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Being Enough: Practices for the Month of Elul, Week #3

With Rabbi Rachel Goldenberg and Emily Herzlin

 

Welcome to the third week of Being Enough: Practices for the Month of Elul. We are so grateful to practice with you as we prepare to greet the New Year. In this series we will share Week 3 thoughts by Rabbi Goldenberg, Practices in Daily Life, and Meditation

 

A few tips to keep in mind:

  • You don’t need to have any prior experience with Jewish learning, Jewish practice or meditation to participate

  • You don’t need to be Jewish to participate.

  • Try to set aside 5-10 minutes each day for the meditation. If you don’t get to the practice every day, that’s okay. You can always start again the next day.

 

Week Three: Tefilah - Meeting My Heart with Compassion

By Rabbi Rachel Goldenberg

 

As we travel on this journey of Elul, noticing where we’ve become distant from our intentions, noticing habits that do not serve us, we have a choice. How will we respond, now that we can see clearly where we’ve strayed or where we’ve been hurt? We can take the well-trodden path of judgment, beating ourselves up, dwelling in a place of guilt or resentment. Or we can try a new way, opening our hearts to ourselves and to others with compassion. It is not simple or easy to bring compassion to our own missteps and imperfections, let alone to the hurtful mistakes others in our lives make. Exercising compassion requires awareness that is not always readily available to our racing, often ego-centered minds. It takes practice.

 

Those of us who grew up with the traditional High Holy Day liturgy may be accustomed to beating our chests during the Vidui, the Yom Kippur confession of sin. We may have strong associations with the image of God as a powerful and punitive king, determining who will be written in the Book of Life for another year. “Who shall live? Who shall die? Who by fire? Who by water?” our liturgy asks. And we tremble.

 

But our prayers have another side as well. Over and over again we repeat the words “Adonai, Adonai, El rachum v’chanun,” calling upon the Divine to shower us with the qualities of compassion, grace, and love. The Unetaneh Tokef, the same prayer that asks, “Who shall live? Who shall die?” also depicts God as a shepherd, carefully guiding and noticing each of us, seeking after us when we have strayed and gently bringing us back in love.

 

This month of Elul invites us to cultivate those qualities of compassion and care, to practice opening our hearts to ourselves so that we might experience the grace of forgiveness on the holidays, and most importantly, that we might bring more love into our lives and into the world in this New Year.

Practice in Daily Life

  • Spend some time journaling or otherwise reflecting on these questions: “When have I received compassion and care in my life?” “Who in my life has loved me, noticed me, guided me, and/or helped me find my way?” 

  • When you notice that you haven’t been living in alignment with your intentions, or when the harsh voice of judgment arises in your mind, place a hand over your heart and bring those sources of compassion and guidance to mind. Imagine those people shining a loving light on you now and shepherding you towards the way you want to be. You can quietly address yourself with a term of endearment, “Sweetheart,” and send yourself the blessings in the Kindness meditation below: “May you be blessed with peace, may you be blessed with kindness, may you be blessed with love.” From this place of compassion, consider the shift you want to make in order to return to your intentions.

  • When a person in your life makes a mistake or does something hurtful, extend that same light of compassion towards them. Quietly send them the kindness blessings in the meditation below: “May you be blessed with peace, may you be blessed with kindness, may you be blessed with love.” From this place of compassion, consider what would be a wise step to take, if any, towards healing with that person.

 

Meditation: Kindness blessing (click here to listen to a recording of this guided meditation)

You might want to bring the posture of the Vidui (Confession) to this practice. Instead of beating the chest with a closed fist, hold your hand over your heart, gently tapping or making circles, asking the gate of the heart to open with each blessing. Once you are familiar with the phrases of lovingkindness, they can be brought with you anywhere you go. See how you might repeat these phrases silently to yourself, whether extending compassion towards yourself or others, throughout the day.

 

Musical Inspiration

Ahavah Rabbah (Elana Arian and Noah Aronson)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ahavah Rabbah, a blessing before the morning Sh’ma, recognizes and gives thanks for the great love that is woven into the universe and that holds us from moment to moment. Listening to and singing this song can help us cultivate awareness that Divine and human compassion lovingkindness are available to us, to give and to receive, no matter how broken we may feel we or the world are.

Teachings
Practice
Meditation
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