"ECHAD: the Wonder of Oneness"
What a propitious wonderful time to write about my spiritual experience with Echad / Oneness because today is the 10th Yahrzeit of dear Reb Shlomo Carlebach, zt"l . Reb Shlomo was the earth's master of Echad-Oneness. In Shlomo's light I try to connect our world's holy sisters and brothers to be closer. As I was Shlomo's percussionist here in Los Angeles, I continue through this medium of music as a vessel for healing with "Sounds of Joy".
This week I had the opportunity to drum for Echad-Oneness and healing on a four feet wide, female top 'head', male bottom covered elk skin hand-made Indian drum. As one of the Wild Rose Drum Team players, I was chanting in a language with which I was not familiar. I did not know the English translation of the Indian chants, but I felt comfortable with the Native American Indian culture. This is probably because I am at home and with strength owning my own Jewish faith and authentic cultural traditions and that I did not feel threatened by being infused with another culture. On the contrary, I was so quietly ecstatic to be invited to join the ritual composed of six people seated around one large lovingly-made beautiful drum, and to keep the beat while consciously chanting for ourselves and others. The intention of the drumming is to celebrate the sacred unity of all life. With "Divine Light, Love and Power" flowing through us, we meditate locally to transform globally. A few dozen others were present at the Spiritual Unity Movement's sacred meditation and joined in encircling us drummers with chanting and dancing. Held at The Onion, an onion-shaped Universalist Church, which I fantasize is Noah's Ark because of its sanctuary's shape; window at the top of the high domed ceiling, and simplistic wooden panelling inside the womb-like inner sanctum.
Faithfully once a month for the Full Moon meditation, I go to the Onion. Candles are lit in honor of many religions. I lit a candle for Judaism the first time I celebrated at the Onion several months ago. At one of the last full moons I was asked to light the unclaimed remaining candle for the Muslim faith. Reverend Dana, facilitator, could see that I was uncomfortable with the invitation but I told her I would light the candle to bring light unto the Muslim faith; And I did for Echad-Oneness. I have learned in my own Judaism that one does not turn down an honor in the temple in honoring Torah. I would not turn down this honoring for Echad-Oneness. And we chanted peace, Ohm. I add Shalom.
Last week, playing the Crystal bowl, Tibetan singing bowls, bells and gongs, I chanted Ohm in Echad-Oneness with the students and teachers of yoga at the Out Back Yoga studio. Through my vessels, the Sounds of Joy brought on calming, peace, harmony, transcendancy, transformation and joy. Each participant came to their own Echad-Oneness within themselves and in community while chanting and receiving the vibratory reverberations resounding in their bodies--their spiritual vessels. This expansive global musical day, bursting with diversity, was part of the Third annual Daniel Pearl World Music Day celebrating what would have been Daniel's 41st birthday, and his ideals for the Oneness of humanity for all world cultures. My playing was dedicated to the vision of Daniel Pearl, zt"l, may his memory be a blessing.
Last night at the synagogue Valley Beth Shalom, I played drums and timbrels / tambourines for a Rosh Chodesh, Jewish women's universal New Moon celebration, celebrating the appearance of the new slim moon and marking the movement of the lunar calendar through the seasons and festivals of the year. The women sang and danced as we celebrated a day for honoring women throughout the world and from centuries ago.
We experienced a costumed, food feast Moroccan wedding (without the groom), a time for a marital covenant and Echad-Oneness in understanding ethnic traditions different from our own Jewish Ashkenazic traditions.
Echad-Oneness, is what we experience in G*d's Gan Eden / paradise, when we pray at B'nai Horin in community with our Rabbi Stan Levy. It is the soulful closeness, the devekut we share in coming close to The Source of All Blessings.
For fourteen years I have been a member at B'nai Horin, my first mamash, beloved heart-based community, where we share Shabbat in Echad-Oneness and blessings. We pray together as flowers dancing in G*d's Gan Eden as we share our Judaism with Torah in our hearts. A place filled with joy, love and light within a most caring community. This is where I first found Echad-Oneness in Judaism, dancing with G*d in the garden.
It is Echad-Oneness to hear birds singing as we pray, to see lemons hanging high in the tree where butterflies flit, to touch as I dance-- the grass with my bare feet, "a single blade", as Rebbe Nachman teaches us; to taste all of this, and then the food we share following prayer in community. This is chevre / community with Echad-Oneness where we come together to gather our hearts and souls, our neshamas soaring like the birds above. We do not wait until our aliyah to heaven, we soar now in Echad-Oneness.
