What a joy it was to learn from and enjoy our community’s teachings on Rosh Hashanah. If you missed it or would like to read the Kavanot that were shared by Emily Eisbruch, Seth Kopald, Anita Rubin-Meiller or Dave Nelson you are in luck! We have posted them here on our blog to read and cherish going forward. Mazel Tov to our Kavanah writers on your profound and heart felt teachings, your contributions are deeply appreciated.
Gratitude for Community
– by Emily Eisbruch
Welcome community of
sharing, being, caring
Music, chanting, praying, dancing
Group aliyot with meaningful themes
Acknowledging our struggles and naming our dreams
Helping with the mitzvah corps
Warm congregation we are working for
August picnic at Bandemere park
Breaking the fast, after havdalah, after dark
Being together through COVID blues
Telling our stories in the Jewish news
Building thoughtful bonds on our listserv Recon chat
Where we ask each other, how about that?
Terrific book group conversations
On jews throughout the generations
Holidays – latke versus hamentashen debates
and pondering of collective fates
Creating chuppah cover squares
A gorgeous collaboration where each one shares
Ner tamid, Magillah ark, Torah Table tapestry
Members manifesting their artistry
For our youth, environmentally and ethically aware
An innovative and bold Beit Sefer
At these days of awe, let’s take measure
Of the community we are together
With gratitude, let’s look at how to nurture, how to be
In the Hebrew year five seven eight three
Praying from the Heart
By: Seth Kopald
As we continue deepening into our Rosh Hashanah experience, I invite you to ask yourself: Who is praying?
Take a look inside. Is it a part of you who is going through the motions because this is what we do on Rosh Hashanah, or one who thinks we “should” be praying on this Holy day? Is it a part of you who might want something from G-d: healing, forgiveness, even a sense of ease? You may notice how much of your attention is above your shoulders, in your cognition.
Now, slowly allow your attention to drop into your heartspace. Notice, you can sense yourself and the people around you, from your heart. From this place, perhaps we can extend warmth and love to those parts of ourselves who think we should pray, and recognize their desires and their fears.
From this place of deep compassion for ourselves, we can then turn to G-d. From our heart, notice how we feel in G-d’s presence, no matter how you sense or perceive them. Perhaps you feel, or have felt abandoned, by G-d. Yet, for a moment, see if we can feel the acceptance that is there, and how we are also a part of the Divine – the life force we all share that is our true Selves?
Can we for a moment, if you choose, allow yourself to be held, to sense the presence of something greater than ourselves. See how our hearts respond, how our bellies respond, and how our full bodies want to respond. Perhaps ask G-d in this moment: What do you want me to know? And see what you sense. . .
As we move forward in prayer, let’s commune with G-d from this place, alive, embodied, vibrant, compassionate, and from our hearts – let’s commence in prayer.
Kavanah on the Non-Duality of the Divine
David Erik Nelson
About two weeks into the pandemic one of my kids had a question about the Kabbalistic Tree of Life diagram. I don’t recall what the question was, who asked it, or if anyone’s interest persisted long enough for me to find an answer.
But that got me looking at kabbalah, and I kept returning to it, because in those claustrophobic early days of the plague it was definitely more reassuring to read commentaries on centuries-old rabbinic esoterica than anything I was likely to see in the Washington Post.
I’m one of those people who often prefers to follow “the words of your heart” instead of the ones in the siddur. So I’m sharing this, for those who are likewise inclined.
Just a warning: at first, what I’m gonna read will come off as kind of anodyne and hippy-dippy. Then, on reflection, it will begin to seem sort of awful. That makes me nervous.
But I’m still going to share it with you.
It starts like this:
The essence of divinity is found in every single thing—nothing but it exists. Since it causes every thing to be, no thing can live by anything else. It enlivens them; its existence exists in each existent.
Do not attribute duality to God. Let God be solely God. If you suppose that God emanates until a certain point, and that from that point on is outside of God, you have dualized. Realize, rather, that GOd exists in each existent. Do not say, “This is a stone and not God.” Rather, all existence is God, and the stone is a thing pervaded by divinity.
I don’t think that’s too earth shattering, right? I mean, it sounds an awful lot like a combination of Yoda describing the Force and the first lines from that Beatles song “I am the Walrus” (♬♫♪ I am he as you are he as you are me / And we are all together … Koo-koo-ka’choo… ♬♫♪ )
But Rabbi Moses ben Jacob Cordovero—the 16th Century Kabbalist who wrote what I read—doesn’t leave it at that. He goes on, and that’s where things get potentially…uncomfortable. Cordovero says:
Before anything emanated, there was only God. God was all that existed. Similarly, after God brought into being that which exists, there is nothing but God. You cannot find anything that exists apart from it. There is nothing that is not pervaded by the power of divinity. If there were, God would be limited, subject to duality. Rather, God… is present in everything, and everything comes into being from it. Nothing is devoid of its divinity.
That’s a little more extreme than Yoda and the Beatles.
Because Cordovero isn’t saying “All of the good things are pervaded by God” or “All of the righteous are children of God” or “Everything in nature is God.”
