Take a moment

I take a moment and stop.
I take a moment and breathe.
I take a moment and pray.

I pray for Chennai,
where the heavens opened and waters poured down,
taking too many lives and homes
where more rain will destroy
the most fragile
God, have mercy!

I pray for the Doce River region
where a whole area in Brazil is dead
where people cry, even the strongest
the lifeblood of thousands has been poisoned
others are dead, many homeless
after the toxic mudflow
God, have mercy!

I pray for all those in the San Bernadino shooting:
so unbelievable that this could happen!
For the victims, the injured, the scared, the hurt,
the friends, the families, the passers-by,
the policemen and special forces – and even the criminals.
Another tragedy too absurd to understand-
God, have mercy!

I pray for this world:
I pray for the refugees, the homeless, the displaced;
the rejected, the persecuted, the lonely, the sick-
God, have mercy!

I pray for the earth herself,
the wonderful creation that is reeling and suffering
from our excesses
God, have mercy!

I pray for myself:
I ask for forgiveness, for not seeing the tear on my neighbor’s face;
may my heart always be open and not be hardened;
may I be awake to your gentle voice
and see your likeness oh God
in the faces of all those I encounter
God, have mercy!

I take a moment and stop.
I take a moment and breathe.
I take a moment and pray.

Expressing it all…

Psalm 139 is a beautiful text, a well-known Psalm with touching words. I can’t remember the number of times I have seen words of this text used on cards announcing the birth of a child… and yet… there are some verses at the end of the Psalm which can seem odd, or even offend us and which bring a certain number of problems with them.

When thinking of Psalm 139, most of us probably think of those beautiful verses saying “14 I thank you because I am awesomely made, wonderfully; your works are wonders — I know this very well. 15 My bones were not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes could see me as an embryo, but in your book all my days were already written; my days had been shaped before any of them existed.”

Have you ever seen your reflection in a mirror, in moment when you weren’t expecting it? For example in a mirror in a shopping mall, in a window, or maybe on the surface of a body of water? What was your reaction? Were you content, surprised, or even annoyed?

A mirror confronts us with ourselves, and with the image that we have of ourselves. Different from photos, the mirror shows us our flaws – we see ourselves the way we are.

It confronts us: What do I look like? How do others see me? Who am I really, after all?

Some like seeing themselves in a mirror, some rare people admire themselves, and others are rather quite often discontent with what they see. I have to admit that quite often, I count myself to be in the last category – but I am learning to see myself the way I am.

I thank you because I am awesomely made, wonderfully…

Most, if not all of us, know this verse. And we know that what the psalmist says is true – at least within our minds.

But in our hearts and lives, there can be voices and circumstances telling us (or wanting to tell us) the contrary. Thus we can –and should- always re-discover this verse throughout our lives.

I thank you because I am awesomely made, wonderfully.

How many times have we prayed this verse without being truly convinced by what it is saying?

Lire la suite

Of school bullies and forgiveness

Getting through my school years wasn’t easy. I loved and hated school.

I loved school for the strictly school stuff: learning, homework, studying (though everything was so slow and I was done with the cursus a few weeks after the year started and was bored after that for the rest of the year, longing for more; the library was my home and the best place to be, the librarian my best friend).

I hated the rest, i.e. breaks, vacation and especially the kids and later, the big guys (and girls as well – the guys were brutal, the girls were vicious). I got beaten up every day; with fists most often, sometimes with sticks, sometimes whipped with leather belts. Insults were the rule: thief, you stink, dirty nigger, the only good niger is a dead nigger, nigga come clean my shoes. Yes, being young, my skin color was darker than now – to my regret, it has lightened with age but at least, whenever I spend time in the sun, it quickly gets darker again…

That lasted till I left school. Oftentimes I fought back, the rest of my classmates never helped, and neither did the teachers. Once it was even me who got the punishment for agressing one of my agressors – even though he was known to be a neo-nazi, hating people of color, Jews and just about everybody who didn’t fit his ideas. The few friends I had were the other excluded ones, and I spent much time alone.

But thinking of it today, if those who treated me so badly would come back today and ask for forgiveness, I would do so. I do forgive them. Did they realy know what they did? And even if they did, I will accord it to them. Holding a grudge in your heart is not good, for it will grow into something not good, and I don’t want that.

Forgiving is not forgetting, but allowing myself and the other to move on, and let G-d be my witness.

לכל איש יש שם

לכל איש יש שם
each person has a name
each person had a name
each person will have a name
and for each person not born there would have been a name

the six million will not be forgotten
not one of them
not the smallest child,
reaching with little hands towards imma
being lead away to death
to awaken again in the heart of G-d

לכל איש יש שם
each person has a name
each person had a name
each person will have a name
and for each person not born
there would have been a name

standing next to railroad tracks
walking amidst wagon loads of cattle-like humans
humans not anymore,
degraded to numbers and reduced to silence
but even the stones would cry out

לכל איש יש שם
each person has a name
each person had a name
each person will have a name
and for each person not born
there would have been a name

freezing and hungering
sweating and sick
stumbling forward, lead away to death
stumbling forward, surviving
making tefillin from scraps of paper

לכל איש יש שם
each person has a name
each person had a name
each person will have a name
and for each person not born
there would have been a name

oh God full of compassion
grant perfect rest
and thy presence

לכל איש יש שם
each person has a name
each person had a name
each person will have a name
and for each person not born
there would have been a name

oh God most merciful on high
– and below
be a shelter to the soul
of my beloved who has gone

לכל איש יש שם
each person has a name
each person had a name
each person will have a name
and for each person not born
there would have been a name

oh God full of compassion,
truest of judges,
shelter them under your wings
may their memories
inspire my living
each day.

