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Zack Hoffman (Writer/Actor/Voice), Welcomes you to his website. Among his many credits Zack has performed with Jet City Improv, the LA Connection, Taproot Theatre Improv and Public Nuisance. For over 30 years Zack has been lending his acting skills and voice to stage, films, cartoons and commercials. He started out as a singing waiter at Miceli’s restaurants but soon began dubbing Spanish Soap Operas into English at Paramount Recording Studios in Hollywood and hasn’t looked back since. In 1984, Zack became the voice of Zartan on GI Joe: The Real American Hero, a role that is still remembered by his fans. Occasionally Zack will step out in front of the camera as he did in films like “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” and “Untraceable”, or television show like “Highway to Heaven” and “The Fugitive”. He also got the privilege of being part of the Encarta Learning Language program for Microsoft creating the character Jack Butterfield. The interactive program was a big success in China and Japan.

My Voice

My Voice

My voice has been lost and found and lost again.  I keep looking for my voice.  Form and rhyme, substance and style.   My voice has been through many changes.   As I walk the earth I learn to speak, gather words and ideas.  Make mistakes.  Find a victory.

I’m a poet and a singer and an actor and a writer.  I have been a human doing and now I thrive to be a human being.  All parts of me have a voice.  The man, the child, the seeker and the runner.   All these parts of me have voices.

I know my voice with music.   I’m a bass baritone.   I sing other people’s words.   The voice of rock and jazz and Broadway contemporary songbooks. The voice of standards and parity. The voice of Tommy James and the Shondells to Lerner and Lowe.  I love to sing.  I don’t do it enough.  My friend Gary looked up the definition of “amateur”.  It was a person who does something for love instead of financial gain.  Then Gary said, “I never want to lose my amateur status!”   Me too.  The search is on for my amateur status, it is something I have lost and will have to find it again.  I know it’s there, all I have to do is pick it up.

I’ve lost my voice to emotional laryngitis.  If I could only love her enough she wouldn’t leave me.  If I only gave up my voice then perhaps she wouldn’t leave me.   But she had planned to leave me all along.  It was like a sucker punch to the solar plexus.  Double to over with no place to go and no place to live, I wanted to die.  There will always be some external factor that will try and silence me.  I persevere.  Fear tried to silence my voice.  The house of narcissism tried to silence my voice.   The house of sexual abuse tried to take away my voice.   They were waiting for me to stop talking but I found something else.  The voice of recovery.  The voice of reprieve.  The voice of one day at a time.  We come and we encourage. To tell our stories with our voice what it was like what happened and what we are doing now.

I remembered that feeling that feeling of no voice and I knew where to go. I had friends. I had people who were just like me.  They understood what it meant to give their voices to someone else.  Together we said our names over and over again until we heard them.  Until we owned them.  Until we celebrated them.  I remember the celebration.   I remember dancing in Glendale with a beautiful redheaded woman.   We saw our bodies through the garments wet with sweat as the B-52 screamed about the Love Shack.   We went home and whispered secrets in each other ears.  The secrets in our voice.  I can keep a secret.

Ruthie taught me to sing.  Told me, “Yes I could.”  I will always be grateful.  Thanks Ruthie.

Zack Hoffman 2017

The Week in Malchut…A Journey’s End

The Week in Malchut.  A Journey’s End.

In 1974 I went to Israel and spent a year on two kibbutzim and a few months just outside of Tel Aviv.  I thought I was going to immigrate to Israel but I left still lost but changed forever by being in the promised land.  My journey has taken me back to the practice of Judaism.  Back to Sinai.  This year I counted the Omer.   I have made this journey counting the Omer many times in the past decade.  At times it has felt like leaving Israel…still lost but changed.  This time it feels different.  It has been a long journey, powerful, sad, joyous.  I come out of the desert changed but ultimately I am still me.  I will do what I do, which is to tell a story.  Tell a story about the first time I traveled to the Promised land.

