Hitbodedut: Cultivating Spontaneous Conversations with God
Rabbi David Jaffe
March 5 - 31, 2017
Last day to register is February 24!
According to Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, hitbodedut - talking spontaneously with God -every day is the most powerful path to spiritual growth. Over these four weeks we will try out this potent practice, starting with small amounts of time and building each week. Daily assignments will explore preparing to speak, setting intentions, time and space for practice and closing a session. We will address what it means to have a conversation when you are not sure to whom you are speaking or if there is any conversation partner at all! Related practices will include turning Torah into Prayer, a particular technique for connecting the mind and the heart to transform action. A month of hitbodedut has the power to open the heart, clarify priorities, increase awareness of our soul's desire and strengthen our connection with God. Hitbodedut is not designed to take the place of liturgical prayer but it can have a profound influence on the quality of our more formal prayer lives.
Rabbi David Jaffe is the Founder and Principal of The Kirva Institute, dedicated to bringing people into closer, healthier relationships with others, themselves and God for the sake of the repair of the world. He is the author of Changing the World from the Inside Out, Winner of the 2016 National Jewish Book Award for Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice.
The practice of contemplative Jewish prayer enables us to open our hearts, minds and souls and cultivate ways of being that realize our fullest selves in intimate contact with divinity. Through the daily practice of contemplative prayer supported by weekly teachings, discussion groups, practice instructions, daily inspirations and other resources, participants will be helped to cultivate states of presence, authenticity, intimacy, surrender and opening which are the fruits of the practice. Participants will also be guided as to how to cultivate whatever qualities of heart and soul they feel most in need of as part of their daily practice. The clearly structured and carefully guided contemplative prayer model offered here is grounded in the Piacetzner Rebbe's quieting technique as well as the personal practice and exploration of the teachers.
Rabbi Nancy Flam is co-founder and Founding Executive Director of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality where she served for many years as Co-Director of Programs and now directs The Prayer Project. She serves as a spiritual director, and teaches and writes widely about Jewish spirituality, prayer, healing and mindfulness.
Rabbi Dr. James Jacobson-Maisels is the founder of Or HaLev: A Center for Jewish Spirituality and Meditation and has been studying and teaching meditation and Jewish spirituality for over fifteen years. He received his PhD in Jewish Studies from the University of Chicago and teaches Jewish thought, mysticism, spiritual practices and meditation at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and in a variety of settings around the world.
The very center of the Jewish liturgy is love. Indeed, we suggest that prayer itself is an act of love and is designed to enhance the human capacity to love. The words and ideas are right there in every Jewish prayer book. In this month of learning together we will offer three sets of clear and specific meditation practices drawn from the discipline of “Sustainable Compassion Practice” to train ourselves to receive and extend love. By liberating our innate loving capacities of care, tenderness, compassion, equanimity and discernment, this work will lead us to a deepened way of engaging and living the central prayers of Ahavah Rabbah, Shema and Ve’ahavta. We will explore obstacles and resistances to receiving love; the non-judging, non-separating, open and accepting attitude that is necessary for experiencing oneness, unification and connection; and the possibility for extending love to our neighbor and to the stranger.
Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg has been a congregational rabbi, mindfulness teacher, spiritual director and writer of poetry, liturgy and prose; she has published, among many writings, Surprisingly Happy: An Atypical Religious Memoir. She has been a core faculty member of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality since its inception.
One of the greatest treasures of Jewish religious life is the siddur, the prayer-book. It reflects generations of spiritual struggle and exaltation, expressed in prayers of great poetic richness and nuanced theological reflection. While it is “one book,” it is made up of layers of texts, each one articulating its own way of expressing the deepest cares and yearnings of the Jewish heart. Yet, for many Jews this same book is an impediment to prayer. Forced to say someone else’s words of prayer, to live into someone else’s experience of God, to follow the flow of someone else’s heart, many people feel stymied, silenced. In this module we will investigate our own modes of praying through body, heart and mind – and then discover which of the many prayers in the siddur might serve as a vehicle for our native expression. Over the course of the month, through our individual practice and collective investigation, we will begin a process of sketching out what might constitute our own matbe’a, our “fixed” structure of prayer, for the sake of nurturing our own deepest kavvanah, our true intention in prayer, and for the sake of connecting in truth with the Jewish tradition.
Rabbi Jonathan Slater serves as Senior Program Director at the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, directing the clergy programs and serving in a variety of roles in other programs. He is author of Mindful Jewish Living: Compassionate Practice and A Partner In Holiness: Deepening Mindfulness, Practicing Compassion and Enriching our Lives through the Wisdom of R. Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev’s Kedushat Levi.
By cultivating a personal practice of chant, we are receiving the holy texts that we have inherited by making them wholly our own. Through daily practice supported by teachings, processing and reflection we will learn and explore the power of the sacred phrase as a tool of healing and transformation. Through experiential classes we'll discover what makes a chant different from a song, by exploring the power of intention, repetition, focus, awareness of states, and the silence that follows a chant. We'll learn to use chant to build the mishkan (sanctuary) of heart, body, relationship, community, and world, so that God's Presence can be invited into our lives. We'll study the process of cultivating a middah (internal quality or characteristic) through the embodiment of a sacred phrase while meeting our obstacles and resistances with compassion and wisdom. Together we will work at becoming whole-hearted before God through deep devotional practice, so that when it is time to serve, our service will be the overflow of our own evolving and vital chant practice.
Rabbi Shefa Gold is a Reconstructionist rabbi who is a leader in Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal and the director of CDEEP: Center for Devotional Energy and Ecstatic Practice. Her Kol Zimra leadership training program and many CDs have opened the world of chant to Jewish practitioners. Her latest book is The Magic of Hebrew Chant: Healing the Spirit, Transforming the Mind, Deepening Love.