Awakening: Torah Mussar Mindfulness, Chayei Sarah

Yitzhak, in the silence and accept of comfort: a model on how to survive trauma

Before we begin delving into the weekly Torah/Hebrew Bible portion/parasha, this week being Chayei Sarah (https://www.sefaria.org/Genesis.23.1-25.18?lang=bi&aliyot=0), we pray our Intention/Kavannah for our practice of learning Torah, Mussar, and the Dharma together and practicing Mussar Mindfulness. We engage in an act of self-care, a radical one, where we commit to learn and practice together once a week to strengthen our middot/soul-traits and souls, to be of service to others and God/Hashem; indeed, to bring God’s Good to others.

We use the first Kavannah/Intention listed below for today’s learning and practice:

An encounter with the Torah text through the lens of Mussar Mindfulness requires that we practice mindfulness of how we are triggered by the text, what arises in us from the text, what we are clinging to, expectations, desires, etc.

I am also dealing with the P’shat of the text (not Midrashim/Aggadot/Legends of the Torah). I would venture to say that many of our Midrashim are from ancestors who could or would not accept the text and the experience with the text as it was. They had to imagine it differently in order to live with the Torah, its demands, and what God expected of them/us, and how God seemed to have behaved in the text.

In our Torah portion, Chayei Sarah, we encounter several ancestors and can learn from their balanced and unbalanced middot/soul-traits.

In Avraham, we witness balanced responsibility, humility, and tzedakah when procuring a burial place for Sarah, his wife, when mourning her, and when attempting to procure a future wife for his son, Yitzhak. We finally witness an example where Avraham is balanced in responsibility toward family members (and we feel the pinge of sadness and disappointment that it is in death of one (Sarah)…that she is not alive to be on the receiving end of his responsibility; and in the trauma, an inner death, of the other, Yitzhak…that while he receives what his father orchestrated, a bride, he will not receive comfort from his father, but only from his new wife).

Avraham’s servant is a stellar example of balanced responsibility, courage, humility, zeirizut (alacrity) (notice in negotiation with his master, Avraham, and in his negotiations with Lavan and family).

Rivka, a child, is also a wonderful example of balanced courage, humility (taking up her rightful space as she chooses to assert herself in selecting her future husband and future home).

Notice when Avraham, the patriarch, withdraws from the family and text, we get to witness the other family members, new and old, breathe, and come into their proper space and place. 

We encounter in this text more silence than sharing, and in that silence we are left with our own projection, and with our ancestors’ own stories/legends of how to read the behavior or lack of behavior of our second patriarch in the Jewish tradition: Yitzhak.

A child survivor of trauma of a torn family: his biological mother banishes his half-brother, Yishmael, and his half-brother’s mother, Hagar, from the housefhold; his father by all intents and purposes kidnaps him at the break of dawn before his mother could know that her son was being taken to be an offering to God; and being taken by his father, Avraham, who lost in his zealotry, attempts to offer Yitzhak as a sacrifice to a God who has promised his father much.

And coming out of that traumatic experience, Yitzhak slowly finds his way. He emerges as a soul in need of communion, in need of silence, in need of comfort, and the extraordinary thing about this tender soul is that he knows how and when to accept that comfort, which many who have survived trauma do not know how or when to do so. He welcomes Rivka, his soon to be bride and future wife, into his dead mother’s tent. He welcomes Rivka into his sacred, safe space. He allows the deeds of love to manifest in that tent, and allows himself to be comforted: to receive the grace of Rivka and God (https://www.sefaria.org/Genesis.24.67?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en).

He is balanced in humility, in courage, in strength, and responsibility to himself in self-care.

