relationships. He offers a couple explanations as to why it’s hard for some us to receive in his book, Dancing with Fire: A Mindful Way to Loving Relationships”

Receiving creates connection. Prioritizing giving over receiving may be a way to keep people distant and our hearts protected. Receiving allows us to get closer to someone.

Letting Go- when we give, we’re in control in a certain way. It might be easy to offer a kind word or buy someone flowers, but can we allow ourselves to surrender to the good feeling of receiving a gift?

Receiving invites us to display a vulnerable part of ourselves.

That’s not so easy for some people.

When we receive gracefully we are allowing the giver a chance to give, and we are allowing both ourselves and them blessings. And this enables a real connection.

When we received the Torah on Mt Sinai, there was a reciprocal giving and receiving, and a brit (covenant) was made, allowing for a deep and loving relationship between G-d and Am Yisrael.

How would you like to respond the next time someone offers you a compliment, a gift or some help ? Are you avoiding a closer connection with people around you?

Imagine receiving with more ease and with an open heart the next opportunity that comes along, and forming a deeper connection to that person.

John Amadeo writes:

“The parched earth can’t let in a life-giving rain if it is covered by plastic tarp. Without the capacity to be touched by caring and appreciation, we render these gifts less meaningful. Receiving, letting things in with heartfelt gratitude, is a gift to the giver! When we are visibly moved, it conveys that they’ve made a difference in our lives. We may then bask together in a moment in which there is no distinction between the giver and the receiver. Both people are giving and receiving in their own unique ways. This shared experience can be profoundly sacred and intimate—a moment of delectable grace.”

May you allow yourself to give AND receive with an open heart, and deepen connections to people around you on this Chag Shavuot, and always.

*This blog is dedicated to my dear husband and wonderful friends who have taught me (and continue to teach me) so much about giving AND receiving. I am blessed.

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In this week’s Torah portion, Bahar-Bechukotai, we learn about being fair in business practices, specifically in the Jubilee year when the land is to be returned to its original owners.

“And if you sell to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not wrong one another (25:19).” And , "Do not take advantage of each other, I am the Lord your G-d (25:17)."

These verses remind us to treat others fairly and compassionately, and to be mindful of our actions and how they affect those around us.

Later on we learn that our actions have an impact, not only on others, but ourselves as well: "If you walk in my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit (26:3)." This verse teaches us the importance of being mindful of our relationship with G-d and following his commandments. We can experience blessings in our lives, if we are kind and thoughtful of others and follow the commandments of the Torah.

This is not the first place that the Torah emphasizes the importance of treating others with compassion and avoiding exploitation.

I guess we all need to be reminded a lot! There is a mindfulness meditation poster that says, “Just be kind, you never know what someone else may be going through.” The other day I was waiting for a referral from the secretary at my local health services . The secretary seemed impatient and distracted with the person in front of me. She wasn’t so nice. The person started to yell and walked out. The secretary then got up and left. I wasn’t sure what to do. Another secretary whispered to me that this secretary just got a message that her close friend died, someone she had tried to help get necessary treatments.

Apparently she had no time to process or deal with the loss because she had to move on to take care of the long line of people. Maybe we are the ones who are distracted or too quick to judge?

We have no clue what someone else is going through. Some days we might not even realize what we’re going through ourselves. We wouldn’t want someone judging us on a bad day. Everyone is just doing the best that they can just like we are. So STOP, and take a moment to think about the fact that the other person could be facing an issue that we can’t imagine.

Mindfulness encourages us to be mindful of our relationships with others, and to cultivate a sense of empathy and understanding.

Compassion and understanding is like a muscle and we need to exercise it.

Try this short loving kindness practice:

Find a quiet and comfortable space where you can sit or lie down. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, allowing your body and mind to settle as much as possible in the moment.

As you inhale, notice the air moving through your body, and as you exhale, imagine releasing any tension you may be holding onto. Imagine yourself offering compassion to someone and you receiving their kindness in return. As you continue to breathe in and out, visualize yourself sending love and understanding to others, including yourself, your loved ones, and even those you may have difficulties with.

Repeat these phrases to yourself, imagining sending this loving kindness to yourself and others :

May we be safe

May we be healthy

May we loved and love ourselves as we are

May we be free from suffering and live with ease

Add any phrases that have meaning for you.

When you feel ready, gently open your eyes and return your attention to your surroundings.

Spend a few more moments here if you want.

While it’s been about 2,000 years since we observed the commandant of the Jubilee year, we can still learn a lot about treating people fairly, kindly, and non-judgmentally

The practice of mindfulness takes time and patience to cultivate. By making an intention to incorporate the mindfulness practice of loving kindness into your daily life, you can make a difference on how you treat people and yourself, and spread compassion, tenderness and understanding.

Couldn’t we all use a little more of that these days?

For a longer guided self -compassion practice :

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