About This Circle
The great contemporary thinker and writer Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz writes that just as we swing daily between sleep and waking, so too we need to oscillate between the two opposing modes of study and prayer.
In study, he says, we question, we critique, we analyze. We ask and ask and every question is not only permitted but encouraged. In prayer, on the other hand, we let go of our questions and step out of our critical minds. In prayer we become simple and whole-hearted. For many of us, simplicity does not come easily.
We have been raised to always question both others and ourselves, and find it almost impossible to turn off the inner voice of doubt and disbelief. But Steinsaltz’s insight may help us to see that a balanced Jewish life allows and even requires us to move constantly back and forth between the two equally essential modes of doubt and faith.
Each of us will find our own doorway into the mode of prayer: for many, music has the power to move us from doubt to faith. For others, silence. For yet others, the ancient poetry of our Hebrew prayer book has the power to shift our consciousness from the eager, vital, hungry mode of questioning to the still, quiet, deep mode of simplicity.
- Make a practice of reciting the Shma at bedtime
- Set a regular time during the day to meditate (check out Jewish Meditation by Aryeh Kaplan)
- Say a blessing and take a moment to think before eating
- Attend services at synagogue
- Go shul-hopping. Explore the various synagogues of Santa Barbara and begin to learn what helps you pray
- Learn to wrap tefillin (leather phylacteries) and begin each day with shacharit (Jewish sunrise prayers)
- Say a mi shebeirach prayer for those in need of healing
- Walking alone on the beach, or in the mountains, talk out loud to God in English, sharing everything that is in your heart (this is an old Jewish practice called hitbodedut)
- Sitting alone or with someone you love, turn on a CD of sacred music (whatever that is to you) and allow the music to lift you to heaven