Tag Archives: hiddur mitzvah

Sensing Spiritual Synchronicity

By Susan L. Lipson (Poway, CA)

As I settled in at temple services on a recent Saturday morning, taking a deep breath to focus my spiritual intentions, I looked around our sanctuary and suddenly found myself appreciating anew the beautiful artifacts wrought by artistic hands blessed to uplift spirituality.

My eyes lingered on the section of a Torah scroll, rescued from Holocaust-torn Europe, and restored and mounted within a protective acrylic case now hanging on the wall beside the bimah—a scroll whose sofer (scribe) never dreamed that his painstaking, holy work would survive a murder attempt to receive new life and a new purpose in a California temple.

Beside the ark stands a 6-foot-tall metal menorah, welded by strong hands that clearly desired to inspire. Did that welder-artist envision the sanctuary that would someday house this symbol of Jewish light?

And the actual light—the ner tamid—that glowing, multi-colored flame of glass, drawn out of some artist’s blazing oven to reflect in the artist’s eyes for the time it took to shape it, is suspended now before light-seeking eyes who look upward, over the ark, before closing their eyes in earnest prayers.

The ark itself inspired me as a kind of giant mezuzah, housing precious, handwritten scrolls inside the once-living body of God’s most majestic plant creation—the tree, ha’etz, appropriately protecting the Etz Hayim (Tree of Life, a.k.a. Torah).  

So many hands, divinely empowered, suddenly touched my heart through their offerings. 

My epiphany filled my head and heart with this spontaneous prayer:

“Dear God, bless all of the hands that worked so earnestly to create this beautiful environment in which to feel your presence, to add goodness to our community through their own artistically blessed hands. May they continue to feel inspired and to inspire others.”

Then I inhaled, exhaled, and opened my prayer book to join my fellow congregants in reading, chanting, and singing.

When a bar mitzvah began chanting the weekly Torah portion from the scroll, I felt chills of confirmation of my connection to God and Torah when, to my delight, I read the English translation in the book version: the teenager was reading the precise design directions for the building and beautification of the holy Temple in Jerusalem, describing the sizes and colors of every holy object to be built, even the artistic inclusion of pomegranate and gold bell motifs.

In the past, hearing this portion read, I never understood the purpose of such detailed design directions in our holy text. I had always considered this passage cryptically verbose. I had wondered why the objects in the worship space mattered so much. But now, the coincidence of my “object lesson” and the “objectification of spirituality” in the weekly reading struck me as bashert, meant to be.

Synchronicity is God’s way of reminding us that we need to look in order to see the connectedness of our world.

Susan L. Lipson (a.k.a. “S. L. Lipson”) has published books for children and teachers, as well as articles and personal narratives, curriculum materials, and poetry (www.sllipson.com). Recently, Lipson’s short memoir “Connections” was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and Premonitions.  You can find more of her work on her blog, “Writing Memorable Words” (www.susanllipson.blogspot.com) and  www.susanllipsonwritingteacher.blogspot.com ). You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram (@sllipson), as well as on her Facebook Author Page: “S. L. Lipson, Author & Writing Teacher.”


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Filed under American Jewry, Jewish identity, Judaism

Sanctify (Veyakhel-Pekudei)

by Janet Ruth Falon (Elkins Park, PA)

God, that very exacting architect, tells us seven times
What we need to build a Mishkan –
The skins, the acacia wood, the stones
The gold, the oils, the lapis lazuli —
And post by post,
Socket by socket,
Loop by loop,
How exactly to put it together
Or risk unspoken but surely imagined repercussions
(not the least of which might be a volcano or tsunami
that would force us to start from the ground up
and go searching, again, for copper and silver, etcetera).

And each one of those seven times
that we’re told about building that Mishkan
God, that very exacting fashionista,
Tells us what to use to make the clothes for the priests –
The yarns, the chains, the linens,
the agate and crystal and sapphires —
And braid by braid,
Sash by sash,
Hem by hem,
How exactly to put it together

All of which makes me feel a whole lot better
About how much I like jewelry.

And I’m not talking diamonds, by the way.

(I also have a many-color jacket I call Joseph
As in, “I think I’ll wear Joseph today.”)


I like the idea of adorning myself
Not so much because I’m such a beauty
(although my husband thinks I am – and,
no surprise here, I have my own body-image issues,
just like almost every other woman I know)

No, I like the idea of adorning myself
(And I just realized that if you get rid of the “n”
you’re left with adoring and,
no surprise here, I don’t always feel so great about myself
just like almost every other person I know)

I like adorning myself
Because, as they tell me, I’m made in God’s image
And when I imagine Her I no longer see
That severe old man who looks like Santa without his suit
Wrapped, instead, in a white sheet
That billows in the wind like a March in-like-a-lion afternoon

Instead, I see someone tall and elegant
Like the Statue of Liberty if she softened into flesh
with silver hair and lots of silver jewelry
that shimmers by sun and glows by moon,
decorated with stones that breed in earth’s belly.
She’d have what people call “bearing”
She’d be what people call a handsome woman

So to sum all this up,
if I look like God
And God is a looker,
Who cares, apparently, about appearances,
Lord knows I’d better look good.

Janet Ruth Falon, the author of The Jewish Journaling Book (Jewish Lights, 2004), teaches a variety of writing classes — including journaling and creative expression — at many places, including the University of Pennsylvania.  She leads a non-fiction writing group and works with individual students, and is continuing to write Jewish-themed readings for what she hopes will become a book, In the Spirit of the Holidays.

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Filed under American Jewry, Jewish identity