It is with gratitude and pleasure that I am beginning to post some of the pieces from the latest Contemplative Writing workshops.
More workshops will be coming this winter, IyH. Please sign up to receive emails via this blog (see the right sidebar for sign up) and/or to the whatsapp group where you will receive timely updates and daily Breslov audio mini-lessons click to join.
First, a moving piece by a student who wishes to remain anonymous. The prompt (in brief here) was to write about a mitzvah that you are drawn to or that is the most important to you, a concept discussed by Rebbe Nachman. The second piece is a poem about personal growth in emunah, by Anath Garber, based on a prompt, which in general, is about identifying certain aspects of blessing in one’s life:
Perfecting the Mitzvah of Prayer (Out of Control and Into Faith)
Some people are called “control freaks.” I never thought that this applied to me until my doctor pointed it out to me one day, after I had complained about my life-long insomnia and fear of flying. I always thought that I was in control of myself, my mood, my professional achievements and personal rewards. I always had a plan and lived accordingly…until July 19, 1993.
It was a car accident in which a life was lost, dreams were shattered and my sense of security and control disappeared in an instant. Why? How? For what purpose? I didn’t have any answers, just sadness and fear of what other disaster might be looming over my family.
I didn’t have my faith at the time. I didn’t believe in anything but personal power. To me, a person born and raised in the Soviet Union, the idea of God was laughable. When I came here to America, I wanted to return to the Jewish traditions and holidays. I believed it was important to raise my kids with Jewish culture, in a Jewish community, but all that was separate from the ideas of God, emunah and bitachon.
The road to connect to my faith in God with my Jewish identity did not follow a linear path. There were many twists and turns, as well as doubts and rejections on my part. My logical mind told me that before completely rejecting the whole idea of faith and belief, I should learn and know what it was that I was rejecting. Therefore, I resolved that I should learn Torah and committed myself to this. I stuck with my weekly Torah lessons and eventually, it brought me to my faith. At first, I began to see that learning Torah gave me positive energy from week to week. I also realized it gave me the encouragement I needed to seek and connect to something higher than myself. Slowly, it brought me to my faith and to saying the morning prayers daily. Over time, this became my mitzvah, the one I wanted to perfect.
The morning prayers are still the hardest thing I do to keep my balance and faith. But I feel that without them, I lose my connection to Hashem. If I skip my prayers, which can happen on rare occasions, my life feels out of control. Or you might say my mind is not at peace. Without them, I truly feel I fall into a sad and mundane routine. Without them, an angry energy enters my home, not only for me, but for my family as well. It sounds weird, even as I am writing it, but it is true for me. There is no shalom bayit when I get disconnected. The prayers keep my emunah and bitachon strong, and without them, I fall.
From Myself to Myself: On Diamonds and Wheat
by Anath Garber
There was a time not so long ago
You did not know
who to ask for guidance
You did not know
That God exists
Other than some
sitting on the throne
Opening a book once a year
Writing you down in the book
A Santa Claus for the Jews
There were long years of questioning, not knowing ,and from the not knowing
finding a knowing. And it was all good because you found your way .
You found a way .
in the morning when you went for the Hitboddedut walk ,
as you have done each day since the pandemic struck,
and all the world stayed home, like you “self employed”
You opened your eyes to the beauty around ,
And thanked God for every cloud in the sky,
For the water flowing in the Hudson,
and the leaves changing colors ,
Green, yellow, brown
For the merit, the zehut to have time
To spend each morning with you
Singing praises to “All There Is” for “All There Is”
Thanking for everything that came my way since days of yore .
The gifts of talents, of parnassa , of capital of friends ,of children,
my diamonds and my wheat.
They all are gifts from you,
The wheat and the diamonds – I am grateful for both
Hashem Sphatai Tiphtach u’pi yagid tehiloteycha .
Hashem you have opened my lips so my mouth can sing your praises
Thank you for returning my soul to me this morning .
Thank you for your faith in me.