By way of preface:
The "Jewish Spirituality" mailing list is an outgrowth of several conversations in which people told me that they felt "alone" in their quest to develop their relationship with Gd. I knew they weren't alone, just from my own interactions with other people, and so I extended an invitation to the Jewish community of Rhode Island to join in a weekly mailing list exploring issues within their relationship with HaShem.
Many of the messages posted on the list reflect people's personal struggles and sensitivities. As a result, some of the people who post remarks on this list opt to do so anonymously; they send me the e-mail, and I drop their names. The list is "blind cc'd," as well, so that no one knows who else is on the list. Our goal is that the members of this list should draw strength and inspiration from the words of their peers, and thereby continue to develop as Jews.
Jewish Spirituality - Volume 6
One With Gd
Re: Earlier Generations
Re: Repairing the Relationship
Tapes and Books on Jewish Spirituality
By: Mordechai Torczyner
I am glad to report that, as you can see, the e-mail contributions to this list keep coming in, and we have plenty of material. Some posters have noted, though, that they have raised issues and others have not yet responded.
My best advice is that if you are going to write a long post, do some kind of summation of your issue/question at the end. Otherwise, readers may get lost in the post and not realize you want a reaction to a specific point.
In addition, feel free to re-post a question; we have new readers joining every week, and so it will be new to them.
Subject: Carlebacher Shabbaton
By: Alan Krinsky
Fellow list members, I've been inspired by our discussion of spirituality
to revive an idea I've had for some time now. Although I do not know them
personally, I understand that there is a couple in Sharon who learned with
Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, z"l. I would like to invite them to come down to
Providence for a Shabbaton (I know they have done similar programs in
Brookline, at least). I think such a program, open to the community, would
be a wonderful opportunity to recharge our spirituality. For those of you
who have ever davened in the Carlebacher shul in Manhattan for Kabbalas
Shabbes, or ever had the opportunity to hear and see Shlomo Carlebach in
concert, you know what I mean. For those who have never done so, let me
just say I have never experienced a more spiritually fulfilling Friday
night davening, with the combination of singing and dancing. (I do recall
another, similar experience, by the "Happy Minyan" in Efrat...)
Anyway, the purpose of my posting this message is not simply to inform, but
to recruit. First of all, are any of you interested in general? Secondly,
who wants to help me organize this, as I do not want to do it alone? I
would hope for a community-wide event, with children encouraged to attend,
an affordable dinner done at cost, with lots of song and story-telling. I
suppose interested individuals could contact me directly at
firstname.lastname@example.org, and if there are enough people for an organizing
committee we could go ahead with the idea.
As a last note, I would love to use such a program as a springboard for the
future. I am bad at remembering tunes, but I figure if enough of us can
remember how it all goes, we could have, say, a monthly Carlebacher-style
davening in Providence-Pawtucket.
I've been focusing my spiritual work on davening recently and had questions on which I would appreciate feedback from readers of this list...
Is there a particular focus or objective for a given davening (no particular davening- just a weekday mincha or maariv, etc.) that people have found helpful? Are there specific issues you work on or is there an approach you take in the davening, beyond just the words in the printed text?
What approaches have others found helpful for a longer horizon? Say, starting from today for the next week or month, what is a good objective to work on in
davening? What is a good benchmark with which to measure progress?
I look forward to getting ideas from others and hearing about their experiences, progress and frustrations...
By: Elaine Saklad
I've been following the discussion with much interest, and from various
people's submissions, I've come to a realization that may be obvious to
everyone but me: I need to spiritually prepare for Shabbos and
yomtov. I've been ignoring that aspect of the preparations too much of the
time. In general, I tend to put off most of the preparations for too long,
saving the shopping, cooking, etc until the last minute. The spiritual
aspect often gets ignored altogether, until sometimes, as someone else
wrote, I feel that I've missed the whole thing. I need to read, listen to
a tape, or something BEFORE the time of kedusha comes. It has to be a
priority, and needs to be in my thoughts before I get busy with physical
preparations. This may not be easy to accomplish, fitting in something else
along with the job, family, etc., but I'm going to have to try.
Subject: One with Gd
By: Scott Spiegler
> But you must FEEL the ONE-ness in order to spread it.
> And that is what we must work on, FEELING, and
> thereby REALIZING, the ONE-ness of G-d's pressence
> and cultivating the JOY, LOVE, HAPPINESS, and
> AMAZEMENT OF LIFE, that comes out from that
> "REALization of ONE".
A question to the author of this post (and generally
to list members), do you have suggestions on ways in
which we, as Jews, can come to feel that one-ness with
G-d? In other words, how practically can you work on
this issue of feeling intimately connected to G-d?
