The World is a Prayer, You are a Prayer-Texts and Meditations for Sukkot

Sukkot is a reminder that  there is not difference between nature and ourselves. We are part of the world, and made of the world. These texts and meditations will help provide a sense of connections between our physical and spiritual selves, leading to a greater sense of wholeness and peace.

Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav’s Prayer

Master of the universe, grant me the ability to be alone;

may it be my custom to go outdoors each day,

among the trees and grasses, among all growing things,

there to be alone and enter into prayer.

There may I express all that is in my heart,

talking with God to whom I belong.

And may all grasses, trees, and plants awake at my coming.

Send the power of their life into my prayer,

making whole my heart and my speech

through the life and spirit of growing things,

made whole by their transcendent Source.

O that they would enter into my prayer!

Then would I fully open my heart in prayer, supplication, and holy speech;

then, O God, would I pour out the words of my heart before Your presence.

Sukkot Prayer By Rabbi Elihu Gevirtz, 2012*

(Based on Rebbe Nachman of Breslov’s Likutey Moharan Helek I, Torah #5:2.)

Allow me to sit in the sukkah without withholding joy

Allow me to sit in the makom of your presence

Let me experience your joy

Let your joy be mine

And mine by yours

May our joy unify the elements of your essence.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov’s teaching of AZAMRA

(Likutey Moharan I:282)

Azamra l’Elokai be-odee!

“I will sing to my God as long as I live!” (Psalm 146:2).

Find the good in others…

KNOW that you must judge all people favorably. This applies even to the worst of people. You must search until you find some little bit of good in them. In that good place inside them, they are not bad! If you can just find this little bit of good and judge them favorably, you really can elevate them and swing the scales of judgment in their favor. This way you can bring them back to God

This teaching is contained in the words of King David in the Psalms: “And in just a little bit (ve-OD me-at) there’s no sinner; when you think about his place, he won’t be there” (Psalm 37:10). King David is teaching us to judge everyone favorably. Even if you consider someone to be totally bad, you must still search until you find some little bit of good in him. There in the place of this tiny bit of good, that person is not bad! This is the meaning of the words, “And in just a little bit there’s no sinner…” In other words you must seek out the little bit of good that is still in him. For in that place he is not a sinner. Maybe he’s a bad person. Even so, is it really possible that he is totally devoid of even the slightest modicum of good? How could it be that all his life he never once did anything good? By finding one tiny good point in which he is not bad and thereby judging him favorably, you really do raise him from being guilty to having merit. This will bring him back to God. “In just a little bit there’s no sinner!”

By finding this little bit of good in the bad person, this place inside him where he is not wicked, through this “…when you think about his place, he won’t be there.” When you examine his “place” and level, “he won’t be there” in his original place. For by finding some little bit of good in him and judging him favorably, you genuinely raise him from guilt to merit. And “when you think about his place, he won’t be there”. Understand this well.

Find the good in yourself

You must also find the good in yourself. A fundamental principle in life is that you should always try to keep happy and steer well away from depression. When you start looking deep inside yourself, you may think you have no good in you at all. You may feel you are full of evil, and the negative voice inside you tries to make you depressed. Don’t let yourself fall into depression. Search until you find some little good in you. How could it be that you never did anything good in your whole life?

When you start examining your good deed, you may see that it had many flaws. Maybe you did it for the wrong reasons and with the wrong attitude. Even so, how could it be that your mitzva or good deed contains no good at all? It must contain some element of good.

You must search and search until you find some good point inside yourself to give you new life and make you happy. When you discover the good that is still in you, you genuinely move from being guilty to having merit. Through this you will be able to come back to God. “And in just a little bit there’s no sinner; when you think about his place, he won’t be there.”

Earlier we saw that we have to judge other people favorably, even those who seem totally bad. We must search for their good points in order to swing the scales in their favor. The same applies to the way you look at yourself. You must judge yourself favorably and find the good points that still exist in you. This way you won’t fall into despair. The good you find inside you will give you new life and bring joy to your soul.