I landed at the Kibbutz Ashdod Yaakov Meuchad.  The Kibbutz was a large farming community near the Jordanian border.  I had signed up to be part of the Ulpan.  Volunteers who worked the fields half day and studied Hebrew half day.  Most of us volunteers worked in the Banana fields.  Historically the land we were on was King Solomon’s plantation.  The desert reclaimed the land hundreds of years ago.  The  Israelis were not  deterred by this and with the use of drip irrigation had again taken back the land.  We worked in the morning and had classes in the afternoon.  There were two classes…the other class would work in the afternoon and study in the morning.  We alternated weeks.  We were young and had a lot of fun.  Here is a picture of our Ulpan celebrating Halloween.  With very little, we made the most of it.

After being on the Kibbutz for a month a few of us left the Kibbutz to take a short trip to Jerusalem.  Three days.  It was me, Jesse and a young girl named Sue.  That morning we worked in the fields and after breakfast we headed out to Jerusalem.  I had a grapefruit sitting by my bed on a small night stand, I ate it in the dark before I went into the field.  There was no refrigeration and the fruit had turned.   By the time we had gotten to the bus stop food poisoning had set in.  The bus came at 11 am.  I fell to my knees and puked as the bus arrived.  “Stay or Go” I heard my friends say …I pulled myself up and made it to the bus.  Put my backpack in the overhead rack, plopped into a seat near the front of the bus and then passed out, a sweaty mess, much to the dismay of the woman I was sitting next to.

I must have passed out for close to two hours.  The driver had the radio playing.  Broadcasting at the time was a pirate radio station coming from a boat in the Eastern Mediterranean off the coast of Israel.  It was Avie Nathan’s “The Voice of Peace”.  When I came to I saw a sign that said, “Bethlehem 10 Kilometers”, at that same moment the music I heard was the Band’s song “The Weight”.  The opening line is, “Pulled into Nazareth, I was feeling about half past dead…”  It was a moment of profound synchronicity.  I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing with the people I was supposed to be with.

Whatever was going on with me at the time, Jerusalem cut through to my core.  I believe it is the spiritual center of our world.  That’s why it is so chaotic there.  There was a vibration for me that I felt when I stood in the place where three great religions met in a space that size of a football field.  There was so much I had yet to deal with.  A year later, the death of a friend shook me and I was drawn back to Los Angeles.  A long journey we seem to never finish.

Music has always been something that I have taken with me.  I am glad to have counted the Omer with music.  I hope you liked the playlist.  Perhaps it opened your ears, I know it opened mine.  I have a lot of music on my computer, enough to run a radio station.  The final song for Malchut was found on my computer.  I did a search using the word “awake” in iTunes.  Mumford and Son’s “Awake My Soul”.  It was on my computer but I had never heard it before.  One more gift as this journey ends.  May you find yourself at the foot of Sinai waiting for the shift.   Love and blessings.

Playlist for the week

Day 43.  Chesed in Malchut.  Kissed by Nature by Elaine Elias

(This song found me via the radio. Observing the world, knowing “love is everywhere”.)

Day 44.  Gevurah in Malchut.  New Frontier by Donald Fagen

(Boundaries and borders have changed on the last leg of this journey.)

Day 45. Tiferet in Malchut.  Loves the Only House by Martina McBride

(Reflections of our world which needs an open heart.  This song sparks emotion in me.)

Day 46. Netzach in Malchut.  Ball of Confusion by The Temptations

(Walking the Kingdom in today’s world. A song just as poignant today as when I heard it over 40 years ago.)

Day 47.  Hod in Malchut.  Going Home by The Rolling Stones

(A traveling song, over 11 minutes of Stones.  The last part of the journey is harder to get to than you think.  Almost home.)

Day 48. Yesod in Malchut.  The Weight by The Band

(This week I remembered a story of the first time I was in Jerusalem.  This song will always take me back to that road, that place, that time.)

Day 49. Malchut in Malchut.  Awake My Soul by Mumford and Son

(This last song for the journey roots me to the tree of life. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of this journey.  We are at Sinai.)


Zack Hoffman 2017


The Week in Yesod

The Week in Yesod

Six weeks ago, when I started this journey, I was at the Interfaith Seder with Rabbi Ted Falcon.  To begin the Seder, he made us all repeat the following words out loud:

I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

With exactly whom I supposed to be with.

Doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing.

At times, I find it difficult to remember this.  This week brought up a lot for me. The desert swirls around me.  The sands of confusion inside and out.  Feelings of joy and brokenness, elation and exhaustion, it all intermingles, the fragrance of life.

