After my beloved aunt died at ninety-seven, I sensed that those closest to her would not be participating in any traditional rituals because they are secular. In her honor, I decided to do shelosheim, the thirty days of mourning. I took out the tefillin I had not worn in decades, took out my grandfather’s tallis, and opened the traditional prayer book. I very quickly realized that I did not believe in what I was being asked to believe in in this liturgy, was frankly bored by it, and did not find it meaningful. Religious ritual should have meaning.
Knowing something of Jewish rituals and Judaica and having long ago given myself permission to create texts so I could better relate to what was being said, I decided to piece together a service that would have meaning to me, a service that would keep the traditional ritual which I enjoy but change the text so I could find meaning in what I would be doing for the next 29 days. The outcome was a morning service that I found was uplifting, spiritual, and one that began my day in a most beautiful way.
The service is a “cut and paste” coming from a variety of sources that were meaningful to me. My tanta is gone several months now, and I have continued with this ritual because it focuses me on the positive, lets me appreciate what is around me, and helps me begin the day with gratitude and hope.
First off, I must say that I do believe that there is a creative Power in the universe that is undefinable, and whose energy moves through and animates all things. If you pray, you must believe that there is something out there who is listening. I do not know if this Power listens as we understand listening, but I do know that something created existence, and that I am addressing It. I refer to this Power as the Ayn Sof, which is a Kabbalistic concept.
There is nothing anthropomorphic about the entity to which I send my thoughts, so I am not disappointed when expectations uttered in traditional prayer books or by others praying for the intercession promised in the psalms and in traditional prayers, are not answered.
I don’t make requests for anything that will change my physical world, but only state my appreciation for existence, and ask only for energy to be strengthened to do what I see needs to be done, and to make what I see needs to be made. I have no doubts that such a Power exists, so my relationship with it is without doubt.
My single request to be strengthened to get through whatever difficulties I’ve encountered, has always been answered positively. At seventy-nine, I’m still here, in reasonably good health, and sane.
In my morning address to what I refer to as the Ayn Sof, I ask to be strengthened and inspired. I ask for increased awareness of what is around me, so I might make an effort to do more. I express my appreciation for providing me with the tools I need to have to continue living on a physical and spiritual plane.
Ayn Sof, You manifest Yourself in the energy that creates, never being diminished in matter or in quality. You create sentiency; You permit the diversity of evolution; You manifest Yourself in the creative impulse that insists on becoming; You are infused in all that exists. You are beyond Existence. You created Existence, and my gratitude to you for my life is unbounded.
Manifest Yourself for me in the eyes of those whom I love. Let me experience You in the wonders of nature. Let me experience You in the sacred books I read, and in the rituals I practice. Let me experience You in the milliseconds of true apprehension when You are revealed to me. Let me never be without my amazement of Your wonders.
I offer thanks to You, Ayn Sof, that the energy You provide that animates me, is pure. You created it, You shaped it, You breathed it into me at birth, and You continue to sustain it within me. I am grateful that Your energy within, my soul, Your light, is renewed daily, and that I am revitalized with it. I feel blessed by living another day animated by Your light. I recognize that You energy, the light that animates me from within, and the energy that animates the world, is the same. Your light is the light of the existence. Your light is the light of the divine in humanity. Your light is the light of divine law. Your light is the light of Israel’s mission. Your light is the symbol of Your eternal watchfulness. My light is the light is to model righteous behavior and gratitude. We become One in the light.
Creating Sacred Space
I am a living vessel of consciousness, made sentient so I might know the beyond. I recognize that if I open my heart, my mind, and my soul to the Ayn Sof, my creator, I will be able to imagine the light and energy that moves through the four worlds in which my body and spirit exist.
• I begin my daily journey in the world of Assiyah, the world where I engage with my body. I breath in Ayn Sof which surrounds me, and I become aware of Ayn Sof surrounding me. Here and now, I thank Ayn Sof for the energy that allows me to stand, to move, to eat, and that my body continues to function as is meant to function so that I might live. I accept the reality that if something does go wrong with the workings of my body, I am responsible to do all I can to make it right again. I accept the reality that this sentient vessel is the temporary housing for the light within, and that one day my energy, my light, will be returned to the greater light of the Ayn Sof.
• I continue through the world of Yetzirah, the world where I connect with the wonder and amazement of creation. For “I have felt a presence that disturbs me with the joy of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime, of something far more deeply interfused, whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, and the round ocean and the living air, and the blue sky, and in the mind of man; a motion and a spirit that impels all thinking things, all objects of all thought, and rolls through all things.” All is You, Ayn Sof.
• I then move to Briyah where I can connect with love, with holiness, where I face and reject my self limiting deceptions, and I become aware that I can dissolve the restrictive boundaries I have placed upon myself if I choose to do so.
• Ultimately, I will reach the word of Atzilut where I will find true oneness with the Ayn sof and be enveloped by the sacred unity of all and the Ayn Sof’s endless light.
