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A Big L'Chaim From Santa Fe

The Chabad rabbi expressed many things in shul today. Much of the below observed and inferred, not said directly.

(Of course it's not the words it's the warmth of the place.)

The shul reflects the culture here in Santa Fe. Come here, even for a short time, not for the art or for the jewelry but for the healing. 

What healing? I can't tell you definitively what, why or how. But the things you're running from bubble up here, and you can face them and not die. You can walk forward.

Back to what the rabbi said - we were there for 4 hours so a lot of things.

1. Action. It matters more than inspiration. Action is treasured. Act to move forward and don't get bogged down by anything.

2. Library. Build your own treasure trove of books, Jewish books if you are Jewish but otherwise anything that inspires you is my interpretation. The act of buying the book, the act of keeping it in your home, inspire reflection and further action.

3. Possession. The true leader owns enough to survive. The rest belongs to the community.

4. Joy. Be happy! Sing! Eat! Laugh. We were not made to serve G-d in guilt and misery - these emotions have the opposite effect of distancing you from faith. Just like anger.

5. Reach out. If you are strong in your faith and knowledgeable about why you have it, reaching out to others makes you and your community stronger.

6. Accuracy. Observe the rituals correctly. It's not something you adapt according to people's feelings, it is what it is.

7. Disrespect. Sometimes in the process of outreach, words are expended that are then treated disrespectfully. It is sad but inevitable because the greater good is to help people find their faith (again).

8. Scotch. If you're gonna make kiddush, use the real thing :-)

L'Chaim! Shavua Tov!


All opinions my own. Visit the Chabad of Santa Fe Facebook page, pictured in screenshot: The shul is located at 509 Camino De Los Marquez, Suite 4, 505-983-2000.

The World's Greatest Enemy - Inside Your Head

So my daughter went on a college interview and they asked for her favorite book. She named this one and asked if she had screwed up. (Um, not as bad as her mother, who said she didn't even READ books, because "they're mostly a waste of time.")

Not knowing what it was I just laughed at the prospect of telling someone your favorite book is a Satan novel. (I thought it was young adult drama, like a vampire book.)

It's not. It's a seriously powerful book which I read on the plane. Could not stop taking screenshots of things to memorize and share.

Basically the book is written as if Satan were speaking directly to the human race about WHY suffering persists, HOW evil got here into G-d's realm, and most importantly WHAT to do in order to bring the final redemption.

I violently disagree with the author's repeated statement that organized religion is inherently bad, and that there is no such thing as Jews only "Israelites." That part is clearly an agenda. But otherwise the contents shook me and struck me to the core. Here are the main ideas.

1. Satan means adversary and this is an angel whose job is to ensure free will by tricking you at every turn into failing your various life tests.

2. Satan is inside your head and you can only fight him there. It is not a person or an entire group of people classed as "evil."

3. Satan's primary weapons include your ego, which is not actually you but Satan, and which controls you in so many ways you have to read the book to understand them.

4. The main thing to know is that Satan presents himself as rational thinking. Also guilt, shame, low self-esteem, and anxiety. You are acting from this place when you jump to react instead of being slow and thoughtful - coming from the real you.

5. The search for a soul mate (the right one) is essential and do not let Satan throw you off. You are entitled to love and happiness.

If you are scared at the thought of all this...remember you can win by looking inward and saying, I see you, Satan and I know you are up to your old tricks. Also pray to G-d, meditate on His name/s.

There is a lot more...a life changing book.

Branding Between Heaven & Hell

My Bat Mitzvah was held on a freezing cold night one February.

The snow was so bad only 13 people actually showed up - a minyan.

I didn't care all that much once I opened my favorite present. A book about paranormal activity: "The Dybbuk & Other Stories."

It was a Jewish book full of stories about the dead and undead, restless haunted souls who came back to inhabit the living, a hundred years ago.

I knew that the stories were true, or had truth and one that disturbed me the most was about the idea of the Golem.

A Golem is like a Frankenstein, human but cooked up by other humans in a lab. It is a robot plus brains, mechanically able but missing the holy part, that G-d created it.

On "American Horror Story" the haunted house has the soul of a mother of one such being. The father ripped the beating heart out from one of their infant daughters to create a son. And he was a demon monster - so frightful and bad that the mother killed him. 

Now the mother misses her child, and will plot to take the infant of the new owner of the house.

In any case, the concept of the Golem repulsed me. The Dybbuk I could at least understand, even if the concept was terrifying: the person can't cross over and so comes back and possesses a person. They don't leave unless they are exorcised. 

But the Golem seemed evil altogether. Total defiance of G-d.

That was when I was 12 and it is now more than 30 years later. I realize that branding is exactly the act of building a Golem.

The very thing...I have become a maker of Frankensteins. 

It sank in and sank. Like a weight, a piece of lead.

