Lisa, Leah or… Bob?!?

name1What is everyone’s favorite word?

Their own names!

I read this fact when I was about 7 years old and it always stuck with me. That feeling of connection when you hear someone say your name, you feel special, especially coming from someone you like. Okay, kind of weird, what’s going on??

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In Jewish tradition one’s Hebrew name is like a symbol of their soul, it’s their essence. According to the holy Kabbalistic teacher the Arizal, each Hebrew letter is a channel or pipeline to draw spiritual energy from the upper worlds to the physical world. While learning about the Hebrew language, it is unlike ANY other, each letter or tiny vowel has its own philosophy. It’s incredible. Hebrew cannot be compared to any other language on earth. Except for maybe the chemical elements of the periodic table. If you take one mineral and put it together with another, you get a whole other world. This is what the divine language of Hebrew is; each letter or tiny vowel is a mystical world of its own.

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My name that people have been calling me for 27 years has been Lisa and middle name Rebecca, I love it. I was named after my Great Grandpa Leo from NYC & Great Grandma Rivka (who had a sister Lisa Leah) from Vienna, Austria. There are absolutely no name4accidents or coincidence in life, especially when it comes to ones name. (In the wisdom of the Hebrew language, there isn’t even a word for coincidence, the word is, “mikreh”, or “a happening” that was divinely supposed to be. Touching short video of this concept here.) The Kabbalistic teacher the Arizal teaches us that the name the parents choose for their baby, either by seeing a name they liked in a magazine or naming the baby after a beloved relative is really a ‘small prophecy’. This divine inspiration is directed to the parents from above & assists the parents to give the child the precise name that is destined to be. Either naming a child either after a relative, after a person in the Torah, or a Hebrew word, the person can take the attributes and characteristics from the soul or word they were named after.

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Great Grandma Rivkah on her wedding day to Aaron early 1920s

After learning about names I put 2 and 2 together about my favorite words. My Great Grandpa Leo was an amazing artist and sculptures and today I am an artist as well! No one in my family does art; the artist essence of who I was named after is now my essence as well. My middle name Rebecca from my Great Grandma Rivka is also something I deeply connect only after hearing her story. Rivka and her family escaped from the Holocaust and were survivors and they held on to their Judaism at all costs going from country to country trying to escape the Nazis. Her and her husband Aaron (Vogel) felt so strongly about keeping Jewish roots in the family, they did things that people wouldn’t even imagine doing today for their beliefs & values. They’re the reason I am here today, her Jewish pride & values did not stop at her, they live today through me.

name7My Hebrew name Leah was given to me at my baby naming service at my Oma’s (grandmas) synagogue in 1989 in San Francisco, together with my new born little sister Rachel. Funny, two sisters in the Torah who are our Matriarchs are Leah & younger sister Rachel. (amazing short animation of Leah & Rachel here) I always was aware of my Hebrew name but I never used it. It was a holy & divine name given to me that was put high on a shelf now accumulating dust. With my new knowledge of the infinite & incredible Hebrew language and names, I had an Oprah “Ah-Ha” moment and I was like, “Um.. I want to use my name Leah!”

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I then began the process of cleaning off the dust that was piled up from the years I have not used my name Leah. I started researching my name by reading about Leah from the Torah and all the Jewish mystical insights of my name and the letters. לאה. Its not just the letters itself, it’s also the shape of the letter and each letter has a numeric value (Gematria). So, one year ago, I slowly started using my Hebrew name once a week, the most special day of the week, Shabbat. I would introduce myself as Leah, it felt weird at first, but I started to really adore it and it started to grow on me. I came to a point now where I tell every new person I meet my name is Leah. I really love it. Judaism says, “Change your name change your destiny” I like this, I can use the spiritual boost in my soul’s potential, so… check please, sold!

name9Another insight on how to grasp the essence of yourself is knowing your birthday Torah portion. (Find out your Torah portion by clicking here.) There is also no coincidences for ones name & birthday. Everything is divinely organized. It is mentioned one should learn their birthday Torah portion because your destiny is in it. Each week on Shabbat we read a different part of the Torah scroll, and on my birthday October 25, 1985 at 12:21PM (wonder why I’m like nocturnal and usually get up like after 12:21, thanks Mom!) and the Hebrew date: Cheshvan 10, 5746). The Torah portion read all over the world in different synagogues in Israel, San Francisco, China, Iran, Argentina, everywhere, was called, “Lech Lecha”.

Lech Lecha loosely translated in English means ’Go forth” or “Go to yourself.” Abraham was told by the Creator of the Universe to go from your country and your birthplace and your father’s house, to the land I will show you (Israel)…. Sound familiar?? Who crazily did this as well?