Be still

be still

but not the stillness
of muffled voices
of gagged mouths
of fearful eyes
of frightened souls
and dead bodies

not the silence
of the compromise
decided by the one that is stronger

be still

stillness in the hearts


quietly reaching out across self-imposed borders
across generation-imposed borders
at first gently, then firmly
reaching out
to transform into sisters and brothers
they may touch

be still.

Whatever happened to Intention?

Kavanah, intention, כונה, the direction of the heart. this is the essential ingredient -i think- for praying rightly. not only for praying, but also for accomplishing « correctly » the rituals. there, one of the words i don’t like: rituals.

Because even though they are rituals, they are much more than that to me: they are my lifesparks, my connectors, my loveletters to the divine. the same goes for the words religion. Judaism is a religion, right so, but it’s much more than that. it’s life. it’sa religion, but it’s a connection with a people, it’s a lifestyle, a way-to-be-in-the-world, an evolving culture, a history, a prayer, literature, it’s a lifelong membership.

The mindset for prayer is referred to as kavanah, which is generally translated as « concentration » or « intent. » The minimum level of kavanah is the awareness that I am actually speaking to God and have the intention to fulfill the obligation to pray. If I don’t have even this minimal level of kavanah, then my prayer isn’t considered a prayer; it is merely reading or reciting a beautiful text.  Anyway, wouldn’t it be preferable to have a mind free from other thoughts, and know and understand what you are praying about and that to think about the meaning of the prayer? At least to some point, as I can’t say that I have grasped it all. I am no suh great scholar. But I put my heart into it. Or at least, try to.


That’s something I have found lacking these last weeks/months in my practice, and sometimes, lack thereof. No, not that I have started to eat porc or mix milk and meat, or have stopped backing Challot or lighting candles and such – but my inner flame has become a dim light. Judaism is demanding, but also very rewarding. Maybe it’s just one of those desert-wandering times and it’s not realistic to expect to be always 200% motivated throughout all of your life -but I wish I was. Just hang on in there, and I’ll eventually get through.

Prayer is not a service of the lips; it is worship of the heart. « Words are the body, thought is the soul, of prayer. » I read somewhere (can remember where, but jotted it down and now copied it here, sorry, no source): « If one’s mind is occupied with alien thoughts while the tongue moves on, then such prayer is like a body without a soul, like a shell without a kernel. And so it is with words of prayer when the heart is absent. Prayer becomes trivial when ceasing to be an act in the soul. »

Maimonides declares, « Prayer without kavvanah is no prayer at all. He who has prayed without kavvanah ought to pray once more. He whose thoughts are wandering or occupied with other things need not pray until he has recovered his mental composure. Hence, on returning from a journey, or if one is weary or distressed, it is forbidden to pray until his mind is composed. The sages said that upon returning from a journey, one should wait three days until he is rested and his mind is calm, then he prays. »

My mind often tends to wander. I find the fixed prayers helpful in that case as they help me. I don’t have to think about what I want to say but can concentrate on meaning them. Yet even that often has been hard recently and my prayers have seen themselves reduced to the bare minimum, guilt trip followed for sure. But honestly, with all that has been going on, have just been lacking more and more energy. But I am positive that with being more organized and gaining back some energy and creativity, and the chemo hopefully doing its work and the pain diminishing, things will brighten up on all fronts.

Heschel wrote: « How grateful I am to God that there is a duty to worship, a law to remind my distraught mind that it is time to think of God, time to disregard my ego for at least a moment! It is such happiness to belong to an order of the divine will. I am not always in a mood to pray. I do not always have the vision and the strength to say a word in the presence of God. But when I am weak, it is the law that gives me strength; when my vision is dim, it is duty that gives me insight » (Man’s Quest for God: Studies in Prayer and Symbolism, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1954)

Life’s changes

Or rather, life changes… and life goes on.

Time for this first entry this year, looking back on the past year. 2013 has been a mixed bag. It was quite a year. A lot has happened, a lot has changed. I’m not yet sure if it was a good year. As it is unsure, I decide that it was a good year. For the most, the good stuff was in the small things. There were a few changes. But for much, things stayed the same.

apart from family time, and getting new « family members » -3 chicken- one highlight of the last year was was my consecration to ministry.

I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about my life and who I am. One should that it is obvious: I am myself. But it is not that easy. But as life goes, life has ensured that I start to think about more essential things. I have changed – not only the way I look, but also my outlook on life is changing. People change, but I guess that getting ill has « helped » with that.

I am now in my 7th week of chemotherapy. The side effects are annoying but could be worse – I am tired; nausea, nosebleed. I can’t say that I am grateful for being sick and in pain, but, if I can say so, it has made me « more human »: more soft, more calm, more compassionate. Of course I can also get bitchy because of the constant pain and tiredness, but I can’t say that the disease is something entirely negative. Out of the negative, God can (help) make come out something positive in the end.

now for 2014 i don’t really have resolutions, but one of my goals would be to manage to better organize my time, especially working time as i’m not very good at that. actually, quite the opposite is true. and my hope is that the chemotherapy will work well without too many side effects – but that’s still a long road -a couple of years- to walk. That being said,I want to get back to some of the things that are really « my thing »: writing poetry and prayers, music and photography. I have at university that I am capable writing scientific articles and always have the feeling that I still have to write them in order to be taken serious (by whom, actually?) – but I just don’t have that kind of energy anymore and just want to be myself.


 Img_24242_zpsa6ec285b    20140107_163304
 Me, 1 year ago.    Me, 3 days ago.