For the past few years we have begun each of the High Holiday Services at Pleasantville Community Synagogue with meditation. On both mornings of Rosh Hashanna, and then again on the morning of Yom Kippur, one of our lay leaders gently guides the community through a communal sit before the morning service begins. Some people have asked: Is this authentic to Jewish tradition?
Believe it or not – it is! The Babylonian Talmud attests to an ancient tradition of sitting in meditation for an hour before prayer and then again for an hour after prayer. Various meditation practices evolved over time (some quite esoteric, involving visualization of letters, etc.). But through it all the simple practice of sitting calmly, closing the eyes, and following the breath has remained the cornerstone practice.
Many different New Years are observed in the world today: the Western secular New Year of January 1; the Eastern Lunar New Year which arrives some weeks later; the “Back to School” or academic New Year, etc. Indeed Jewish tradition alone knows of at least four New Years (one, for the trees, is celebrated in February). Who’s to say? A “year” can begin at any point. What’s important is that we intend the moment to be a new beginning - and it is. Maybe that’s why the rabbis instituted the practice of beginning (and ending) with meditation. It’s not the ritual – or certainly not only the ritual – that creates the experience, but the intention we bring.
Whatever your tradition, may this changing season be for you a time of renewal, renewed intention; increasing sweetness, light, equanimity and peace.
A limited number of tickets for High Holiday services are available for purchase by non-members. Write info@shalomPCS.com or call 769-2672 for information.