By: Rabbi Lori Shapiro
It’s a radical act of defiance. A counter-cultural stand-off, and transcends gaslighting, call-outs, and hash-tags. Most importantly, it’s not about how much others have missed the mark, but rather, draws attention to our own contributions to this world’s seemingly spinning out-of-control on the Road to Nowhere.
And it begins now.
The High Holidays are an act of public protest, and it’s time that we take responsibility for our complicity and our sorrow as we begin the journey to T’shuvah, an authentic Return to Self.
We invite all of us to follow our guide (click on the link below), attend a Sound Bath (complete with bowls, gong and shofar), and slam it out in your Soul Journal (available to Co-Creators at High Holiday services). Lay on the sand enveloped by sound waves as we announce the beginning of the month of Elul on the beach, with waves washing away the layers of resistance; visit Wi Spa for a night of Selichot and Song; get buried in the Yom Kippur observance of inner eternity, and so many other Open Temple Happenings to engage in this process as all of us Begin Again.
Get to Open Temple High Holiday Ritual Lab and Begin Again.
Mordecai Kaplan described Judaism as “The evolving religious civilization of the Jewish people.” Indeed, we are a peoplehood engaged in an endless dynamic of discovery, innovation and reinvention. One recent innovation borrows from the Counting of the Omer (that period of time between Passover and Shavuot, famously made relevant through the rabbis of the mussar movement, who added a layer of moral cathesthenic to the Counting of the Days as we ascended to Sinai). This new innovation shares this practice of self-discipline to the work of Heshbon haNefesh (accounting of the Soul), and companions the counting of the days between Tisha b’Av, which began Saturday, August 10, through Rosh HaShanah, September 29 this year.
At Open Temple, we are adopting this reflective practice as a companion through these reflective days leading up to the Yamim Nora’im aka the High Holidays.
High Holiday Mussar Practice: From 9 Av to 1 Tishrei
(This practice is adapted from Tamar Frankiel, PhD, Past President of AJR/CA. Open Temple is thrilled to have Professor Frankiel as a guest instructor for our Intro to Judaism and Kabbalah classes):
Week 1: Malkhut, 10-16 Av, August 11-17:
Review the past year, making a list of what was “finished” this year (so far as you can tell), either things you accomplished or things that came to completion or apparent end in some other way. These could be in any area of your life: your personal well-being, finances, relationships, house & home, family, earning money, studying, volunteering, creative projects, repair projects, new jobs, travel or vacations . . . think broadly. Take 5 or 10 minutes to jot down things the first day, and add at least one thing to the list each day.
Week 2: Yesod, 17-23 Av, August 18-24
Look at the list from last week, and now think of all the channels that had to open for these things to be accomplished: people who helped you or taught you, information you gathered, beings or places of the natural world, dreams or spiritual messages, resources like money or other physical things. This is a little bit like thinking of all that has to happen for food to be on your table, but now focused on your past year and its “deeds,” things that got done.
Week 3: Hod, 24 Av–1 Elul, August 25-Sept. 1
Express gratitude for all that you have recognized in weeks 1 and 2, and see if there are any other moments of gratitude you remember from the past year. Also ask yourself if there is anything you want to do to “give back,” either in new expressions of thanks (to people, other beings, God….) or reciprocity to them, or to give back by “paying it forward.” Perhaps you remember already actions in the past year where you paid it forward or passed it on; appreciate those too. Also, remember those times when you let yourself be completely receptive (okay, even partially receptive) to the help you received from others. What does that receptivity feel like? Give thanks for that too.
Week 4: Netzach, 2–8 Elul, Sept 2-8
Think of the effort you put out this year, the obstacles that you encountered, and how you dealt with them. This includes how you took responsibility, how you persevered even when it was hard, and how you dealt with resistance or self-doubt. Recognize your strength and courage and the affirmations you received for acting in strong ways. Who helped you with this?
Week 5: Tiferet, 9–16 Elul, Sept 9-16
Of the things that happened the past year (whether ‘finished’ yet or not), which ones felt most like your authentic self coming to expression? Contemplate these memories and recognize the feelings of wholeness, healing, and satisfaction that come from those moments of authenticity.
Week 6: Gevurah 17-23 Elul, Sept 17-23
What lessons have you learned from the events of the first year? Go back to Week 1 and think whether there are things that you intended to complete but didn’t, and examine what was the blockage and whether there is something to be learned from that. Perhaps you later realized it was better that you didn’t continue in that effort, or perhaps there is a correction you can make for the future. If there are any other painful events you experienced besides blocking of your action (just this past year!), what were their sources? What fine-tuning or mid-course corrections did you make, and did those help? Give thanks for the lessons.
Week 7: Hesed 24-29 Elul, Sept 24-29
What in the past year were the gifts you most cherished? Was there anything that felt like a gift beyond your expectations? Where did things come out even better than you had hoped? Did something you dreaded or feared turn out to be a source of blessing, did darkness turn to light or the unknown become a source of insight? Give thanks for this too, and think of how you might “pass it on” by telling others, in stories or other ways.
Get to Open Temple High Holiday Ritual Lab and Begin Again.
P.S. Be Warned, Friends: We Will Sell Out This Year as We Only Have Room for 120 Souls. Tickets available HERE.