Writings

Adar II.jpg

Happy Rosh Chodesh (New Moon) of Adar II! That's right, we've entered into the second month of Adar. We have two months of Adar this year because it's a leap year in the Jewish calendar. Though the Jewish calendar is considered a lunar calendar (because we count the dates based on the moon) the calendar is actually semi-solar because it's kept on track by the sun and the seasons. Certain holidays have to fall during certain seasons -- and Passover (which arrives next month on April 19th at sundown) must occur in the springtime. Having an extra month of Adar (7 times in every 19-year cycle) ensures that Passover will occur when it's supposed to (in springtime!).

Speaking of springtime, the first day of spring arrives on March 20th, the same night as the holiday Purim. The story of Purim, told in the Hebrew Bible in the Book of Esther, takes place in Persia (modern day Iran). The first day of spring is also the Persian New Year, called Nowruz, which is celebrated with a feast of foods with special meanings. The Nowruz feast is similar to Passover Seder table or a Sephardic Rosh Hashanah Seder which also have special symbolic foods. Learn more about Nowruz with this cool video. There are even some theories that the Purim festival meal was originally a Nowruz feast eaten by the Jews who were celebrating the New Year in ancient Persia. I love learning about the seasons, holidays, and the connections between cultures. Last year at the Tasman family Passover seder in Louisville, KY, a dear friend of my parents shared about her family's Nowruz celebration and all of the special foods they ate (7 dishes which all start with the letter "s"). The number 7 is also special in Judaism and it was so cool to learn about the rituals of Nowruz and to draw connections with Jewish seasonal food rituals.

As we enter this second month of Adar, we have an opportunity to continue cultivating joy in our lives which is the theme of the month of Adar according to Jewish wisdom traditions. Sometimes it can feel hard to do that when we're stressed, sick, or the weather feels like spring will never get here. When joy feels hard to capture, I turn to gratitude. Thinking of the things for which we are grateful is a way to open up the heart towards joy. Pausing to take stock of the people, the opportunities, the basic necessities in our lives can inspire gratitude. The moments of kindness, connection, and support that come our way -- however small -- can be opportunities to notice and acknowledge and offer thanks.

Grateful for all of you!

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and a month of joy, good health and blessings,

Rabbi Sarah

Align Set Up.jpg

This past Saturday night, we had the first gathering of our new monthly series called Align. We gathered to celebrate the last few days of the month of Shvat since we'll be focusing on Joy and the month of Adar at our next gathering on March 2. We learned about the wheel of the Jewish year, seasons, cycles, and circles. Everyone had a chance to set intentions for what we want to bring into our lives through an art meditation and creating mandalas. We announced and blessed the upcoming month with our hopes and wishes that we manifested in our art work.

We welcome the new Hebrew month of Adar today and tomorrow with the holiday of Rosh Chodesh. It's a leap year in the Jewish calendar this year which means we have two months of Adar. Though the Jewish calendar follows the lunar cycle meaning we count a day as nightfall to nightfall, and each new month starts on the new moon, the calendar is also semi-solar. This means that certain holidays have to occur at their appointed season, rooted to our ancient agricultural calendar e.g. Sukkot must be in the fall and Passover in the spring. If you noticed that the Jewish holidays are on the early side, it's likely we'll have an extra month of Adar in order to even things out so that Passover doesn't occur too early. We have a leap year (or extra month) 7 times every 19 years, or every few years.

Each new moon and each new month is an opportunity for reflection, learning, and checking in with ourselves. According to Jewish wisdom traditions, each month has a theme. The month of Adar is all about cultivating joy, as the Talmud teaches, "when the month of Adar arrives, joy increases." With two months of Adar, we have an extra opportunity to cultivate joy. Next month, called Adar II (Adar Bet or Adar 2), I'll share more about how we might increase joy in our lives.

We welcome you to join us for the upcoming sessions! Details and Registration are here.

Adar.jpg

Chodesh Tov - Happy New Moon and Happy New Month of Adar

Each new moon and each new month is an opportunity for reflection, learning, and checking in with ourselves. According to Jewish wisdom traditions, each month has a theme. The month of Adar is all about cultivating joy, as the Talmud teaches, "when the month of Adar arrives, joy increases." With two months of Adar, we have an extra opportunity to cultivate joy.

What brings you joy?

How will create more opportunities for joy this month?

How will you help increase joy for others?