I tingle inside, informing me that I am connecting vibrating alive energy with Source. I bring others with me in my joy and rhythm as Miriyahm the Prophetess with ribboned timbrel in hand, and with Psalm 150, to share the journey to Echad-Oneness. This is our Judaism, lifted freely, liberated out of our mitzrayims / narrow places of our ancestors and ourselves.
I feel as if I could explode with the inner joy bursting forth while touching with all my senses the gift of G*d on my plane here, as I function as an Earthwalker. Following smiling at the moon in all its phases (sometimes huge round orange), and the sparkling stars, I awaken early with the painted colors of G*d's sunrise and smell a blossom, a rose in the garden in which I pray singing "Modah Ani".
In my enchanted garden that I have co-created with G*d, I greet the single flower, "Hello G*d". She is beautiful and smiling. I eat the morsel of luscious sensual summer ripe purple fig, and I feel the sparks of Light entering my mouth and being digested. The sweetness of a fruit is a reflection of the sweetness of the Supernal Wisdom. Everything I see is but a reflection of that which is Above. I visualize G*d's creatures who have nurtured the seed, the grain in the ground, with the sun and the rain, to bring me the food I eat and I say brachot / blesSings every chance I get.
I radiate outward that I am one with the Holy One. With a Sukkot lulav pointed to six directions, I am the seventh (G*d's holiest number), holy as the Temple direction where I stand facing, from where I receive and give blesSings. I am exhilarated picking my own kosher heart-shaped etrog from a citron tree for Sukkot. I have created my Sukkah within a grapefruit tree (planted on Tu B'Shvat 25 years ago) in which now a wheelchair and guests can dwell.
In Echad-Oneness I am breathed, I am danced, I am drummed, I am played. I give thanks and I do mitzvot. As a vessel of G*d, I do Bikkur Cholim / visiting the sick. I help heal; I care inside for another, isolated, instead of my playing outside because I recognize that this is now the avodah / work, the service I do in being G*d's child. And I shed tears cleansed in my mikveh. Shechina blesses and embraces me in love.
Signing is a Dance of Joy
At Lev Eisha Shabbat services, I find the sign language inspirational in making significant for me each of the individual Hebrew prayer words that we are taught by Dov / Barry Geller. Dov sincerely embodies prayer; and with his spirit, heart, body and soul, he lovingly shares this gift. To reach out and pull in Light, embracing with hand and arm movements--my whole upper body torso, and understand the difference of darkness with other contrasting movements, moves me to a place of visceral understanding. To express more fully, calling out "Echad" and "HaShem" with my voice and body, feels so good. The signing is a dance of joy.
When Dov signs, teaching with English translations, mamash / truly I feel tingles running through my body, which means for me, that I am deeply spiritually connecting Echad-Oneness. This happenes when I watch Dov sign at synagogues' services also for B'nai Horin, Valley Beth Shalom, and Temple Solomon of the Deaf.
There is great unified grace in the body movements of the Lev Eisha women which I witness from my place for the last four years, by the bima / chapel podium and next to Rabbi Toba August, while I look out onto the congregation of women. Because I love to sign the prayers with Dov, it is a challenge for me as temple musician, to sign and to simultaneously drum at the same time. I miss a couple beats, but for me, the feeling of Echad-Oneness is deeper with community and the Source of All Blessings. Being a member of Lev Eisha fills me with ruach / spirit and joy as we pray, learn, dance, sing and share together in Echad-Oneness. Participating at all of my spiritual communities with chevre brings me to a place of Echad / Oneness and I am grateful for the dance of joy in connecting with holy sisters and brothers and the Holy One.
In purple love and blesSings,
Gila Rena Tzohara, Double Joy and Light
"Ivdu Et HaShem B'Simcha" -Psalm 100:2
Serve G*d with Joy
I wrote the essay "My Echad-ness" on the occasion of Dov Geller's 60th birthday.
Dov wrote his thoughts in his adult Bar Mitzvah book, "ECHAD: the Wonder of Oneness", and My Echad-ness thoughts are for Dov.
Happy Birthday blesSings to you, dear Dov, for Echad-Oneness, Torah, health, joy, and music in your ears and your heart and hands. Thank you with all my heart for being my friend.
I am grateful to have first met Dov and his beloved, Wilda Spalding, over a decade ago.And Dov, you are right, "G*d is great."
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