Entries by Rabbi Elazar Bloom, LMFT

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?

Looking Through the Window

Looking through the window
Recently, I was sitting on my back porch and as I glanced through the closed window, I watched my wife interacting with my children in the kitchen. They were not doing anything exceptional; typical family stuff – eating, talking, smiling; one of the kids was kind of just spacing out. Yet, my heart immediately became filled with such immense joy, compassion and gratitude.
Funny thing, on the other side of the window, in the same room with them and observing the same scene, I would never experience the same depth of love and compassion. I have been wondering why.
There is something about looking through a window.
I am not sure but I think it has something to do with the window being a boundary, a division, but a clear one. You are there and I am here and there is a transparent, open space between us. It is in that space that true emotional relatedness, compassion and connection can blossom. You can be you and I can be me and we can touch each other’s lives safely and experience one another in a moving and meaningful way.
What if I could experience the “window effect” constantly even while sitting directly across from someone in the same room? In truth, the invisible boundary between 2 people is always there but if it has been violated (and all of us have had our boundaries violated at one time or another) it becomes a lot more intense, perhaps even a bit threatening to be so close. That background noise prevents us from being truly present together and able to connect with the person right before us.
The more we learn to own our own complete experience (including our full range of emotions) as legitimately ours, the more the boundary between “I and thou” becomes clear and the easier it is to have the “window experience” with anyone you come into contact with.

Traumas of Pain and Pleasure

Traumas of pain and pleasure
Negative Trauma = Experiences that overwhelm one’s system with PAIN. They cannot be processed as they happen and are therefore held down as condensed pockets of pain to be AVOIDED at all cost.
Positive trauma = Experiences that overwhelm one’s system with PLEASURE and are therefore held in constant awareness and CRAVED at all cost.
Perhaps our psyches are built around the extremes of these experiences and our lives are therefore defined by them (avoiding and craving)
Is there a space within us that is deep enough to contain and consciously relate to both of these extremes so that they do not hijack our lives?
Yes. That space is who you truly are. It is God within you.

The Body and Soul of Love

The only difference between the holy and the mundane is that the while the holy is united with and aware of the divine energy that brings it into existence at every moment, the mundane experiences THAT SAME divine energy as somehow SEPARATE from its existence.
This body is thus devoted to the realm of the mundane while the soul to the realm of the holy.
We are simultaneously trying to maintain the experience of separateness (as it is familiar) and overcome it (as it is ultimately not true).
The desire to overcome the experience of separateness while simultaneously maintaining it is called human love.

Hide and Seek with Shevy

My 5 year old daughter and I have a weekly tradition where on Shabbat (Saturday) morning we play a game of hide and seek together. When I hide, she seeks and the game goes as it should. When SHE hides, I pretend not to know where she is for a little while (even though she hides in the same 2-3 spots every time) and as I seek, inevitably, it becomes too much for her to bear and within 15 seconds or so she screams out:
“HERE I AM”!
And every time I try and explain to her that the point of the game is NOT to tell the other person where you are. The point of the game is NOT to get found.
It doesn’t help.
You see, she is wired for connection. She cannot imagine a goal where the long term plan is to stay hidden, separated from someone you love for any extended period of time.
“HERE I AM”
I am also wired for connection. AND I can easily imagine a long term goal of being hidden and separate from someone you love. Sometimes it’s safer that way. Sometimes it’s less painful.
So, when I find a really good hiding spot and I squeeze my middle aged body into a desk nook or behind a couch, I don’t say “HERE I AM”, but when it becomes too much and SHE says:
“MAKE A NOISE!”
I do, because hiding eventually gets old for us all.

Couples Break Up for the Same Reason they Get Together

It all has to do with core fears and vulnerabilities.
One of several variations:
A young man, deeply fears that deep down he is really not important. He has learned to “get it right” and become worthy by focusing on pleasing those he cares about and catering to their needs. A young woman, deeply fears that in the end she will be neglected and alone. She has learned to draw attention to her needs by giving warm and affectionate feedback to those that she wants to keep close.
Match made in heaven. She wants the closeness of the attention so he works hard on pleasing her and gets the feedback he craves to keep on doing it. A beautiful feedback loop keeping everyone excited and passionate.
Until…
He gets it wrong (let’s say, he forgets to call when he said he would or comes home late…again). She does not feel his closeness. She is not pleased. His fear of “not important” is now exposed to the person he needs most. Her fear of alone and not cared for is exposed to the very man she trusted to be there.
Uh oh….
But just because this often happens does not mean that there is a problem. This relationship can be saved. It CAN become secure and life enhancing.
What if he develops the capacity to share his pain of not getting it right, how he feels failing the most important person in his world? What if she is able to develop the courage to share her pain of not feeling his closeness and the fear she has of losing him and being alone.
What if they each felt safe enough to share their hearts, including their fears and vulnerabilities?
Then there would be hope that in those raw, sensitive places they will find what they long for – a true, life partner.