The sefirah of Yesod.  The location is in the genital area.  I go back and forth between sex and ego. In my youth, I was driven by both.  And now in the desert it feels like a place of brokenness.  I do not want to look at low self-esteem. I do not want to look at my aloneness.  I do not want to look at the things I have created that have gone nowhere.  I do not want to look at my creations yet unfinished.  The sands are swirling.

In a moment of clarity I realize that I am all that I am.  All my imperfections. The ones that lead me to manipulate. To put on a show. To put on a face. To accept my smaller self.  I am all my triumphs.  The ones that touch people through laughter and tears.  The ones that allow my genuine self to emerge.  A search for intimacy with imperfection. Being human.  Celebrating human.

At a moment of incredible synchronicity, I am in a doctor’s office and across the room a friend in recovery is in the same office. We hug. We are both there to take care of ourselves, and for each of us it is challenging to do selfcare.  The screwed up believe that if only everybody around us would be taken care of then we would be that whole complete human being.  But in that moment, we get to bear witness on the action we take, the journey of selfcare.  When I am greeted by a fellow traveler on this road of recovery I know:

I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be,

doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing,

with whom exactly I’m supposed to be with.


The music this week was soulful and soul-full.

Playlist for the week

Day 36.  Chesed in Yesod.  Thank You by Sly and the Family Stone

(The lovingkindness of the separate self.  The celebration of self.)

Day 37.  Gevurah in Yesod.  Standing in the Shadows of Love by the Four Tops

(The shadow self.  The polarities of love.)

Day 38. Tiferet in Yesod.  Give Me Peace by George Harrison

(The heart space echoes as I search for peace. )

Day 39. Netzach in Yesod.  I am a Child by Neil Young

(Accepting all the parts of me…man and the child.)

Day 40.  Hod in Yesod.  Walk Through the World by Marc Cohn

(Moving through the desert, I do not go alone.  There is community.)

Day 41. Yesod in Yesod.  Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye

(I have lived in darkness, I have dared to look deeper, I have sought a path of recovery…of healing.)

Day 42. Malchut in Yesod.  Feet Fall on the Road by Bruce Cockburn

(In a week of being stirred up like the sands in the desert I am finally at peace with the journey.  This song moves me to continue walking.)

Zack Hoffman 2017

The Week in Hod

The Week in Hod

The sefirah of Hod.  The energies of Glory.  Five weeks gone. Walking through the desert.  This week was a roller coaster.  Felt like quitting early in the week.  Lost my way because I couldn’t comprehend the tree of life.  The result was frustration.  Frustration is a key, a hot button, something that when it gets pushed makes me want to escape. To leave.  To quit.  The moment of not-enoughness. I have been here alone before and left the journey, but I have someone who is keeping me accountable, my friend Katie in Los Angeles. We try and talk every night. I stay with it. Keep moving, breathing and meditating.  I see my pattern. I see my DNA. I see my life my, my memories and they all come into play.  Frustration and I am running. Frustration and I am throwing up my hands. I feel not smart enough, not evolved enough, not clever enough, not spiritual enough. Why bother it will all disappear anyway.  I fight through all that chatter inside my head.

I take action.  It helps.  I do research.  Find blogs and books, and in my search I find a few sentences that makes sense to me.  It changes the focus. It changes me. I look at the tree of life again and see the energy not running through a tree but running through a man, a human form…me.   The sefirot of Chesed and Guevara are the arms. The sefirot Netzach and Hod are the legs. The arms and legs all connected through the heart space of Tiferet. The energy flows again, the ideas flow again.  I am back and breathing.  The meditations this week are about form and physicality. The vessel. The vehicle. The host.  The name of God this week and last contained the word Tzeva-ot.  It means host.  My legs host me as I walk through this world, physically and spiritually.

My energy has increased this week. I am in the present. This week I have sat in cafes, written with other writers, been part of the creative process.  I have produced poetry and listened to warriors with pens, talented and brave.

Music carries me.  It has carried me in the past and it carries me now.

Playlist for the week

Day 29.  Chesed in Hod.  Spirit by Al Jarreau

(The embodiment of spirit.  The lovingkindness of Al Jarreau.  Have loved this song since I heard him sing it at the Bla Bla Cafe)

Day 30.  Gevurah in Hod.  The Shape I’m In by The Band

(“The world of form is confusing to us.” I am challenged as I walk this path.  My energy and physical being are in need of care.)

