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Rabbi Eva's New Years Letter

12/30/2017 02:14:08 PM

Dec30

Dear Shul Family and Friends,

 

This weekend we turn our attention to ringing in 2018. Just as we do on Rosh Hashanah, many of us mark this time in our secular calendar to assess our lives and reflect on how we live. Oh yes, those resolutions! For a moment in time, we imagine ‘what if’ and ‘how will I’ and make promises to ourselves that THIS is the year to participate in Shul services and events, get to the gym, take that trip on our bucket list, learn a new language, or heal a broken relationship.

 

This weekend also marks the cycle in our Torah reading, completing the final chapters in the book of Genesis and beginning the second book in the Torah, Exodus. Through the stories of our ancestors, we have traveled from the beginning of time and Creation and encountered a cast of characters that have informed our lineage as Jews. In Exodus, we meet Moses and travel with him from Egypt through the wilderness as he leads the Israelites to redemption. It is a long and arduous path across the desert. We learn that no journey is simple and often it takes a combination of resolve, perseverance and support to reach our destination. As the saying goes, ‘it’s not the destination….it’s the journey that gives meaning to our lives.’ This journey is often one of faith, as there is no freeway or bypass to get to the promised land.

 

As we cross the threshold to a new year, we have renewed opportunities to assess where we are on our personal spiritual journeys. It is my intention to support you in your spiritual growth and transformation to live a more mindful, compassionate and meaningful life. Are you curious about exploring the spiritual dimension of your life but don’t know how to begin? Are you interested in adding to your spiritual toolbox? Would you like to cultivate practices that reflect your most authentic positive self as you navigate through each day? This semester, I will be facilitating a series of group discussions on exploring various spiritual practices through a Jewish lens. The dates and locations will be posted shortly.

 

I am also available to meet individually for Spiritual Direction, a process by which an individual sits with a trained spiritual director to examine their spiritual life and relationship with the Divine. Please write to me directly at rabbieva@theshulofnewyork.org. You can read a description of Spiritual Direction on the Shul’s website to learn more.

 

One of my favorite spiritual practices is singing. How many of you find yourself singing in your head throughout the day? Maybe you awake from a dream singing a familiar or made-up melody? Reb Nachman of Breslov, the latter 18th century Hassidic Master wrote:

 

It’s good for a person to accustom himself with a nigun,[wordless melody] because a nigun is a powerful tool, and it has the great strength to awaken a person and point his heart towards the Blessed Name. And even one who doesn’t know how to play music (or sing out loud) can sing to himself and through that revive himself. For the ‘lift’ of a nigun cannot be measured.

 

I have just completed my fifth year of participating in the Jewish Singing Community Intensive, an urban retreat with Joey Weisenberg and faculty. For four full days, a group of almost 100 people gathered to study Torah through learning and singing nigunim (wordless melodies) together. We have begun to sing some of these beautiful, transformative melodies in our Shabbat and High Holiday services. Our tradition and texts are filled with stories about the power of music. The Levites sang and performed music at the Temple. The angels’ primary job was to sing. Even the prophets required music in order to make prophecies.

 

Everyone and everything sings….all the flora and fauna have their own song. Even inanimate objects sing. I continue to attend this retreat because it is a way for me to fine-tune my ability to listen to the songs within and around me. Our teachers reinforce that singing is all about listening. For example, during the group’s first meeting early Christmas morning, the only external sound we heard was that of a siren. (In contrast to the jackhammers the year before!) We listened attentively for many moments, and before we knew it, we were all singing the song of the siren. From there emerged a vibrational melody and then we layered harmony. Then came the instrumental accompaniment and we set a rhythm through percussions. For almost an hour, we riffed on this theme and as we concluded, we had bonded as a group through song.

 

For those who have attended the monthly chanting circles hosted by the JCC we experience a similar connection within ourselves and with those in our community through the repetition of a phrase. We set an intention before we begin, and then after the niggun or chant, we sit in silence and listen to the song in our heart. It is often a powerful and transformative experience. I find that singing is one of the many ways we can feel the presence of the Divine. I believe if is from this place of connection that we can enter the world with more compassion, love and the ability to help heal the world.

 

In the coming year, I invite you to join me on a journey through chanting and signing nigunim. Check the calendar for dates.

 

We at The Shul of New York understand that music is a signature feature of our community and enlivens us in so many ways. Adam and the Shul Band masterfully enrich our services through song and instruments. How fortunate we are! If you haven’t attended a service in awhile, please join us on January 5th and 26th to experience Shabbat joy with our Shul Band.

 

And….speaking of music….it’s time to mark your calendars now for the ‘Band Together in Love’ concert at the Angel Orensanz Foundation, featuring our Shul Band and friends on Saturday, February 24th. Tickets go on sale soon! You won’t want to miss this fabulous evening of great music!

 

May each of you be blessed with finding the song in your heart throughout 2018.

May our songs bring peace, love, compassion and inspire action to bring healing in our world.

 

~ Rabbi Eva

 

 

Mon, April 23 2018 8 Iyar 5778