Entries by Rabbi Elazar Bloom, LMFT

I Love You (especially) Here

When he was very young, at times, our oldest son would hit me. I remember how hard this was as a new parent. I did not take it well and responded poorly, often with anger; driven by the fear of “what’s wrong with him?”, worse, “what’s wrong with ME?”
My experience is that the single most challenging aspect of being a parent is noticing a child’s pain (beneath whatever confusing outwardly expression it is being expressed as) and loving him there.
We begin telling the story of the Exodus acknowledging our humble beginnings, as idol worshippers, as slaves. Why? Because the origin and essence of God’s love for us is HERE. In the strange space where our pain seeks confounding expression as arrogance, apostasy, hopelessness, helplessness, anger and dissatisfaction. HERE, God hears the truth of our distress and allows the faithful question of “Why” to be heard; even when it cannot be articulated well. As God listens with loving ears to our most undesirable self, we develop the strength to express our wound more clearly, more confidently, knowing that it is being heard. Knowing He will continue to love us no matter how (poorly) we show up.
This fosters a newfound security; one where our bond is not based on performance or behavior. Not dependent on being “good”. It was, it is, and it will always be. It is here that we begin; everything else a commentary on that eternal Truth.

Passover Wine, Loss, and My Avoidance of Sadness

Yesterday evening I was irritated, with my wife, with our kids; snappy, uncomfortable. I couldn’t trace it. Nothing especially stressful happened at work, dinner was hot and delicious, where the heck was this coming from?
I continued to feel uneasy the rest of the evening and finally, in the shower that night it hit me..
The wine order.
Earlier in the day I had placed an order for wine to be sent to my in-laws in Charlotte, NC, where we will be spending Passover. We have spent just about every Passover for the past 18 years with them and with my brother and sister-in law,

Sarah Dukes, Yudi and their family. This year Yudi will not be there.
With that realization, I became sad, really sad. Ofcourse I was sad, how could I not be. And as I allowed myself to feel the sadness, the irritation subsided. There was softness, vulnerability and I began to feel a deep connection to all of the people that I was previously annoyed with. Once again, the world came into focus. I was able to apologize for my abrasive behavior and share what I was truly experiencing. What if I wasn’t able to make sense out of the experience? What if I wasn’t able to connect my feelings to the wine order and all that it represented to me? I probably would have continued to hurt the people I love for the rest of the evening and perhaps beyond, causing them pain and still not feeling any better.
In thinking about this and connecting it to the Passover holiday, I realize why it is so important to TELL THE STORY. We tell the story so that we have a clear, coherent narrative of who we are; where we have been and as a result, where we are headed. Without it, as a people with a long and often painful history, we would wander into aimlessness and confusion, rubbing up abrasively, hurting, rather than helping others.
Reacting, rather than RESPONDING to our experiences.
Telling the story keeps the narrative alive so that we have the ability to continue to show up, come what may, and live in connection with our deepest values and sense of divine truth and purpose. That capacity elevates and transforms the experience to resonate with those values as we light the way to a better future.
So, returning to my small narrative. My feelings of sadness and pain connected to Yudi’s death; understanding what his loss means to me, will allow me to smile warmly like he did, to lovingly reward the kids with chocolate after the 4 questions like he did, to dig into deep reserves of patience for family and guests like he did, to sing and pray passionately and share words of Torah like he did, and to be there for his family, not like he did, but like I can.
Because his deepest values are my values and that is why I feel the pain of his absence, and that is why he WILL be with us this Passover.
L’chaim Yudi, to your freedom and to mine.
*picture is from a pre-passover meal, a bunch of years ago.

Death of the Heart

“Where there is no memory, there has been death of the heart”
-R. Nachman
I often sit with someone and they tell me that they do not remember much from their younger years. That despite having had a “good childhood”, the particular memories remain elusive. It appears that the beautiful person in front of me has had to turn off his heart. Emotionally lonely and unseen, the heart goes into hiding. It is too painful to remain open. When this happens, the world becomes more dull, more gray.
And the heart still hopes. Those longings often come out sideways: Blame, pleasure seeking and people pleasing are some of the ways the heart’s signals are sent out “sideways”. The heart cannot send a clear signal from exile, it’s too risky.
Trust that underneath the anger and blame there is sadness, behind the pleasure seeking is a longing for love and connection, and hidden in the people pleasing a fear of loneliness and rejection. Trust that the heart is close and that a willingness to feel the pain, fear and longing will lead you directly into its warm embrace.
In that embrace you will create new memories, some joyous and some painful, all of them very alive. That experience is waiting for you, right now.

