middot equanimity rebbetzin malkah
rebbetzin malkah

rebbetzin malkah

Malkah Forbes, born in Upstate New York, studied Computer Science at SUNY Oswego (B.A.), where she met her future husband, Jason.  Soon after, they moved to the  Seattle area where her husband could pursue his career in software engineering. In tandem, Jason was studying to become a rabbi. After Jason received his smicha (rabbinic ordination) from the UMJC, both he and Malkah became leaders of their current congregation, Beit HaShofar Synagogue in SeattleWA.  Currently, Malkah is an active rebbetzin and not only teaches Hebrew, but helps to oversee and spearhead new synagogue programs.  Her latest project includes Riverton Mussar, which she and her husband co-founded in 2010.  She has been a frequent contributor of drashes for the UMJC website, served on the board of the UMJC National Sisterhood, Achot, and has been a speaker for various sessions at the UMJC International Conference.

When Malkah is not writing for Riverton Mussar, she can be found enjoying her three teenagers, her two delightful cats, working on her interior and garden redesign business, knitting, and sporting a serious game of Mah Jongg.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010 23:39

holding back

art-holdingback"Who are they," he [Herod the Great] said, "who teach, 'From the midst of thy brethren thou shalt set up a king over thee, [stressing the word ‘brethren’]?' The Rabbis!"

He[Herod] therefore arose and killed all the Rabbis, sparing, however, Baba b. Buta, that he might take counsel of him.

He placed on his [Baba b. Buta] head a garland of hedgehog bristles and put out his eyes.

One day he [Herod] came and sat before him and said: "See, Sir, what this wicked slave [Herod] does."

"What do you want me to do to him," replied Baba b. Buta.

He said: "I want you to curse him."

He replied with the verse, "Even in thy thoughts thou shouldst not curse a king."

Said Herod to him: "But this is no king."

He replied: "Even though he be only a rich man, it is written, 'And in thy bedchamber do not curse the rich' and be he no more than a prince, it is written, 'A prince among thy people thou shalt not curse.'"

Said Herod to him: "This applies only to one who acts as one of ‘thy people’, but this man does not act as one of thy people."

He said: "I am afraid of him."

But, said Herod, "There is no one who can go and tell him, since we two are quite alone."

He replied: "For a bird of the heaven shall carry the voice and that which hath wings shall tell the matter."

Herod then said: "I am Herod. Had I known that the Rabbis were so circumspect, l should not have killed them. Now tell me what amends I can make."

He replied: "As you have extinguished the light of the world, [for so the Rabbis are called] as it is written, 'For the commandment is a light and the Torah a lamp',go now and attend to the light of the world [which is the Temple, of which] it is written, 'And all the nations become enlightened by it.'"

Some report that Baba b. Buta answered him thus: "As you have blinded the eye of the world, [for so the Rabbis are called] as it is written, if it be done unwittingly by the eyes of the congregation, go now and attend to the eye of the world, [which is the Temple] as it is written, 'I will profane my sanctuary, the pride of your power, the delight of your eyes.

Herod replied: "I am afraid of the Government [of Rome]."

He said: "Send an envoy, and let him take a year on the way and stay in Rome a year and take a year coming back, and in the meantime you can pull down the Temple and rebuild it."

He[Herod] did so...    It used to be said: He who has not seen the Temple of Herod has never seen a beautiful building.  --Talmud, Bava Basra, 3a-4b

Wednesday, 15 December 2010 16:23

path of truth

art-forestpathThe Hebrew word for truth is emet.  Emet translates also as verity and correctness.

Truth can be difficult. It can be difficult to find, and once found it can be difficult to live out. However, we have to have chutzpah. The Torah is our guide and Mashiach Yeshua is the living Torah who said, "I am the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6, DHE).  Therefore, if we wish to have correctness and life, then we need to know the way and have truth.  Once we find it, we must be fearless in following that path.

This meditation can be used as a tool to focus your mind and soul on the path of truth that you know lies before you.

(Note:  For more information on meditative techniques, see the source Jewish Meditation by Aryeh Kaplan.)

Take a seat upon either a carpeted or uncarpeted floor.  The goal is to find a firm seat in a quiet place.  First, take a few deep breaths. Deep breathing brings oxygen to your brain and helps clear the mind. Close your eyes. Continue breathing until you feel relaxed.

