Friday, March 03, 2006

287. Silence, part 1

Sometimes it's nice and joyful to be silent. Tonight I went to a contemplative Shabbat service, led by two rabbis at my synagogue who also teach meditation. Until last year I was wary of the concept; it seemed to cross over that invisible line between acceptably New Agey and uncomfortably flaky. But I tried meditation before my surgery and found it comforting and neither weird nor--like a fake, watered-down Buddhism--syncretistic. Elements of the practice, at least to my limited knowledge, are very compatible with Jewish prayer and its focus on reaching a state of wholeness and integration in life as a way to express the words of the Shema, "God is one." And Jewish worship, like meditation, also centers around silent prayer and repetitive chanting.

Friday night services begin with a series of Psalms, and tonight the rabbis had us sing and then think about one line in each that described an ideal way of being:

Psalm 95. "Harden not your heart."
Psalm 97. "Light is stored for the righteous." What does it mean to "store light"? There is a part of us built just for this, a place for goodness to remain and be accessible if only we remember to draw upon it.
Psalm 98. "Sing a new song"--and leave behind last week's songs of stress, guilt, anger. God, the rabbi pointed out, can handle anything, including these old, annoying tunes, so might as well just hand them over.
Psalm 99. "Our Sovereign loves lawful order, maintaining justice." Justice not only for others, but fairness and kindness towards ourselves, as well.

(To be continued.)

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