Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Making our Confession Real: Tools for On-going Teshuvah - Part 1

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

Just before Yom Kippur, I posted Al Chet - Confessional for the Earth So many are the deeds, misdeeds, and non-deeds in relation to the Earth for which we must confess, and then, hopefully, do teshuvah. With this post I begin a series of suggestions for how to implement changes that can help to make our confessional meaningful beyond its words, into actions.

I begin with a response to this phrase:
For the sin we have committed against You by believing we are doing enough,
Do you believe you are doing enough? I think many of us feel we are not. Maybe we even have in our heads ideas of what we should be doing, but we have a hard time getting motivated. Maybe we are scared, or just stuck, or overwhelmed by the many options running through our heads or coming at us in email blasts and other social media. 

How do we find our own path? For it is our own path we must follow - the on-going process teshuvah is a very individual one, and that is what we are talking about - re-turning to G!d in a way that really alters our actions.

So I offer for you a meditation to help you solidify your understanding of your way forward to a more complete relationship with the Holy One of Blessing and the Earth.

Meditation for a Stronger and More Active Earth Connection

  • Step outside. 
  • Make yourself comfortable in a comfortable place. Give yourself a few minutes to settle in.
  • Relax your breathing. Breathe in deeply. Breath out, slowly exhaling. Repeat, using the breathy word Yah - G!d - the Breath of Life.
  • Now feel the Earth beneath your feet. Focus on the connection between your feet and the ground beneath. Feel your connection to Earth flowing up from below. Then feel the Earth's connection to you flowing downward from yourself.
  • Return to a few breaths of Yah.
  • Look upward at the sky. Feel your connection to the heavens - the Sun, the stars, the Moon. Focus on that connection. Allow the energy of your connection to the heavens to flow down from above. Then feel the sky's connection to you flowing upward from yourself.
  • Breathe deeply.
  • Close your eyes. Visualize your connection to beloved places, to important people in your life, to other living things. Allow their connection to you to flow inward to your heart. Allow your connection to them to flow outward in return.
  • Breathe deeply.
  • Use your own language and images. Feel a sense of gratitude. Ask G!d for strength and direction.
  • Hold the silence. Hold the stillness. Hold the strength. Let the answers come.
  • Breathe deeply.
  • When you are ready, open your eyes.
  • Feel yourself blessed and energized.
  • When you are ready, move onward to what is next.

You may wish to repeat this, to modify and make it your own. Perhaps you want to add words - or a word - of prayer. Play with it until you feel a new sense of resolve and strength and courage to move forward.

Remember that the Confession for the Earth ends with these words:"we are the ones we have been waiting for."

You can do it. I can do it. Together, we can do it. 

And we will. 

Rabbi Katy Z. Allen is the founder and leader of Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope in Wayland, MA, and a staff chaplain at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. She is the co-convener of the Jewish Climate Action Network, a member of the editorial board, a board member of Shomrei Bereishit: Rabbis and Cantors for the Earth, and the co-creator of Gathering in Grief: The Israel / Gaza Conflict.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

On the Way to Gamawakoosh

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

Rabbi Salanter teaches that most people repent during the Selichot week preceding Rosh HaShanah and the more pious during the month of Elul preceding Rosh HaShanah, but he says that one should begin to repent immediately after Yom Kippur.

Maimonides (Rambam) teaches that we know we have achieved true teshuvah, repentance, when we find ourselves once again in the same situation we didn't handle well in the past, but this time we refrain from doing what we did before, and instead we do the right thing.

It is a year-round process to learn new behaviors. And sometimes that process is punctuated with individual moments when we feel an inner shift taking place. That can happen in synagogue on Yom Kippur, but it can also happen at other moments throughout the year. I share with you one of my moments of knowing that change was taking place in my heart and my soul, and I wish you well on your journey through this new year of 5775 - may you find your heart shifting closer to the Holy One of Blessing at many different moments and in many different situations.

On the Way to Gamawakoosh

With my brothers
I sit upon one of a series of wide, flat boulders.
Over these granite rocks,
water tumbles -- a mountain brook.
This stream originates in a small lake
hidden on the side of the mountain
higher up,
beside which a tiny log cabin 
once stood.
Here, these boulders form the stream bed;
the waters tumble ever downward
hurrying to a slower-moving river,
and with time,
one day,
to the ocean.

My mother,
some 90 years ago,
sat here, too.
I can see her in my mind’s eye,
a young girl,
sitting in this spot;
my mother,
who several years ago was gathered to her ancestors;
my mother,
who was a woman of amazing depth and breadth;
my mother,
on whose memoire I have been working for close to two years --
a memoire she worked on for the entire last third of her long life,
driven to write,
never able to experience the satisfaction
of completion.

I work both to organize the myriad versions of her manuscript
and to decide
which of the hundreds of her photographs,
from her childhood
and her life as an artist,
to include in her book,
in order to preserve the core, 
the essence,
the beauty,
of who she was,
the part of her I wish to embrace
and to hold
and to own,
as my inheritance.

