WHAT’S A NICE JEWISH GIRL DOING WITH ALL THOSE ROCKS?
By Debbi K. Levy, E-RYT Photos by Chloe Saltarelli
The year is 1972. I think. This was when the Neiman Marcus Holiday Books arrival in the mail was an event. Everyone thumbed through this catalogue again and again, until it was well-worn, and perhaps a few selections were made for Hanukkah. In 1972, we spelled it Chanukah. And, hopefully, Chanukah fell more towards the end of December, so you had time to receive orders before the eighth night! My favorite present, ever, came from this catalogue and fanned the flames of my passion for, not only rock collecting, but enjoying and working with crystals. I might have lost you just now. But please don’t turn the page…
You should know that when I was little, I made extra Torah covers for the little scroll I received at consecration out of curtain fabric. You should also know that even today I have my religious school (Sunday School we called it in 1972) books, and I continue to treasure them today. I played Anne Frank in Temple Emanu-El’s youth production. All this is to say, I loved my Judaism even as a kid, and I loved my very important rock collecting, too. I am certain that my fondness for crystals and my love of Judaism can co-exist without one usurping another, or lessening my devout practice as a Jewish woman.
So, back to Neiman’s. They offered this little black velvet bag with sparkly stuff that looked like stardust on the outside, and had about six crystals inside. Very fancy. They always included tigers eye (huge stone back then), amethyst, lapis, clear quartz, and other beauties as well. Don’t you want to order some? Get a few extras to keep and have around for “gifts”? Well, that’s exactly what the great gift-giver of our family did. Elsie Pearle, my grandmother. Nana. I treasured mine, and so did we all. The kids got ‘em, the grandkids, and all the friends who were more like extended family. The Pearle’s did everything in a BIG way!
A few books began to surface on the energy of stones and crystals about that time, too. From then on I always walked with my head down in case I saw a stone that I could add to my collection. I looked up minerals in our encyclopedias. I learned their origins and shapes and hardness information. Not long after this, I got a rock tumbler. Yes, it’s true. The most awesome thing ever, and in 1973, that thing made noise all night long, and I had sweet rock dreams while it turned pebbles from our alley into shiny trinkets. The best part of all was that, because I was a little girl, I didn’t question my hobby. It just felt good to collect stones, to have them all around me, to carry some in my pocket, and even put them in my bath. They brought me joy. That’s all I needed to know.
My first bio in 2012 for “Living Yoga Dallas” said, “You can find Debbi K. Levy at the JCC, with a smile on her lips, and rocks in her pockets.” Not much has changed since the seventies for me, but I’m wondering if some of my readers are having a bit of an objection. Do stones, or crystals, as we crystal alchemists refer to them, have a place in Judaism?
Barry and I lead a Sh’ma Emanu-El group. It is a group of about eighteen Temple congregants who get together on a monthly basis to study relevant texts, share a meal, and mindfully acknowledge our Jewish seasons and holidays together. Our March study centered around the Torah portion T’tzaveh. We were, in particular, interested in the directions from God, as to how the Israelites were to fashion a breastplate made with stones, for Aaron. “You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and beauty. You shall speak to all who are wise-hearted, whom I have filledwith the spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron’s garments to sanctify him, that he may minister to Me in the priest’s office.” Divine instructions continue and include colors and engraving of the very important stones. There were twelve of them, each representing one of the tribes of Israel. “You shall set it in settings of stones, four rows of stones: a row of ruby, topaz and beryl shall be the first row; and the second row a turquoise, a sapphire, and an emerald; and the third row a jacinth, an agate, an amethyst; and the fourth row a chrysolite, an onyx, and a jasper. They shall be enclosed in gold in their settings. The stones shall be according to the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet, everyone according to his name, they shall be for twelve tribes.”
I went to a crystal shop and painstakingly chose the very crystals that would create this sacred breastplate. Twelve of them for each of us taking part in the project. We attached them with museum putty to beautiful plexiglass stands so that only the crystals would stand out as they do in the Torah portion. We connected with those who came before us. We connected with divine instruction to make our remembrance one of glory, and beauty, as was described. We brought the text to life in 2018 with the help of twelve crystals each.
