February 2018
Teach Me Your Way
Part of my daily practice includes a fragment of a teaching from the Piaseczner Rebbe, Kalonymus Kalman Shapira. He instructed his students to work with Psalm 86:11: "Teach me, YHVH, Your way that I may walk in Your truth. Unify my heart to revere Your name." He taught a particular melody for the verse which I learned from Rabbi Nehemia Polen. I chant it to myself at the end of my meditation and before my prayer.

When I began working with this verse, I was struck by the goal of learning to revere God's name. I am not typically drawn to yirah, the particular combination of fear and awe that is the mainstay of so much "Old Testament" religion. Jewish spiritual masters focus on both love and reverence as the twin hallmarks of devotion and in this day and age, don't we need more love? Don't we have enough fear?

Practices in this Letter
Rabbi Jonathan Slater
Rabbis Nancy Flam
and Jonathan Slater
Rabbi David Jaffe
Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg
In the Image: Guided Meditation
Rabbi Jonathan Slater

Each of us has the capacity to be like God--but that does not come with the privilege to think of ourselves as God. Part of our work is to experience the dignity that comes with being created in the image of God--to be kind, just, respectful, and compassionate--while avoiding the temptation to think of ourselves as gods, depriving others of that same dignity we wish to receive ourselves. In this guided teaching and meditation, Jonathan leads us to cultivate humility while still sitting in our posture of dignity.

Rabbi Jonathan Slater
Panim Yafot on Humility: Text Study
Rabbis Nancy Flam and Jonathan Slater

The following passage is from Panim Yafot , by R. PinchashaLevi Horowitz of Frankfort (1750-1815). He was one of the great students of the Magid of Mezritch, along with his brother R. Shmuel Shmelke of Nickolsburg. While clearly immersed in the Hasidic world, his traditional scholarship was also widely recognized, and he was called to serve as the rabbi of Frankfort. Among his students was R. Moshe Sofer, the Chatam Sofer .

In this passage, the Panim Yafot unpacks the opening verse of one of the final readings in the Torah, from Deut. 29:9. There Moses addresses all of the people of Israel arranged before him, from the greatest to the lowest. Our teacher picks up on this to offer a teaching on humility: do not think yourself greater than anyone else, because compared to God all are equal; do not see yourself lesser than any others, as that will prevent you from bringing your full self into divine service of engagement in the world.

Tikkun Middot Practices for Anavah/Humility
Rabbi David Jaffe

A Jewish understanding of Anavah means discerning and taking the appropriate amount of space. It means being ready to serve the needs and wants of others without neglecting one’s own. It is healthy self-esteem located midway between self-abasement and arrogance.

Sheila Weinberg
Meditation for Balancing Kavod and Anavah
Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg

Take a comfortable seat.
We are going to explore balance in posture and breath
Let both legs be heavy and both arms be heavy.

As you are seated allow the right hip and leg to release to the earth.
Now allow the left hip to release to the earth.
Notice which side is heavier – right or left
There is no need to adjust anything. Just notice.

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