Learning About Love - at Ascent

by Andee Goldman


Have you ever wanted to find a special, non threatening place to recharge your spirituality? A place of learning about one's self, being Jewish, Kabala and Chaddish? To me, the only place in the world I would ever go is ASCENT located in Tsfat.

Tzfat/Tsfat/Safed/Zfat/Zsfas/Tsfas/Tzfas/Safas.....there are as many ways to pronounce the name of this mystical city in the North of Israel as there are types of people who live here.

Tsfat is a 2 ½ hour bus trip from my home town, Netanya. Israel is such a small Country and in that 2 ½ hour time span, the terrain changes from the Sea of Netanya, to desert, flat farm land, JNF forest with tall pine trees and mountains. The road is like any small 2 land highway in America, except along the way I saw an archeological dig, small Arab Villages, small Jewish Villages, McDonalds, Ace Hardware and Office Depot. Herds of cows, sheep and goats. If I used my imagination, I could see Abraham herding his flock of sheep. Thinking of the past 2500 years, I could have seen Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob walking on the dirt road that paralleled the highway.

When one thinks of the past, the present and future is not far behind. Why was I going to ASCENT? To attend their VALLEY OF LOVE weekend seminar. To me, Love is a 4 letter word and can mean many things to many people. It could be negative or positive. It is what you as an individual make of it. To me, love is important in any relationship, whether it is with G-D, yourself, parent, child, spouse, lover, family, friend, acquaintance or stranger.

I can't help but think of those I have loved in the past and maybe, what and how I should have loved differently. Unfortunately, I can't change the past, only the future. As the weekend approached, I looked forward to learning ideas or tools that I could share with those who are most important to me today.

The weekend began late Thursday afternoon and ended Sunday afternoon. If was jammed packed with lectures, classes in Kabbala and Mysticism, Spiritual nature hikes, Mystical tour of Tsfat, live music, singing, dancing, meals, Challah baking, and a full Shabbat experience.

I learned many new tools on love and relationships. Many I heard before, but didn't know how to take the thought and put it into practice. I would like to share what I learned.

1. In order to truly love someone else, we must know our own strength and weaknesses. We should always strive to improve ourselves for ourselves only - not for someone else. If we know who we are then we know our challenges. By being ourselves we open a true line of communication with others.

2. Love is the most primary essence of life. We all need to receive and give.

3. In a relationship, two half souls come together as one complete, rectified soul, thereby helping to create a better world. They are still different people who need to maintain their individuality in order to keep their joint soul whole.

*If one person is not going in the right way, it brings forward the other person to go in the right direction. Not with anger or negativity, but with love, sharing and respect.

*How to deal with the negative? Choose to love because we are together for OUR ONE SOUL. Have the understanding that we are there for each other.

*Being able to share our hopes, fears and dreams with each other without fear of rejection.

4. Marriage is a life time investment. Eternal building - starting with a good foundation that you build together. If you took a piece of land and want to build a home, you would need permits, architect, builders, and others experienced in building a home, It is lots of work; however, the end result is you have THE HOME that you designed. Marriage is no different, it is work. You can make it fun and you can create a life you want.

5. Dating is putting your best foot forward and being on your best behavior. Your main goal is making a good impression; however, there is no true building.

6. Communication - Words are different for different people. We all have prior experiences that have an impact on our words. We need to step outside our comfort zones and ask ourselves the following questions:

*How can I make it so he/she is more open?
*What can I do to help him/her?
*Why do people lie? They are afraid to tell the truth. What am I doing to make them lie? What can I do to make it better?
*When something bothers you, take a chance - discuss it. Don't hold it in because it will eat you up inside.

7. There are two types of love. Selfless love and Selfish love - diametrically opposed. Selfish love is conditional love. You do this for me and I will do that for you. You love on the condition that your needs are met and if they aren't you search elsewhere. Selfless love mean you are going outside yourself, truly connecting with another person's soul and, therefore, with G-d. When love is transcendent, you are reaching for a higher place, together; you are reaching for G-d. Relationship between man and woman mirrors the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people. G-d is always with us and is ready to forgive us for our mistakes. Even in our lowest point G-d forgives us. We need to forgive. Saying, "I am sorry" to another person, allows forgiveness to go on.

Welcoming the Shabbat is very spiritual is Tsfat. As the bright sun slowly set on the mountains below, you could see the contrast between light and darkness. One special quality of Tsfat is its air and you can feel the giving of our 2nd soul.

The roof top where my room was located was turned into the shul. We greeted the Sabbath Bride - Tsfat style. With prayer, singing and dancing. Kabbalat Shabbos and Lecha Dodi were first initiated into the Friday night prayer service in Tsfat by a young great Kabbalist, Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, who wanted to add to the beauty of the Shabbat. All over the world it is customary when you sing Lecha Dodi to turn towards the West and greet the Divine Presence, the Sabbath Bride. In Tsfat this means facing to the right, which is lso towards the fields where the Sabbath Bride was first greeted and in the direction of the burial place of its author, the Kabbalist and sage, Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz.

Tsfat is known as the home of many famous Kabbalah Rabbis. I went and prayed at the graveside of two such great Rabbis:

ARI, the Lion of Safed. Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572), renowned as the greatest kabbalist of modern times. ARI, an acronym standing for Elohi Rabbi Yitzhak - the G-dly Rabbi Isaac. At age seventeen, he discovered the Zohar, obtaining his own manuscript copy. There are a select number of individuals who live on a plane so high above the rest of humanity that it seems as if they are a completely different, higher species of being. They teach, but we grasp but little, and from the few crumbs that we glean, we can build mountains.

Yonathan ben Uziel, who was the greatest of all the students of Rabbi Hillel, 2000 years ago. The Talmud [Sukkah 28a] reports that birds passing above his head would burn from the presence of the angels who came to hear his Torah study! It is said of Rabbi Yonathan ben Uziel that since he never married, he has a special merit to intercede on behalf of the earnest prayers of single men and women. His burial place in Amuka, is perhaps the main Jewish pilgrimage site in Israel for those in search of their destined soul-mate.

I was told when praying at these graves, our prayers are passed directly on to G-d in the merit of the special close relationship the souls of these holy Rabbis have with G-d. After praying it is customary to leave a 'calling card", a personal note which includes your Hebrew name (son or daughter of your mom's Hebrew name) and what you are asking for. Plus, the giving of charity. It does work because when I returned home, I found myself being blessed with the answers to my prayers.

Leaving ASCENT is like leaving home and family. Many thanks and love goes to Rabbi and Chaya-Bracha Leiter, Rabbi and Shulamit Tilles, Rabbi "Big Mo" Siev, Rabbi and Olivia Schwartz, Simcha Chersky and the rest of the staff of Ascent. Until my next visit…..

I wish you all the best and may G-d watch over you and your families.
With love from Israel,


Before making aliyah and moving to Netanya, Andee Goldman lived in Henderson, Nevada. She grew up in Burbank, CA. She states exuberantly that she much prefers life in Israel! She would also enjoy hearing from the friends she made at ASCENT, at K9andee@hotmail.com or 077 767-6141. (For another seminar review by Andee, click here.)

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