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Yes, me! I left all what I knew to live here in Israel, I feel like I went to myself. The land of my soul. There’s lots of fascinating things in this Torah portion Lech Lecha, I connected with it even BEFORE I knew it was my birthday Torah potion. This portion also entails the first name change recorded. Change your name, change your destiny. The first documented story of a name change which entailed an leahincredible change of destiny was with Sarah and Abraham. They were very old with no children, they yearned so much to have a child. The Almighty changed their names from Sarai and Abram to Sarah and Abraham. Their new names meanings were:

Abraham- the father of a multitude of nations
Sarah: a princess for the whole world

A year later Sarah did have a son. They both were so old and when they were promised to have a child after their name changes, Sarah laughed so hard in disbelief and the thought of “are you kidding???”, she and Abraham named their son Isaac, which means “he laughs.” (My Dad’s middle/Hebrew name)

A few recent real life instances with name changes… My friend mentioned a friend of hers has a daughter that was very sick. She needed a heart transplant and things were not looking good. They were so desperate they tried everything, last resort was they went to a Rabbi and the Rabbi highly suggested changing her name, or adding on a second name. They decided to add on the name Rachema, in Hebrew this means mercy. Shortly after, the little girl found a heart for a transplant and was on the mend.

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lechlachaThe second story as one day Rabbi Lazer Brody in Jerusalem met with an amazing woman of my age 28, so much going for her, went on lots of dates but absolutely no luck in finding her the person she was destined to spend her life with. When he asked for her name she answered, “Lilit” He was so shocked and he humbly told her that her name was the wife of the Satan. Her Israeli parents liked the sound of the name, but they never questioned its meaning. That following Shabbat, the Rabbi arranged an official name change for her at the Torah and she was named, Leah. Lilit became Leah, and Leah was engaged less than two months later to her match in life. Umm… I’ll have what she’s having!

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Me in Hebron 2011 and 2014 visiting Leah’s tomb from the Torah

When someone calls me by my name Leah a blissful and divine feeling comes over me & I like it! Maybe this is because of researching more of what a name and Hebrew really is, is why I truly love & connect to it. It is strange being called one name most of your life then going by another that was put on a shelf, but I took that name down to where it’s meant to be. Since lots of incredible changes have been evolving for me, I want to channel this in Leah. Each time me or someone else uses my new favorite word, its directing & reminding my soul of its unique purpose. This brings a smile to my face and heart & music to my ears!

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You can found out more of your essence by checking out YOUR birthday and/or Hebrew name HERE! I’d love to hear about yours, so uppdate me when you figure it out 🙂

Yom HaShoa- It’s moments like tonight one’s soul is full


I had one of the most real, connective, and intimate moments here tonight in Jerusalem & in my heart on one of the most unexpected nights. The room was packed with love, sadness, oneness, joy, pride, closeness, peace & lots of other reflective emotions. All ingredients which are our lives.

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survivor Ceclia speaking to a packed room tonight in Jerusalem

It is Yom HaShoa (Holocaust Remembrance Day) and tonight, survivors are telling their stories in living room homes across Israel. This wonderful 86 year old woman Celia Gorelan told her story. She was just 12 years old in Norway, and had to flea in the dead of winter to Sweden where it was neutral there from the Nazis, and seemed to be to ‘lucky’ to escape again and again. Her family was very social and knew Jews and non-Jews and they would give them a heads up on when to run, or where to hide. They lived off picking mushrooms from the forest, selling them and finding a Norwegian neighborhood in Sweden.

I lit it honor or 6 millions souls. My Oma’s candle holders

When the war was over they returned back to Norway to have had a Nazi family living in their apartment. All was totally turned upside down & looted in their home, but the only thing left was her Grandmother’s Shabbat candles high on a shelf. (I have my Oma’s Shabbat candles with me too, I light them every Shabbat & I lit 6 tonight in memory of the 6 million.)

The living room was packed in this beautiful home in Nachlaot Jerusalem and we were all listening with our hearts. We sang a Jewish nigun (a song without words) after she shared her story. A nigun is higher than words. You can feel everyone’s essence and emotion in the room while singing, especially singing for a higher purpose. (short video of us all singing tonight) I was singing with my family in mind who escaped from Hitler, for all the survivors and all who didn’t. I was thinking of My beloved Oma (grandma) her brother (my Uncle Kurti) and her mom Rivkah (my middle name, I was named after) and Aaron (one of my heroes.)

