CBB Voices Blog2020-06-22T14:35:19-07:00

Daniel Hochman: The Divine Spark

Daniel Hochman: The Divine Spark

Our teach­ings tell us we are in­fused with a di­vine spark. This pin­na­cle of light connects us to G-d and to each oth­er. When I cel­e­brate the suc­cess of my friends, I share that hap­pi­ness through this di­vine spark. When some­one is griev­ing, I can reach out with em­pa­thy; and that is the di­vine spark.

We nur­ture our con­nec­tion to the di­vine with our acts and our thoughts. When we are kind and con­sid­er­ate, when we lis­ten and try to un­der­stand, when we think of the well-be­ing of an­oth­er, we en­gage our di­vine spark. Our right ac­tions and thoughts are the key to our con­nec­tion with this in­ner light. It is not be­cause we are test­ed. I don’t be­lieve that some­thing ac­tive­ly tests us.

But I know that when I am act­ing con­gru­ent­ly with my sense of moral­i­ty, I can sense the spark’s pres­ence. When I be­tray my sense of right and wrong; when I fool my­self with ra­tio­nal­iza­tions; when I take the easy path, I lose my con­nec­tion to the inner fire.

I find it, ul­ti­mate­ly, eas­i­er to live a life free from the dis­trac­tion of my ego end­less­ly telling me I should have done some­thing dif­fer­ent­ly. It is much eas­i­er to do the right thing in the first place. And it takes less time!

This has been no eas­i­er dur­ing the Pan­dem­ic than in oth­er times. I find that the human part of me makes mis­takes. It does not al­ways do the right thing, take right action, and have right thoughts. This is nor­mal. My con­nec­tion to the di­vine spark is the bal­anc­ing salve, tam­ing the ego and tun­ing into di­vine con­scious­ness.

So, I have been in­vest­ing in my di­vine spark. How? By clos­ing the gap be­tween my ac­tions and my ex­pec­ta­tions. How do I this?

  • Pra­yer
  • Me­di­ta­tion
  • Mu­sic
  • Rest
  • Pos­i­tive, spir­i­tu­al, and fun­ny Face­book groups
  • Cha­ri­ty
  • Apo­lo­gi­zing
  • For­giv­ing
  • Striv­ing for un­der­stand­ing
  • Rec­og­niz­ing when I am feel­ing ‘off.’
  • And many more!!

There are end­less ways. You will sure­ly see some on my list, and you will have a list of your own. As we cul­ti­vate our spir­i­tu­al pres­ence, as we more deeply con­nect with our in­ner di­vine spark, some­thing mirac­u­lous starts to hap­pen!

We feel bet­ter. ‘It’s bet­ter to give than to re­ceive’ has roots in this truth. Also, ’char­ity is good for the soul.’ We fill our lan­guage with wit­ty ‘tru­isms’ en­cour­ag­ing us to accen­tu­ate this side of our ex­is­tence. The ‘re­al­i­ty’ of our hu­man ex­is­tence can co­in­cide with this vi­sion of the in­ner spark. And as we pour our en­er­gy and thoughts into this di­vine con­nec­tion, the con­nec­tion grows.

It be­comes eas­i­er to con­nect. The con­nec­tion be­comes stronger. The spark becomes an ember, be­comes a flame, and then who knows? Can this di­vine pres­ence charge us even at the cel­lu­lar lev­el? Re­search sug­gests it can! And we can take comfort in know­ing that over time we tru­ly do change.

Our cells die and re­gen­er­ate such that as we age, our en­tire body is 100% replace­ment parts from orig­i­nal. Our bod­ies have changed from in­fant to child to adult to aged. They are not the same bod­ies. Our con­scious­ness sur­vives, as does our link to the di­vine.

As I ex­pe­ri­ence the High Hol­i­days, my thoughts turn to our con­gre­ga­tion. If I have in­ter­act­ed with you, I have prob­a­bly been in some­way un­kind. I may have ig­nored your feel­ings or dis­missed your ideas. At times, I have been force­ful. At times, I have barked when I was in pain. The val­ue of my apol­o­gy will be in my pur­suit of right action as we con­tin­ue our paths. I hope you for­give me as well, as I for­give you for what I may have per­ceived as hurt­ful. And in this way, may we con­tin­ue to reach for the divine by grow­ing our in­ner light.

Da­ni­el Ho­ch­man
Founder, A Peace­ful Light

Daniel Hochman has deep roots at CBB. His favorite pastimes are loving his wife Mandy, music, and pondering the meaning of life.

2021-09-14T09:35:50-07:00September 13th, 2021|

Lynn Altschul: Maintaining Good Mental Health as Covid Cases Surge Again

Lynn Altschul: Maintaining Good Mental Health as Covid Cases Surge Again

The Mental Wellness Committee at CBB is engaged in understanding and providing activities, education and strategies for maintaining good mental health for our congregation. We will be exploring a variety of topics with the hope of bringing awareness and clarity to the many aspects that effect our mental health.  We also hope to offer insights and observations in how to maintain a balanced and healthy perspective during these challenging times.