The beating heart is the spirit, the soul, the living light of the brand's human creator. It goes into the brand and then the brand - if it is good - takes on a life of its own.

I don't think branding is inherently unethical at all. But it can be deeply evil, I now realize.

The outcome depends on the stewardship. That is why the CEO is also the chief branding officer, or ought to be.

An evil brand is the beating heart with no G-dly input, the animal soul. It is all about greed and superficiality, the worship of all that is artificial. The encouragement of people to worship a false G-d and the belief that humans can displace Him.

A good brand, a great brand, even a holy brand is the synthesis of the highest aspirations of the steward and the team. It is constantly infused with humanity - it gives more back than what went into it.

The holy brand is about profit (fiscal sustainability) because it has to be. But it is about much more, too. It is the act of drawing G-d's presence into the world to make it better.


All opinions my own. Painting (public domain): "Fall Of The Rebel Angels" by Charles Le Brun, via Wikimedia

Lead w/ Love

There are times when you dislike a person on sight and this was one of those times.
Thin, tall, beautiful, irritable. Scowled when I asked for a bit more room on the bench, to accommodate family and coats.
"What a bitch," I thought. In quotes because so loudly it seemed out loud.
We shuffled and waited and did not look forward to the speech.
We did not know she was going to be the speaker.
"I want to tell you a personal story today," she began. "My mother was my advocate and champion."
She went on to tell us about her humble life. What it was like to be alone with a single mother, whose joy was to run up and down the hallways of their apartment building, telling everyone who would listen that her daughter got into a state school.
The young woman came down here alone and friendless. She fought her way forward for four years. They bonded over food and studied all night and forced each other to make it to their finals on time.
And then she did something she did not have to do. Which was to become a resident advisor for several years, mothering the other students who had come to school alone.
This young woman worked so hard and was so capable she got an internship at a large and reputable firm. Which kept her on and hired her, starting right away after graduation.
"Suddenly, last year, my mother died," she concluded her speech. "I was at the bottom. But my family at school held me through all the pain."
And then I looked at the girl again. I looked at her with different eyes, not the cold and hard eyes of a stranger. 
I looked at the girl through the eyes of a mother who was there to watch her own child graduate, who had taken that child for granted too many times.
Who had judged this child badly for no reason other than how she appeared briefly, from a glance or a couple of words.
And I sobbed, with my husband, for the victory and the pain that comes with growing up and seeing one's child grow up. And turned around to wish the people behind me, "Congratulations."
We ought to lead with love more, we ought to look at other people through the eyes of love. 
We don't know what they have suffered...the immense struggle it takes them just to show up at work in the morning. 
Or what it took to get them up in the first place.
All opinions my own. Photo by WilB / Flickr.

Follow up to 6:13 & the dream about Heaven

Readers of the blog may recall my dad's visit to a Kabbalist. Who told me:

- your ancestors are pleading with you to return to the fold.
- start with Shabbos, keep kosher and go to a mostly observant shul with your family on Shabbos.

Given the frequency with which I was seeing 6:13 on the clock and elsewhere digitally (like on the computer, a search result would be dated 6/13/13) I took it seriously.

Also I was seeing the number combination 11:11 on my phone and you can Google the numerous results on that.

Spiritually there is a doorway between this realm and the Heavenly realm and something was pushing that doorway open in my life.

After hearing from the Kabbalist I made some strides in the kosher department but didn't do as great on Shabbos. For example, I wrote a blog on Friday night after sundown.

Immediately (this after a respite of a few days) the 6:13 message appeared again - I saved a screenshot for the post and it was marked with that time.

It happened again in the morning at 6:13 when again I was breaking the Sabbath. I looked at my iPhone and there, 6:13.

I want to emphasize that did not feel attacked by this but rather like it was a parent gently pleading with me not to harm myself by disobeying. I also understood (and the Kabbalist said this explicitly) to take small, starting steps and not do everything at once.

So next week I will not blog on Sabbath.

* * * 

There is something else to share. I have permission to relay it.

It is a about a loved one, recently passed. The timing was significant.

The dreamer dreamt she was sitting on the couch of this loved one as they had many times.

But it was as if they were on the Other Side, not here in the material realm.

The loved one reassured the dreamer. "It's peaceful in Heaven."

The loved one also said, "G-d separates people (in Heaven) based on their actions (on Earth)."

Finally, "Earth is suffering." 

At that point "as if to show me what that meant," the dreamer said - "lightning flashed and big black bugs were crawling up the window trying to get in."

My understanding of the dream was that life is eternal, the natural state of life is Oneness with the Divine and peace, but that the purpose of the human condition is to refine our souls so as to merit that rest in unity.

We can't go there until we suffer here.

So the purpose of life is not happiness. It is meaning.

Meaning is found in the service of G-d and people.


Posted by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All rights reserved. All opinions my own. Photo by Pascal M. Wiemers via Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons).