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Lisa GoldsteinShavuot: coming back to the mountain again, preparing, hoping to hear a Voice. How does the Voice address us?

Is it accompanied by thunder and lightening and the shaking earth? Is it the thin, small sound heard best in silence? Is it dressed in garments of tradition, Hebrew or English letters, songs, stories, poetry, laws?


Does it disguise itself in the words of our fellow travelers or the wail of someone in pain or the touch of a beloved?


And what would we like the Voice to say to us? And how might we respond? On this Shavuot, the Time of Giving Torah, may we all hear what our souls need to hear, in whatever language or manifestation our souls can hear it.


Chag sameach! Happy Shavuot!


With blessings,


Jordan Bendat-Appell
Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appell,
Director of Regional Programs

Torah is Now


Our mystics teach us that the Torah was given once at Sinai, but we have the opportunity to receive it in every moment. This teaching invites us into an experience of relating to each moment as an ever-unfolding revelation.  It welcomes us to encounter the complexity, mystery and richness of this moment as if it were Torah; each detail essential, each nuance a window into universes of divine meaning.    

What would it be like if we related to our experience with the assumption that there is great meaning to be found, as if each moment were a treasured verse of Torah?  Could this breath be experienced as perfect?  Could I notice and appreciate the light as it falls in this room, right now?  Might my next conversation be one that I enter with the assumption that there is Torah to be learned here -- what is the Torah of my friend, my child, my parent, this stranger?   
The Midrash (Shemot Rabbah 29:9) teaches that at the moment of the revelation at Sinai, "no bird twittered, no fowl flew, no ox lowed, none of the angels stirred a wing, the seraphim did not say "Holy, Holy," the sea did not roar, the creatures spoke not, the whole world was hushed into breathless silence and the Voice went forth..."  Through quieting the mind we allow the Voice to be present.  May we find this Shavuot, as always, that it is through the practice of silence, of deep listening and awareness, that we allow the Torah of this moment to be revealed.
Stories of Transformation:
I Learned How to Pray


Jill Schneiderman
Jill Schneiderman, PhD
Jewish Meditation Teacher Training alumna


I think of myself as an odd duck, having traveled a path of geology to environmental justice, with meditation and Judaism as part of the journey. 

From a young age, starting at Camp Woodcliff in the Catskill Mountains of New York, where my dad was the camp director, nature, Judaism and awe became intertwined. As a teenager, while visiting the Grand Canyon, the Grand Tetons and Yosemite, I learned about geologic time and the earth. I loved it.

For me, studying the earth is an act of devotion. During undergraduate school, I persevered as a geology major, tamping down wonder and awe, asking, "Why?" rather than noticing the, "Wow!"

As my career progressed, through graduate school and beyond, I studied metamorphic rocks in collisional mountain belts asking questions about their origins millions of years ago. Later in my career when I tired of focusing on geologic problems that seemed not so relevant to life on Earth today, I studied sediment in the Nile Delta, looking back 14,000 years.

At Vassar, I began to teach earth science and environmental justice, believing that environmental justice joins commitment and knowledge. It was a way to light a fire beneath students who cared about right and wrong and didn't know about the earth. However, though my intention was to inspire students towards action on behalf of all living beings on earth, I found that I was depressing them. We ran into case after case in which we've poisoned the earth and all that lives on it.

In 2006, I began to learn how to melt glass as a way to experience the transformation of solids to liquids. It became a first person experience in the kind of transformation that takes place in the earth. I learned that working with glass is a meditative activity that requires focused attention.

One thing led to another, and I found my way to contemplative practices and Buddhism sitting with Sylvia Boorstein and Sharon Salzberg at the Garrison Institute. Though I loved these experiences, they didn't speak to me as a Jew. When I learned about the Institute's Jewish Meditation Teacher Training program I signed up. I hoped that it would help me feel more whole in my practice.

At first, I felt a bit insecure because the course had many rabbis and cantors who of course knew much more about Judaism than I did having grown up in Reform Judaism. But the IJS program ended up teaching me so much about Judaism in an embodied way. It connected me to the beauty of rituals in Judaism. After the program I felt motivated and entitled to get myself a tallis. It's so beautiful and I can make a tent for myself no matter where I am.

As an academic, my workplace provides fewer opportunities than I would like to have an outlet for my heart. JMTT gave me the opportunity to validate the endeavor of going deeply into my hope. And that led to other amazing things.

This past fall I taught a seminar on Environmental Justice. I ended every class with a sitting meditation. I knew it would seem wacky, in a geology class! But I told the students to think of it as a lab. They sat and then wrote a reflection on what came up. It provided a vessel for their quandaries and it was soothing for them. We sat with the reality that there is no immediate answer and that the process of healing is communal.



Jill Schneiderman, Ph.D.

Jill is a professor of earth sciences at Vassar College, also involved in gender studies and environmental studies. She was a member of the first cohort of the Institute's Jewish Meditation Teacher Training program.


Visit our Brand New Website!

We are proud to announce that, in response to so many of your requests, we are debuting our new website with plenty of resources and easier to find retreat planning! 
Amongst our new features, we now have a weekly blog from Executive Director Lisa Goldstein.  Here's a little taste:
"Shavuot, the holiday that celebrates the gift of Torah, begins on Saturday night.  The Torah itself describes this occasion as being accompanied by dramatic and terrifying noise and spectacle:  thunder, long shofar blasts, earthquake, fire and smoke.   As I type this, I am listening to the honks and sirens on Seventh Avenue far below, and I wonder:   if Mt. Sinai were in New York City, would anyone notice if God started proclaiming?..." 

Summer 2012 Retreats
 Trinity Retreat & Conference Center
West Cornwall, CT 


Open Retreat
 June 5-June 8


Silent Shabbaton
Hearing the Still, Small Voice
June 13-June 15


(professional alumni) 
June 15-June 19


We hope you may find some of these resources useful in your practice: 

Encounters with the Divine:  Hidden and Revealed (podcast)

Mountaintop Deliberations

Spirituality: Tikkun L'eyl Shavuot The Many Paths to Revelation of Torah


Ready for Shavuot? Close Your Eyes, Take Three Deep Breaths

Shavuot, King David, and Ruth

Shavuot and Social Justice Themes
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