Guided Meditation for Sukkot by Rabbi Aaron Bergman

-Breathe with your nose into the belly, push out with diaphragm. Hold for a few seconds. Concentration comes during the holding of breath. Breathe out slowly through the nose (first few breaths should be through the mouth). Repeat every few breaths. Allow any thought to arise. Greet the thought with curiosity, but not judgment. Where are these thoughts located? Your mind is your ally. What is it trying to teach you?

The sukkah is made completely from nature. So are you. Think of yourself as fully in the world and the world fully within you.

Think about the sukkah at night. It is very dark, but it is possible to see some light. What is that light for you? Realize that the light is within you.

Realize that you are the source of light and that the world only appears dark sometimes.

Breathe quietly for a few more minutes.

Begin the New Year by finding the best within yourself-This Sunday, 9/22 at 9:30 am, Adat Shalom

Begin the New Year by finding the best within yourself

We have spent the last few weeks looking deeply at all the things that hold us back from living the kind of lives we want. Sukkot is how we take those thoughts and turn them into sweetness and joy.

We will study a couple of beautiful passages from Rabbi Nachman of Braslov, who believed the happiness was the reality of life.

Everyone is invited.

This Sunday, 9/22 at 9:30 am, Adat Shalom

A Guided Meditation for Emotional Healing during the High Holidays

Gates of Repentance

A (Self) Guided Meditation

One of the central images of the High Holidays is that of Heavenly Gates open to our prayers.

Gates can open to the outside and new possibilities. Gates can close us off from what is within.

Repentance can cleanse us spiritually or make us feel guilty. It is an answer to the difficult questions about ourselves and our lives that we have been avoiding.

This meditation is not necessarily relaxing, but it can bring a feeling of catharsis, wholeness, and spiritual cleansing. This is not meant to be done in one sitting. Pick a section to work on, preferably in the given order, but you can decide for yourself. Spend no more than fifteen minutes at a time in the beginning. Allow yourself another fifteen minutes to gather yourself together. This is very emotional.

  1. Sit comfortably.

  2. Breathe normally. Do not do anything special. Just be aware of your breathing. You will naturally fall into the right rhythm.

  3. Visualize a gate. What does it look like? Is it inviting? Is it threatening? Why do you think this is the image that came to you? Think of a gate in which you can meet anyone past, present, or future, a gate in which you can meet yourself as a child or as an adult, the person you thought you would be, the person you wished you would be, and the person that you are. Where is God in this gate?

    1. Visualize all the people with whom you have had a relationship that brings you joy. What do you want to say to them? Say it in your mind if you are with others and do not feel comfortable. Say it out loud if you are alone. Remember all the wonderful things they did for you. Why did they do it? Did you feel worthy of their love? Why or why not

    2. Visualize the people with whom you have a challenging relationship, and are still alive. There may be some overlap with the first group.What do you want to say to them? Is there a fault? What do you think happened in the lives of these people that made them so difficult? Can you feel any empathy or understanding? What is your share in the difficulty? Speak to them in your mind. No one else will hear. Can you share any of this with these people? Why or why not? What would forgiveness look like, of each other, or just one to the other? If forgiveness is not possible, what would letting go look like? Can you get on with your life if no forgiveness is possible?

    3. Do the same as above, but with those who are no longer living, or capable of response. This is a lot harder emotionally, but the conversation may provide healing. People’s spirits are eternal. I am not suggesting that the person’s spirit is necessarily listening, but somehow people’s presences can be felt in times of extreme emotion. This is a matter of personal belief.

    4. Visualize yourself as a child. What would you like to have told them? It is too late to follow that advice? Whose life did you wind up living? What turned out as expected? What did not, but was worse or better than you thought. What do you want to say to the you of the future? Which you do you want to see walking through the gate at the end of your journey. How are you going to get to that point?

