Elevator Meditation

By Hebrew Seminary President Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer

Here is a short meditation to rid ourselves of anxiety. We have all been going though an anxious time recently, worrying about COVID-19.  

  1.  Close your eyes.  Breathe in through your nose, and out through your nostrils three times.  
  2. Join me in saying this: “TRUST IN HASHEM WITH ALL YOUR HEART. DON’T DEPEND ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING.  ACKNOWLEDGE HIM IN ALL YOUR WAYS. THEN HE WILL DIRECT YOUR PATHS.’
  3. Now put both your hands on your heart and say to yourself silently, as a mantra, again: “TRUST IN HASHEM WITH ALL YOUR HEART. DON’T DEPEND ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING.  ACKNOWLEDGE HIM IN ALL YOUR WAYS. THEN HE WILL DIRECT YOUR PATHS.”
  4. What does this mean?  Don’t worry:  Acknowledge Him means Praise Him. Say blessings. If I trust in Hashem, He will direct my paths.
  5. Now, see yourself entering an ELEVATOR at the 15th floor.
  6. Press the button G for ground floor.  
  7. Visualize the doors closing, and the elevator begins to descend.  See the panel of numbers on the wall of the elevator.
  8. As you pass each floor , the floor numbers light up – 14, 13, 12, 11…..
  9. Visualize and feel the elevator reach the ground floor. The doors open and you emerge from the elevator –your anxiety is gone.  You are anxiety free.
  10. Breathe in through your nostrils and out through your mouth three times.  When you are ready, open your eyes.

Moses and Miriam’s Friendship of Trust

Our sidra this week is Chukat which includes the mysterious telling of Moses emotionally striking the rock in the wilderness of Zin to bring forth much needed water for the people of Israel (Num. 20:10-11). For this, Moses was not allowed to enter the land of Canaan.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks observes this is the first trial that Moses had to face as a leader without his sister Miriam who had recently passed away. Rabbi Sacks explains that the early life of Moses suggests that Miriam was Moses’ trusted friend and confidante. “Maimonides calls it the ‘friendship of trust’ (chaver habitachon) and describes it as having someone in whom ‘you have absolute trust and with whom you are completely open and unguarded.’” Even Moses needed a human friend that he could trust.

My fellow student Tirtzah says this is also what we need to help heal our world today. My heart has been aching since the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas policemen Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens. I asked Tirtzah what can we do? She told me of her Englewood neighbors and their ‘network of trust’. These eight households began neighbor-by-neighbor to be open, unguarded and authentic with each other. Leaders such as Moses and neighbors such as you and I need friends and family we can trust.

This is one thing we can do. Give those we meet reason to trust us. Be a kind listener. Be a trusted problem-solver. Talk openly about your fears and sanctify the gift of each day by being kind.

Here is another thing we can do. Jewish law influenced Roman law, English law, and our own Declaration of Independence and Constitution. The Men of the Great Assembly said, “”Be deliberate in judgement,’ because there is no greater act of loving-kindness than saving the oppressed (from those who would wrong them) by rendering fair judgement.” (Kehati on Pirkei Avot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2.)

In the words of contemporary author George Saunders, “… to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality – your soul, if you will – is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespear’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Teresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret, luminous place. Believe that it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.”