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I loved watching this video blog from one of my favorite teachers, Rabbi Larry Hoffman. In under three minutes, he has shared such a beautiful insight into the meaning of our High Holy Days that can inspire us to thrive in our humanity. Thank you, as always, Dr. Hoffman.
Shanah Tovah u’Metukah to all!
“…Jews are baffled by [services] … Especially on the high holidays, they really don’t know what to make of this great big thick book that everyone is going through rather slowly, often for hours at a time.”
“The High Holidays are the unique message of … the human dream.”
“One should rise at the end of the High Holiday service committed to the proposition that … we are historical moments in the making.”
Something that I hope to help nurture is people’s spiritual journeys. But being a spiritual seeker isn’t always easy. I believe that there are many different paths within Judaism to nurture our souls. That is why I was so pleased that TBT’s own Gail Tate was able to lead a Meditation experience for some friends last month. Below are a few reflections about the experience, including words from Gail. We hope that others will consider trying opening up to this new, different, yet Jewish experience.
Shalom Meditation Reflections on 12-14-13 by Gail Tate
Our first Shalom Meditation on December 14th was an exciting event. We enjoyed adventurous congregants who were open to a unique type of Shabbat. Our Shalom Meditation experience was hosted in TBT’s library. Our group was seated in a circle with the center table adorned with candle and the Star of David.
What is the best way to begin a meditation? At TBT we began by letting go of the tensions of our week through traditional meditation techniques, breath work, and the power of the Elohim Eshala, a Yemenite Jewish piyyut that means “I will ask of the Lord”. We included a variety of modalities to clear our mental chatter including sounds of the drum, bells and chanting the mantras which spoke to the Jewish soul.
Our meditation encompassed a discussion on the torah portion of the day Parashat Vayechi and its wisdom, “we all struggle with the quest for the bigger, better deal in our materialistic culture. We forget to be thankful for all that we have and to rejoice in our own portion”.
During our meditation adventure we opened up communication with our Elohim. Our session closed with a Kabbalah Healing Meditation. I look forward to our next Shalom Meditation!
Until our Shalom Meditation event in The Library,
Saturday, January 18th, 2014 from 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM
“I was moved and inspired by the meditation with Gail today and believe it would offer an alternative spiritual experience to the congregation. Gail taught a variety of modalities to clear our mental chatter, including focus on the breath, candle, sounds of the drum, bells and chanting the mantras which spoke to the Jewish soul. I have listened to many guided meditation over years, but I can honestly say that this is my first “Jewish meditation ” and it felt like I was finally able to merge the spiritual paths I have studied and practiced with my strong Jewish identity. It was a beautiful and powerful experience and I left feeling both peaceful and energized. I am grateful to Gail as well as to the Rabbi for being open and willing to embrace meditation as a path to Jewish spirituality.”
— Yael Layish
Gail with great sensitivity took us thru the process step by step. I have never really connected meditation with Judaism as part of my Jewish heritage . And now this is giving me a new aspect of spiritually that fits so well in my life. I am looking forward to our next meeting and hope others will have a chance to explore this for themselves.
— Myra Idol
I know I have shared this joke with you before:
Abe and Esther are flying to Australia for a two week vacation to celebrate their 40th anniversary.
Suddenly, over the public address system, the Captain announces, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I am afraid I have some very bad news. Our engines have ceased functioning and we will attempt an emergency landing. Luckily, I see an uncharted island below us and we should be able to land on the beach. However, the odds are that we may never be rescued and will have to live on the island for the rest of our lives!”
Thanks to the skill of the flight crew, the plane lands safely on the island. An hour later Abe turns to his wife and asks, “Esther, did we pay our charity pledge check to Beth Shalom Synagogue yet?” “No, sweetheart,” she responds. Abe, still shaken from the crash landing, then asks, “Esther, did we pay our Jewish Federation pledge?” “Oy, no! I’m sorry. I forgot to send the check,” she says. “One last thing, Esther. Did you remember to send a check for the Synagogue Building Fund this month,” he asks? “Oy, forgive me, Abie,” begged Esther. “I didn’t sent that one, either.”
Abe grabs her and gives her the biggest kiss in 40 years. Esther pulls away and asks him, ” So, why did you kiss me?” Abe answers, “They’ll find us!”
The joke is funny but it illustrates a tone of how we feel about our Jewish community and supporting it. We tend to relegate causes that are actually important to us because we think “fundraising” is a dirty word. The truth is, our faith — every faith — is built on the idea of giving an offering. An act of tzedakah (justice, righteousness). Why shouldn’t we ask one another to give… and to give often… and to give till it hurts (just a little; that would probably mean we are giving the right amount).
I do believe that acts of tzedakah change the world. Support for the Jewish community enables us to be there for people wherever they might be. Real funding helps us accomplish our community’s dreams. With that said, I have joined the Board of Directors of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and have been impressed with what they have been trying to accomplish – strengthening its mission as a communal address to support Jewish interests throughout Atlanta, in Israel and around the world.
Here is why I donated this year – and hope you will consider these and perhaps making your first gift or an increased gift. The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta is:
- raising serious dollars to provide incentive grants and financial aid to middle-income and low-income families to enable their children to attend a Jewish overnight camp program – one of the greatest investments we can make in our youth to insure a bright Jewish future.
- enabling young adults in Atlanta to have their own Birthright Israel experience – a Jewish community’s gift of a free trip to Israel to deepen connections with Israel and their Judaism.
- funding the PJ Library program in metro Atlanta, providing books at no cost to Jewish children every month to encourage families’ Jewish journeys.
- ongoing financial support to our Jewish communities most significant agencies, including Jewish Family & Career Services, The Breman Jewish Home and its expanded services, the Jewish Community Center, another other supportive services for refugees, the elderly, and the vulnerable.
- strengthening religious pluralism in Israel, including to Reform and Conservative movement institutions and synagogues; along with building connections to communities in need in our sister cities of Yokneam and Megiddo.
Many of us give to the causes and agencies that we are most committed to, which is wonderful. I do the same. And certainly, it includes my own giving to our congregation. But there is still a power to contribute to a communal fund where key leaders are assessing the needs for a whole community. That is why I give. I hope you will to.
To make your gift, go to www.jewishatlanta.org and select the Donate Now! button. The website has lots of information for you to learn how to do your part.
Or you can send me a private email with your pledge, and I will take care of the rest! Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for starting this new year off right and considering a gift to the Community Campaign of 2014. I hope we steadily increase Temple Beth Tikvah’s representation in our Federation Campaign.
Wishing you a happy, healthy and sweet 2014.