Subject: Re: Earlier Generations
By: Mordechai Torczyner
An anonymous poster inquired (Vol. 4) about a popularly held belief that earlier generations were "more spiritually elevated."
I find that there are a number of ways to think about this idea; here are a few:
1. Torah Sensitivity
There is no question in my mind that the sages of earlier generations had a greater _sense_ of the Torah, to go along with their greater knowledge. This is expressed in a mystical idea regarding "emanations from Sinai," but it is also something we see when we read the writings of earlier generations. Their knowledge, as well as their awe of Gd, comes through.
2. Methods of approaching Gd
There may well be a great difference between the methods of earlier generations, and our methods, vis-a-vis physical needs and the way they affect us.
As R' Kalonymus Kalman wrote, earlier generations had a strength of body which we (generally) do not have. The type of labor they performed, and the living conditions they endured, demanded a greater physical discipline and mental toughness than is commonplace in our own times.
Remember, these were people who came closer to Gd when rolling in snow, fasting, and even flagellating themselves. This is not to say that these were everyone's methods; my point is only that the physical discipline of earlier times was greater than it is now - for both sages and other people.
Think how many times our spiritual focus is interrupted by wayward thoughts related to physical needs and desires! Were we to have this discipline, I think we would have an easier time reining these distractions in.
The issue of luxury is also important. I think we might find it easier to draw close to Gd were we not surrounded by the many luxuries which have become "necessities." As we heap more distractions around us, it becomes harder for us to ignore them.
I think there is more to say; I'll leave it to others to pick up the ball.
Subject: Re: Repairing the Relationship
> how do people manage their relationship with G-d in a meaningful way, when they
> feel that they are not being given what they want and need in life from Him? How
> do you continue to maintain the enthusiasm or at least the interest in pursuing the
> relationship? How do people repair the relationship when they are problems
> between you and G-d?
In Vol. 3 of this list, I contributed a lengthy post from which the above was taken. I really would appreciate hearing reactions to my questions. I extracted the questions from the post to help focus on those specific issues.
The most direct way I can think of to rephrase my first question is this- when you pray to G-d for things that you need and they are not given to you, how do you react to G-d? In other words, what is a healthy model for reacting, without denying the disappointment, when you've repeatedly asked for something, and you just don't receive it?
I would rephrase the second question like this- if your reaction to G-d in not receiving is to feel angry, hurt and estranged towards Him (which is mine), what can you do practically to begin to lessen the distance that you've created in your feeling hurt and angry? How do you repair the relationship??
Thoughful and caring responses are most appreciated and welcome...
Subject: Spiritual Feelings
By: Scott Spiegler
> Spirituality is an emotion a feeling. The doing and
> thinking of commandments produces spirituality.
> Doing impacts on feelings to a much greater extent
> than thinking and the both together have the greatest
I wanted to comment on the statement that spirituality
is a feeling. I would respectfully disagree on this
point. I think spirituality is a state of being. I
would liken it more to how close or how far away one
is from G-d.
If one were to view spirituality along a continuum, as
one reader suggested in last week's edition, I would
say that each one of us could describe their spiritual
development as lying figuratively at some point along
that continuum. The more elevated one's spiritual
development is- the closer to the end at which G-d
'sits' would you be. The lower the level, the further
away. That is how I would describe the spirituality of
I'm not sure if this is what Rafi was getting at, but
I do think that there is a deepening sense of
well-being, satisfaction and inner joy that we
experience, as our spirituality grows and we move
closer to G-d. But, I do not think that spirituality
itself is an emotion or a feeling.
[Ed: In the original e-mail, I accidentally omitted the closing paragraph, and then re-printed the post correctly in Volume 7. This is the omitted paragraph:
I do, however, think he is correct in saying, "Doing
impacts on feelings to a much greater extent than
thinking". I can relate this to the words I quoted
from R' Kirzner ZT"L, which roughly paraphrased are-
we come to have attachments to the one (read One) to
whom we give. That is, the more I *do* G-dly avodah-
the more I feel the attachment. And, inversely, the
less I do, the less attached I feel. I really think
this is so true, and I thank him for reminding me of
that in his post.
Subject: Tapes and Books on Jewish Spirituality
I really appreciate the existence of this list. There do seem to be many thoughtful and sincere posters here. I had a suggestion and a request.
I think it would be a good idea for there to be a FAQ (frequently asked questions) for this list. In particular, I'd really like to hear from others what books and tapes they have found helpful and/or meaningful in working on their Jewish Spirituality?
I think it would be nice to have a resource list of such books, tapes and other materials online. Thanks in advance for your ideas!
[Ed note: I am working on the FAQ - MT]
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