My family in Vienna 1929 – Great Grandma Rivka, my Oma, Great Uncle Kurti & Great Grandpa Aaron

The Jewish people are said to be like one, and I know exactly what that means from this night. I felt no divide in the room, we were family listening to our history and with hopes that this will never happen again to any of us in that room.  Am Yisrael (the Jewish people) is one big soul, one family, we are here for each other spiritually and emotionally. Let’s hope we can connect to each other without shared tragedy but through open hearts, happiness & just being ourselves.  It’s moments like tonight your soul is filled. It’s filled with the worst of the worst and the best of the best; it’s filled with life.

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Girl Singing at a Holocaust Displaced Persons Camp 1946

Matzah & Wine Eating/Drinking CONTEST 2014!

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It was past midnight and I was at the Pesach Seder, sitting in silence, mouth full of matzah, I felt so sick I couldn’t even chew another bite. I told myself, “You can do it!” All I tried to think about at this moment was all the awesome insights I learned about matzah.. “This matzah is food for the soul, it boosts your emunah (faith/belief), this is the matzah3food of healing, and this is the ONLY food your ancestors ate to provide nourishment for the entire Jewish nation during the exile of Egypt!” And still, I couldn’t chew another bite. I was invited to a great Chabad family here in Jerusalem near my place, and the host at the seder is a brilliant & wise Rabbi. And there he was looking at me and said, “Umm.. you should go outside and get some fresh air…”

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I went outside and there I was in the middle of Jerusalem, taking slow deep breaths and looking up at the stars in the sky trying with all my might to swallow the last of the matzah. I was thinking, this is so interesting, crazy amount of matzah to eat, no one told me this! Wow, what a matzah2difference from my family’s seder back home! (well.. not really, just the matzah part.) I went back inside and I exclaimed, “No one warned me about this extensive matzah eating!”  The 15 people at the table were laughing, this was their norm- they’ve been doing this for years. (At Seder, one has to eat a certain amount by measuring it by (kezayis) and it’s also time based, you have a certain amount of time to finish the matzah! = Eating Contest.) I ate about 5 round pieces of matzah, each about the size of a small pizza.

They told me they were privileged to have me there; probably because I was kind of like their entertainment, this “random girl from California having her first ‘kosher’ Seder with all these weird questions”. I was like the 4 sons rolled into 1. I wanted to know what was going on, the meaning of what we were doing & all interesting insights of Pesach!

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In the midst of all the matzah we had to drink 4 cups of wine. We all had our own favorite wine in a bottle in front of us. Wine in Judaism is a spiritual symbol of happiness & joy. King David (my favorite figure in Judaism) tells us wine “gladdens the heart.” This is the yummiest parts of all Holidays/Shabbats/Special Occasions.. MUST DRINK WINE.. niceee, no problemo. So, there are lots of other reasons why we drink 4 cups of wine on Pesach, but here are the 2 that stood out for me and that I had in mind while drinking (well tried to over my matzah coma & wine haze..)

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Me in Egypt 2011, YEP looks like I want to get the heck out of there too!

In the Torah, the Creator used four terms to describe the redemption from Egypt (Exodus 6:6-8):

 matzah91- “I shall take you out…”

matzah92- “I shall rescue you…”

matzah93- “I shall redeem you…”

matzah94- “I shall bring you…”

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2010- my sister Debbie doing Seder w/ friends in San Diego, I woke up at 4AM in Tel Aviv to do ‘Ma Nishtana’ via Skype

 Also, the Children of Israel had four great values they maintained even while in exile in Egypt:

matzah91- They did not change their Hebrew names

matzah92- they remained highly moral

matzah93- they continued to speak their own language: Hebrew

matzah94- they remained loyal to one another


matzah10By the last 2 cups of wine, I was thinking, wow feels like I’m at a drinking contest! It’s like college (kidding) but now it all has meaning and it wasn’t a drunken downer, it was a drunker upper. I was so elevated & elated with the story of Pesach in my heart & the sense of freedom. I had a smile on my face most of the night (when I wasn’t sick of matzah), I felt very high on life (or maybe the wine..) and connected to my inner self. I was sitting there looking at my last cup of wine, looking at everyone else at the table chugging theirs, and I did the same. I was sad that the Seder was over! …But on the other hand it was 3AM and I was there for 7 hours, and I guess that was enough. Everyone there was passing out of matzah & wine exhaustion and I had so much energy (I’m practically nocturnal) so I helped clean off the seder table.

