I often hear those of my generation say, “I’m spiritual, not religious.” Sometimes I hear it expressed as “I’m a cultural Jew.” My response to them is Why do you see it as a zero-sum game? One can be spiritual and religious or a cultural Jew for finds meaning in Jewish rituals. Most Jews whether religious or not have at least one Passover Seder, light Hanukkah candles, go to synagogue to hear the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah and fast on Yom Kippur.
What hearing one of those phrases tells me is that one has not found meaning or value in the daily observances of Judaism, whether keeping kosher, praying to God or observing the Sabbath. However, after asking questions, I discover that many of these same people find meaning in regular meditation and yoga practice. These are seen as Buddhist or Near Eastern traditions; however, they have roots in Judaism as well. Having just completed an 18 month course in Jewish Mindfulness Meditation with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, I will share a few of these connections.
Before the writing of the prayerbook, it was a regular practice to pour out one’s heart to God. This was done through silent contemplative moments as well as through hitbodedut, daily conversation with God about whatever one was thinking about, without judgment, in order to clear one’s mind. Similarly, Judaism always focused on shmirat haguf, keeping one’s body in good shape in order to serve God. Being flexible as the reed is a value which emanates from the Talmud. Similarly, the purpose of prayer was to open one’s heart and mind, having kavanah (proper intention). It says in the Talmud that one who fixes his/her prayer does not have the prayer function as is intended.
For those who want to see how Judaism and spirituality blend together, I invite you to come to Bet Shira during the month of Elul (which began September 1), the month before the High Holy Days, one which is known for introspection and contemplation. Joi
We had Reiki Torah on Friday September 6, a guided meditation in which we feel the energy of Torah emanate into our bodies. We had a Healing Circle on Friday September 14 after our 9:30 a.m. Shabbat services, geared towards all those who are in need of or are praying for someone in need of healing in body, mind or spirit. Be there for a reflective Selichot service on Saturday September 21 at which we will have Havdallah (ending the Sabbath) at 8:00 p.m., show the film Redemption at 8:30 p.m. and have services to usher in the High Holy Days at 10:30 p.m. Enjoy a free concert for the community led by our High Holy Day Cantor Andres Levy on Sunday October 6 from 4:00-6:00 p.m. Come to be inspired, to have your soul touched and to see firsthand how spirituality and religion go hand-in-hand.
More initiatives combining spirituality and religion, including Alef-Bet Yoga, are to come.
The key is to take the “leap of faith” and join us at Bet Shira, 7500 SW 120 Street. I look forward to meeting you and to joining you on this spiritual journey.