Day 31. Tiferet in Hod.  Heart of the Night by Poco

(The heart space in the midst of the wilderness.  This song give me hope.)

Day 32. Netzach in Hod.  Every Breath You Take by The Police

(Physical vitality is met at this sefirah. It all begins with breath.)

Day 33.  Hod in Hod.  Edge of Glory by Lady Gaga

(The celebration of Lag b’Omer.  This song rings with freedom, movement and joy. Could not think of a better song.)

Day 34. Yesod in Hod.  Here To Love You by The Doobie Brothers

(I am responsible for the love I give and the love I withhold.  Have always loved this song. Hod makes gratitude possible.)

Day 35. Malchut in Hod.  Walk of Life by Dire Straits

(The understand of sefirah, the way I walk in the world both physical and spiritually.  Moving to the beat.)

Zack Hoffman 2017

The Week of Netzach

The Week of Netzach

I have been challenged by my physicality this week.  My body slowing down.  Sensitive to food.   I am aware I eat too much sugar.  That when I eat fast food it affects my digestion.  My tinnitus is high and I am challenged to hear.  Insomnia haunts me.  I have weights by my bed to keep my muscles alive.  I am told to stretch before I get out of bed.  All the forms of my physicality  manifest around me.

Energy low and having to work to keep pushing through.  I feel the pain of the people in the desert moving forward.   Each day measuring energy and form.  The less I carry the better it is.  The more I open my heart and let go of anger and resentment the more energy I have.  Stacks of books I have yet to read.  Poetry I have yet to transpose.

Netzach, memories and music.  The second day takes me somewhere between judgement and music.  I listen to Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty”.  It reminds me of Reuben’s Steakhouse where Paragon (a local cover-band) played live music Wednesday thru Saturday nights and they would always close the night with that song.  Listening to the CD, the opening of the song is 30 seconds of silence waiting for the music to begin.  It’s a live recording.  In my mind, I can hear the shuffling of the waitresses and bartenders at Reuben’s, serving late night drinks.  The band tuning their instruments and chatter from the dancers on the floor.  The guitarist finally strumming out a downbeat and the opening chord hitting you like a body shot.   At the last break in the song the lead singer for Paragon would yell “Goodnight” and we knew it was last call.  I would walk in to Reuben’s sweaty from work, dance and drink.  I loved a waitress who worked there.  I wonder if she still has that picture of a movie star I gave her.

I breath, I meditate.  See what needs to be taken care of.  See the self-care that I need to invest in.  I play tennis, write, create, reach out to friends.  My world is large.  I marvel at how vivid a memory can be, all from the silence of a song.

The music this week made me dig and search.  Open my ears.  I danced.

Playlist for the week of Netzach

Day 22.  Chesed in Netzach.  Soul Meets Body by Death Cab for Cutie

(lyrics vibrate the meaning of the spiritual meeting the physical)

Day 23.  Guevara in Netzach.  Running On Empty by Jackson Browne

(the emptiness of “last call” energies I still carry in the desert)

Day 24. Tiferet in Netzach.  Love Will Keep Us Alive by the Eagles

(this song always awakens compassion and light)

Day 25. Netzach in Netzach.  Room To Move by John Mayall

(Endless possibilities, moving forward, dancing forward, past the half way point.)

Day 26.  Hod in Netzach.  Working on a Dream by Bruce Springsteen

(the struggle of bringing my dreams into physical reality, the energy of perseverance)

Day 27. Yesod in Netzach.  Life is a Highway by Tom Cochrane

(lyrics sing to me and shake the sefirah.  Dance of bringing our work in the world)

Day 28. Malchut in Netzach.  Changes by David Bowie

(Netzach’s challenge of facing my physical self at 67 years old)


What did you dance to?


Zack Hoffman 2017

The Week of Tiferet

The Week of Tiferet

The third week of the Omer is in Tiferet, the heart space.  Each day the meditations, realizations and conversation weave their way through me as I walk further into the desert.  The passing of souls and the pain of others bring me to tears this week.  I watch energy move.  I am grateful.

