Want More Than the Academy Awards? Introducing the Kabbalah Awards

The idea of recognizing excellence serves many purposes. Inspiring others to reach for the best within them is one of my favorites.

This coming weekend's Academy Awards ceremony inspired me to create the Kabbalah Awards. Based on Kabbalah's mystical Tree of Life -- a map of Divine energy flowing through Creation -- the Kabbalah Awards consist of 10 categories that correspond to the 10 emanations of Divine energy that make up the Tree of Life. Each winner illuminates the Divine in this world in his or her category.

This year's inaugural selection committee was small (me and my wife). I am sure some of the winners will be controversial (just like the Academy Awards!). I welcome your suggestions for worthy recipients. Leave comments or tweet me to let me know who you think is worthy of a 2013 Kabbalah Award. And it is never too early to start nominating people for the 2014 awards!

And the winners are:

Best Intention: Ronny Edry

This young Israeli created a worldwide movement to build bridges of love and peace between enemies with a Facebook post of a poster he created with the words, "Iranians, we love you." Ronny's intention to humanize the enemy is an invitation for all of us to look within our hearts to see who the enemy really is.

Winner of the 2012 Niwano Peace Prize (known as the "spiritual Nobel"), this Guatemalan human rights activist overcame tremendous personal tragedy to become a passionate force promoting the Mayan vision of living in harmony with all of life. The Peace Prize Committee said she is "an inspiring example of how victims of discrimination, drawing on their faith, are empowered by working together to defeat human rights violations and reverse the causes that have hurt them so deeply."

Best Listener: Mark Nepo

Mark, a poet, was a favorite for this award just on the title of his latest book, "Seven Thousand Ways to Listen." Having experienced hearing loss himself, Mark says, "Whatever difficulty you face, there are time-tried ways you can listen your way through. Because listening is the doorway to everything that matters. It enlivens the heart the way breathing enlivens the lungs. We listen to awaken our heart. We do this to stay vital and alive."

This nonprofit received the award for the work they are doing with children. In creating programs and curriculua to teach kids about their own innate kindness and ways to share it with the world, they are helping create ambassadors for loving-kindness.

Best Justice: Jon Kest

Jon was a New York City community leader and highly regarded social justice activist. He passed away after battling cancer a few months ago. He was a champion of the working-class and the poor. Tragically, his 23-year-old daughter Jessie Streich-Kest was killed by a falling tree during Hurricane Sandy. May Jon's memory and work inspire us to do whatever we can to improve justice for all.

Best Beauty: David Rothenberg

A philosopher and musician, David's book, "Survival of the Beautiful: Art, Science, and Evolution," explores the mysteries of why we create art, and why animals, humans included, have innate appreciation for beauty. His work celebrates beauty as an integral part of Creation and is an important reminder to seek it out in our everyday lives.

Best Endurance: Desiline Victor

This 102-year-old woman was honored at the State of the Union address for waiting three hours and making two trips to vote in last year's elections. ‬ In addition to enduring that long wait with her aching body, she now is enduring the ridicule Fox News has thrown her way for being singled out for not giving up on her precious right to vote.‬‬

Best Peacemaker: Malala Yousufzai

This 15-year-old Pakistani peace activist was shot in the face and neck by the Taliban for advocating for women's rights and educational opportunities for girls in her BBC Urdu blog. An inspiration to people all over the world, Malala said after her successful surgery, "The thing is my mission is the same, to help people, and I will do that."

Best Use of Money: T. Denny Sanford

Winner of the Association of Fundraising Professionals 2012 Award for Outstanding Philanthropist, this billionaire's goal is to die broke. His list of philanthropic achievements is long and impressive. One example, from 2007 to 2011, he contributed more than $600 million, including the largest donation to a healthcare organization in history.

This young king of Bhutan has led the way to the democratization of his country while maintaining the rich cultural heritage of the only remaining Buddhist kingdom on the planet. Bhutan is also the only country in the world that has a "GNH," meaning an index of Gross National Happiness. We wish the king and his country many more years of high GNH!

That's it for this year's Kabbalah Awards. I hope you enjoyed them and they are an inspiration to you!