Give Prayer Legs

apples-and-honey

Week #7: Get prayer legs

Do we really need so many words of prayer, so many hours of praying?  What do they even mean?

Most of us at some time have sat in the pews  wondering how to crack open the secrets hidden within this inheritance of words.   Or brought our own interpretation to the words.  Or offered our own words, or no words at all.

How do you know if people around you are even praying?  No one knows what’s going on in another’s mind, even after sitting side-by-side for an entire service!   Thoughts wander, even while  reading or chanting pages and pages of words.  Is this also prayer?  Yes!

All these prayers mingle together.  Words in Hebrew, Aramaic and the vernacular, spoken or b’lachash (whispered) meet and intertwine with  the prayers of those who think they have no prayers,  and those who can’t or won’t engage.  Those who feel their prayers fall on deaf ears,  those who are too heart-broken to speak  and those who are too enraged to pray.

What if prayer is really soul-breath that draws out and raises up our deepest, purest intention?  After all, what is the ram’s horn without the breath of the blast?  Hear the call of this ancient and ever-renewing breath.  Reawaken to it’s prayer, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The soul-breath carries the prayer of our hearts to our inner universe, to the one sitting next to us, to the one who doesn’t even know our prayers are for him, and to a community of skeptics and believers. In our glorious diversity, prayer creates a place in the greater whole for each unique voice .

Prayer follows us out of the sanctuary, finding legs through our deeds.  Prayer legs lead us to the forgotten and those who cannot remember, the rejected, the isolated, the suffering, the infirm, the dying, the marginalized, the alienated, the abused, and the misunderstood.  We begin to see in one another a shared, soul-deep desire for a better world, for a better home-life, for a loving life-partner, for a closer family, for a loyal friend, for meaningful endeavors come to be.

Prayer can break down the most indomitable wall. Soul-breath then slips in to turn regret and remorse into reconciliation and reconnection. Breath and prayer return us to one another.

People with prayer legs can get back on track.  Those who speak too much may listen more.  And those who have been mute may speak up.  And all may work to make what we say and do matter.

Such prayers, aroused by Endless Love,  awaken us to the possibility of redemption.  They show us a path of sacred obligations.  To walk this path means giving legs to our prayers.  May each of us step into this new year with compassion, grace, kindness, contrition and  forgiveness.

Wishing you and yours an inspiring and invigorating New Year filled with hope and the sweetness of possibility, prosperity and peace. L’shanah tova tikateivu!

Rabbi Nina J. Mizrahi, Community Rabbi       (c) 2016

 

 

Return to the land of your soul

Week #6: Return To The Land Of Your Soul

Ki Tavo…

When you come into the land of your soul

Experience a returning,

To your inner “promised land”

Flowing with the milk and honey of

Humility, gratitude, compassion, generosity, righteousness, devotion and sacrifice.

Offer these first fruits

To the universe

Stand with the people

Speak aloud your shared remembrance

Redeemed from the narrow place,

The misery of enslavement, of the suffering

That broke your heart or the heart that you broke

 

Call to memory and name that place for what it is

Respond

To the plight of the fugitive, the oppressed and those who toil without a living wage.

Share the legacy of an ancient, ever-renewing and emerging wisdom

Of which you and I and we and they are a vital part

Bequeathed to all willing to receive and engage

This is the purpose of our liberation

Each of us is a land of promise

We are the fertile soil from which we will harvest

Virtues and values that heal and redeem

Milk and honey flow through us

Sweetening the hurt, bitterness and disappointment

 

Now is the time to come into ourselves

To share the bounty

Of our agricultural, financial, intellectual, and spiritual harvests

With all who are in need

“that they [too] may eat within your gates and be satisfied” (Dt. 20:12)

This is the fruit of our first harvest

To offer an outstretched hand

Pulling others, anyone

From the dark, narrow places

Of broken hearts, minds and bodies

To a land flowing with dignity, compassion and loving kindness

 

Ki tavo – Entering into your, my and our promised land,

Forgive and ask to be forgiven

Transform your wandering into roots

Reaching from the depths of your soul

To the heights of the heavens

This is teshuvah

 

Return again, return to the land of your soul.

Return to who you are. Return to what you are.

Return to where you are.

Return to the land of your soul (Shlomo Carlebach)

 

In this very moment of transition

In the sacred place between leaving and entering

You and I and we and all shall be blessed.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Nina J. Mizrahi, Community Rabbi

 

Soul Watching

grassland_birds_8         engish-walled-garden

Week 5: Looking At The Landscape of Our Soul

Landscapes, those we seek and those we plant, mirror an inner longing. The walled English Garden is planted and mindfully tended to with love. A bubbie once told me she often brought her grandson to such a garden. Under the shade of a gracious tree, they would read together. The garden’s nooks, paths and thoughtfully placed benches bring childhood fantasy to life. Perhaps a swing hung by rope from a strong oak tree, or a butterfly garden catches our fancy. Wisteria covered trellises, colorful flowers and wonderful climbing trees invite imagination and play. This is a seasonal garden where time stops. Its gentle sense of order makes us feel safe, inviting a return to innocence. We enter knowing we will have to venture out once again to the “real” world. Nevertheless, our inner child hopes that time will never come.