I was walking home and I couldn’t believe I was walking in Jerusalem. We were once slaves in Egypt and then set free from slavery, and on matzah11the way to Israel, and I was there. The Talmud (the basic collection of Jewish law and thought) states that “every 4 amot (about 7 feet) that a person walks in Israel is another mitzvah.” For all 6.5 years I’ve been living in Israel, I feel this. I feel that my soul is a tree and that the land of Israel is my roots. The land feeds my innermost part of myself and there are no words to describe the happiness I have while living here. Bad or good days, my soul is being fed by just being here. This makes me feel peaceful & live in true happiness. It’s like when you are a baby, for nourishment & love you just need your mommy, no words, she doesn’t need to do anything, just being next to her is enough.

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Pesach art/music festival in forest, my Pesach lunch table, Pesach artwork I did at 6 years old!

This week of Pesach has been so incredible; no work, just enjoying people around me and doing fun activities. The days in between the first and last day of Pesach (Chol Hamoed) have been full of amazing events around Israel. The whole country of Israel is off of work, so everyone is out and about, good fam & friend time. I went to music & art fairs, concerts, parks, walked around the neighborhood, hung out with friends, ate TONS of matzah and had an awesome feeling of happiness & freedom throughout the week. I surprised myself and was SO sad to have this holiday week over. I am now home sick because I barely slept this Pesach week, but worth every forced or enjoyed bite of matzah. YUM…

 

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Where the term ‘SPRING CLEANING’ comes from

Pesach is in the Air!

Spring is here & it’s cleaning time! I just was out in my neighborhood in Jerusalem with my new *Target* kitchen supplies. It’s quite the scene around town, so the Israeli News was there & stopped me  for an interview. She asked me what this Pesach (Passover) neighcleaning & all this kosherizing meant to me. I tried to explain it in my crazy broken Hebrew and she just politely smiled along with a blank look in her eyes, I probably made no sense. Needless to say I won’t be making it on the News, but I’ll explain it a little in English here!

One of my favorite things I’ve learned about Judaism, is we elevate the daily mundane and make it meaningful & holy. You physically do things everyday and raise it all by connecting them to something deeper. This adds so much gratitude and it basically gave me a new set of eyes in life. Not only do Jewish people eat Kosher (fun short animation video here about Kosher), the vessels and utensils used for making the food & for eating needs to be holy as well.

Always fun doing something NEW

So, TODAY was the first time I went to kosherize my utensils & kitchen supplies (keilim) just in time for Pesach! There is a place in my neighborhood to bring my new kitchen utensils, lucky me, didn’t have to shlep so far. Tomorrow is Pesach, so you can feel the Pesach energy in the air so it was quite the scene! Crowds of people were anxiously waiting to kosherize all what they had in hand. One station was there with big tubs of boiling water & blow torching utensils and more..  men working and doing all the dirty work in making everyone’s utensils kosher. Across street was a kelim mikvah (collection or gathering of natural water). I took all my new supplies, made sure they were clean, said a short prayer (bracha) for this mitzvah and then immersed each item fully 3x in the water. And, BAM! Ready to use 😀

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Happy Matzah Holiday!

Pesach is a holiday where we tap into the time the Jewish people were slaves in Egypt for 210 years and then finally set free. Pesach comes in tomorrow at sunset here in Jerusalem and Jewish homes around the world have been intensely cleaning, why?? We are commanded not to eat leavened foods (chametz) for 7 days & also it cannot be in our possession. So that means, serious cleaning. So what do we eat? Matzah! The “Festival of Matzot” is what Pesach is called in the Torah. Matzah is unleavened bread eaten on Pesach to recall the rushed way in which we left Egypt to Freedom! (Beautiful video on how matzah is made here with my fave Pesach song!)

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Pesach- getting rid of EGO! what?

Cleaning the home and getting rid of any chametz is a way to physically do what needs to be done spiritually. Chametz (lavened foods) is something that rises bigger & bigger and way larger than when it first started out. Chumetz represents spiritual misleading inflation- the ego. Humility is so essential when working on yourself, ego only makes yourself look bigger in a false way which keeps you from truly growing. I not only cleaned this last week physically, but while in the process I was mindful of internal cleaning as well, getting rid of the unneeded spiritual layers I carry around.

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It’s history, nothing new..

The story of Pesach we read in the Haggadah (awesome intriguing video here of Haggadahis not just about an ancient time that we read about, retell & remember, but it’s something that we can tap into our lives today. Thinking this is just a history story of our ancestors, that it’s in past and I cannot relate is far from the truth. We are in the story. Many of us go around in life with barriers and layers of fear/anxiety/doubt stopping us from being who we know we can be. We are enslaving ourselves. We need to tap into this time of year which emanates freedom, it’s here if we just feel it! The Jewish people were set FREE from physical slavery therefore spiritual as well. This time of the year on Pesach, we can break free too. So when you’re eating your delicious cardboard flavor matzah this year, take a big crushing bite, and break through into your personal freedom!