I light a candle and focus on the unspeakable name of God.  Yod Hey Vav Hey.   I breath into the heart space.  Nothing is perfect in meditation.  The only thing that has to be done is showing up and breathing.  All you need is the willingness to sit.  Sit in silence.  Sit and contemplate.  Sit and watch the inner mind movie play out in your head.  Sit and wait for the name of God to come back.  Sit and focus again.  Sit and the heart space lights up.  Yod Hey Vav Hey.

Selfcare makes my heart space lights up.  Sleep, sex, energy, and food challenge me.  There is no quick fix. I give myself the gift of going to see my massage therapist.  She moves the energies stuck in my body.  We heal ourselves and we heal each other.  I discover the little things are the big things.  Perfection is at times nothing more than sharing pizza and the NFL draft.   I show up for friends, I am hugged and greeted by smile.  People’s honesty brings tears to my eyes.  There is laughter and sorrow and I am in the middle of the boat.

The silhouette of Adonai can be seen in everyone.  Tselem is the Hebrew word for silhouette. Yod Hey Vav Hey.  Stack the letters on top of one another.  Take the Yod place it over the Hey, then the Vav and then over the other Hey.  It becomes person-like in form.  Tselem, the silhouette. The Yod is where the head is, the Hey is where the arms and shoulders are, the Vav is where the spine is, and the second Hey is where the legs and pelvis are.  My challenge was that I did not see people as the representation of the Tselem of Adonai but what my judgmental mind labeled them.  I am reminded to label everyone Yod Hey Vav Hey.


The music again was a joyous journey.  A deeper search further away from Mitzrayim.

Playlist for the week

Day 15.  Chesed in Tiferet.  Love Alive by Heart

(a beautiful message for compassion keeping my heart open)

Day 16.  Guevara in Tiferet.  Heart With No Companion by Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem

(the polarities of Leonard Cohen’s lyrics “with a heart so vast and shattered, it will reach you anywhere”)

Day 17. Tiferet in Tiferet.  This Little Light of Mine by Sam Cooke

(this song lights up my heart space)

Day 18. Netzach in Tiferet.  Love Vibration by Josh Rouse

(new music find, manifesting the vibrations of love)

Day 19.  Hod in Tiferet.  Dance Me To the End of Love by Madeleine Peyroux

(balance and imbalance is the dance we do.  My favorite cover of Leonard Cohen’s song)

Day 20. Yesod in Tiferet.  Yes We Can Can by Allen Toussaint

(bringing Compassion to all parts of the world and me)

Day 21. Malchut in Tiferet.  A Place in the World by Mary Chapin Carpenter

(walking in the desert, using my feet, looking for a place in the world)

What did you find?

Zack Hoffman 2017

The Week of Guevara


“We become better able to appreciate that our negative judgements keeps forms rigid.  Blessing allows flexibility.”  from “A Journey of Awakening” by Rabbi Ted Falcon.

This week I was challenged by my emotions.  Through it all life demonstrated friendship, family and gratitude.  I was humbled and took a risk.   This week in Guevara.

The desert is a hard place to be.  Once I get there I want it to be my home.  I cannot put down a structure in the sand.  I have to be ready to put my bedroll on my back and move.  Move like the light of the sefirot move through my body.   It is never easy.  I stood with all my broken parts.  I ran for cover, for numbness, for a chance not to feel my emotions, but they stood strong, not in judgement but in unity.  The energy moves through me.

This year I prepare to be unprepared.  More things are place in the desert.  I empty my life into the sand.  People, work, possessions, relationships, memories.   Initially I wanted to be anyone else but me.   The journey to wholeness is bringing parts of myself to connect human to human.

Stacks of headshots, tapes and cassettes and videos and mp3s.  Looking at all those things, pieces, places, parts of me I toss it all into the desert and I’m afraid to walk away.  It was a long journey and now I am ready to leave it in the desert.   Lovers would come and go from my life.  We all left unfulfilled.  I look at the judgment and negativity, it brings me pain.  I look at the grace I was given many years ago and it gives me hope.

I continue to find music to accompany me on this journey.  Pieces I have heard many time, some surprising me and new music I heard only this week.  I will be ready to dance.


