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The Dissipation of Dread

09/04/2019 10:03:37 AM


Who is Invited to High Holy Days with Shma Koleinu? (cont'd)

As you know, everyone is invited.  However, sometimes, you’ve got to be more explicit. 

Last week, I wanted you to know that you are invited even if AND ESPECIALLY if you feel disconnected.  Disconnected from Judaism, disconnected from spirituality, from family, from yourself.  And that we want you to know that this is nonetheless not a reason to stay away – this is precisely the reason to come.  No one at Shma Koleinu, not in the congregation and not from the bima, is going to tell you what you “should” be feeling, experiencing or believing.  Getting re-connected is “simply” about presence – “efforting” towards aligning our mind with our heart with our body, if only temporarily in order to be reminded (or introduced) to what that “At-one-ment” feels like. 

But what if your “issue” isn’t about Disconnection?  What if it’s about an urgent and pervasive feeling of dread?  Like everything is going to heck in a handbasket, as some say, somewhat ineloquently?  This is where prayer and meditation come in.  Not as a magic formula to fix what is broken, but as a salve or a balm, that can help calm us, that can soothe that prickly feeling so often exacerbated by what we hear or read or see from the news. 

Prayer and meditation are, at the end of the day, not about getting something that we need but much more about recognizing what we have.  You may be aware of that “prickly” High Holy Day morning prayer, Unetaneh Tokef that asks questions like,

“Who shall live and who shall die, who will reach the ripeness of age,

who will be taken before their time?”

continuing with a litany of possible ways one might meet their demise in the year to come.  Yes, it is difficult to really listen to these words, they push all of our vulnerability buttons.  But, similar to the news, they are also revelatory if we pay attention to how our body responds, upon their landing on our eardrums. 

“Who by fire and who by water, who by war and who by beast? 

Who by famine and who by drought?”

Does your heart race?  Does your skin tingle?  Do your eyes tear up or do you get fidgety?  Pay attention to this – this is prayer speaking to you.  It can be a pathway into your more tender points, where you feel these things the most. 

Look, I am working incredibly hard along with musicians, volunteers, facilities folks, and website managers, to ensure that our High Holy Days go off without a hitch and that our prayers, music and liturgy hit just the right notes.  That said, all of it is only backdrop for the stirrings of your soul. Pay attention to those notes and you may just find that dread dissipates and hopefulness abounds.

Wed, June 3 2020 11 Sivan 5780