Cantor Shapiro's Shabbat Message - August 12, 2022

  • Clergy
  • Shabbat

יהיו לרצון אמרי פי והגיון לבי לפניך יהוה צורי וגאלי

Yih’yu lratzon imrei fi v’hegyon libi l’fanecha, Adonai tzuri v’go’ali.

"May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to You, O God, my Rock and my Redeemer.” - Ps 19:14

I’m lucky. I was introduced to meditation when I was eight years old. I believe I was ten years old when I participated in world meditation day. So, it’s hard for me to remember when mindfulness and meditation were not a part of my life. Like many, my experience of meditation was not in a Jewish setting. And for much of my life my Judaism and my connection to meditation felt like two distinct arenas. I knew they were connected but I felt like it would be inauthentic to combine the two without a teacher, a source, or a guide to help me navigate how they could combine to create something legitimate. So for a few decades, those parts of my life remained both important to me but totally separate. 

It wasn’t until after I was established in my career as a cantor that I encountered the Institute for Jewish Spirituality and there found the teachers and tools I had been longing for. The Institute connected me with teachers who were able to help make those connections between our Jewish heritage and tradition (many of them coming from mystical sources) and a practice of meditation. A few years ago I became trained as a teacher of Jewish mindfulness and meditation.

When I talk to others about meditation, I often hear, “I’m not good at meditating.” For those of you who know me well, you know that I love a good competition. I’m the first to plunge wholeheartedly into a project with the goal of “winning”. Meditation just isn’t something one is good at or not good at. The idea is that while practicing meditation, we sit with and acknowledge whatever is in front of us in the moment. Sometimes that something is pleasant; other times it is excruciating. So meditation isn’t necessarily about finding your bliss. The idea is that when we practice sitting with what is, we become more skilled at recognizing and better equipped at handling difficult moments and appreciating beautiful ones as they occur.

Our WBT family is embarking on a project to incorporate Jewish meditation into our many offerings. We are kicking off the inauguration of this meditation group as we enter the month of Elul. Elul is a month of preparation for the High Holy Days that lie ahead. It’s a time when we turn inwards and take a look at what’s there. It’s a perfect time to make space and sit with ourselves as we prepare to search our own souls. We do this in community, drawing strength from the presence of our companions. 

If you are a veteran meditator or if you have ever thought about trying out a meditation practice group, our new group is for you. Sign up here

For a small taste of what will be offered, check out this 18-minute guided meditation on Insight Timer:

Bivracha,

Cantor Shapiro