By: David Gottlieb
When this photo was taken, I was well on my way to becoming a huge Mishkan groupie (a status I proudly maintain to this day). I had come back during a scheduled month out of town especially to lead a meditation session and take part in the other offerings at Mishkan’s Shavu’ote celebration. I was both nervous and excited, because there was so much energy around this evening, and I really wanted to both participate in and contribute to it.
I was also in the midst of a huge transition in my personal and professional life. I had just stepped down from my day job, and begun to concentrate on other passions. Practicing and teaching Jewish meditation is one of those passions.
In this picture, taken at my meditation session, we were chanting the first line of the Shema. We had first studied it as a call to awareness of the oneness of creation and the constant emergence of Torah – “Torah from the Mountain,” or the wisdom and power of our received tradition, and “Torah from the Well,” our own inner wisdom. We then used a full breath to pronounce each word. We gained an appreciation for the connection between physical, spiritual, and communal renewal, and the ways in which the Shema facilitates those processes.
Shavu’ote is a great time for this work, because it’s when we commemorate and celebrate the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. We’re reminded that Torah is constantly unfolding. We are encouraged to hear – to open our receptive faculties, and to re-accept what is available to us in each moment. The Hebrew root ש-מ-ע connotes not only hearing, but obeying (being true to) and understanding (being one with). At such times, we have the chance to be newly aware, and appreciative, of the holy within the every day; the burning bush waiting to be noticed; the miraculous within the mundane. This is not a dream – it’s a discipline. We say it, sing it, chant it, and increase our ability to live it.
After this meditation session, I got to soak up Ezra Furman’s heart-achingly beautiful songs, and drum my brains out with Taylor of Holy Goat Percussion. The cumulative effect was full-body and out-of-body. Deeply spiritual, deep-tissue, and fun. It was a night of celebration and meaning making, with a diverse group of seekers and practitioners. Mishkan specializes in such moments, and that’s why I’ll keep coming back.