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Sinai and the Chariot: Two Guided Visualizations for Shavuot

By Rabbi Jill Hammer 

 

Both the revelation at Sinai and the revelation of Ezekiel represent profound moments in the history of connection between human being and the Divine. The two visualizations below are meditations on these two revelations. They are based on the Torah reading and haftarah for the first day of Shavuot. They are meant to explore what personal revelation might mean for us.  

 

These meditations can be used by individuals or in community. The quotes at the beginning of each visualization are not part of the visualization but are meant to give context from our sacred texts. You may wish to read the texts beforehand on your own or share them with the group you are working with. If you use these visualizations in community, you may wish to make space for people to share their visualizations in pairs or small groups afterward.  

 

I wish to thank Dr. Catherine Shainberg, a meditation guide in the kabbalistic traditions of Provence, with whom I learned this week. Her work inspired the Sinai meditation. 

 

1. Sinai

 

Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke, for the Divine had come down on it in fire, the smoke rose like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled. The blast of the horn grew louder and louder. Moses spoke, and God answered him with a voice."

Exodus 19:18-19

 

Close your eyes and begin to watch your breath. When your mind has quieted, see and feel that you are walking through a wilderness. You are carrying a record of all your questions, doubts, insecurities, fears, and imperfections. See this record in your hands. You walk through the wilderness until you come to the foot of a mountain. The mountain is wreathed in clouds. You see strikes of lightning and you hear enormous thunderclaps. 

 

Approach the mountain and climb it. On this mountain, you find a stone that has a place for the record you have brought. Place the record of your doubts and fears on this stone as an offering to God. You hear thunder and see lightning. When you look at the stone again, something new has appeared, something that is the answer of the Divine to your offering. See what this revelation is. Accept it and take its wisdom into yourself.

 

Walk back down the mountain. As you do so, begin to notice your breath. Return to focusing on your breath and become aware of your surroundings. Open your eyes.

 

 

2.  The Chariot

 

On the fifth day of the fourth month, when I was in the community of exiles by the Chebar canal, the heavens opened and I saw visions of God...I looked, and a stormy wind came sweeping out of the north, a huge cloud and flashing fire, surrounded by a radiance, and in the center of it, in the center of the fire, a gleam as of amber. In the center of it were also the figures of four creatures, and this was their appearance...Each of them had a human face, each of the four had the face of a lion on the right, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left, and each of the four had the face of an eagle at the back.

Ezekiel 1:1, 4-5, 10

 

 

Stay with your breath and close your eyes. See before you a field. Walk out into the field. You will see a chariot flying in the sky, approaching you. Lightning flashes around the chariot. As you watch, it will land.

 

When you approach the chariot, you will see four creatures attached to it. These are the hayot hakodesh, the holy beasts, the majestic creatures who bear the divine chariot aloft in Heaven. As you circle the chariot, you observe these four creatures, each with four faces and four wings. Focus your attention on one of the cherubim. Its wings are hiding the face that is turned to you.

 

As you focus on this creature, it moves its wings and you are able to see its face that looks like a cow or bull. Look deeply into the eyes of this face. The gift of these eyes is that they carry the weight of the world. As you look into the eyes of this creature, you experience your own burden being lifted. Notice what this burden is.

 

The creature turns and shifts its wings and you are now able to see the face that is a lion or lioness' face. Look deeply into these eyes. The lion bears the gift of courage. As you look into the eyes of the lion, you are able to face something you have not been able to face. Notice what this new seeing is.

 

The creature turns and shifts once more and you are able to see its face that is an eagle's face. Look deeply into the eyes of the eagle. This eagle carries the gift of seeing from afar. As you look into the eyes of the eagle, you see yourself from the eagle's perspective. What do you look like in the eyes of the eagle?

 

The creature turns and shifts again and now you are able to see its fourth face. This is a human face. The eyes of this face look at you with love. Look into the eyes of this face and accept its love. Notice what changes when you accept this love.

 

The holy creature shields itself with its wings and you now focus your attention within the chariot. You notice a flame flashing among the four creatures, like a torch. This is the presence of the Divine. The presence invites you to step into the chariot, and for a moment, it lifts just barely off the ground. As it does so, you feel something being repaired that has not been repaired.

 

Stay in this moment of hovering, before the chariot descends and the presence invites you to step out of the chariot and back into the field. Watch the chariot as it rises to the sky. Then walk in the field, back toward the point where you began. Return to your breath until you feel ready to open your eyes.

 

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Rabbi Jill Hammer, PhD, is the Director of Spiritual Education at the Academy for Jewish Religion and the author of five books, including the forthcoming The Hebrew Priestess: Ancient and New Visions of Jewish Women's Spirituality - www.benyehudapress.com.
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