The prairie, now protected ground, grows with wild abandon. Even the slightest breeze creates waves of movement; the sound of grasses rustling in unison creates a soothing feeling of wholeness. Here, many different birds have adapted to life among the grasses and wildflowers. In the tallgrass prairies of North America, every niche can seem to be filled with birds. We arrive, binoculars in hand, prepared to sit patiently and quietly. Hoping to find a particular bird to add to our growing list of others we have already identified, we watch and wait. The sighting of even one bird is met with delight. Other times we leave disappointed, but determined to keep returning until it would grace us with an appearance, if only briefly.

When the weather changes, some birds remain; others fly south for the winter. Yet we continue to return to the prairie throughout the year, appreciating the seasonal changes of the landscape. The spring and summer give way to an equally captivating fall landscape that has dried in place. This transformation reveals an interesting array of textures, forms and hues. The milkweed pod, once green, pops open to reveal an abundance of soft white strands that the wind will carry to ensure reseeding for next year’s blossoming. This is where we learn to appreciate the seasons of our lives, to find beauty in what appears to be dry and withered. Here we celebrate the hope for the return of spring, even as we acknowledge we may not be here. We can still see the seeds of promise for another’s tomorrow.

Wherever we go, we discover natural and mindfully planted landscapes. Busy brains or tight schedules blind us to the insights they offer us into the inner “nof”- landscape – of our souls. This outer world exists at the mercy of wind, rain, and sun, unless we become its caretakers. Is this a metaphor for our emotional and spiritual state of being? Will we passively be acted upon, or will we assert what control we can by reconnecting with our rhythms, aspirations and sense of purpose? Noticing means we must stop and be fully awake. Opening ourselves without judgment, we can get in touch with our inner landscape.

As a birdwatcher peers through her binoculars, a soul-watcher examines the landscape of her heart. There, her inner “I” can notice deeply embodied stories and the feelings they evoke. Sometimes we return again and again to old stories; other times we become aware of stories being birthed. Curious, we trek through our inner landscape, noticing the array of emotional textures, forms and hues. What stories have dried in place? Which are products of imagination or remnants of childhood? Which serve as the soft pure strands that carry seeds for our new blossoming?

Teshuvah returns us to the landscapes of our lives. Those that have been neglected are overgrown or struggling to survive. Others have been watered with disappointment and loss, producing anger and fear. Keep looking and peel back the layers. Persist and you will discover the very Source of being. It is made of love, grace, generosity of spirit, kindness, compassion and truth. It, too, has seasons and changing landscapes. This is by design. Designated rhythms invite self-examination of how we feel about ourselves and how we engage with others and the world around us. What landscape have we nurtured or allowed to take root – one of cynicism, neglect and hostility? Of hope, loving-kindness and patience? Of arrogance, ingratitude and stinginess? Of humility, gratitude, and generosity?

This is the season for turning and returning. Now is the time for discerning between who we have become and who we might become. Connecting our inner child and our inner mensch helps us hold two truths – life is finite and every moment is precious. This is the human landscape.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Nina J. Mizrahi

Community Rabbi

(c)Rabbi Nina J. Mizrahi

 

Awaken Possibility

child-blowing-shofar

5 Elul 5776
Parenting tip: blow shofar to wake your kids up during Elul!

the-shofar-child

Instructions for the fourth week of comfort:

Comfort walks before you, and comfort follows at your heels.

Awaken yourself

Awaken to yourself

Arise from your stupor

How shall comfort find you if you slumber?

Wake up!

Wake up!

Tear loose the grip of whatever is choking the life out of you

Hineini – Believe I am here for you

Turn away from those who mock, ridicule and scorn

Shake off the dust of defensiveness and defeat

Go forth

Upright

Each footstep deliberate

Mindful that while your journey is your own

Others around you are at various stages of

Awakening and opening

Walking with uncertain or sure footing

All on a journey through the month of Elul

Reflecting, regretting, repenting and returning

Conscious and mindful

Heart, mind and soul open and aware as

The truth of how we have conducted ourselves is revealed

Courageously, we embrace our vulnerability

Hineini – Believe I am here for you

The sound of the shofar calls

Each day

Relentless with possibility

Forgiveness the hopeful victor

Over deeds that hold us captive

Listen, believe

Open yourself with intention

Because whatever you need to face

Comfort walks before you

And comfort follows at your heels.

 

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Nina J. Mizrahi, Community Rabbi

Shabbat Shof’tim Deuteronomy 16:18-21:3/ Isaiah 51:12-52:12