His claim–which you could derive just from the words of the Sh’ma–is that “Nothing is devoid of God’s divinity.”
That’s … problematic. If I say nothing is outside of God, then I’m surely saying that the squirrel is divine and the car is divine, the meat is divine and the bullet is divine, the victim is divine, the killer is divine, the rescuer is divine, the ambulance divine, diesel is divine, the kid watching it all on YouTube is divine–
That all quickly becomes overwhelming.
Cordovero claimed that by “Contemplating this, you are humbled, your thoughts purified.”
I don’t know about that.
But I do know that contemplating this non-duality—this complete saturation of all of reality (good, bad, and ugly) in the divine—feels simple and honest and true, in the way the Sh’ma feels simple and honest and true.
And, on a functional level, it helps me get past the bumpier bits of our liturgy.
A lot of us feel weird begging the forgiveness and protection of “Our Father, Our King” in Avinu Malkeinu. I feel less weird about it when I reflect that I am singing to a paternal majesty in which we all co-participate, that I’m begging me to forgive me, and for us to forgive each other, and to protect each other (and all of everything) from pestilence, sword, famine, captivity, destruction, iniquity–and all the other very unpleasant things that dwell together with us in the divine.
By Anita Rubin-Meiller
When my mother died in 1986 at the too soon age of 64, 3 months after my wedding, I made a decision to remember God. I was acutely aware of my choice…would I see God as this distant, all powerful entity that just took my mother’s life; or would I turn to the God of my still evolving understanding…a Divine presence shining through the loving and comforting presence of friends and family. I chose the latter and remember gathering in my childhood bedroom with 3 of my dearest friends, sharing memories, laughter and tears. The blasts of the shofar in this Zichronot section of the Shofar service are a calling from God to us to remember we are never unseen, never forgotten; to remember the God that took care of Noah and saved the species of the Earth from total extinction; to remember that we too, are tasked with seeing the holiness in each and every living and breathing life form; that because we are remembered our actions matter.
There is an old fable, recounted in M.Scott Peck’s book…A Different Drum. It tells the tale of a monastery that had “fallen into hard times.” With only 5 monks remaining, its order was dying. Desperate for new possibilities, the aged Abbot makes a visit to the Rabbi from a nearby village. The Rabbi too was experiencing a dispirited community and so the two faith leaders conversed and commiserated. As the Abbot readied to return to the monastery, he asked if the Rabbi could offer any advice. The Rabbi responded, “ I have no advice to give, but the Messiah is among you.” You might guess what happened then…perhaps it would happen here, or anywhere…the monks, thinking that the Messiah could be any one of them started treating each other with immense kindness; started seeing the particular sparks of God each one manifested; started creating an aura of love and respect that began to attract visitors and even young men desiring to join the Order.
In my nascent meditation practice with the Awakened Heart community, I have been learning over and over again how reality is defined by what we bring our attention to. The shofar blasts of Zichronot ask us to bring our attention to God’s covenant; to the God whose image we are created in; to a God that is not only Sovereign but in the words of Rabbi Samuel Barth“a parent who has time and love for each child”. Through the teachings of Ram Daas, we are being asked to bring our attention to a God who bids us to “love, serve and remember.” What would it look like if what we were paying attention to and remembering was the Divine unfolding in the universe through the interconnection of everything? At the Awakened Heart August 2020 retreat, Sylvia Boorstein, a beloved Jewish Buddhist teacher, offered this drash to introduce the prayer: Hah-raynee m’kah-bel ahleye et mitzvat haboray Ve-ahavtah l’ray-ahchah k’mochah; translated by Rabbi Jeff Roth in this prayer chant as: I take the mitzvah upon myself of loving all who cross my path, offering kindness from my heart, loving you and loving me: She said,“My choice of the most important commandment might be fixing a mezuzah to the doorposts of your house because when you go in and out and touch the mezuzah you are sensitive to this passage, “to love God with all our soul, all our might, all our heart”. If you took it really seriously you can’t just kiss the mezuzah and leave, you can’t take any grudges with you, so you have to stand in the doorway and think about it for a while – Ok, I can do this; Ok, heart clear – Go! And when you return, you pause, I can’t go in until I’m sure that my heart is free of negativity…may I be free of negativity and the danger it would pose to me of confusing my mind. You have to check yourself everytime you go in and out, am I fulfilling the commandment…I’m going to love everybody indiscriminately…May I have no ill will in my heart, may I have an unmortgaged heart.”
Perhaps for some of you, as it has been for me, this idea of keeping the heart clear of ill will has become particularly challenging amidst our political climate and escalation of hateful, provocative speech and actions. It has been surprisingly difficult to restrain my own hateful speech and violent wishes, albeit usually expressed under my breath or in the privacy of my own home. Still, I can feel its impact on my heart and spirit. So recently, I returned to Sylvia’s teaching and added mezuzahs to 2 other entranceways of our home. I have an earnest desire to follow her suggested practice, knowing the peace that can come to my body, mind and heart from doing so. Knowing it will help me remember that Everything, and everyone, is God. Perhaps the shofar blasts about to come will awaken the capacity to bring that intention into action; to remember to remember.