The focus of this meditation is to help you visualize the path of correctness, the path of truth.

Using a verse from Psalms 86:11 for meditation, choose whether you will say the Hebrew or the English. Repeat it in your mind until you are comfortable with it and can let it flow freely in your thoughts:

הוֹרֵנִי יי דַּרְכֶּךָ אֲהַלֵּךְ בַּֽאֲמִתֶּךָ

(Horeni, Adonai darchecha v'ahalaych b'amitecha)

Teach me your way, O Lord; I will walk in your truth.  —Psalms 86:11

Imagine as you repeat this verse, either aloud or in your mind, that you are standing before a pathway. This pathway stretches far beyond you, but you can see where it leads. Imagine, as you repeat this verse over and over, that you are walking slowing down this path. You are following its curves, its unpredictability, yet you are trusting. It is the true path, the one you are seeking. It might not bring you everything you want, but you know this:  it is the correct path and the one Hashem has for you.

Visualize your slow movement on this path and go as far down the path as you can while repeating this psalm mantra. Let the words become part of your steps ... match the words to each step. Each day is a process of accepting that which is sometimes contrary to our nature; however, there is nothing more blissful than being in the very place where we are destined to be in Hashem's will.

As you end the meditation, carry with you the visualization of this meditation.  When you encounter a difficult moment, recall the path and your walk. To walk with Hashem is to walk on the truest path—the path of life.


Gospel references taken from Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels (DHE)®, © Copyright Vine of David 2010. Used by permission.

Sunday, 12 December 2010 12:11

the narrow bridge



Kol Ha'olam kulo
Gesher Tsar me'od
Gesher Tsar me'od
Gesher Tsar me'od

The whole world
is a very narrow bridge
a very narrow bridge
a very narrow bridge

Kol Ha'olam kulo
Gesher Tsar me'od
Gesher Tsar me'od.
The whole world
is a very narrow bridge
A very narrow bridge.
Veha'ikar - veha'ikar
Lo lefached -
lo lefached klal.
And the main thing to recall
is not to be afraid
not to be afraid at all.
Veha'ikar - veha'ikar
lo lefached klal.
And the main thing to recall
is not to be afraid at all.

art-treebridgeThese words, by Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, have been made into a song which many sing around the table or campfire as inspiration. While it makes a nice song, the depth and comfort these words bring are very much in step with the middah of calmness.

Saturday, 11 December 2010 22:08

a calm word

art-screamIn a conversation among R. Israel Salanter's disciples, the discussion turned to saintly individuals whose influence extends on high. One of the disciples told about a certain tzaddik who had been offended by the remarks some individuals had directed at him. The tzaddik retorted sharply and cursed them. The curse was fulfilled to the letter. R. Israel was not surprised by the incident itself, but observed in his own telling style: "Someone who had reached so elevated a stature that his words can take effect, should exercise the utmost caution to guard his tongue and lips, so as not to utter anything evil, since he can easily become a damaging agent, for what difference does it make whether one damages with his hands or with the whiplash of his tongue, smiting his neighbor in secret with the force of a Heavenly decree?"   —From The Mussar Movement, Volume 1, part 2, page 212

Thursday, 09 December 2010 22:27

bedrock of calmness

art-rocksThe Hebrew word for calmness is nichutah.  Nichutah translates to ease, serenity, tranquility, or gentleness.

Out here in Seattle, we live in an earthquake zone.  For those of us whose homes are on bedrock, we live with a little more peace of mind knowing that there is some buffering that we experience due to being on solid rock.  Those who live in the valley are susceptible to liquefaction, serious shaking and building collapse.

