The Journey You Did Not Choose

A Shabbat Meditation

Chuckanut Mountain. Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

What a journey you and I are on right now. Together. We have had trips canceled, weddings postponed, jobs lost. We have had holidays and funerals over Zoom. We walk outside with masks.

Not only have we removed events from our calendars, but we have also had to “shed” the skin we have had until now.

When this is all over, we will be new people – honed and changed by this experience of separation and new kinds of connection.

This will not be a journey that ends with “going back to normal.”

“Normal” will have to be re-thought.

As humans, when this is over, hopefully, we will emerge wiser, more self-aware, and more grateful. Perhaps essence and simplicity will have a new meaning.

I don’t know about you, but the journeys that have been thrust upon me and not chosen are the times I have learned the most about myself.

Such as strengths I didn’t know I possessed. I learned about what I could do without, and what was essential.

Traditionally in Jewish time, the seven weeks that follow Passover are a time of collective and individual journey. We leave the narrow place of our slavery and walk into freedom.

But it’s not so simple. We complain and we argue. In the desert, challenging leadership is an everyday thing. Additionally, so much is unknown.

We swim in a sea of uncertainty – kind of like now.

However,  as we arrive at the foot of Mt Sinai, the place where Wisdom is revealed – we unfold. We open. We receive.

The seeds for a new life with vision and purpose and unity have been planted within us. This is the possibility that awaits us as we navigate the unknown.

The parallels are astounding to what we are currently going through. In the ancient story, we fall down and we get back up.

If we remain awake, the opportunity of unfolding into the new world begins now. It starts by making choices today about what energy you will feed and by committing to the deeper path of discovering what is essential in you and to you.

In years past, I have taught a course during this time of wandering (called “Counting the Omer”) about how to use this time to refine our souls. We talked about the journeys we have chosen in our lives – new careers, retiring, getting divorced, going back to school — as well as the journeys that were chosen for us: loss, accidents, and illnesses.

The Journey We Did Not Choose

However, as I look at the material this year, it occurs to me that the journey this year is profoundly different. Yes, we each can relate to our life as a journey, and how we walk that path from Awakening to Arriving.

However each one of us is ALIVE at this moment in history – a global pandemic – and surely, this is an unforeseen journey that beckons us to do soul-work in a totally new way.

We will spend more time talking about the spiritual practices that allow us to tolerate uncertainty, and help us center ourselves while dealing with grief and loss.

I really feel that this time, should we each choose to use it to become our best selves, has the potential to put us individually and collectively in a position to lead into the new world that we will all create together.

If you are interested in walking this path of the journey not chosen with a group of fellow seekers, please check out the Journey course I’m teaching here. I would love to walk with you.

A wonderful poem for right now by Pat Schneider.

About Rabbi Jill Zimmerman
Rabbi Jill Berkson Zimmerman is a visionary with a plan and a lifelong seeker. She is dedicated to a Judaism that makes a difference in people’s every day lives; a Judaism based in mindfulness, and welcome. At every step along the way, Jill has lived her vision of building and sustaining community, taking her from teacher, activist, organizational development consultant, local and national lay leader and master gardener, mother and wife culminating with her decision to become a rabbi at age 47. In 1999, Jill was fortunate enough to study with Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, who opened up the world of Jewish mysticism, Chasidic texts, and Torah study. A light was ignited. With only a “culturally Jewish” background and a surface-level understanding, Rabbi Jill was deeply moved and intrigued. She felt that she had discovered a treasure in her own backyard. She immersed herself in Jewish study and practice, and ultimately decided to devote the “second half” of her life to Jewish teaching and learning and helping others find the joy and meaning she had found in Jewish texts, rituals, and community. After her ordination in 2009 from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute for Religion, she served as a congregational rabbi at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills. Rabbi Jill’s position at Temple Emanuel was centered on building community and building membership. She revived the Caring Community and chavurot (friendship) circles, and worked with congregants on creating a welcoming atmosphere at the temple. She was blessed to work with Rabbi Laura Geller. Rabbi Jill’s deep involvement in Jewish mindfulness and meditation led her to the two-year Clergy Leadership program in spiritual practice and mindful leadership from the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. In addition, she received a certificate from the Jewish Mindfulness Meditation Teaching Training program. In 2011, Rabbi Jill decided to leave the congregational rabbinate to laser-focus her energy on Jewish mindfulness: Judaism through the lens of mindfulness, and mindfulness through the perspective of Judaism. She founded The Jewish Mindfulness Network (JMN) to create a variety of welcoming experiences and environments to help people discover personal meaning within Jewish texts and the power of mindfulness practices within community. In 2016, Rabbi Jill created Hineni: the Mindful Heart Community, a digital online program. She continues to teach locally and nationally, as well as offer online courses. She is also a frequent scholar-in-residence at congregations across the country. Rabbi Jill has served congregations and Jewish organizations both in the States and in Israel. In addition to her position at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills, CA (Director of Building Community and Membership), she worked with Temple Beth El in Riverside and Etz Rimon in Carlsbad, CA. In Jerusalem, she worked at the World Union for Progressive Judaism, assisting them in carrying out their Strategic Plan. She is an avid photographer. She has an insatiable love of reading and books. Originally from Skokie, Illnois, Rabbi Jill currently lives in Orange County with her husband, Ely. They have two sons, Josh and Ben.

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