Watch this SHORT inspirational video before your Pesach here!

“LQQK…Rabbis are Everywhere!”

 

THE LQQK:                                                   suit

THE EQUATION:

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So… Who are they??

There are lots of misconceptions when it comes to Jewish people and especially their outside appearance. These days, the hipsters, help a little in breaking the stereotype. Just the other day I was recently at totally awesome old school Singles Event here in Jerusalem. I was talking to this nice guy, with the look, beard, black & white clothes, kippa etc. He was an artist. A girl comes up and says, “Excuse me Rabbi, I have a question!..” He said, “Um, no… I’m not a Rabbi.” And there’s me laughing.

I wasn’t really aware of this concept either, but this getup can be seen as modesty for a man. Artist, carpenter, Rabbi, doctor, store worker, teacher, whoever, all can have the same appearance. It’s like a canvas, black & white and the person’s personality, charisma & their soul is the art. At the end of the day, clothes change, looks change, but the essence of the person- their soul- doesn’t change.

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SUPER happy with my kosher paella in Spain

Or you can see this appearance as a team (in life). Each have their uniform, you see fans going around with the uniform & the team.. so in a way it’s how you can recognize a culture of people in & around the world. (Always helps… for instance I was recently on a vacation in Spain, and hey, I wanted paella! Thank g-d it can be obvious who is on ‘your team’, so I asked my random teammate in life where a Kosher restaurant was & I got 3 answers. But on a deeper note, Jewish people are family- always wanting to help a brotha/sista out.)

Here is a few examples of what I’m talking about, lets get things straight together!…

1Did you guess any right? This can teach us that there’s always more than meets the eye!

How did this all happen??

WARNING: My grammar stinks and I’m not a writer, just sharing!

Never in my wildest dreams, could I even imagine where I am today & how I live my life. From a beautiful town in California to living in the Middle East here in Jerusalem, who does this???

My Childhood & Wonderful Family

famI had an amazing childhood with incredible beyond words parents, and 2 fun sisters where I was sandwiched in the middle. We grew up an average American family, just a tad different than everyone on the block because we were Jewish. We are a close family, along with coufammsins, Aunts & Uncles, they lived in the same town, and came over ever Sunday night for dinner. Me and my sisters had a beyond enjoyable childhood. We also went to Hebrew school since we were little kids up to our bat-mitzvahs and we went to synagogue on High holidays & always celebrated Hanukah & Passover. I wasn’t too much of a typical little girl, I was always loud & a little out there. From a little girl to teenager that loved life, having fun, partying, doing what I wished.

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Me and my 2 sisters growing up

Birthright to our Motherland!

Over seven years ago my sister signed herself, my younger sister, my cousin and myself up for Birthright (total FREE 10 day trip to Israel for any Jewish person around the world). I wasn’t really into it, but she did most of the paperwork so I said, thanks & why not. When we arrived in Israel in the HOT SUMMER of Tel Aviv, I was so excited & instantly connected. My first trip to Israel was with my older sister and my Oma (grandma) when I was 11 years old in 1997 to visit all our family here and for a wedding. This time was different, 10 years later in 2007, I was 21 years old with a deeper understanding of where & who I was. Even if I didn’t know much, I felt lots. Long story short, I had a time of my life with my 2 sisters and my cousin, when I was back in California all I wanted to do was go back to Israel.

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I was at Rosh Hashana services back in California and I remember sitting next to this lady. I told her how much I loved Israel, and she said, “Why not go back??” I was like, “You’re right, thanks random lady!!” I then researched how the heck to get back to Israel. I googled ‘programs in Israel’ and I got so many results. Found something called, “Kibbutz Ulpan”.

Kibbutz Life

This Kibbutz Ulpan was described as a 5 month long program where you work at a kibbutz and learn Hebretw. There are tons of Kibbutzim in Israel, but I had my eye on Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael. It is the biggest kibbutz in Israel, the most people, on the beach, so I had my heart set on it! Tried to get in, but the waiting list was 5 years long. I called the director at the Kibbutz in Israel and he said, “Sorry, we are booked for awhile.” I mentioned to him I did art and if I got in I’d love to paint a mural on the kibbutz. He said, “That would be SO GREAT, then next program in 2 months is our 100th Ulpan, how wonderful would it be to commemorate it with a mural!” He told me he’ll try and pull some strings, and to make a long story short, I was there at Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael 2 months later. Wow, art finally got me somewhere in life!