With the current rise in the Delta variant Covid cases, it is easy to feel discouraged.  Last May and June many of us felt that we were, at last, at the end of the dark tunnel and that we could begin to resume our normal activities.  Restaurant dining, gathering with friends indoors, shopping and travel all seemed within our grasp.  But as the summer has worn on, it has become apparent that we are not out of the Covid woods yet and, in fact, in many places, the number of cases are at all time highs.  As we send our unvaccinated children back to schools and some of us return to the workplace, how do we cope with the resurgence of this virus and all the fears associated with it?

According to the World Health Organization, mental health is defined as “a state of well being in which the individual realizes their own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” While the increased stresses caused by the Pandemic go beyond our normal stresses, positive  mental health can help people live happier, healthier and longer lives.

Taking care of our Mental Health impacts the quality of our lifestyles and is ever more critical during these challenging times.  In fact, Mental Health can be as important as physical and medical health in maintaining an active and healthy life.  Outside factors such as loss of job, health issues, financial stress, relationships, etc, can seriously threaten our mental health and diminish the quality of our lives.  While it can be challenging, there are things that we can do to bolster and maintain a more productive and positive outlook.  Many of these strategies are simple but can make a difference in the quality of our day-to-day lives.

Stay Physically Active  Being physically active is good for your mind as well as your body as it releases mood boosting endorphins that provide a relaxed sensation. Physical activity can help to reduces stress and anxiety. The Presidents Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week.

Eat and Sleep Well  Taking care of your body influences your mental health .The Mayo Clinic recommends that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep each night.  In addition, maintaining a healthy body weight can serve to reduce feelings of irritability, anxiety and depression.

Take Breaks  Even during a pandemic, life can get hectic. Taking a break regularly, whether by using meditation, taking a walk or listening to music, can improve your overall sense of well being.  And taking a break from the news can be helpful in reducing anxiety.

Spend Time with Friends and Family  Companionship is good for your health. Connecting with others can boost happiness, reduce stress and improve self confidence and self worth.

Focus on the Positives  As difficult as it may be in todays uncertain times, thinking positive thoughts can influence how you feel and your general outlook.

In these challenging times, we may not always be able to practice these strategies and just getting through each day may be the best we can do.  Be kind to yourself and take comfort in knowing that  you are doing the best that you can.

Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have a question or mental health concern. Email CBB Director of Community Engagement, Mariela Socolovsky at mariela@cbbsb.org to learn more.

~~~~~

Lynn Altschul is a retired Family Therapist specializing in Child Development and the support of young families.  She received her LMFT from the Family Institute at Northwestern University.  Lynn is a CBB board member and active on several boards at Jewish Family Service in Santa Barbara.  Originally from the Chicago area, Lynn and her husband have enjoyed Santa Barbara life for the past fifteen years while continuing to spend their summers back in the Midwest. She has four grandchildren and enjoys a variety of activities including photography, painting, bicycling, walking and reading.

2021-08-19T14:13:07-07:00August 19th, 2021|

Beth Weinberg: Reflections on Yolanda Savage Narva

Beth Weinberg: Reflections on Yolanda Savage Narva

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Editor’s note: CLICK TO VIEW Yolanda Savage Narva’s presentation on racial equality, diversity, and inclusion, from our June 20, 2021 Kenny Gaynes Memorial Sunday Morning Live. Savage Narva is the Director of Racial Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion at the Union for Reform Judaism. (She is also the aunt to CBB’s own Josh Narva.)

Community member Beth Weinberg reflects on Savage Narva’s presentation in today’s CBB Voices blog post. –Ed.

~~~

I have spent time thinking about Black Lives Matter and how to become part of the solution instead of the problem. I set out reading all the books that were currently discussing systemic racism, these include: White Privilege, White Fragility, Caste just to name a few. So, I am a white Jewish woman who reads books. Now what?  

I believe that if any group’s rights are compromised we are all at risk for ours to be compromised as well. Does Takun Olum encourage us to make the world better for all people, not just selected groups? Now what? How do I move from beliefs to action? 

After listening to Yolanda’s presentation I felt inspired. Her use of “Public Narrative through Storytelling” was a wonderful way to put context to how we view ourselves. She breaks this down into three categories  

The story of self 

The story of us 

The story of now 

These categories help identify individual values, the community concerns and where we are in the present. It shines a light on what are the important values for ourselves and how they function in our daily life. It may even point out implicit bias which is so integrated within ourselves.  We have to search hard to find it. 

She suggests the idea of: learn, unlearn, relearn. Sounds like that should be easy,  but changing ourselves can be hard. It takes time and we tend to revert back to what is familiar and comfortable. 

Yolanda also said when you don’t know what to do to just keep moving. 

So, I have decided to do just that. I pledge to speak up for the rights of all. To feel uncomfortable in areas that are unfamiliar. To ask myself the tough questions that expose my own bias and how I benefit from being white. It will not be fast and it will not be perfect. But I will keep trying to be one more person that moves away from not welcoming our differences and fear of “other.” 