    5. Where is God in your life? Share all the anger and sorrow and joy and appreciation.

Do this exercise at least once a week. Sometimes it will feel comfortable. Sometimes it will be very uncomfortable. Stick with it for several weeks. You will develop insights that will allow you to start healing.

The Shofar and the war against hatred and suffering

The shofar is one of the world’s oldest musical instruments. It predates the Jewish people by many centuries. One way you can tell its age is because when the Torah says to blow the shofar, it does not have to explain what it is or how to make it. The Torah assumes that everyone knows what it is.

The original purpose of the Shofar was as a signal to the beginning of a war or battle, like a bugler in the American Civil War. It was the sound of victory after defeating the enemy in war.

Judaism understands that wars against our enemies may be necessary, maybe even inevitable. We can and must defend ourselves and our loved ones. War, though, is never holy. We never rejoice at defeat of our enemies, we only offer gratitude for our ability to live without fear.

In Judaism, we have transformed the shofar as an instrument against our external enemies, and instead as a call the war against our worst instincts, against all the things we do, either on purpose or inadvertently, that may bring pain and suffering to others and to ourselves.

The purpose of the shofar changed from announcing a literal war to a metaphorical one, from destruction of others to improving who we are and bringing peace to the world.

When we blow the shofar at the end of Yom Kippur it signifies the celebration of the attempt to win that war. The internal struggle to do better is never over, but we can at least rejoice in our intentions.

May no one ever again believe that war is holy. May the sound of the shofar open hearts around the world, and change hatred into compassion.

Choosing Your Life: Some thoughts for the Holidays


When I was a little boy I used to sleep over at my grandmother’s house, something I really enjoyed. One night she came out with white cream all over her face. I asked her what it was. She said it was wrinkle cream. I said to her, I thought you already have enough wrinkles. She said, patiently, that it was to get rid of them.

This cream was later sold as something to reduce the signs of aging. It is now sold as something that will end the aging process, and is of course much more expensive.

What people are looking for is a way to live forever, and to look great forever, too.

On the surface, it sounds like this is what the Torah is offering.

In the Book of Deuteronomy God says, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou may live, you and your descendants.”

If you look carefully, the choice is not life and blessing or death and curse. Everyone is going to have blessings and curses. There is no avoiding that. There are people who choose life even during the difficult moments. There are people who are so numb to the blessings in their life that they are like the living dead.

The Torah continues with a discussion of all those who are part of the covenant. The only people with specific jobs mentioned by name are the wood choppers and water carriers. They were not really great careers even then. No possibility of upward mobility. The job did not get any more interesting. It is important to notice, though, that what they did was still considered to beas valuable as what anyone else was doing, and just as deserving of honor, including honoring yourself. Everyone has something of value to contribute. Every moment in which you focus on doing the right thing and doing it well is a moment that is full and meaningful.

Choosing life does not mean you are not going to die, but that every moment can be filled with life and with good. When you truly live, you realize how much good there is. When you do not, it feels lifeless and meaningless.

It also means choosing life for future generations. It is a little scary knowing that their world may not be safe or easy. It means that it will be worth it. Holocaust survivors who started families, or started again with new families. They knew more than anyone how terrible the world could be, but they chose to create more life. Without their courage Judaism would have ended. Because of their courage, we have the strength to continue.

The Torah says the covenant is with “everyone who is standing together today.” Why did it have to say that? What does it matter whether they were standing or sitting? The idea is that we sometimes do not realize how many people really are standing with us if we let them, people who can help us truly live during the difficult parts of our journey. That is why the covenant was made with everyone. We can all help each other somehow to embrace life, to find meaning in times that are hard, and to not take for granted the moments of joy.

We have to stand together during the difficult parts of the journey. The ones who may not be standing with us at one point might stand with us when we really need them at another time. We might be the one they need someday when they feel they are standing alone.

This is why we come together on Rosh HaShana. You can pray anywhere. But we come to the synagogue to feel like we are not standing alone, that we are alive to every moment.

In these next few days, let’s think about how we can help those we treasure to live that journey with happiness and courage.

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