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Pardes Levavot

Pardes Levavot, “Orchard of Hearts,” was formed in the spirit of creating conscious holy community. Our name expresses the spiritual blossoming of each individual heart within an inspiring and nurturing orchard.

For information on our congregation please call (303) 563-2110 and leave a message or send email to info@pardeslevavot.org. To join our congregation, please print a copy of our membership form, fill it out, and send it to our Synagogue.


Pardes Levavot gratefully acknowledges Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado for their support of our Circle of Family Education program. Thank you!

Reprinted with kind permission from the Boulder Weekly, August 12 - August 19, 2004


Spirit wisdom

Soul Memory Discovery looks at past lives to answer the biggest questions of this lifetime

by Pamela White

(editorials@boulderweekly.com)

When most people hear the word reincarnation, they think of Buddhism and Hinduism. Both spiritual traditions speak of a cycle of death and rebirth, which a soul finally escapes when it achieves enlightenment. It might come as a surprise for many that Judaism also speaks of past lives and of rebirth.

"When you scratch the surface of the mystical traditions, you find embedded in them the same universal truths," says Rabbi Nadya Gross of reincarnation or transmigration of the soul. "What we know is that the soul that enlivens my body is eternal. Why should it only come into this form once?"

Gross, a Jewish Renewal teacher with Boulder’s Pardes Levavot, is a practitioner of a process called Soul Memory Discovery, which aims to give people insight to the biggest questions of existence. The process is rooted in Jewish mysticism, or Kabbalah. But what is Kabbalah? And how does Kabbalistic tradition differ from Buddhism and Hinduism on past lives?

] Message received [

"Our tradition is that everything there is to know, everything that God intends for us to know is contained in the Torah, the five books of Moses," Gross says. "There are many layers of interpretation, layers of meaning in the Torah. We have a tradition that there are four levels of Torah."

The first level is the simple, surface message of the text. The second level is allegorical. The third is "Midrash," a deeper level in which an ever-evolving exposition on Jewish teachings attempts to fill in the spaces in the storytelling of the Torah. The fourth and deepest level is the secret level, the embedded meaning of the Torah. It is these secrets that Kabbalah, which means "received," seeks to understand.

Often called Jewish mysticism, Kabbalah has become the spiritual practice du jour among celebrities such as Madonna and Demi Moore. Kabbalah is made up of a body of textual work, as well as ancient oral tradition.

"What has been written is essentially commentary on the Torah on the deepest level, and what it seeks to answer is what is the purpose behind creation," Gross says. "What is God and how do we interact with God? What is our relationship with God? What’s our responsibility in this interaction? Why did God create us? Those are the big questions."

According to Jewish tradition, Abraham, the first Hebrew, knew all of the Torah’s secrets. These were passed orally through the generations on to Moses and down through the centuries.

"Many rabbis during the rabbinic period of the time when the Talmud was written were Kabbalists," Gross says. "They were mystics. They understood the deep, embedded meaning."

Although Kabbalah was an oral tradition of secrets, those who were possessed of that knowledge were permitted to write it down when it was in danger of being lost due to oppression, war and genocide. Gross says some of the richest written Kabbalistic material comes from the period of the Inquisition.

"Knowing these secrets meant really having access to the deepest meaning of creation and how we access the One, how we access the Creator. There is also magic inherent in that," Gross says.

As a result, access to Kabbalah was limited to those who were rooted in a thorough knowledge of written law–Torah. In those days, this meant that only men were permitted access to these secrets.

"Kabbalah went underground," she says. "It became a secret tradition that was passed from teacher to student. It even says in our tradition that many of the teachings can only be taught one to one because you had to be certain that the student was receiving it appropriately, and you had to be certain that it was going to be used in the right way and that it wasn’t creating an imbalance in the individual. And for that reason, a lot of the wisdom and that access was lost to the average Jew."

The current resurgence of interest in Kabbalah–in Hollywood and elsewhere–is the result of human society rethinking the rationalism of the Enlightenment and re-evaluating those things that are mystical, she says.

"Many Jewish people, seeking the underpinnings of our tradition, have gone in the direction of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism," she says.

Part of that mysticism is a belief in the transmigration of the soul from one life to the next. But in Kabbalah, rebirth is not a punishment for failing to attain a state of spiritual perfection. It is a gift–and an opportunity to heal the world.

] Tikkun time [

"When God shone God’s light directly into this realm in order to create, what happened was the vessel that was to hold creation shattered," Gross says. "That’s just a metaphor that we use–the shattering of the vessel–as a way to explain that the created world needs to be perfected."

According to Kabbalistic tradition, those of us souls who have taken human form have taken on the task of repairing that metaphorical vessel, of bringing the world into the perfected state that God originally intended.

