Those who attended last weekend’s kallah had a wonderful time of learning and laughing, eating and singing, and enjoying the camaraderie and community that marks B’Chavana.
Many thanks to Robin and Stew for tending to the logistics of our program, as well as our social time, with Stew leading the musical gatherings and Robin planning games for Saturday night. Thanks, too, to Rachel who gave me helpful and instructive feedback on the learning program and initiated and led a portion of it herself. Our learning was so jam-packed that we didn’t even have time for one of those programs – about God, love and prayer – so look for it at an upcoming Shabbat gathering.
I’d like to share a line or two about each of our learning programs along with links to the materials we used, in case attendees would like to follow up and those who couldn’t make it would like a sampling. Several of the readings are found in this Readings Packet: (https://1drv.ms/w/s!Ap8Bo5h3n_XrgfgZoQgHV0d1H1BEMQ); others will be linked to the program description below.
We began by asking what prayer is (Reading Packet: Hampl) and after sharing our own prayer experiences in Panim-el-Panim, we looked at two fundamentals of Jewish prayer: a) the concepts of Help! Thanks! Wow! and b) a Ladder of Prayer (https://1drv.ms/b/s!Ap8Bo5h3n_XrgfgI7jz9qp-hifl4kQ).
As a prelude to Kabbalat Shabbat, we explored the spiritual potential of the Niggun, a song/chant without words (in the Readings Packet pp.2-3; Lubavitchers singing a niggun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EW6cTS2XrV8&list=PLtYEpvmm_ilzj_yYrMzNriDuak7N7b6lM&index=23&t=183s; Anoushka Shankar on music in the Hindu tradition, On Being: https://onbeing.org/programs/anoushka-shankar-stephen-mitchell-and-roberta-bondi-approaching-prayer/#audio).
At breakfast on Shabbat morning we introduced the notion of Spontaneous Prayer and enabled everyone to begin thinking about how to do that. At each of the following meals – and in addition to our traditional mealtime berachot – one or two people offered a prayer of their own devising.
Following that, we studied Biblical and Rabbinic passages in exploration of the rabbis’ ideal of approaching prayer with Koved Rosh – focus and intent (https://1drv.ms/b/s!Ap8Bo5h3n_XrgfgAlQa4iiC9l5U1PA).
Due to hazardous conditions, our after-lunch Winter Meditational Walk was replaced by some mindful stretching exercises, led thoughtfully by Lyss.
After a long afternoon break for rest, play and relaxation, we explored ways in which Silence and Stillness can provide prayerful paths for self-discovery (Readings Packet: p.4; Pico Iyer,TED Talk: “The Art of Stillness” (https://www.ted.com/talks/pico_iyer_the_art_of_stillness?language=en).
And, finally, on Sunday morning we looked at a unique rabbinic creation, The Beracha. We saw that there are berachot for many, many occasions and that aiming for the rabbinic ideal of saying “100 berachot each day” can make us more mindful and appreciative of the world in which we live (Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: https://1drv.ms/w/s!Ap8Bo5h3n_Xrgfdt3g6lEK2DmMy4lg; Berachot are available in the book On The Doorposts of Your House, CCAR PRess).
As you see, we had a full and engaging weekend of learning and growth. We look forward to our next kallah some eighteen or so months from now. And we hope you’ll be a part of it.