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"Being Jewish Feels Really Difficult Right Now"

05/20/2021 08:25:17 AM

May20

Ever since April of 2020, Shma Koleinu has held a weekday, noontime zoom call for meditation, reflection and prayer.  Each day, 15 zoom windows+ join us on line for this 10-12 minute period to gather one’s wits, realign for the rest of the day, and offer prayers for healing for one’s self, others, and our society at large.  Some days, “10@Noon” feels quite inspirational and emotional, even accompanied by an epiphany or two, and other days, it feels good, but somewhat banal.  A prayer and meditation practice is what makes this possible.   Without it, epiphanies are far more often, fewer and farther between.  And yet we don’t do it for epiphanies.  We do it because it helps us better and more effectively recognize the good stuff, cope with the bad stuff, and keeps us primed not to miss the sensational. 

One of our participants yesterday spoke these words aloud, “Being Jewish feels really difficult right now.” It entered the ether and devoured me for a moment.  Well, for a few moments.  The news from Israel would be just abominable, if it weren’t already frightening.  Something about this moment in particular, for many it would seem, feels that much more intimate, causing deep and psychically painful energy, as well as a transference to those we live close to and near.  Threats and acts of violence against people in the US and abroad, against Jews and their friends, against Arabs and theirs, are the epitome of this transference, completely bereft of any epiphanies of vision, wisdom or hope. 

Our minds and our hearts need constant and focused breath to stay open.  Our human tendency towards what the mystics called a mo-ach d’katnut, is what the psychologists call our disposition to “fight or flight.”  I call it our default position in moments of crisis of a narrowed mind of heartsickness.  What we are striving for when we pray and meditate is a mo-ach d’gadlut, a widened, broader and more expansive expression of our love-filled hearts.   Mindfulness is a means by which we can compartmentalize our lives.  We can and should express anger or sadness about tragedies over which we have no control, aside from our personal response.  And in the areas in which we can have an impact that is productive and positive, we have an obligation to engage.  And to my dear friend who is suffering from the weight of her Jewishness, I say kol hakavod, may the honor (or the weight) of this moment guide you to action, knowing full well that neither you nor I can end the scourge of anti-Semitism, undermine and rewire Israeli-Palestinian politics, or determine the future there or here.  But we can exercise daily our muscles of compassion, restraint, openness and resilience, and pray that it might rub off on others. 

Sat, June 19 2021 9 Tammuz 5781