These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

My Ayeka Journey

Posted on April 2, 2013 by Annie Matan Gilbert

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Among the many blessings I have experienced this year is the Ayeka course facilitated by David Bogomolny.  I share here some of my favourite take-aways from the course (handily preserved in my writing exercises and reflections.)

This module was about bringing God back to the conversation.  I felt like it gave me a place to engage with my relationship with God and my beliefs in a spiritual way amidst a year of otherwise mostly intellectual pursuits.  I always manage to find my way back to faith and my relationship with God but in the Ayeka sessions, God was our starting point, not only the destination.

Session 4, on the conversation or hitbodedut, took place during the Pillar of Cloud preparations.  According to my reflections, hitbodedut at this time came as a welcome relief during a time of confusion, when I felt inarticulate and confused.  Here is what I wrote:

I’m praying for peace but I don’t really know what that means or what it could look like.  I wish we would converse about this situation substituting “neighbours” for enemies – that Palestinians had sirens, and shelters and protection – that no one could fathom a solution in which anyone needed to die.  I pray for clarity of words to express these overwhelming emotions – fear, disappointment, anger, hope – and the underlying belief I have that somehow (I don’t understand it) everything just might turn out ok.

Session 5 was on My Inner Voice and making time to pray.  I generally struggle A LOT with having a keva prayer practice.  One thing that came to me during this session (I think via my chevruta) is that I can think about keva as an opportunity to align with my soul 3x a day.  I wrote that if my soul could talk to me, it would say:

Where you been, yo?  I mean, I’m here and I know you’re here, too but we seem to be missing each other quite a bit lately.  Ships passing in the night or some such.  I think we should make a date.

Session 6 was on “The Good Stuff” in our relationship with God.  We were encouraged to think about wonderful things in our life that we are thankful for and bless them, the smaller the better.  Here is a blessing I wrote for colourful clothing:

Blessed are my colourful outer garments for they enable me to express my inner colour!  Thank you God for making me a colourful person!

Session 7 was on “The Hard Stuff”, challenges in relationship with God.  Here is a picture of what came up for me when I thought about my relationship with challenges.  (This was inspired by a poem I read a long time about comparing challenges with potholes – it’s not my idea.)

Challenges like potholes

Session 8 was on Love.  Here is an idea that came out of the group discussion, on the topic of the ve’ahavta.

Ayeka blog Ve'ahavta graphic

Session 9 was on Yirah – Respect.  I learned so much from this topic.  I have always struggled with the concept of fearing God.  It just doesn’t resonate with me at all.  I always replace the word fear with awe.  Awe of all existence/God makes sense to me.  Fear doesn’t feel right.  It feels limiting in my relationship.  The discussion that came out of this session led to the idea that the key to Yirat Hashem is empathy.  We read a text that the 2 aspects of Yirat Hashem are 1) Fear of Punishment and 2) Awe of Reverence.  (Rav Yisrael of Salant) I came to understand that for me, this leads to the following formula:

Step 1: I don’t want to mess up because I don’t want to experience other’s negative reaction
Step 2: I don’t want to mess up because I don’t want the other to experience a negative reaction
Step 3: I want to go the extra mile to create a positive reaction

For me, fear = fear for self and respect = respect for the other in the relationship.  And caring about the reaction of someone else comes down to empathy.

Finally, Session 10 was about closure.  We had an opportunity to look back at all the sessions in the module and reflect on their impact on our lives.  I wrote:

I’ve been reminded to breathe more and listen more to my inner voice (soul? God?) and to make time for my relationship with God.
This experience gave me a spiritual outlet in an intellectual space.

I am grateful for my Ayeka experience and for those who were on the journey with me.  I hope to have other opportunities to take Ayeka classes in the future and highly recommend them to anyone interested in some spiritual exploration.