SPIRITUAL AWAKENINGS: Illuminations on Shabbat and the Holidays

SPIRITUAL AWAKENINGS: Illuminations on Shabbat and the Holidays
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    SPIRITUAL AWAKENINGS: Illuminations on Shabbat and the Holidays
    Author: Yehoshua Rubin

    Life is about waking up. It's about engaging in real life with all its disappointments and successes. It's about allowing ourselves to feel both the pain and the ecstasy of life.... I found that Shabbat and the Jewish holidays were a guide to the spiritual awakenings that I needed in order to wake up and stay awake. Through celebrating these special days I discovered what life is about: Tasting the sweetness of this world. Feeling the love your spouse has for you. Tickling your children. Learning to take advantage of Shabbat's gift of rest. Learning to forgive and give second chances on Yom Kippur. Experiencing the Tu B'Shvat process of turning dreams into realities, as a seed turns itself into a fruit-bearing tree. Being a Purim Jew when you let down your barriers and fall in love with every human being. Learning to transform your pain into empathy as you leave your own personal Egypt at your Passover seder. And it's about staying up all night on Shavuot, to become as spiritually awakened as Ruth the Moabite, when she opened up her eyes.

    Spiritual Awakenings is an inspirational guide to discovering anew the joy and meaning that can be found in Shabbat and each of the Jewish holidays. Yehoshua Rubin, a student of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, reveals how one can achieve self-awareness through unravelling the rich flavor that is imbued into the Jewish yearly cycle. In this enlightening volume, we are treated to a delightful fusion of Torah teachings, tales of chassidic Rabbis and heart-warming anecdotes.

    Yehoshua Rubin earned a master's degree in Educational Counseling from Northeastern University, received rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, and was a student of Reb Shlomo Carlebach. He teaches in both high school and college, is a guidance counselor, a storyteller, tour guide, writer and the lead vocalist of his band, "The Age of Friends." Yehoshua lives in Israel with his wife Annette and their four children.

    Hardcover, 179 pages
    ISBN: 965-7108-41-1
    Publication: February 2003

    Praise for Spiritual Awakenings:

    Never have I read material on the Jewish holy days that has moved me as have these chapters. Though my life has always revolved around the cycle of the Shabbat and festivals, I have found renewed enthusiasm and excitement about the meaning of these days in my personal life, and a new excitement about teaching their deeper meanings to others.

    Yehoshua Rubin is truly one of the gifted young spiritual poets of his generation.
    Dov Peretz Elkins
    co-author of Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul

    I want to recommend to you...Spiritual Awakenings by Yehoshua Rubin. This is a new name in Jewish spiritual writings, but it is a name worth noticing, for I believe we will hear more from this gifted writer. Some of you may remember his father, Yitschak Rubin, who was a rabbi in Pennsylvania before he made aliyah, and his grandfather, Philip Goodman, who did the holiday anthologies for JPS years ago.

    Yehoshua Rubin has smicha from Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and was a student of Rabbi Shlomo Carlbach. That already tells you much about his spirit.

    Spiritual Awakenings is a collection of powerful essays on the holidays. I am sure that, like me, you think that you have read and studied all that there is to say about the holidays by now, but I was surprised at the insights on almost every page, and I think that you will be too. This man has spiritual power and a fresh way of seeing things!
    Jack Riemer


    As we cope with the dual demons of a depressed economy and saber rattling among nations, Spiritual Awakenings is like a dive into a cool, clear lake on a brutally hot day. It washes the sweat of indifference from your skin and gives you a new perspective on life. Orthodox Rabbi Yehoshua Rubin -- an Israeli teacher, guidance counselor, storyteller, and singer -- devotes severeal short chapters (some less than two pages) to 11 Jewish holidays.