New Moon Art and Spirituality Group.jpg

While the concept of the new year being a good time to review your life and set new goals, in practice, the middle of winter is a very difficult time to do this for many of us. Winter is a natural time when we may want to hibernate, when we need stores of food and shelter to sustain us through the winter. So rather than making big, radical changes in our lives, or setting big resolutions to change our diet or workout routines (can often feel like fighting against the season), here are some suggestions and tips for incorporating more connection, intentionality, and creativity in our lives.

1. Embrace Winter

This is a hard one for me, but once I learned about the Danish lifestyle concept of hygge (pronounced hoo-ga), I began to see the light. Hygge is all about creating a space and environment that feels comforting and cozy. Most homes in Denmark are designed with this in mind - making sure there are spaces in your home where you can relax, have a warm meal, or cozy up under blankets to read or write. Lighting fixtures are soft and candles are abundant. Restaurants in Denmark are even rated by the level of how hygge they feel . The idea here is not about luxury, it's about being intentional about our time and space, cultivating a lifestyle that nurtures us. It's about supporting ourselves in our downtime, especially throughout winter, and making that time and that space something that really nourishes our spirit. So bring out your blankets and pillows and set up a hygge corner in your home, make a cup of tea, and get out your favorite book or write a letter to an old friend. Or create an intimate dinner party or potluck and invite over a few friends. Light candles, get some plants or flowers to add a little freshness and reconnect. You don't have to spend a lot of money to create more hygge and more connection with yourself and your loved ones in your life and in your home.

2. Tap into the cycles of the moon.

The Jewish calendar follows the lunar cycle. This means that a day starts at sundown and ends the next day at sundown. This is why Shabbat starts on Friday night and ends of Saturday night. So too, each Hebrew month is counting according to the moon. Each month starts with the new moon and is 28 or 29 days. The start of each new month is called Rosh Chodesh, literally meaning head of the month. According to Jewish wisdom traditions, each Hebrew month has special attributes, often corresponding to the season or to the holiday that occurs that month. Cultivating a practice to take a little bit of time each month to notice the cycle of the moon and the new moon can have a profound impact on our lives. Taking the time to learn about and meditate on the themes of that month can help us feel more grounded. Following the cycle of the moon also reminds us there is a natural waxing and waning to what life brings our way. Remembering that the moon goes through phases - and so do we - can help us move through challenges or different emotions. It's easy to feel like our days and years are passing us by, but taking the time each month to slow down and pause, can help us take stock and check in with ourselves. Adding this into your life as a spiritual practice can help us live more integrated, holistic lives. Doing this in a group can also help us feel more rooted and connected with other like-hearted individuals where we can support each others spiritual practice and personal growth together.

3. Express yourself

Often in my workshops and classes, I build in time for students to write or make art. Some of my students have a regular journaling practice or have a natural creative ability and love to make art. However, many of my students don't necessarily identify as an artist or with a creative talent. And that's ok. So many of us found joy in the freedom to draw, paint or make collages as a child but somewhere along the way we were told or decided for ourselves that we were not good artists. I see this a lot. Somehow, growing up we got it into our heads that good art should look beautiful. Often I try to "unteach" this or help my students "unlearn" the idea that art needs to look a certain way. The art and writing we do in my workshops is more focused on the creative process, taking the time to express yourself in a medium which you may not often use in your daily life as an adult. The process of allowing yourself to make something with your hands, to express a thought, feeling or image in your heart and then to put it on paper is very meaningful and profound. It can also feel vulnerable to do this, but there is growth that comes from cultivating the ability to express ourselves in different ways. Engaging in this kind of practice - whether it's for 5, 10, 30 or 60 minutes can be incredibly rewarding - simply for the sense of unfettered engagement in the activity at hand and the sense of accomplishment. So whether it's an adult coloring book, writing in your journal, taking your art supplies our of the closet or cutting up an old magazine - give yourself the opportunity to get your creative juices going and get in the flow. See what happens. Reflect on your work with love and self-compassion. This process provides us with care, healing, and self-growth.

If you're interested in tapping into any of these practices, sign up for my newsletter, reach out to me to find out more about private spiritual coaching or join me for Align: a monthly series starting Saturday night February 2, 2019 at 7:30pm at the Center for Mindful Living in Washington, DC. Each monthly workshop gathering will include ritual, teachings on the season and the month, and have time for creative expression and intention setting - all designed to help you align with the seasons and cycles in your life. This is a wonderful opportunity to integrate more rootedness, spirituality and creative expression into your life. For details and registration, click here.