Friday, 25 February 2011 11:42

not by might

art-hanukah"Not by might, nor by power, but through My spirit" - Zechariah 4:6, read on Shabbat Chanukah

There is no doubt that we, as women, have the ability to carry much and rest little.  Whether we have families, or care for those around us, we are constantly in motion.  Sometimes before we even realize where the day has gone, it is over. But how do we maintain the balance of giving light and being sure our cruise of oil doesn't run out?  As the darkness of the winter season comes upon us, it can be difficult to motivate ourselves, let alone feel cheery.  However, as bearers of the light of Mashiach, it is possible to dance like the flames of the candles and radiate light, as well as endure the challenges of our days beyond what we think is possible.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010 10:40

say something already

art-fingersears"Do not stand idly by the blood of your brother, I am God" —Leviticus 19:16

Back in the early 1990's, an unknown figure named Erin Brokovich emerged.  She was a single mother of three, working in a law firm in California, who wanted to know what medical records had to do with a real estate file. What she found out led to the biggest settlement on record for a civil class action lawsuit.  She discovered that Pacific Gas and Electric was dumping hexavalent chromium into unlined ponds on their facility grounds.  It was seeping into the groundwater.  It was killing the nearby residents. This story, which later became a film in 2000, was about a sassy, uncompromising woman who felt that the truth needed to be told.  Silence was killing the people of Hinkley, California, and enough was enough.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010 10:39

words as feathers

art-feathersA famous Chasidic story illustrates the extent of the damage that Lashon HaRa can do: A man went about gossiping and telling malicious stories without restraint. Later, when he realized how much his tales had hurt people, and began to feel remorse. He went to the Rabbi seeking repentance, saying he would do anything he could to make amends. The Rabbi told the man, “Take a feather pillow, cut it open, and scatter the feathers into the wind.” The man thought this was a bizarre request, but it was simple enough, and so he did it. When he returned to inform the rabbi that the task was done, the Rabbi said, “Now, go and collect all the feathers and return them to the pillow.” Again, the man went to do as the rabbi had asked, but found that the feathers had blown far and wide, and he was unable to retrieve even a handful. He returned to the rabbi, ashamed to admit he was not able to gather the feathers, certain that he should never have released the feathers in the first place. Knowingly, the rabbi rebuked him, saying, “Your words are like the feathers: once they leave your mouth, you know not where they will go, and you can never retrieve them back again. It is always wiser to guard your tongue and keep your words to yourself.”

Tuesday, 30 November 2010 10:32

the sound of silence

art-snowMany people have a hard time with silence. It makes them uncomfortable and they feel they have to fill the void.

For those who are aquainted with snow in winter, you know what I mean when I say that all the world is filled with silence when it snows.  There is nothing like a snow-covered land.  The cars make less noise, everything glistens and everything is pure:  pure white and insulated.

For us, there is nothing purer than silence itself. If we are not going to use our speech for divine purposes, then by all means silence is the answer.

(Note:  For more information on meditative techniques, see the source Jewish Meditation by Aryeh Kaplan.)

Find a comfortable seat in a quiet place.  First, take a few deep breaths. Deep breathing brings oxygen to your brain and helps clear the mind. Close your eyes. Continue breathing until you feel relaxed.

The focus of this meditation will be upon offering your silence to Hashem.  That is it.  It is an offering.  You don't need to speak, you don't need to fluff the Creator.  You are merely going to be.

Using a phrase from Psalms 65:1 for meditation, choose whether you will say the Hebrew or the English. Repeat it in your mind until you are comfortable with it and can let it flow freely in your thoughts:

לְךָ דֻמִיָּה תְהִלָּה אֱלֹהִים בְּצִיּוֹן וּלְךָ יְשֻׁלַּם־נֶֽדֶר

(L'cha doomiyah tehillah Elokim b'Tzion u'L'cha yeshoolam ne-der)

Silence is praise to You, O G-d in Tzion, and to You a vow is paid.  --Psalms 65:2

Silence is as praise to Hashem.  Allow yourself to bask in silence and contemplate your offering to the Eternal.  As He knows your every need, your every desire, sometimes all you need is to come before Him. 

In a word filled with soundbytes, constant media bombardment,
when do you have silence?  You have it now. 

This is your offering:  silence. 

Give this to Hashem wholeheartedly and allow no words to come between you and the Divine. 

As the snow covers the ground in silence and in purity, cover these moments with your meditation to Him of quietness and purity. 

Tuesday, 30 November 2010 10:29

silence is golden

art-groupShimon ben Gamliel said: I have grown up among the Sages all my days, yet I have never found anything better for a person than silence. Study [of Torah] is not the main thing, but the doing [of Torah] is. And all who speak too much bring on sin. Avot 1:17

Page 7 of 12

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