Torah Study for the Soul:
1 BA Bereshit
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Parshah | Journeys | Practice for this week
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Journeying with the Soul
Join rabbis, cantors and leaders across the country and across denominations in -
Journeying with the Torah:
Week by Week, Season by Season, Moment to Moment
Torah study and practice
with Rabbi Yael Levy
I will walk in the presence of the One in the Lands of Life. Psalm 116:9
Welcome to a Torah journey through time.
Each week we will listen into the Torah portion to discern teachings that can guide our intentions, practices, and actions. Honoring Torah as a "Tree of Life" we will explore how it leads us through the seasons offering insights and questions that can help us live with fuller awareness and compassion. We hope you will join us.
Cost for the year: $240
Lech Lecha: Stepping Forward into Uncertainty
Go to yourself, from your land, from the place of your birth, from the house of your father, to a land that I will show you. Bereshit 12:1
The Torah teaches:
A journey begins with a call.
The Wisdom of the Universe speaking:
Listen, pay attention, awaken to the stirrings of your heart.
Place your feet on solid ground.
Before the first step, before even setting your course open to questions:
Where have my roots been planted?
Who has come before me?
What has nurtured my body and soul?
As you lift your eyes to the road ahead, wonder what is worthwhile to carry forward and what is best laid down.
Understand that you do not need to know where you are going in order to begin.
When God called to Avram, lech lecha - go into yourself; step forward into the unknown, Avram responded by acknowledging where he had come from. He gathered people he loved and collected the resources he had accumulated.
In this way he readied himself to turn from what was toward what could be.
A journey begins with a return.
Hagar, running away from her home with Avram and Sarai, found herself lost in the desert. Pausing she heard a messenger of God call her by name, "Hagar, where have you come from and where are you going?" Bereshit 16:7
Hagar answered the first question, "I am running away from the pain of difficult and harsh relationships."
The messenger answered the second question:
Return to the truth of your experiences, the truths of who you are, this will show you the way forward.
A journey is guided up by connection
God said to Avram, "Do not fear-I am shield for you." Bereshit 15:1
There will be much you will experience--events, encounters beyond your wildest imagination, and I am with you. I am on your heart helping you discern what is true.
Go forward with me, God tells Avram, the path will appear as you take each step.
And it will be for blessing. In response Avram built an altar of thanksgiving and called on the name of the One
In the wilderness God said to Hagar - Take notice, there is life inside of you-underneath all the pain, difficulty and hardship are stirrings of new life, new possibilities beyond your wildest dreams. Bereshit 16:11
These possibilities are too vast to even fathom. Take notice, within your experience is understanding and connection.
In the midst of pain and fear Hagar heard God call to her. And she named God, this experience of relationship and awareness, el roi: The Mystery that Sees Me. The Mystery that Helps Me See. Bereshit 16:13
Each of us is called to step forward into the unknown. Each of us is called to turn, change, become, in the face of uncertainty. Each of us is called to live fully and completely, even as we never know what life will bring.
The Torah urges us to pay attention, to listen, to be discerning. The Torah urges us to feel our feet on solid ground, to feel ourselves standing on what we know, to honor who we are. The Torah reminds us we don't have to let go of everything in order to become more of ourselves. We can lift up where we have been, we can call forth what we love, we can hold the resources we have gathered. These practices can help us step forward into the paths of uncertainty.
The Torah also makes clear that sometimes our journeys are going to painful. The paths to discovery, the paths to becoming, can at times bring us through deep hardship and pain. The wisdom of the Torah reminds us that the experience of pain is not necessarily a sign that we made the wrong decision. It is important for us to stop, to be discerning and listen. Sometimes it is the pain that is the guide and teacher.
And the wisdom of our tradition urges us to look for signs, to take notice and trust that there will always be guides along the way. We are not journeying alone. The Mystery of the Universe is by our side, has our back and will be with us through the challenges and into the blessings. The Mystery of the Universe will help us find our way again and again..
|Practice for this week
Practice for this week: Magen Avraham, El Roi Hagar
We place a magen, a shield, a guide, al levavecha, upon our hearts, with the intention that this magen is strong, sure and permeable. With the intention that the magen lets in what is good and true and helps us turn from what is distracting and harsh. That it guides us in being discerning and encourages us to trust that we will discover how best to step forward into the fullness of our lives.
For Avram the magen held the letters yod heh vav heh. For Hagar the magen was the name she found for God, el roi.
As we sit this week we wonder with love, compassion and kindness what word, phrase or image we can place upon our hearts as a magen and as a zecar, a reminder, that we have all we need to step forward and we are being guided and protected upon on our journeys.
For our sit:
We let our attention rest upon our breath. Feeling the breath moving through our body. Letting the breath guide us in feeling our body held by the chair, by the floor, by our cushion. With our breath we bring our attention to our heart space and we ask with patience and curiosity: "What word or image might I place upon my heart as a magen?" Breathing into the heart space we ask this question 3, 5, 10 times, with love and care.
Then we return our attention to the breath noticing whatever arises. A word, phrase or image might appear. Or perhaps only distracting or anxious thoughts will arises. When this happens, we gently, during our sit and each day go back to the question: "What word, phrase or image might I place upon my heart as a magen, a shield and a guide?" When and if a word or phrase appears we can use this as an anchor and guide to hold and direct our attention during our sits, placing it upon our hearts, letting it rise and fall with each breath.
We can also return to the word during the day calling it forth and letting it focus and direct our attention. We might want to add our own name to the phrase or word as we do in the amida when we say magenavraham. Or we can use the word by itself letting it hold and guide us, allowing it to give us courage and strength.
This week in the journey through bereshit we are guided by the letter aleph which calls forth ahavah-love. As we journey may we place al levavecha, upon our hearts, and before our eyes, words, phrases and images that help us trust we are seen, held and guided by love.
And may it be for blessing for us and all beings
Shalom, Rabbi Yael