Shevat Tree 2019.jpg

During the Art & Visioning workshop I led on January 1, I had a few moments to sit down, breath and do my own artwork. The room was full of participants working on their own visions - drawing, writing, or searching for images that spoke to them from the collage supplies. My teachers in Rabbinical School used to tell us how inspiring it was to walk into the Beit Midrash (the house of study) and see all of the students studying together in chevruta (with a partner) translating texts, deciphering meanings, studying commentaries. The room was abuzz with students trying to figure things out, make sense of things, understand each other's opinions and reasoning for how to read a line of text as a statement or a question. The sights and sounds of the Beit Midrash inspired my teachers and reminded them why they loved learning Jewish texts so much.

I have experienced the same as a teacher. When I lead a group in meditation or contemplative reflection and then give each person an opportunity to write or create art, I see each person inspired by what we have learned or experience and engaged in their own creative process. Those are my some favorite classroom moments as a teacher and as a rabbi.

Those very moments remind me of being a young Arts & Ideas major, in the art studio at the Residential College at the University of Michigan. I loved being in a creative space where each person was working on their own projects, yet all of us were experiencing the act of creation collectively. I liked the solemnity of people focused on the work self expression through art. Perhaps there was some music on in the background, maybe a hushed conversation here or there or a question for the teacher, but there was a quiet reverence in the room, a focus on creative invention happening in real time.

During the recent New Years Day Art & Visioning workshop, when I looked around to see everyone working, I was filled with that same sense of inspiration, of creativity and flow. Once everyone found their art supplies and were tucked into their own pieces, I sat down to create my own.

For years, I've practiced what I call "Art Meditation" - not unlike a walking meditation or mindful eating, there is an activity at hand in which I am fully immersed. I have a practice I return to over and over again of creating tree collages. I find different scraps of paper and tear them into small pieces and different shapes. I arrange them to form the trunk of the tree, the branches, the leaves and flowers, and either roots or grass that firmly ground the tree into the earth. I find that I return to this image of the tree, this art meditation on the tree - as an image of something completely grounded and rooted, strong and yet it is in perpetual change with the seasons.

The tree is rooted and solid but it also reaches out, the leaves change and turn with the seasons, the fruits grow and bloom and the flowers blossom in the springtime. It reminds me that the only constant is change. Sometimes I choose paper based on the colors I am feeling, or another motif speaks to me. At times there are images in the paper, perhaps a sunset or an ocean or figures that I build into the story of the tree. Sometimes the roots are a mirror image to the branches.

At this time of year, when it is is cold and snow covers the ground in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, it is hard to imagine the tree with flowering buds. The cherry blossoms that grace the tidal basin in Washington, DC seem like a faint memory and too far off into the future. This may be so, but in the Jewish calendar, we celebrate the month of Shvat and the holiday of Tu Bishvat, the New Year of the Trees. This year year Tu Bishvat (the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat) falls on Monday January 21. We celebrate it at this time of year because the very first almond trees in Israel begin to flower in Shvat.

There is an adage I come back to again and again: "the seeds that are planted in Shvat bloom in Nissan" which means the seeds planted in the month of winter bloom in the month of spring time. I love to think about this metaphorically each year and ask myself what are the seeds of intention I want to plant right now so that they will bloom this spring? This tree is an art meditation on this intention of planting seeds now so they will bloom this spring.

My intention this winter and spring is to lead a monthly art and spirituality workshop that gathers in synchronicity with the cycle of the seasons and the moon. I hope to plant the seeds and nourish the seedlings of this opportunity allowing students and seekers to express their own creativity so that they may bloom in their spiritual and creative practice. I hope you will join me at this special series.

Happy New Year!

We had a beautiful New Year's Day Art & Visioning workshop with 30 people who came to get creative! The room was filled to the brim with energy and inspiration. Thank you to everyone who participated for your presence and support of each other's visions for the new year ahead. I hope to see you again soon.

If you weren't able to join us but would like to do a private session with me including visualization, art & writing, or if you need any help, guidance, or support in identifying your intentions or creating a life where you can live directly from your intentions, please reach out. I am working with clients for spiritual coaching and private learning, as well as launching new workshops and classes this year designed to nourish and support you in body, mind, and soul.