Before Putting on my Tallit
The Ayn Sof blesses me by enveloping me in light as I envelop myself in this tallit. The Ayn Sof is the source of life, and in It’s light, I see light. The Ayn Sof is this sacred garment, and when I wrap myself in it, I feel the Ayn Sof holding me.
After placing the Tefilin on my forehead
Blessed is the Ayn Sof who inspires me to dedicate my mind to making the world better than how I found it. Blessed is the Ayn Sof who causes my eyes to see those around me who are in need. Blessed is the Ayn Sof who causes my ears to hear the cries of those in pain, and inspires me to respond to those cries. Blessed is the Ayn Sof who allows me to see myself in the faces of others. Blessed is the Ayn Sof who compels me to act.
After placing the Tefilin on my arm
Blessed is the Ayn Sof who directs my heart to be open to those around me. Blessed be the Ayn Sof for reminding me each day that I am to reach my arm out to those I love, and to those in need of comfort and support.
When winding the strap three times around the middle finger
I will betroth You to myself forever; I will betroth You to myself in righteousness, in justice, in kindness, and in mercy. I shall betroth You to myself in faithfulness, and by doing this, the light of the Ayn Sof within shall become brighter. As my hand reaches out to the world, I shall endeavor to visit the sick, comfort the bereaved, attend the dead to the grave, embrace tzedakah, study Torah, attend services, embrace Yiddishkeit, and involve myself in my community.
Shema Yisroel, Adonoi Eloheinu, Adonoi Echud.
Here O Israel! The Lord is our God. The Lord is one.
Shema Yisroel, Ah nachnu echud im Ayn Sof. Ah nachnu echud im sheni.
Hear O Israel! We are one with the Ayn Sof. We are one with each other.
• I cannot know You; I can only experience Your Presence if I am open to wonder. Let me always keep my mind and soul open to wonder.
• Inspire me to perform unselfish acts of kindness so I might feel You in my life.
• Strengthen me so I might gather people to my home in joy and laughter, making my home a dwelling place for You.
• Help me to find You in honest conversations or loving silences.
• Let me witness You in the work of my hands and in the intentions of my heart. Keep me aware of You in my life.
• Grant me the resolve to accept the idea that You inspire and do not intercede. Strengthen me to accept whatever comes without anger or recrimination. Strengthen me to accept and endure the difficulties that will come with age.
• Inspire me to always be astonished by my ability to see the wonders of creation.
• Continue to prod me to learn Torah so I might continue to see the righteousness or wrongness of any action.
• Inspire me to perform deed of holiness, and by doing so, absorb the holiness of deeds.
• Keep me aware that You are above, You are below; You are within, and You are in between.
• Inspire me to always see that all life is in You, and You are in all life.
• Continue to inspire me, sustain me and embrace me, revitalizing me when I am sad, and lifting me up when I have fallen.
• Inspire me to guard my tongue from evil, and my lips from speaking lies. Help me ignore those who taunt me, and help me forgive those who wrong me. Open my heart to the wisdom of the Torah so that my soul will follow the path of righteousness. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart remain true and loving, and may the Unity that creates all inspire me to see all as a unity.
The Essence Of Judaism For Me
• Therefore, choose life!
• Justice, justice you shall pursue.
• Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.
• Let every man’s honor be as dear to you as your own.
• To save one life is to have saved an entire world.
• There shall be one law for he stranger and the home born.
• That which is hateful to you, do not do to another.
• Know before whom you stand.
• You shall not shut your hand against your needy brother.
• You shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy people.
• Do not follow a crowd to do evil.
• You shall not stand indifferently upon the blood of your neighbor.
• Happy is he who rejoices in his own portion.
• Love your fellow as you would love yourself.
Exalted and hallowed is the Ayn Sof. “You are the cause of causes, who drenches existence with your light, a light flow that is like a soul for the body; life for the body. In You there is neither likeness nor image of anything within or without. You created all that exists so that the beyond might be known. You pervade all being and all names. Without You, nothing exists. You have no known place and are in all places. You created balances, harmonies, and patterns so that humanity might see that a world conducted by justice and compassion through human action will reflect the balances, harmonies and patterns that you created in nature. All is joined to You and You are joined to all; this light to that light, that light to this. Inseparable, one from the other.” May Your light continue to shine on me and emanate from me so I may bring light to others.
Thank you for sharing what you have created. I love that it coalesces two seemingly disparate perspectives, and show that it can be this way, with positivity, acceptance and an open mind, and yes, love.
Re. your comment, “Religious ritual should have meaning.” There’s an adage (although I don’t remember to whom it is attributed), “it’s not that the Jews keep Shabbat; it’s that Shabbat had kept/keeps the Jews.” Hashem (or the Ayn Sof) doesn’t care that we don’t believe in something, nor find meaning in it. It’s more important to just do it – the meaning will follow.
Thank you so very much . In gratitude beyond words,