We can now apply what we have learned from our ancestor, Yitzhak, to our practice of Mussar, of tikkun hamiddot, and our practice of mindfulness. Bear the burden of everything that we carry from an encounter with the text to extend compassion and less judgment. For the past week, we have been engaging in two foundational Mussar practices:

  • 1) bringing awareness to our kavanah/intention in the morning, to bring God’s Good to others, to allow and encourage the embodied felt sense of balanced middot/soul-traits to run through the body;
  • while on the same day, 2) writing for 5 minutes in what is called a Cheshbon Hanefesh (Accounting of the Soul) journal or diary, usually before bed but need not be, bringing awareness and insight into your Words, Thoughts and Deeds as related how you behave toward Yourself, Others (strangers and family members) and God. Whatever you notice from your day, you record.

This is practiced with compassion, curiosity, a beginner’s mind, and nurturing yourself as you grow into more of a witness to yourself. God gave us as a gift the ability to witness ourselves in our behavior.

We honor God, our practice, our ancestors, our community, our Torah, and Dharma. I am honored to be your teacher and to be here together in order to enable offerings like this. We rely on your donations of any amount to offer these teachings and sitting. This donation is called Dana in the Pali, a tradition of Insight Buddhist Meditation, and Terumah in Hebrew, a tradition of Judaism. On behalf of The Institute for Holiness: Kehilat Mussar, I thank you for your donations.

We also accept sponsorships for our weekly teaching and sitting that are in honor of someone or in memory of someone, may their memory be for a blessing. Sponsorships are $50 to sponsor one day of teaching and we include your honoree or deceased in the announcements and teaching so that we may lift up their souls and merit our practice together to make this a better world.

Any questions, comments, or concerns, please do be in touch at kehilatmussar@gmail.com. We value hearing from you about how this practice is going for you, how it’s working.

Thank you again for your practice: honor God, honor the Torah and Dharma, honor your ancestors, honor yourself and your practice, honor your community.

Shalom Shalom Shalom

We practice and ask ourselves:

  • Can we bear the burden of our ancestors, particularly when they act out with unbalanced middot?
  • Can we extend compassion and less judgment?
  • What can our ancestors and the Torah teach us?
  • And can we integrate and be mindful of these lessons and what was handed down to us by our ancestors, like Yitzhak, so that we can use this wisdom in our own moments of responding to and surviving harm and suffering?

Podcast Audio Below:

Awakening Behar: Torah Mussar Mindfulness, 33rd Sitting Mussar Mindfulness with Rabbi Chasya of The Institute for Holiness: Kehilat Mussar

The Institute for Holiness’ weekly Awakening series on Torah Mussar Mindfulness. We encounter the weekly Torah portion from the lens of Mussar Mindfulness and practice guided mindfulness meditation together. Taking refuge in the Dharma and Torah, in God, and in community together. Q&A at the end; 51 minutes. All welcome.
  1. Awakening Behar: Torah Mussar Mindfulness, 33rd Sitting
  2. Awakening Emor: Torah Mussar Mindfulness, 32nd Sitting
  3. Awakening Kedoshim: Torah Mussar Mindfulness, 31st Sitting
  4. Awakening Acharei Mot: Torah Mussar Mindfulness, 30th Sitting
  5. Awakening Pesach: Torah Mussar Mindfulness, 29th Sitting
DONATIONS/TERUMAH/DANA:

We accept sponsorships for our weekly teaching and sitting that are in honor of someone or in memory of someone, may their memory be for a blessing. Sponsorships are $50 to sponsor one day of teaching and we include your honoree or deceased in the announcements and teaching so that we may lift up their souls and merit our practice together to make this a better world.

We also rely on your donations to offer these teachings and sitting. This donation is called Dana in the Pali, a tradition of Insight Buddhist Meditation, and Terumah in Hebrew, a tradition of Judaism. Please donate at PayPal @kehilatmussar or follow the link: https://www.paypal.me/kehilatmussar

Become a member: https://kehilatmussar.com/membership/

Make a donation or sponsor Awakening: Torah Mussar Mindfulness: https://kehilatmussar.com/donate/

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Listen to the podcast: https://anchor.fm/mussar-mindfulness

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