Jews' Next Dor

Congregation Beth David's Young Adult Group for Jewish 20 & 30 Somethings

Rabbi Booth CyberTorah: Spiritual Practices

Posted by challahbackgirl on September 18, 2009

CyberTorah: Spiritual Practices

This summer, I had the fortune to study with Rabbi Ebn Leader while I was at a retreat for the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. Rabbi Leader lead a session in which he helped me articulate what constitutes a spiritual practice. I want to share these insights with you as Rosh Hashanah draws near in the hopes of inspiring all of us to engage in some practices that may allow a true transformation of self to occur.

Spiritual practices require three key ingredients. They must be regular, meaning they happen at a set time in a predictable way. They must be intentional, meaning I set out to engage in a certain behavior or practice. And finally, they must have a goal / desired outcome. So walking outside on a beautiful morning and being struck by the wonder of God’s creation isn’t a spiritual practice. It may be a spiritual moment as God reminds me to pay attention, but it lacks the intentionality and regularity to have continued impact.

By contrast, I have started to pause in my morning prayers each day to recount that for which I am grateful. I do it each morning, I am intentional about doing it, and I have a goal of inclining myself towards gratitude. This makes it a spiritual practice that is gradually having an impact on how I experience the world.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are days that can meet this definition, but for many of us they fail to do so because we fail to engage our own intentionality about what the Holidays will mean for us. If we simply show up, the services may (or may not) touch us or transform us. If instead we are thoughtful and intentional, there is a much greater opportunity for these Holy Days to impact who we are as people.

As we ready ourselves for the holidays, I would like to share a few practices of my own with you.

Each year, I spend some time reflecting on my own issues and failings seeing in this season a call for Heshbon HaNefesh, an accounting of my soul. As I identify some issues that I want to change in myself, I bring those issues with me into the service. That means when I recite Avinu Malkeynu, our Father our King, I say some of my own verses that are from my heart to my Creator. During the confessional, I confess my own personal failings alongside the alphabetical listing of our communal issues.

I also look for a person with whom I can share my own issues and I invite them to listen and respond. Speech is a key part of the process of change. When we can share of ourselves, when we can hear from another their guidance to our issues, fears, and hopes, then we can create a real possibility for spiritual growth and healthy change. As always, Rabbi Graff and I remain delighted to find time with you for your “Annual Spiritual.”

Finally, I make some Tzedakah commitments. Kol Emeth will once again be putting out grocery bags at Rosh Hashanan to bring back for Kol Nidre. This is a spiritual practice designed to awaken compassion for the needs of others in me. Isaac prayed and only then was he able to lift his eyes and see because prayer leads to awareness and compassion. Bringing a grocery bag with me to Kol Nidre is a way of reminding myself to focus my prayer as a means of acquiring compassion.

These are some of my spiritual practices to orient myself towards Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. If you have some practices or suggestions of your own I would love to hear them. May we all be blessed with a year of peace, happiness, and prosperity.
Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Booth

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One Response to “Rabbi Booth CyberTorah: Spiritual Practices”

  1. Maria said

    Dear Rabbi Booth,

    I liked your article a lot.
    I would like to know more about your activities and articles.
    Could you please send me more information about your organization?
    Thanking You in advance,
    Maria

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