    Using interpretations of Torah as well as personal anecdotes and stories by various Hasidic scholars, Rubin points to facets of our holidays you may not have appreciated before. You learn that drinking an appropriate amount of alcohol on Purim can make you want to hug your children instead of yell at them. Passover reminds us that our emotional pain from the past can inform our ethical behavior here and now. Shabbat means "sit," so we should use the seventh day to sit and revel in our family's love or simply use this quiet time to appreciate God's creation. The lyrical prose reflects the author's idealism.
    Robin Levinson
    Jewish Book World


    Rubin, a rabbi, college teacher and guidance counselor, writes that the Jewish holidays and Shabbat have been essential to his spiritual development. "Through celebrating these special days I discovered what life is about: Tasting the sweetness of this world." The book opens with a lovely section on Shabbat, with short chapters elucidating the value of rest, lighting candles and blessing one's children. Rubin then goes through all of the holidays of the Jewish year in chronological order from Rosh Hashanah to Shavuot. His style is folksy and homiletic, drawing examples from his own life and from popular culture (as in his chapter on "The Day Michael Jackson Came to Synagogue"). Rubin sometimes gushes a bit too much about his spiritual mentor, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, but he has a real gift for explaining the spiritual significance of familiar rituals.
    Publishers Weekly


    This book is a guide to discovering the joy and meaning that can be found in Shabbat and each of the Jewish holidays. In this book, we are treated to a delightful fusion of Torah teachings, tales of chaddidic Rabbis, and heartwarming anecdotes.
    Independent Publisher


    During precarious times, when certitudes go up in smoke, spiritual comfort is a healing balm; and when it is drawn from experience and learning, it assumes the weight of wisdom. "Spiritual Awakening: Illuminations on Shabbat and the Holidays" is replete with simple, though never simplistic, insights and observations that widen the narrow straits of the workaday world. Rabbi Yehoshua Rubin, a guidance counselor and lead vocalist of the band "The Age of Friends," seeks to raise the reader from the mundane to the miraculous, from the meanness of the commonplace to the grandeur of the celebratory.

    The Jewish calendar is designed to elevate us from the grit of the everyday to the glory of the supernatural, infusing our finite lives with a sense of the infinite. Judaism, as observed through its holy days, is a religion of deep intentionality, a network of sense and significance that turns life into an extended act of interpretation.

    Rubin argues that Purim is a holiday that has been shortchanged by assimilation and commercialism. For some, it has become a kind of Jewish "Mardi Gras" or "Halloween," with plenty of treats but nary a trick. However, as he reads it, the plot lines of the Megillah reveal a narrative thread within the chaotic skein of history. He writes of this festive holiday: "With historic perspective, we can sometimes understand how the seemingly evil actually had a beneficial purpose."

    On Purim, Jewish optimism, a belief in history`s larger design, wins out - "it is a profound awakening to the fact that everything is orchestrated from above with purpose and meaning." And, he adds with a pinch of leavening humor, sometimes a good stiff drink is needed to see it whole. Hence the Purim teaching: "A person is obligated to drink until he doesn`t know the difference between `Cursed is Haman` and `Blessed is Mordechai.`"

    Lest we forget, Rubin reminds us that Jewish holiday drinking is of the "perfumed" sort; inebriation must always be paired with pleasantness if it is to be seen within the purview of Purim. When it turns acrid, bitter and nasty, it loses its purpose as a commandment and turns into plain drunkenness.

    A fair portion of Rubin`s inspiration is "Carlebachian." A student of the late spiritual leader, he strips away the artifice and arrogance that hide G-d`s light. And he is wise to understand that life`s consecration cannot be wholly divorced from pain, although it makes it far more bearable. He has a touching fondness for word roots and explains that the Hebrew words for pain and youth are similar save for the letter "yud" in the latter. "The letter yud symbolizes G-d`s name. The wordplay says it all. Pain without G-d equals pain without meaning, as in the Hebrew word tza`ar - a word without the letter yud. Here pain is just plain pain." However, the Hebrew word tza`ir with a yud, indicates that with G-d everything is possible - even pain becomes more tolerable by assuming the vigor of youth.

    Rubin is a born etymologist, a pursuer of words and their derivation, a tireless seeker of meanings, with an endearing taste for the paradoxical. The word mezuzah comes from the Hebew root "zuz" (movement). He asks appropriately, "How can a box that is permanently attached to a doorpost be called "movement." He explains artfully that the mezuzah dates back to the night of the exodus from Egypt when G-d commanded the Jews: "You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood and touch the doorposts..." (Exodus 12:21-23). Only a fifth of the Jewish people had the courage to openly declare their religion, and only that saving remnant moved from the bondage of slavery to the freedom of the Promised Land.