We sit, my brothers and I
but we are not alone.
also on this expanse of rock,
among the mountains of the Adirondack wilderness,
sit another brother and sister --
the children of a man who also walked here in his youth,
with our family - our mother and uncle and grandparents,
helped them build a tiny cabin,
nestled in the woods 
beside the lake,
shared with them that magical time and place,
so many years ago.
Our warm-hearted and intrepid leader
sits upon a boulder as well --
a man who knows these mountains well,
who brought our two families together
after so many years,
a man who -- 
after deciding to search out this place, 
this reservoir of family history and meaning --
I located with less difficulty than I had anticipated.
He knew well the father of our companions,
with his gentle and open spirit,
he is eager to be part of our journey
and to help bring it to fruition;
His presence in my life
has helped to awaken the changes 
happening in my heart.

my brothers and I,
sit here, where our mother once sat;
we speak about her book,
about the roadblock currently thwarting my progress,
the problem for which I can see no solution.
Here, in this sacred spot
with the sounds of the tumbling waters in our ears,
the sunlight filtering between the trees,
the breeze blowing gently --
on this warm summer afternoon,
I explain my conundrum,
and with this conversation,
with this prayer--
this outcry from the depths of my heart brought forth into words--
my anxious heart calms,
grows quiet,
becomes still,
and I know, I understand,
I trust,
that I will find a way forward,
with my mother’s book,
and with my life.

עם אחיי 
אני יושבת על אחד מהסדרה הארוכה של סלעים רחבים ושטוחים.
על-פני סלעי הגרניט האלה
מתגלגלים מיים -- נחל הררי.
הנחל יוצא מאגם קטן
מוסתר בצד ההר 
יותר למעלה,
שעל-ידו צריף עץ קטנטן 
פעם עמד
כאן, הסלעים האלה מהווים את בסיס הנחל;
תמיד מתגלגלים המיים למטה,
ממהרים לנהר יותר איטי,
ועם זמן, 
יום אחד,

לפני כ-90 שנה,
ישבה כאן גם כן.
אני יכולה לראות אותה בדימיוני,
ילדה צעירה,
יושבת במקום הזה;
שלפני כמה שנים נאספה לאבותיה,
שהיתה אישה עם עומק ואופק מופלאים,
שעל ספר זכרונותיה אני עובדת כמעט שנתיים--
ספר זכרונות שהיא עבדה עליו כל השליש האחרון של חייה הארוכים,
מרגישה מחויבת לכתוב,
אף פעם לא לדעת שביעות רצון 
של שלמות.

אני עובדת גם
לסדר את הגרסאות המרובות של הטקסט שלה
וגם להחליט
אלו ממאות תצלומיה,
ומחייה האומנותיים, 
להכיל בספרה,
כדי לשמור על העיקר,
של מי שהיא היתה,
החלק שאני רוצה לחבק,

יושבים, שני אחיי ואני,
אבל אנחנו לא לבד.
גם על הסלע הרחב הזה,
בין ההרים במעשה הבראשית של האדירונדקס,
יושבים עוד אח ואחות --
ילדים של איש שהלך כאן גם כן בילדותו,
עם משפחתנו -- אימנו, דודנו, סבנו, וסבתנו,
עזר להם לבנות את הצריף הקטנטן,
החבוי ביער
על-יד האגם,
חָלַק איתם את הזמן והמקום הקסומי ם ההם,
לפני כל כך הרבה שנים.
המדריך שלנו, בעל לב חם ומתמיד,
יושב על סלע גם כן --
אדם שמכיר את ההרים האלה היטב,
שהביא את שתי משפחותינו ביחד
אחרי כל כך הרבה שנים,
אדם אשר --
אחרי החלטתי לחפש את המקום הזה,
את המאגר המשפחתי ההיסטורי והמשמעותי --
מצאתי, עם פחות קושי ממה שציפיתי.
הוא הכיר היטב את האב של המתלוים אלינו,
עם רוחו העדין והפתוח,
הוא משתוקק להיות חלק מטיולנו
ולעזור להגשים אותו.
נוכחותו בחיי
עזרה לעורר את השינוים
שקורים בלבי.

אחיי ואני,
יושבים כאן, איפה שאימנו פעם ישבה;
אנחנו מדברים על ספרה,
על המחסום שכרגע מתסכל את התקדמותי,
הבעיה שבשבילה אני לא רואה פתרון.
כאן, במקום הקדוש הזה,
עם צליל המיים המתגלגלים באזנינו,
אור השמש מסתנן בין העצים,
הרוח נושבת בעדינות--
אחרי הצהריים הקייצי והחם הזה,
אני מסבירה את תעלומתי,
ועם השיחה הזאת,
עם התפילה הזאת--
הצעקה מעומק לבי הופכת למילים--
לבי החושש נרגע, 
ואני יודעת, אני מבינה
אני מאמינה, 
שאמצא דרך קדימה,
עם ספרה של אימי,
ועם חיי.
Rabbi Katy Z. Allen is the founder and leader of Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope in Wayland, MA, and a staff chaplain at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. She is the co-convener of the Jewish Climate Action Network, a member of the editorial board, a board member of Shomrei Bereishit: Rabbis and Cantors for the Earth, and the co-creator of Gathering in Grief: The Israel / Gaza Conflict.