I know that many of us are feeling a heightened sense of anxiety as we hunker down at home, quarantine ourselves, cope with illness in our homes or friend and larger family communities and mourn the chance to come together as a spiritual community for lifecycle events, support, fellowship and meaning-making at this difficult time.
Even as organizations, businesses and synagogues are temporarily closing their doors, or restricting group activities, it’s important to keep in mind that Jewish tradition is not “closed.” In fact, our community members may need faith and tradition now, perhaps even more than ever.
Jewish tradition bequeaths us an essentially never-ending wellspring of wisdom and guidance for how to navigate both the joys and challenges of our lives. When I am unsettled and anxious or afraid, I turn to the words, teachings, practices and even melodies of our ancestors. (I know, I know, a deaf rabbi turning to melodies is ironic!) It gives me hope and perhaps more importantly, courage and strength. I am reminded that we have been here before and we have been through worse. We will get through this moment, even as we are uncertain about what “getting through” it may look like; we will get through this.
In daily Jewish prayer there’s an afternoon prayer service, mincha. It’s interesting to note that mincha is shorter than both the morning and evening services. One might say that mincha provides us with a brief moment in the middle of our day to reconnect with something essential and grounding. For those of us who may not find traditional prayer to be comforting or grounding, perhaps there are other ways we can create a “mincha moment” for ourselves. Doing so may help ensure we are staying centered and grounded in the midst of turbulence and turmoil. Some other possible practices for an alternative “mincha moment” might include:
- Connect with nature. If your personal circumstances permit, go for a walk in the woods or find some way to just be in the outdoors, even if only for a short while. If your personal circumstances do not permit this, perhaps you can find a way to be closer to a window and to give yourself some moments to stare at the beautiful blue sky and clouds. Perhaps you can see trees.
- Make some time to just sit and breathe and BE.
- Remind yourself of the powerful Jewish teaching that while we don’t know exactly what this moment will bring us, we do know that this moment will pass. Gam Zeh Ya’avor. “This too shall pass.”
- Perhaps this may be a meaningful opportunity to develop a closer relationship with Jewish prayer. Pick one prayer, maybe the shema, and practice sounding out the words if they are unfamiliar, or spend some time sinking into the meaning and being able to define for yourself what it means to you to recite it at this moment.
- Finally, remember that the entire Jewish community, including me, is here to support all of us at this time. We are all in this together seeking ways to remind each other of that important reality. We are not in this alone!
As always, we will continue to make our way forward as a community guided by a powerful tradition and meaningful Jewish values.
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