    In the end, Rubin convinces by his unassuming tone, by his quiet words of healing. He is a down-to-earth diagnostician of the soul who eases the harried reader from the highway of clutter and distraction on to the high road of spiritual insight and illumination.
    Michael Skakun
    The Jewish Press


    Spiritual Awakenings is a book of short "takes" on the holidays, beginning with Shabbat and continuing from Elul through Shavuot. This is an inspirational book written in a Carlebachian style, filled with Torah teachings, tales of Chassidic rabbis and heart-warming personal anecdotes.

    The book begins with chapters on Shabbat entitled "A Time to Press Pause." Here Rubin tells how one evening after dinner, rather than vegging out in front of the TV as he was so inclined, he bundles up the kids and takes them out to see the sunset. At that critical moment his daughter turns to him and says "Daddy, I love you." Had he not made the time, he could have missed that moment. Taking the time, says Rubin, is the fundamental purpose of Shabbat.

    Rubin has a good story for each aspect of Shabbat. There is a short chapter on candle lighting, on wishing "Shabbat Shalom," Shalom Aleichem, Eshet Chayil, blessing the children, Kiddush and Hamotzi, the Shabbat meals and the Havadala. Each chapter is filled with personal anecdotes and messages brought home through charming Chassidic tales.

    Why, Rab Karlin was asked, do Chassidim dance during the Friday night service? Because when we dance, one foot is rooted in the physical world and the other reaches toward heaven. Reb Carlebach couldn't have said it better.

    Well written and easy to read, Spiritual Awakenings is a collection of inspirational essays drawn from Rubin's personal experiences and observations. The stuff of every day life becomes significant, be it talking to the guy next to him on the plane or getting lost in Atlantic City. Rubin finds a Rosh Hashanah message in Disney's "The Lion King." The replacement for his stolen bike becomes his Yom Kippur bike because it gives him another chance. Rubin's wife and children are so much a part of his experience, you'll know them if you meet them on the street.

    In Spiritual Awakenings, Rubin teaches us how to awaken the spiritual in our most mundane activities. Rubin's acknowlegements at the beginning of the book say it all. Who reads the acknowledgements? You do when the first is to "Gd for having given the Jewish people all these wonderful and special days." The Jewish holidays, teaches Rubin, give us pause and tune us in. Take nothing for granted, enjoy every moment, and let the holidays be the window into Gd's special world.
    Debbie Lampert
    eluna.com


    Yehoshua Rubin's first book searches for the obvious and hidden spiritual possibilities embedded within the celebrations in a Jewish year. From the rituals at a Shabbat table to the thematic prayers of Yom Kippur, Rubin appreciates their spiritual significance, and uses tales from tzadikim and prescriptions for the future to illustrate his points. A student of Shlomo Carlebach, with rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Rubin lives in Israel with his wife and four children.
    Adina Levine
    Jerusalem Post


    Sometimes we feel that our walking through life is like an endless and boring routine. Other times we see how our life is going away and we cannot do anything to change it. Finally, we think we are awake but we just have our eyes open: we are deeply asleep. And as a matter of fact, that was the sensation of Yehoshua Rubin, author of this inspiring book had for long years.

    As he told us, he was asleep for the first 28 years of his life, believing he had everything the society expected from him: house, car, family and academic degrees. But then he started to ask himself: What is life all about? Why do we need what we have? Why do we suffer?, and so on. He turned to our Jewish sources for some answers, and there he found them. He was about to discover new insights for his entire life. He was waking up. His life became more meaningful and significant. He started to taste the sweetness of this wonderful world.

    The book he presents to us is the outcome of this personal awakening. Rubin divided his oeuvre in two main parts - the first with reflections on Shabbat and the second with insights on the Holidays. In both sections the reader can find, in simple language, deep ideas that will help him to see life in general, and the Jewish life with its celebrations in particular, through different glasses.

    We have here a nice book with a fresh and bright view on our festivals, taken from the very heart of our sources and traditions. Enjoy it!
    Joshua Kullock
    AJL Newsletter


    Spiritual Awakenings: Illuminations on Shabbat and the Holidays by Yehoshua Rubin is a thoughtful meditation on the meanings and reflections that Jewish holidays have with regard to examining one's life and faith, and drinking deep in the gifts of life with gratitude and reverence. An eye-opening spiritual guide to the significance of shared remembrance, Spiritual Awakenings is a very welcome and well recommended contribution to Judaic Spirituality Studies reading lists.
    Midwest Book Review