My grandmother Elsie had some amazing crystals. Really fantastic specimens, us rock hounds call them. They were on mantels, around a marble bathtub, placed on a bedside table to soothe and calm. The rest of the family followed suit. My mother, in particular, loved to group crystals for that “pow!” feeling you get when you see the drama of three of them arranged artistically. Sharp edges, deep purples, clean and simple clear quartz, fluorite with a rainbow of colors… Mine are everywhere. Pockets, nightstand, yoga bag, grandchildren’s nurseries…I’ve given away so many, I often feel like I’m gridding the earth. That first example of gridding was actually taught by God as you recall from T’tzaveh.
My mom died when she was only sixty-four. Lung cancer. Nothing we need to expand upon here. But the part I wish to convey, was the impact of sacred stones at her funeral. Mom left behind two brothers and a sister. After the casket was lowered, her siblings tossed in one stone each that belonged to our family. Those are the stones you can’t see at my mother’s resting place. When you look at the photographs, you’ll see the ones you can.
At the end of the film Schindler’s List, survivors and relatives of survivors, along with the actors in the film, paid tribute to Oskar Schindler by placing a stone on his tombstone not only in order to pay their respects, but also to keep his memory alive. Stones are a meaningful way to remember someone we love, and placing them at the grave is a powerful ritual in Judaism. As you walk through a Jewish cemetery, stones are everywhere, just like my collection, all shapes and sizes and colors. They serve to remind us that love is stronger than death.
They say that diamonds are a girl’s best friend. It’s a good thing they are too costly to be cut larger than they are. Diamonds magnify everything. The energy and the personality of the wearer for sure. That’s not always a good thing! Sometimes we need to soften those rough edges and calm our busy lives. There’s a crystal for that. Meet soft and calming rose quartz. Electromagnetic pollution from all our technology gadgets got you down? Me too. Shungite, mined in Russia, absorbs it. Great mineral! Want to experience a very rare but powerful crystal? Moldavite is the gem that fell to the earth. These are rare green glassy-looking crystals that are classified as tektites. They showered down as molten droplets on what is now the Czech Republic, about 14.8 million years ago. They have been treasured by humans, as tools and talismans, for at least 25,000 years. Crystal alchemists say it quickens one’s spiritual evolution. It’s chemistry is meteoric Silica glass!
Lastly, crystals are man’s greatest record-keepers. We have not been able to duplicate them. This is why the crystals are used in computers, watches, and other pieces of intelligent equipment. They are used in our medicine. Like lithium, which is a beautiful clear stone tinged with purple. I frequently come in to Yoga class with a big basket of crystals for my students. We begin class by naming an intention for our Yoga practice. It could be one of self-appreciation for making it to our mat, or a gift of energy for a friend in need, or an action-plan for our own good health. We hold that crystal in our hand as we state that intention to ourselves, and voila, the crystal is there for us, record-keeping that thought for when we wish to return to it. Email me, or message me, I’ll bring you a few crystals. Wear that piece of jewelry that speaks to you with the energy of a stone you have forgotten about, or take yourself to a crystal shop. I’ll meet you there! I hope that you, too, will make room and enjoy the presence for a few sacred stones in your Jewish life!
Debbi K. Levy is a natural-born student and teacher. In addition to the Torah study she loves, Debbi is constantly learning about wellness and healing, having just completed her certification in Mindfulness Training a few months ago. Additionally, Debbi has certifications in Vinyassa Yoga at the 200 hour level, Ashtanga Yoga Center of Encinitas at the 100 hour level, Crystal Alchemy, and Usui Reiki Tradition in Natural Healing. You can find Debbi teaching at her Dallas Studio, Transformation Yoga, at the Jewish Community Center, and with her team teaching on site at various corporations in the Metroplex. When you can’t get to a studio, you can follow Debbi for Yoga inspiration on Facebook TransformationYogaTexas, Instagram @thecompanyyogateacher, and on her website www. Transformationyogatexas.com
Replica of Aaron’s Breastplate
The spiritual powers of the stones in the High Priest’s Breastplate:
Ruby – imparts passion and vigor
Topaz – releases tension
Beryl – encourages a positive perspective
Turquoise – communication and truth
Sapphire – wisdom stone
Emerald – unconditional love and friendship
Jacinth – (zircon) focus
Agate – grounding stone
Amethyst – stone of contentment
Chrysolite – (peridot) financial abundance
Onyx – Protection
Jasper – Absorbs negative energy
Suggested reading on the topic:
The Crystal Bible by Judy Hall
The Pocket Book of Stones by Robert Simmons Moldavite: Starborn Stone of Transformation by Robert Simmons and Kathy Warner
DallasJewishMonthly.com SUMMER 2018 33