Broken Glass to Heal a Broken Heart

At the very end of the marriage ceremony, the last thing a Jewish bride and groom do before becoming husband and wife is shatter a glass.
The common explanation of this custom is to bring to mind the exile and destruction of the Temple even at the very height of one’s joy.
And perhaps there is something deeper as well. Perhaps the last message the fledgling couple is being sent is:
Your marriage, your commitment to each other, is strong enough to contain brokenness.
It can hold the brokenness WITHIN you and the brokenness and pain BETWEEN you when you cannot find one another.
If you allow, not only can it hold it, it can heal it as well.
And that may be why you are getting married in the first place.

Living a Borrowed Life

One of the Hebrew word for grave is “Sheol”. The 3 letter root of this word שאל is the same as the word “borrow”.
Every time I define myself by another person, every time I borrow my identity from your opinion, from your judgment, I turn on myself and step into the grave of a borrowed life.
Living a life borrowed from others is a betrayal of the divine life force that is yours and yours alone.
I wish to allow myself and you to live in full alignment and connection with that life force.

Playing Dominoes with Shevy

One of the Shabbat (Saturday) morning activities that Shevy (5) and I enjoy together is setting up long trains of dominoes and watching them fall. It’s a lot of work (and often frustration) for a couple of moments of “WOW” but it passes the time together and we have a laugh.
Is life like those domino trains? Does each moment knock into and automatically cause the next? Or is life more like when you space one domino a little too far from its neighbor and the domino just stands there, and falls. Nothing happens. Then there is another domino next to it and another, and another….Is each moment unique unto its own without a defined relationship to the next or the previous one?
I think it might be both. There is a connection, but the challenge is that the one MAKING the connection is YOU. And you and I will connect one moment to the next based on all the previous connections, the story we have been creating throughout our lives. If the storyteller has a defective or unlovable self at the heart of the story, well, guess how each moment is going to be linked to the next….
In order to unravel the story it can be helpful to begin seeing each moment as just that. A moment. Period.
Moment A – You knock over a glass of juice at the table.
Moment B – You feel a pain in your gut and your face begins to flush.
Moment C- You hurriedly get a napkin to wipe it up as you apologize profusely.
Is there really a connection between these events? If you were criticized and felt shame for being clumsy, etc. the story will say YES, they are connected.
But maybe they aren’t, maybe there is no real connection between knocking over a glass of liquid on the table and the emotion of shame..? Maybe knocking over a glass is just something that happens in this world sometimes?

Pain as Intimate Guide

What if the most important work we have to do in life is to experience the meaning of loss and allow it to guide us toward the only thing we truly have?
What if suffering is intended to nudge us towards parts our selves that are needed to experience the wonders of healing and the joy of reunion?
What if everything and everyone is moving in the direction of wholeness?
What if we need the experience of our pain to show us the way?
“The stone that the builder refused shall be the head corner stone” (Psalms 118)

You Are Living a Dream

Dreams, the Torah portions we have been reading are filled with images of the unconscious and their interpretations:
Joseph, Pharaoh, his ministers.
The kabbalists say that the events and experiences of our lives resemble a dream. And our will be defined by how we INTERPRET it.
The Hebrew word for dream: חלם
The Hebrew word for bread: לחם
Same letters, different order. Just as dreams require interpretation, so to our human experiences (our “bread”) demands interpretation:
There are 2 ways to relate to one’s “bread”:
1. It keeps me alive (animalistic survival and pleasure)
2. It is the Divine energy invested in the bread that desires and sustains me. (“Not by bread alone is the human being sustained, rather by the expression of the word of God” – Deut. 8:3)
At each moment we get to decide. Who are we relating to:
Creator or creation?

Shevy’s Candy Grab

At a Chanukah/Birthday party my daughter Shevy received a candy bag. She clutched on to that bag firm and tight, treasuring it, not wanting it to leave her sight for a moment. She would not let me put the candies into a ziplock until I was able to illustrate that she would still be able to see the candies clearly through the plastic.
As we worked on a magnet tile maze that afternoon, it was only with her left hand. Her right hand was occupied with the candy bag. When I suggested that it might be easier if she put down the bag so she could use both hands, the response, a firm
“No”
Later, we were making a BBQ together and her job was to “paint” the chicken wings with sauce. As she stood on a chair and carefully applied her brush strokes I suggested that she put the candy bag down. The response, a firm
“No”
Then she lost her balance and almost fell. Scared and clearly shaken up, she silently placed the bag on to the side tray and continued to paint the wings.
I asked her if she was ok, and she nodded. Surprisingly, beyond that, I was wise enough to keep my mouth shut.
We all have our candy bag. We grasp it tightly. We do not let it out of our sight. We NEED it.
We do not notice how it limits us from engaging in our life. The candy bag may be a craving or a fear. It has been with us for a while and its familiarity is what makes it so evasive.
Until we lose our balance.
At that moment, a possibility emerges. Can we see how our candy bag is getting in the way? Can we see how the need to clutch our candy so tightly is part of the problem, not the solution?