Beth Weinberg has been a member of CBB for over 30 years.

2021-07-14T16:27:17-07:00July 14th, 2021|

Rabbi Ira Youdovin: What Can be Expected from the New Israeli Government?

Rabbi Ira Youdovin: What Can be Expected from the New Israeli Government?

Folks are asking how long will the new Israeli government hold together, and what might it accomplish?  My answer to both questions is the same:  I don’t know.  And anybody claiming to know is fooling himself and/or trying to fool you.

On the one hand, prospects for its survival are dim.  Composed of eight parties with a staggering diversity of views, many of them conflicting, it’s difficult to identify significant issues on which all will concur. But the parties understand this and agreed that each of them, including the Palestinian Ra’am, will have the power to veto legislation before it’s introduced for Knesset discussion and vote, thus avoiding the danger of losing a vote of confidence that would force yet another national election.  They were willing to take this unusual step for the specific purpose of forming a coalition with the votes to end Prime Minister Netanyahu’s twelve-year tenue, the longest in Israel’s history.

But Bibi isn’t fading away.  He’s leading the opposition while awaiting a court’s ruling on the three felony counts on which he’s been indicted.   This could take months, even years.  But it’s well within the realm of possibility that the parties will maintain discipline until then, rather than risking another election which Netanyahu, emboldened by his rivals’ inability to form a stable government, is virtually certain to win.

The new government might be stable, at least in the near term and possibly even longer.  But what can it accomplish when any of its eight member parties can block proposed legislation before it reaches the Knesset floor?   Well…some things are possible.

Without (ultra-Orthodox) Haredi parties in the coalition, it should be possible to take a few steps forward in the on-going struggle for Jewish pluralism.  For example,  a plan for facilitating women’s and mixed-gender worship services at the Kotel (Western Wall) should (at long last) be implemented.  It was approved by the Cabinet in 2017 after a heroic effort led by Natan Sharansky, but withdrawn at the last minute when the Haredim threatened to bring down the government.  It’s been sitting in limbo ever since, angering Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Jews throughout the world.

But while the Haredi parties are gone, Haredim are not.  Prime Minister Bennett’s Yamina Party is right-wing Orthodox.  (Bennett is Israel’s first prime minister to wear a kippah in his daily life).  So it’s highly unlikely that the Knesset will vote to allow civil marriage and marriages conducted under non-Orthodox auspices in Israel to be entered into the population registry.

There could be a dramatic, and long overdue, enhancement in the quality of life for Palestinian citizens of Israel (those living inside the Green Line).  The Palestinian Ra’am party ran the same kind of  election campaign waged by politicians throughout the world,  promising to deliver new opportunities for its constituents’ advancement in Israeli society, cleaner streets, fewer potholes, better schools, more effective policing against crime in their neighborhoods, and a greatly increased budget for infrastructure.   Because Ra’am’s four seats gave the coalition a slim Knesset majority, the new government’s platform calls for huge expenditures in these areas.

On the other hand, it’s likely that the standoff over the future of the Occupied Territories and their inhabitants will continue.  The three hard right parties in the coalition—Yamina, Yisrael Beiteinu and New Hope—are committed to expanding settlements and moving toward annexing at least a substantial portion of the West Bank.  But they are blocked by the leftist Labor and Meretz parties, as well as Ra’am and, to some extent, the centrist Yesh Atid and Blue/White who seek to end the Occupation and move toward a two-state solution.

But there may be subtle, yet significant, changes in the nature of the Occupation.  Although there is no Israeli consensus for ending it—with opposition rooted in ideological aspirations as well as fears of repeating what happened in Gaza in 2005 when Israel withdrew and Hamas terrorists surged in—-Israelis are asking themselves if it needs to be enforced with brutality bolstered by a two-tier system of justice that evokes allegations of apartheid both inside Israel and abroad.

The Israel-American philosopher and social scientist Micah Goodman calls this “shrinking the conflict”.   Are punitive house demolitions necessary?  Late night “knocks on the door”?  Hundreds of checkpoints?  If settler hoodlums burn Palestinian olive groves shouldn’t they be subject to the same measure of justice that would apply if the perpetrators were Palestinians?    How much of this is essential to Israel’s security?  And how much is intended to harass the Palestinians to the point where they will leave?

I believe—and here I move from analysis to hope and prayer—that the very existence of this unlikely coalition, cobbled from disparate parts willing to compromise in order to pursue a shared goal, may effect change in the nature of Israeli political discourse and thinking, softening its toxic nature and moving people to raise their sights beyond the tumultuous here and now to fix their vision on creating a better future for all who need to find of way of sharing their troubled, but sacred land.

The new government may fall tomorrow.  Or maybe not.   But its every existence, however brief it may be, shows that the heretofore impossible in time becomes possible.

Rabbi Ira Youdovin

6/16/2021

2021-06-18T15:51:41-07:00June 18th, 2021|
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