- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On August 31, 2018
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move into Shabbat and during this time of year, the High Holy Days.
We have used our congregational read, Peace of Mind, as a way to prepare for the upcoming holidays. Join us tomorrow night as we gather in the garden to study its ideas and then move together into a beautiful candlelit service for S’lichot.
Peace of Mind, by Joshua Loth Liebman who served this congregation from 1939-1948 as rabbi wrote it as an outstretched gentle hand and guide to assist us.
Here’s what he told the myriad of people who read his book: “Ancient Judaism understood the healing value of inner contemplation and devised many of its great holy days to serve as vehicles for the encouragement of self-communion and confession.” He observed: To look within is a gateway to a special kind of self-knowledge. (Pg. 9)
These days of Elul are a true moment of reckoning: are we who we want to be?
Isn’t this the methodology of the days we are about to enter? When we do have those moments to sit and to contemplate, often a flood of thoughts, of hurts, of disappointments crowd our minds’ space for attention, each one pushing the other for our focus.
It’s chaos in there.
Rabbi Liebman likened this scenario to a spirited democracy. Each thought, no matter how important, no matter how urgent, has the opportunity to speak. Every idea has its voice in one’s head. The cacophony of all those opinions is very loud, just like a raucous town meeting. But then, just like a democracy, a vote takes place.
Some ideas, reactions, and responses win while others lose out. Part of the work we do on this day is to hold an election in our mind and decide what thoughts, what pathways, and what opportunities of introspection we shall choose. Our vote counts. Our vote matters. We get to decide. We wield the tools, choosing the materials and creating the final design.
Peace of mind does not mean a sedentary tranquility, the relinquishment of life in an over stimulated world with all of its challenges to sequester oneself on top of a mountain in peaceful isolation. Peace of Mind is about the hard work we need to do to secure our inner life, return to discover our best selves, and continue to build and rebuild a life for ourselves. We cannot repair the world if we don’t know how to repair ourselves.
Peace of mind is about pursuit, but not of perfection. The quintessential spiritual person of the Jewish orbit is one on the path, not the one who has arrived; the one still in process of learning, reaching, improving and becoming. We are caught in the act of doing. And yet, sitting, stopping, reflecting, listening, contemplating the inner voice is also an archetypal Jewish behavior. We all have scars of lost battles, marks of moments of unfair or cruel words or actions. They weigh heavily on our souls and hearts. The work we do reminds us that we aren’t necessarily unique in our suffering even though our suffering is unique to our experience. Our work is not done in isolation.
Like the rabbis of old who reminded us that we should repent the day before we die, Rabbi Leibman recognized the balance between understanding how we must accept ourselves for the goodness and ability in each of our souls while also being prepared to make those alterations in order to adjust. He said, “Until the day of our death we can change.”
We have these days and each other, assisted by Peace of Mind and the pending holy days to stop, and to examine our souls and even our lives as we make our way in the never-ending journey of our own humanity.
Qabbalat Shabbat begins at 6:00 p.m. If you cannot join us, live stream HERE. Tomorrow, Torah Study starts at 9:00 a.m. with a brief service followed by a lively discussion. We will study Peace of Mind on Saturday evening at 8:15 p.m. in the garden and continue into the candlelit S’lichot service.
I look forward to your thoughts and reflections, connect with me directly, HERE.