"Each soul has its own unique responsibility in that process what we call tikkun, which means repair," Gross says. "We, each of us, have a responsibility in that process of tikkun, and it takes many lifetimes to effect that tikkun as our own souls are evolving and perfecting."

Why don’t we inherently know this? Why do some people seem intent on destroying themselves and others?

Gross says that the tension between the consciousness of the body, which seeks to preserve itself, and the awareness of the soul, results in people often failing to make the right choices in their lives.

"The ‘I’ that I know is an intersection of those two things," Gross says. "Well, sometimes my material appetites or my survival instinct takes precedence, and I don’t always do what the soul knows is the right thing to do. I don’t always make the choices that are most appropriate for the evolution of my soul and for the process of tikkun that I’ve committed to. And so between lifetimes I have to figure out where I went wrong, clean up what was and come back and have an opportunity to improve and to get it right or to make more appropriate choices the next time."

This concept is called the transmigration of souls. But while the soul migrates from body to body to repair the mistakes of the previous lifetimes, being reborn in human form is not a punishment or the result of failure.

"We don’t see it as a punishment," Gross says. "We celebrate this realm. This is the realm that God created. God wanted to be in relationship, and we exist to be God’s partners. God desires this realm. God desires us in this realm."

The idea of accessing past memories is nothing new–in fact, an interest in past lives and past-life memories is ancient. Boulder is home to many therapists and practitioners who offer a variety of ways to tap into the wealth of information carried by the soul. Some are hypno-therapists who use hypnosis to help clients reach back into past memories. Some offer past-life regression as a form of therapy so that clients can resolve karmic issues that have followed them into this existence.

Gross used to do more traditional past-life regression, but she says she began to feel limited by what she was able to accomplish for her clients. She turned instead to Kabbalah and the process of Soul Memory Discovery, which she has practiced since 1998.

] Straight to Source [

Soul Memory Discovery can perhaps be described as a process of interactive prayer, in which certain language and rituals are used to access information about the evolution of one’s soul and to discover more about one’s purpose in this life.

The process starts with a series of prayers and words woven into rituals intended to release people from karma that might be holding them back in this lifetime. Once this process, a sort of energetic cleansing, is completed, the Spirit Guides of the client are invoked and asked specific questions about the individual’s past lives, purpose and current struggles.

"Our own Spirit Guides that we’re accessing are really all manifestations in the realm of Spirit," Gross says. "They’re all expressions of God. They’re all expressions of Source. So nothing is separate from Source, but they’re on levels that are more immediately accessible to us than Source itself."

Although most of the answers to clients’ questions come through Gross, she says some clients actually hear the responses to their questions themselves.

"There is much happening in our lives and in this world, so much that we’re impacted by is not readily seen, and this is a beautiful way to access the world of the unseen and to receive guidance," she says. "What do we pray for most of the time? Our prayers are for guidance and support. ‘Open my eyes so that I can see what you want me to do.’ How many of our prayers ask God that very question? And so this is one way."

Local writer Matthew Joyce says the experience was very positive for him.

"I feel like I gained some strong affirmations about the direction that my life was going," Joyce says. "I gained some useful insights into new ways to consider my life circumstances. She related a past-life incident to me as she did her reading, and things just made sense. It was just an internal click. It’s like, ‘Ah-ha! That made a lot of sense.’"

Joyce, who had tried more conventional past-life work prior to his session with Gross, says some of the information he gleaned through Soul Memory Discovery was fresh and new and some of it repeated what he’d learned from prior past-life experiences.

"I would say I came away from the session very moved, and it had a significant impact on my life for several weeks afterwards, and after that it sort of became more subtle as I was better able to integrate what happened," he says.

He has listened to a tape recording of the session a couple of times since then to help him integrate the information he received.

"I suppose now, having a bit of distance from it, it might be interesting to go back and see if something else is there," he says.

Gross says she has worked with people who have been transformed by this process.

"I’ve seen profound change for people, and I’ve seen other people use it just as continuing guidance and support for a path that they’re on that they already know," she says.

While many techniques for accessing past-life information are intended to help people stop repeating mistakes and to free them from the hindrance of karma, Soul Memory Discovery does more, she says.

"With Soul Memory Discovery the process is so much bigger because we can ultimately step in to open the place where we start to understand our own unique purpose in this world," she says. "What is God calling us to do? What is the contract that we made? What did I promise before I came in to this body? This is a technology we’ve been given that allows us to access the guidance that each of us is entitled to and which is always there with us, to access it with some degree of clarity and get the answers that we seek."

For more information on Soul Memory Discovery or to schedule an appointment with Rabbi Nadya Gross, call 720-890-4210. For information on Jewish Renewal or Pardes Levavot, go to www.pardeslevavot.org.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com Copyright 2003-2004 Boulder Weekly. All Rights Reserved.



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