Today’s topic is Pray and today’s post is from Geoff Mitelman, Founding Director of Sinai and Synapses.
“To pray is literally, li’heet’pah’lel: “ to judge or examine yourself.” As we pray in these High Holy Days, what’s the method by which we want to judge or examine ourselves?
Today’s topic is Fill and today’s post is from Rachel Shapiro, former Assistant Director at the URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy West and currently a PhD student at Johns Hopkins.
There is a midrash that states that, before God created the world, there was just God and it filled every space. In order to begin creation, God had to contract, or tzim tzum, to make space and create the world, which some may believe to be close to miraculous.
Our biology also performs contractions that lead to the seemingly miraculous - walking, taking a breath, closing our arms to hug a friend. These contractions allow us to live full, connected, and grateful lives.
How can you find fullness in contraction and making space?
Today’s topic is Awaken and today’s post is from Jamie Field, 2nd year rabbinical student at HUC.
I have three modes of waking up in the morning. Sometimes, when I have a particularly exciting day ahead (like my birthday, or the first day of school), I can jump out of bed, hop in the shower, and begin my day full steam ahead. Sometimes, I’ll wake up anxiously, grab my laptop from next to my bed and immediately check all of my emails, stressed about what I could’ve missed in my 8 hours of sleep. Other times, I have a lazy morning and stay in bed for a couple of hours before I decide what snack is going to convince me it’s worth leaving the blankets.
The month of Elul, which is the Hebrew month leading up to the Days of Awe, give us a chance to metaphorically wake up in all of these ways. As we reflect over the past year, we have the opportunity to jump out of old habits right away, and immediately prepare for ways to grow and learn as we strive to become our best selves. Other times, thinking of the things we have said or done can cause anxiety. I often have to remind myself that it’s alright to sit in that anxiety, to recognize the things I have said or done that I regret. Being uncomfortable can give us a chance to truly come to terms with our actions, and that can kickstart a path to change. Reflecting on the past is also an opportunity to think of the things we have done right and what ways we want to continue being the person we are before. We’re all full of dichotomies, good and bad, right and wrong, and acknowledging the good we have done in the past year can help propel us into doing more good in the coming year.
If Rosh Hashanah is the official start to the day, Elul is changing from pajamas into clothes and getting ready. Waking up on some days is harder than other days, but, luckily, Judaism allows us to have an entire month to prepare for a meaningful year ahead.
Today’s topic is Ask and today’s post is from Hannah Elbaum, Jewish Learning Guide and 4th Grade Curriculum Coach at Temple Beth Shalom in Needham, MA.
When I was in elementary school, we learned how to write descriptive sentences that answered the 5 W questions: Who, What, Where, When, Why. This was very helpful to my younger self, and is still something I think about each time I sit down to write. And yet, this left out my personal favorite question word: How?
To me, how is an even bigger ask of the world, and of ourselves: not just what can computers do, but how can we build computers to do what we need? Not only do we wonder: where could other life live in our universe, I ask: how can we understand what life needs to exist and thrive? How can we understand more about the universe?
This Elul, I am asking myself, not just what I am reflecting on, where I want to shift my intentions, and why feel the need to make these changes, but how can I do so in a way that sparks lasting impact?
Today's topic is See and today's post is from Brett Lubarsky, Director, Jewish Teen Initiative of Greater Boston.
We far too often live by our alerts, to-do lists, notifications, scheduled events and reminders. Driven to accomplish, succeed and experience, it is not uncommon that we find ourselves over-scheduled and tired. (Almost) every day, my practice has been to try to carve out time for wonder. While some days are more successful than others, it stretches me to focus on those things which I do not typically notice. It may be a sunset, reflection, or even a certain location. Whether on a walk or drive, it amazes me how much I discover as new - even when I have traveled that route countless times before. There is so much we don’t often see because we’re too focused on our destination.
Abraham Joshua Heschel teaches that, “Our goal should be to live in radical amazement. ...get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life causally. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”
Over the past few years, significant amounts of research have been conducted around the impacts that happiness and positivity have on our brains and lives. Positive psychology is a growing field, and the concept of flourishing raises some significant questions about how we go about our daily lives and find meaning in who we are and what we do. The science behind awe and wonder is quite fascinating. Life during COVID-19 has, in many cases, slowed things down...or at least has altered our concepts of and interactions with time. Routines are different. Priorities shift. Perhaps this has been an opportunity for us to see things differently than we did before. In preparing for the new year, how can we exercise our spiritual muscles in new and different ways? Can we shift the ways in which we perceive things? Where can we find new meaning and amazement in our lives? Maybe it’s been there...and we just haven’t been able to see it.
Today’s topic is Search and today’s post is from Robbie Berg M.D., Resident at Johns Hopkins and former Assistant Director at the URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy East.
A huge challenge for computer programmers is interpreting search queries. When a user asks a question, how can the search engine find the right answer, when there are millions if not billions of possibilities? And as users, we all know how frustrating it can be to ask a question only to get irrelevant answers.
During Elul we begin the process of introspection, asking ourselves questions about how we can be better people in the year to come. Each year, it might seem like we can't find the right answers, that our search algorithms are coming up with suboptimal responses.
But perhaps more importantly we should be thinking... are we asking the right questions?
Today’s topic is Want and today’s post is from Hannah Elbaum, Jewish Learning Guide and 4th Grade Curriculum Coach at Temple Beth Shalom in Needham, MA.
On January 1, 2019, Netflix released a wildly popular show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Kondo teaches families how to KonMari their homes by ridding themselves of belongings that do not “spark joy.” This show prompted a national trend of home clean outs, to the point that donation centers were overwhelmed with the influx.
It's always a good lesson, to continually evaluate your life and belongings to ensure that what you have brings you joy, rather than weights you down. However, Kondo spends little time talking about the opposite side of the coin, bringing in new items.
Today’s idea is want, and as we head into the beginning of 5781, I am thinking about what I want to bring into my life to spark joy. In some cases, this can be tangible items, such as frames for art from my grandmother so it can hang on my wall. In other cases, it can be intangible, like my commitment to have a weekly check-in with my friends. Now that we are maintaining social distancing, I’m wanting to connect with them regularly as we work from home.
What wants are you pursuing in the coming year? What will spark joy for you?
Today’s topic is Give and today’s post is from Lillian Feldman-Hill, Jewish educator and nursing student.
In Jewish practice, when we "give" to others, we do not describe it with the Hebrew verb "To Give" but rather with Tzedek (Tzedakkah) which translates to righteousness. Scientific learning, teaching, research - and my particular focus of healthcare practice - is nothing if not an offering to others and the people who come after us.
We develop technologies and understandings to impact those around us (otherwise what's the point?) but we must ask ourselves is what we do rooted in righteousness? Do we build and develop for the betterment of others or for our own monetary gain? Do we practice healthcare for status and money or truly to bring health and healing to our communities? Do we use our wisdom to bring tools to those in need or weapons to those in power?
We must not only "give" our work to others, we must be sure what we are giving reflects justice and righteousness and makes our world a better place.
JEdSTEM aims to develop engaged, curious, and innovative Jewish minds for the modern world.