Playlist for the Week of Guevara


Day 8.  Chesed in Guevara.  I Got a Feeling by the Beatles

(I struggle with my feelings as the Beatles struggled when they wrote this song)

Day 9.  Guevara in Guevara.  Sweet Emotion by Aerosmith

(allowing the energies of my emotions to arrive)

Day 10. Tiferet in Guevara.  Unchain my Heart by Ray Charles

(moving through my feelings in the heart space)

Day 11. Netzach in Guevara.  Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys

(the vibrations of emotions are the focus)

Day 12.  Hod in Guevara.  Learning How to Bend by Gary Allan

(negativity keeps me rigid and blessings make me flexible)

Day 13. Yesod in Guevara.  Letting Go by Wings

(accepting the self by letting go)

Day 14. Malchut in Guevara.  I Feel the Earth Move by Carol King

(the energy of bringing heaven and earth together)


What sings to you?

Zack Hoffman 2017

The Week of Chesed

Counting the Omer, the week of Chesed

(I am using Rabbi Ted Falcon’s book  “A Journey of Awakening” to count the Omer.  These are my reflections.)

I am challenged.  Stirred and shaken, I am asked to look at the energy of Lovingkindness for the week.  It travels through my body.  I am resistant.  I am asked to leave behind in the desert that which keeps me in slavery.  I am leaving behind my childhood abusers.  I am taking them from my consciousness, my life, my DNA and casting them out into the desert.  I imprison them naked and beaten in cages to perish in the desert.  There is no Lovingkindness.   My heart pounds as I dragged them out into the sand.  I am on the edge of the desert, I have not really left Mitzrayim.  I look back to see Egypt, still stuck, still no peace, still a slave.

I stay with the Omer.  Keep counting.  At times, I feel like a fraud but I keep breathing, keep meditating.  The energy swirling through me, challenging me.  Right shoulder into left shoulder. Then into my heart space.  The pictures of my tormentors shake me at midday.  I’m angry and confused.  I still have not moved deeply into the desert. I am on the skirt again. I am a slave again.  I have not let go of anything.  I am punishing, selfish and retaliatory.  I meditate.  Lovingkindness washes over me.  I awaken.  They are not my tormentors but Children of God.  I slowly walked to the cages and unlock them, give them clothes, water and food.  Show them to a beautiful rich Oasis.  The Oasis of Lovingkindness.  If they are not free I am not free.  The sefirah opens.  A parade of people are set free into the desert.  The Oasis of Lovingkindness waits for them.  Palm trees, shade, camels and goats, dates and fruit.  True abundance.  I watch my mother and father walk across the sand, smiling and waving.  I walk further into the desert.   I breath.  Shalom.

Music finds me.   The flow of energy for me has always had music to it.  I start to compile a playlist, one song for each day.  The wonderful thing about collecting music digitally is that I now have the library of a radio station on my computer.  The music of my youth.  Mostly from 1965 to 1985, but I have managed to keep up with times.  Jazz, rock, country, folk whatever music sings to me.  Now I begin a playlist for my journey.   At the end of the journey I will have a forty-nine-song playlist.

Here is the Playlist for Chesed.

Day 1. Chesed in Chesed…Beginnings by Chicago

(the lyrics “only the beginning of what I want to feel forever” jumped out)

Day 2. Gevurah in Chesed… More Love by Dixie Chicks

(beautiful song with strength, love and polarities)

Day 3. Tiferet in Chesed…Keep me in your Heart by Warren Zevon

(song of surrender and love)

Day 4. Netzach in Chesed… Express Yourself by Charles White and the Watts 103rd St. Band

(creative expression of lovingkindness)

Day 5. Hod in Chesed …Splendor by Tim Moyer

(New music for me.  Found this piece by searching the energy of the sefirah)

Day 6. Yesod in Chesed… Get Together by The Youngbloods

(My awakening was in the sixties)

Day 7. Malchut in Chesed… Higher Ground by Stevie Wonder

(Song of the sefirah that grounds me)


What music sings to you? What is your playlist?

Zack Hoffman    2017



Counting the Omer

Counting the Omer

“The tight or stuck places for which Mitzrayim (Egypt) is a metaphor exist within the self, to be discovered and released as we grow.  Spiritual awakening requires releasing ourselves from our inner enslavement to old patterns, old self-definitions, old beliefs.”

