In the show “Hamilton,” the eponymous character asks his colleague, “Burr, what will you stand for?” Though not perfect, Hamilton is a man of character – a man of ideas and principles. Burr, by contrast, is an opportunist whose flag flies in whichever direction the wind blows.
To possess such a moral core; to choose, with intention, one’s character and purpose and direction; to bind oneself to something that transcends oneself; that is at the heart of what it means to be a religious person.
And the mission of B’Chavana is to nurture that kind of life.
AN INTENTIONAL LIFE
Our name B’Chavana – which means “intentional” – was not chosen accidentally, pun intended. The formation of the community was done with great attention to purpose and methods. And its ultimate goal is to afford people the opportunity and community within which to grow in knowledge and self-awareness in order to live with more awareness and intent.
To be intentional requires awareness – of oneself, in knowing one’s strengths and foibles in order to determine one’s purpose and capability; of others, in recognizing where our own imaginative understanding of them ends and the reality of them begins; and of the great moral and spiritual teachings that can inform our striving to become better stewards of our lives on earth.
To be aware requires learning. Not content with the status quo – that of our selves or of our world – we want to assimilate more knowledge and wisdom. How can I be different? What aspect of myself have I not yet recognized for good or for bad? What new activity, new direction might I undertake in order to grow my power and serve others?
To learn requires listening. The kind of listening that doesn’t presume to know what it will hear in advance of hearing it. The kind of listening that empties itself of its self in order to be open to taking in lessons that are new, different, perhaps even contradictory to the way we’ve been thinking. It requires listening with open heart and mind to friends, family, those with whom we disagree, tradition, God.
B’CHAVANA: FOSTERING AN INTENTIONAL LIFE
We foster that in our community.
We do that first by creating a space safe enough for people to explore without criticism or condemnation. Some exploration takes place within; other, in conversations that we have as a group. We have experienced many revelatory moments in our years together when people have shared things that most times go unsaid, other than to the closest of confidants. We practice trust. We rehearse respect.
We do that second by asking important questions: of ourselves, of one another; of life itself. Why am I here? What does it mean to believe in God? What does life ask of me? How might I contribute to the reparation of our broken world?
And, finally, we do that in dialogue with our sacred tradition and with the great learning of our contemporary world. We read and discuss Torah. We read and discuss Dr. King. We allow the deep faith of our tradition to challenge us to deepen our own. We allow the critiques of contemporary society to challenge our own certainty and our participation in systems that oppress others, that we might change our minds and our ways.
TO DEFAULT IS NOT AN OPTION
To live with intention is to take responsibility for one’s life in a greater way than before. It is a choice to direct our lives with more self-awareness.
But living without intention – satisfied with past actions, willing to stay as one is, allowing the current to take us where it will – is not without responsibility as well. Not choosing our path is, in itself, also a choice, just as not voting does not relieve one of responsibility for the election’s outcome.
Whether one chooses one’s path or not, we are – as the existentialists insisted – responsible for our lives. Simply by existing, we posses great power: the power to grow, the power to help.
In the end, this is what our community stands for: enabling each of us, in all of our strengths and idiosyncracies, to embrace our own power and to use it as we choose.