Kibbutz

At the kibbutz, I worked at the laundry room and also worked on painting the mural (of the beach at the kibbutz) and met the most incredible people ever. 100 people in my program, Jewish people from all over the world. Within a week I told myself, “I can never leave Israel.” Right after that, I made Aliyah (became an Israeli citizen).

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Me and my Kibbutz jobs, painting a mural and folding laundry at 6AM!

December 4th 2008, I made Aliyah!  

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Beachin’ & Single Life in Tel Aviv

Then after the program, me and 3 friends from the kibbutz moved into an super awesome apartment by the beach in Tel Aviv. WOW, what days those were.t My roommates were: a baseball player guy from Venezuela, a girl from Chicago, guy in the IDF Army from Paris and another girl from Columbia and me.. and basically everyone else in our kibbutz program too lived there, we always had people over. Imagine five 18-25 year olds, all from different countries, living in 1 house trying to figure out how to live in a new country where Israeli strangers would yelled at you on the street, but also helped & loved you. We always said we needed a TV show!

To make a ‘living’, I always did art on the side, but I had mostly customer service jobs with people who also made aliyah (olim chadashim- new immigrants). So… needless to say my Hebrew is NOT good, still 6.5 years later, always hanging out with English speakers!! .. my fault. I went to the beach, like every day, went out with friends, worked, studied a course in graphic design in Hebrew, went to Shabbat services most Friday night (loved it) and enjoyed having fun. I have a moment almost everyday, good or bad, that I am deeply blessed to be living in this land of Israel where my ancestors fought and longed to be.

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friends in TLV, moving day, friends & roomies

After this beach apartment with friends, I moved to South Tel Aviv into a studio by myself… first time livin’ on my own! Anything I wanted was there, hookah in the apartment, the décor was my artwork (free stuff is good..) and my Ikea bed that took me 6 months to actually put it all together to sleep in… (don’t ask.) I made great friends at my new jobs and enjoyed life. I basically lived in Sudan.  My building was people that escaped from Sudan and Israel was the only place to take them in. My friends would rarely visit me because my apartment was in a sketchy neighborhood, but I weirdly loved it! My next door neighbors were a young newly married couple expecting a baby, they escaped from Darfur. They were the sweetest people ever, always wanting to help me. They had a baby boy and they named him Barak (Obama just became president.. yayy. Kidding.) One night, after my Great Aunt and Uncle dropped me off at my apartment, they ordered me to move ASAP… lol.. so I did.

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My apartment in South TLV and neighbor baby Barack

Movin’ on UP! (or down.. underground.. in a bomb shelter …but by the beach!)

My baseball player ex-roomie was going to the Israeli Army (IDF) so I moved in his studio apartment, underground in like a bomb shelter and a block from the beach! (My underground apartment came in handy in Dec. 2012 when Gaza was firing missiles into Tel Aviv & all over Israel, neighbors came to my place to keep safe.) I’d live there for 4.5 years and within these years life went on and met even more amazing people & had a long meaningful relationship. I came to a point in my life during these years where I didn’t care about going out anymore to bars, clubs, whatever. I couldn’t hear people sitting next to me over the music and I was done yelling trying to communicate, I got nothing out of this. I wanted something more.

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My small bomb shelter studio apartment by beach & thumbs up on move in day!

What’s a SHIUR??

I hung out with my neighbor who lived in the same building who was from America also. It was Holocaust Remembrance day and the local synagogue was having a showing of the movie “Uprising” (powerful movie). At the end some stayed and we sat and talked. This Australian girl was there and turned out she ALSO lives in the same building as me and my neighbor friend, so funny. Aussie girl said, “Do you want to go to a shiur with me?” I said, “What is a SHIUR??” She said it is like a class on Judaism, I said sure (since going to bars wasn’t my thang anymore, seemed interesting & different.)

That week I meet my friend at this class with all kinds of people. There was a hysterical speaker there (I felt like I was at a comedy show) and the topic of his lecture was AMERICAN JEWS. Something along the lines of, “I like bagels, lox, gefilte fish, I’m Jewish” (okay well..I LOVE gefilte fish). He mentioned how the soul and real education of what it means to be Jewish is a bit lost in America. I was in AWE. He was explaining everything I knew and I had no idea the depths of where I came from and my ‘religion’, I was never taught this. Little did I know this one night would change my life.