Rabbi Ted Falcon from “A Journey of Awakening”

I begin seven weeks of counting the Omer.  Meditating on the energies on the Kabbalistic tree of Life.  A tradition.  A ritual.  A companion to Passover.  Spiritually we have escaped Egypt, or Mitzrayim.  A place of stuckness.  Now we are in the desert.  For seven weeks, I will cross the desert to the promised land of freedom.  What do I bring with me?  What will I leave behind in the desert?  Will I leave behind stubbornness and procrastination?  Will I take with me an open heart?  I prepare, I write and still I am confused.  Slavery can be deceiving, like an old pair of slippers that are worn and eaten away, the fit is still comfortable, still familiar.  Freedom is the unknown, places that open the hole in the middle of my chest.  Do I brave the fear or cling to what is familiar but useless?

I want to leave behind loneliness, pack it up and bury it in the sand.  Pack up the addict that lurks in the shadows and whispers in my ear as sadness whispers in the other.  I will be surprised.  I will pack something I think I need and it will have to go.  I will rush back and uncover something I buried and take it with me again.  I will meditate on being human.  I will meditate on being free.  I will trudge the desert like my ancestors before me.

I will count the sheaves one at a time.  One sefriot at a time.  One meditation at a time. Watch the energy move through the tree of life.   Watch the energy move in and out of my body and breath.   I am familiar with that.  I am ready.  I have been here before.

Zack Hoffman 2017


Latkes as Love

My grandmother’s kitchen always felt safe.   If I was Quasimodo, I would not need to ring the bell in church steeple and yell “Sanctuary!”.  Sanctuary for me was sitting in a red vinyl chair in my grandmother’s kitchen on Glengary Avenue in Toronto.  My grandmother’s meals were always nurturing.  When I need comfort I immediately think of my grandmother’s meals.  The meal I still remember as being pure comfort was a small bowl of Lipton’s chicken noodle soup, followed by some green beans, followed by potato latkes.  There is no emptiness that that meal will not fill.  Not a permanent fix but for that moment in time; I am full, I am safe, I am loved.

I lived in Los Angeles but at the end of the summer I would usually fly to Toronto and spend six weeks with my grandmother.  Usually the six weeks before school started.    On arriving at my grandmother’s house there would be latkes and baked rice pudding.  All the unhappiness of the past ten months would melt away in the safety of my Grandmother’s kitchen and an outpouring of food.

Sometimes after coming in from playing in the park, I would be met by a large stack of potatoes and a peeler.  My Grandmother preparing rice pudding or veranchicas, she needed help with the potatoes.  Then I was given the rectangular metal grater and was instructed to “shraboon” (the Yiddish word for grate).   I would grate the potatoes and try not to add too much of my knuckle skin or blood.

At the ripe old age of 19, standing in my grandmother’s kitchen, I had a moment of clarity.  If I wanted to have latkes more than the once a year I came to Toronto I was going to have to make them for myself.   I turned to my grandmother was drinking a cup of Red Rose tea and said, “Granny can you give me the recipe for latkes?”  My grandmother looked at me and she said, “There’s no recipe?  I will make them and you can watch me.”  We prepared some potatoes and then she turned to me, smiled and said “Sharboon!”.  There were no measuring tools, no cups or teaspoons.  Breadcrumbs were measured by the handfuls, and the same hand was used to measure out a small mounds of pepper and salt in the middle of my grandmother’s hand.   She separated the egg yokes and beat the whites so when the eggs were added to the potato mixture it would make it all fluffier.  I admit in my recipe I have dropped the ball with beating the egg whites and I have improved on the grating of the potatoes by using my Cuisinart mini food processor.  I push a button that says “chop” and say “Shraboon!”.

In a few days it will Passover.  I love this holiday.  The message of freedom from bondage. That we were slaves and live in Egypt (Mitzryim) which literally means “a place of stuckness”.  Where do I now still live in slavery?  Am I ready to pack up and walk toward freedom?  What do I leave behind?  What do I take with me?   I will always pack a few potatoes, some eggs, onion, breadcrumbs and my Grandmother’s love.

There is a Universal Spirituality  Seder with Rabbi Ted Falcon on Wednesday April 12th.  One of my favorite things to do.  There is a link in case you want to join me and we can break matzo together.

Happy Passover.