Each month, I post a teaching for the Hebrew month. Each Hebrew month arrives with the new moon and has different themes and attributes connected with the season and the holidays of that month. See below for this month's wisdom for the new moon of Shvat and planting seeds in the New Year. Catch up with my writings, upcoming events, and other news on my website, www.tasmancenter.org, and follow on instagram and our Facebook page.

With warmest wishes and blessings,

Rabbi Sarah

Shvat.jpg

According to the Jewish calendar, each month begins on the new moon or "Rosh Chodesh" in Hebrew. This time is an opportunity for learning about the wisdom of that month and setting an intention. Each month has attributes and characteristics that often correspond to the season or the holidays that fall during that time.

The month of Shvat begins at night on Sunday, January 6th, 2019 with the new moon, and is also observed and celebrated during the day on Monday, January 7th.

Though the month of Shvat is still in the midst of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, we celebrate the New Year of the Trees with the holiday of Tu BiShevat on the 15th of the month (on the full moon). This holiday celebrates the first blossoming of the almond trees and is a time for planting seeds.

An old adage teaches that the seeds planted in the Hebrew month of Shvat, will bloom in the Hebrew month of Nisan (a few months away in the beginning of springtime).

What seeds of intention are you planting in your heart and in your life? How will you nurture them to grow and bloom?

New Years are opportunities to check in with yourself, to take stock and do some reflection and to also set intentions. But I am not a fan of "new years resolutions" which often come from a place of self-judgement, self-criticism and self-restraint. These resolutions often set us up to be hard on ourselves.

Rather than setting a resolution, I see each New Year - and each new month in the Jewish calendar - as good times to set intentions. Living in alignment with the cycles around the sun, and each cycle of the moon, can be very powerful and help us feel more centered and grounded in our lives. Each new year or each new moon gives us a chance to either recommit to an intention you set earlier or set a new intention.

The Hebrew word for intention is kavannah, which comes from the verb l'kavven, which means to direct your heart. So my question for you this year, is how do you want to direct your heart? How do you want to feel in your day-to-day life? How do you want to be? What are your core desired feelings? And then once you have identified those words and ideas, let yourself make decisions and choose from there.

Let your intentions direct your thoughts and actions.

What are you intentions for 2019?

I'd love to hear what your intentions are for this year.

If you need any help, guidance, or support on identifying your intentions or creating a life where you can live directly from your intentions, please reach out! I am working with private clients for spiritual coaching and learning, as well as launching new workshops and classes this year designed to nourish and support you in body, mind, and soul.

With warmest wishes and Blessings,

Rabbi Sarah

More Light Quote.jpg

Warmest Wishes for Winter Solstice and Shabbat Shalom!

Winter Solstice has long been one my favorite holidays. Truth be told, I don't do well with the cold and darkness of the winter season, but there is something hopeful to me that in once we get through to Winter Solstice - the shortest day and the longest night of the year - the days will once again get a little bit longer. The knowledge that the days will grow longer, even if just by a minute per day, helps me psychologically. I am not alone in this feeling. This time of year can be incredibly difficult for many people. Read more about the Talmud's take on Seasonal Affective Disorder on my website.

One of my favorite quotes for Winter Solstice comes from the TV show Northern Exposure. This show was a Tasman family favorite growing up and has special resonance for me since I served as the rabbi of a small Jewish community in Fairbanks, AK in the summer of 2011. I felt much more at home than Dr Joel Fleishman in the TV show. In the show, one winter, Chris Stevens, who is at once a disc jockey, preacher, poet and, artist, creates an enormous sculpture in the town square out of all of the lights he can find. His opening kavannah (words of intention), which is one of my favorite quotes, reads as follows:

Goethe's final words: "More light." Ever since we crawled out of that primordial slime, that's been our unifying cry: "More light." Sunlight. Torchlight. Cande light. Neon. Incandescent. Lights that banish the darkness from our caves, to illuminate our roads, the insides of our refrigerators. Big floods for the night games at Soldier's field. Little tiny flashlights for those books we read under the covers when we're supposed to be asleep. Light is more than watts and footcandles. Light is metaphor. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet. "Rage, rage against the dying of the light." "Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, Lead Thou me on!" "The night is dark, and I am far from home." "Lead Thou me on! Arise, shine, for thy light has come." Light is knowledge. Light is life. Light is light.

Check out the scene on YouTube.

Wishing you and your families light, warmth, connection, hope, healing, and joy.

Warmest wishes, Shabbat Shalom, and all my best for a bright 2019,

Rabbi Sarah Tasman