I kept going back to these shiurim classes (shiur in plural form) and I was floored of the spiritual soulful depths & logic of my Jewish roots. How my ‘religion’ I knew of my whole life I thought was ancient and NOT relatable to these days, was just a beautiful way of life. A meaningful life, full of perfecting & raising yourself while caring for others all around you. A sense of community at all times along with a sense of your best self. Everything that humans yearn for from their innermost being was being taught to me, and HOW to obtain it. I was dumbstruck and I felt cheated I never got taught any of this in a place I just wanted to GET OUT of, SO boring…Jew Jail (heard this nickname before.. for Hebrew school when I was 5 until bat mitzvah age.) I basically thought I retired from Judaism at age 13. The exact date below…

How did my (what felt like) ‘Jew Jail’ not teach us what I was learning now? They didn’t even tell me there is a depth, wisdom & truth that is available at our finger tips. My Jewish learning never mentioned much of G-d or Torah, decided to leave these 2 crucially essential points of Judaism out of the picture.

Can’t stop soaking it up… no not the rays at the Beach!

There I was in Tel Aviv, party & beach city of Israel, and I continued going to my once a week shiurim classes taught by these soulful & genius speakers. Always one speaker better than the next. The talks were about morals and value, relationships, how to make money, working on your character traits, being successful in life, human struggle and pain, different parts of your soul, happiness, stories of the Torah, marriage, human psychology, Jewish history, materialism, how to take control of desires, how to fulfill your potential, Shabbat, kosher, modesty & style, health, EVERYTHING under the sun. And this all came from the Torah.

The Torah, I was like, “WHAT???” This Torah is 3300+ years old! HOW OLD! This world is new, its 2014, shalom! (hello!) At the end of the day, this world is progressing with technology, medicine, business, but through all these external changes, the human being’s internal essence never changes. And this is what I’m learning about, human yearning, and not just surviving, but living to one’s unique potential. How could have the world kept this from me?? What amazing wisdom & beauty these tools are for me to use!!

To Cheese or not to Cheese…

One night, in my apartment in Tel Aviv, I was cooking meat sauce with pasta. It was all ready and I got out my FAVE Costco spparmesan cheese container I bring back in BULK to Israel (cheese is ridic expensive here). I sat down to eat with my pasta & meat Bolognese sauce. I opened up my parmesan cheese and I froze. I looked at the cheese and then my pasta, then my cheese and then my pasta. It don’t know how this happened, but out of 27 years putting cheese on my Bolognese sauce, I froze and couldn’t do it. I never ate kosher before, but I’ve been learning my roots and this weird moment was coming from a place deep inside. This instance was the day when I started to want to eat kosher & learn more about what the heck that even meant. I knew eating kosher is what my Jewish brothers and sisters have been doing for 3300+ years. This was a way I can be connected to all of them, and I wanted to continue this tradition.

I went to these shiurim classes for over a year, went on a fun weekend getaway up North with the people in these classes & dragged a friend (in Nazereth… lol.. so fun) met such amazing friends that weekend (still friends today). Had a weekend of great classes and fun times with people all around!

tCalifornia Time, 25 hours of travel later..

About a year ago in 2013, I went home to visit my family back in California. I’m always happy to go home and see my parents, 2 sisters, childhood friends and not have the stresses of living by myself & in interesting Israel I love so very much. I had some people who wanted me to do art and murals. At this point, I started dressing more modestly there in California after internalizing how important it is to show your true internal self instead of your external self. Once I started to dress the way I did, within a week, the weirdest thing happened where it became spiritual and something I say about myself without & beyond words.

Also, a crazy new thing was happening in my hometown when I came home, Chabad opened up a block away from my parents’ house! There was nothing Jewish within a 20 minute car ride, so I was stoked! They are a young couple and a few kids, and my new favorite neighbors. Me and my mom went over for Shabat one night and a girl there mentioned, why don’t I take out a little time in Israel and learn more? Like go to a seminary? I thought to myself, “WHAT?? A seminary? You mean where nuns that are celibate go? You mean where religious people go to learn about the Lord? What, like the movie “Sister Act??” I thought, hmm, but probably no.

At this time in California, I came to a point in my spiritual journey where I felt like I know where I came from and now I know where I’m going. From all this new knowledge of Jewish history and my roots, I felt like I had a responsibility to my family who fought & loved before me, and I would happily continue live in their footsteps with great honor. They are why I am here. So I started living it. Then again, I never do anything new that the Jewish people have done for 3300+ years without me understanding it mentally and spiritually.

CA

childhood friends, Chabad of Novato, Yofie, Jack Israel, and Jac & Chris’s wedding

WHY IS IT SO HOT HERE??

