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Saturday, February 6, 2021

Day 12 of 21: Jewish Meditation

I was asked today to offer a blessing before a reading of a portion of the Torah (the first five books of the bible sacred in Judaism), during the Saturday morning service (Shabbat). 

Being asked to give this aliyah ("calling up") is an honor, and it was bestowed up me by the Sisterhood of the Synagogue to which I belong, as a thank you for provide community yoga classes last year. 

The entire service revolved around Sisterhood members and contributors with both Aliyot (plural for aliyah), readings from Torah, and other prayers, in a beautiful multi-generational collaboration of speaking, singing, and praise. 

We had a special guest contributor as well, Allison Leichter https://www.alisonlaichter.com/, who not only spoke eloquently about the weekly Torah story (Parashat) but wove it into a delightful meditation session.

During the service there is a reading and sermon about a story from the Torah. This week's is that of Jethro (Hebrew "Yitro"), the advisor to Moses, and the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. (Check out more about this story here https://medium.com/ifnotnowtorah/yitro-all-night-revelation-6b196bf6e8ab.)

In the words of our Rabbi:

In our Torah reading this week, Parashat Yitro, we continue to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The Israelites make it to Mount Sinai and they receive the Ten Commandments. The Exodus from Egypt becomes one of the most symbolic experiences, a defining moment, and an inspiring story in Judaism’s tradition. According to the Talmud, we owe it all to the merit of righteous women for making it happen.  

Also, Yitro (Moses' father-in-law) advises Moses to set up a system of judges so that Moses does not have to answer every individual question himself, lest he exhaust himself (“you will surely wear yourself out, and these people as well").

Allison's meditation focused on the idea of "t'shuvah," or returning for Moses, meaning settling, coming home, or grounding. The advice from Yitro to Moses was that he needed to "come home" or settle into himself by delegating his work, and making sure to conserve his resources. The idea is that we each need to return to ourselves so that we can best provide to our community. 

Allison also brought up the idea of the divine breathing (life) into man, and by that token perhaps we can allow breath to move through us, rather than have it be so labored. So as we sit in our quiet moments, we should allow ourselves to breathe, allow the breathe to flow as if we are being breathed (into), rather than be something that requires work. 

Another image was that of interconnectivity - that each of our in-breaths is an out-breath of green things. We are interconnected not just with our human community but with all living things!

I am fascinated by the historical stories in the Torah, as well as interpretations that help shed light on human behavior rather than dictate dogma. To be able to channel the stories into a basis for meditation is illuminating and I hope to find more ways to follow Allison's practice. 

My meditation this morning was "I am a proud of my Jewish heritage." I think it's time I felt that good about it.  

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