I came back to Israel after a month in California and it was in the DEAD of HEAT. Of course I decided to dress more modestly at THIS time of the year (tops past elbows & skirts past knees) in the ridiculously HOT middle of summer in the Middle East. I freaked out a couple of times for sure, and therefore sweated more. This was a time where I slowly started to keep Shabbat. I started with shutting down the TV for 2 weeks. Then shutting down my computer for the next 2 weeks for Shabbat, and then the hardest thing my cell phone, and I haven’t looked back.

TGI-Shabbat

Shabbat is a time to focus on everything within your reach: people, nature, books, food, (drinks, yum) without the stresses of the week. One of my holy teachers compared the 25 hours of Shabbat to Modern Art. Where you have a piece of something mundane (like a chair) and it’s in front of you in spotlight, and people are looking at it and saying, “WOW, look at this art! its so beautiful!” You look at the yuppy folks looking at the chair and think they are riiiidiculous. But this is Shabbat. It’s the first time you NOTICE the things & people you see everyday, you can finally notice them in all its glory. It’s because on Shabbat, you finally are not distracted by phones, plans, work, by it all, and you have TIME and the mind space. There is no work, no planning for the future, no cell phone calls or emails to catch up on, no driving.. all things issued so you can enjoy these hours to the MAX. It’s complete freedom. 

A time to go over (usually for me random) people’s homes who invite you over for a Shabbat meal, where within the first 5 minutes feel like family. I can loosely compare it to a Thanksgiving feast with 3-5 courses with an added elevation of singing, sharing stories with each other, getting to know everyone at the Shabbat table, drinking L’CHIAMS (shots, or whatever you got) and most importantly to focus and enjoy the NOW. Because there is nothing else, you can’t do anything else. Starting Friday at sunset to Saturday at sunset to recharge yourself physically and spiritually so you can enter the week elevated and refreshed in every way.

Getting experiences (free!)

Being back in my Tel Aviv apartment one day, I decided to go online to research different programs where I can learn, just to see what is out there. I found a 3 week program called Jewel, it was in Jerusalem. Sounded amazing, sort & sweet. I got a full scholarship, packed up my suitcase (I actually had a feeling I would stay in Jerusalem, so I packed everything meaningful into that 1 suitcase), sublet my apartment for 3 weeks in Tel Aviv and off I went to Jerusalem for nice ‘me time!’ That program was incredible, amazing friends I met, extraordinary Jewish classes, Shabbat getaways, trips around Israel, great mentors, going to the beach, tours around cool sights in Israel and FUN times! One day at Jewel, a Rabbi came in and I saw him and I was so happily in shock I started to cry. I started to tell him, “You were the first shiur I ever went to and you spoke about AMERICAN JEWS and.. now I’m here!” Being a typical guy, with a girl crying in front of him, it was awkward. But he was touched as well.

jewel

Jewel Girls & all around Israel

#semlife 

After the program, a staff member kind of thing went to a seminary called Neve Yerushalayim. I went to check it out with a few other ladies and it looked good to me. Located on a hilltop in Jerusalem, beautiful flowers everywhere, so I said why not. I got a scholarship for that as well (6 months, free living, free food, everythingggg). A time where I can broaden my learning that my mind & soul was so happy to do. You get to a place where Torah (the blueprint of life) and learning about life in all its depths and is like “water for your soul” –Matisyahu (the singer, I agree 100%).

BR

Me in Jerusalem (and my mama came for a visit 🙂 )

The Highest of High- Living in Jerusalem

So where am I now? I lived in the seminary for 6 months learning about life & myself and off to a new chapter. I officially moved out of Tel Aviv, and all I know there, to move to Jerusalem where the air is crisp and holy. A place where just being here & breathing the air feeds my soul. I’m living in an apartment in a beyond beautiful neighborhood and its right smack dab in the middle of everything Jerusalem. I go to shiurim classes daily, walk around the shuk (outside market), work doing freelance illustrating Children’s books and graphic design (monalisasart.com), getting out there to meet friends (not easy as you get older!) and I’m trying to grow to become the best person I can be.

It’s not an easy path I’ve chosen because it is different from my family and friends, but when you have clarity in life, the choice is easy & so clear. Now my life has meaning in all what I do. I am grateful and I don’t forget where I came from and I will continue to live my truth and follow the ways of my inner self!

BR

Me in my new quaint beautiful neighborhood in the middle of Jerusalem

Through all my changes, this blog (what I never thought I’d have) was encouraged to me several times by people I met to share my story. I just want to share my day to day with people in my life who live across the world, that I grew up with in California or wherever see (or hear from someone else) such big changes and they say, “SHE CRAZY!” (Even though I have never felt so sane in my life…) So here is where I share my days, from California to Jerusalem!