May Shabbaton explores kavanah and prayer
By Katie Schneider
You’ll normally find Rabbi Jonathan Kligler in bucolic Woodstock, NY. As senior scholar at the Lev Shalem Institute, he leads workshops incorporating music, movement, Torah and prayer. His goal, he says, “is to assist my community to become more alive, and I take incredible pleasure in guiding others along this path.”
Rabbi Kligler will visit Portland May 20-22 as scholar-in-residence at Congregation Shir Tikvah, where he will lead Shabbat services and a Saturday evening program. These events are open to the community.
He recently answered some questions in an email interview in advance of his visit. His answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
The title of the upcoming scholar’s weekend is “Kavanah: Pray Like You Mean It.” How do you define kavanah?
Kavanah is best translated as intention. It comes from the Hebrew root K-V-N, meaning aim. The related verb l’chaven means to aim, and the noun kivun means direction. In Jewish spiritual language, kavanah is the direction in which we aim our attention.
What gets in the way of meaningful prayer?
The main thing is our lack of familiarity and experience with this form of spiritual practice. One would not expect to sit down at a piano and make beautiful music without a regular schedule of practice. So the first obstacle most of us face in engaging in meaningful prayer is simply that we haven’t done it enough.
You mentioned distraction.
Anyone who has meditated is familiar with all the ways you can lose focus. The same is true for prayer. As with meditation, our task in maintaining kavanah in prayer is to notice when our attention has strayed and, without harsh judgment, gently return to our original intention. This activity of returning is known in Hebrew as teshuvah, and it is another key concept of Jewish spiritual practice.
In your work, you often mention heart and prayer together.
Prayer is meant to awaken us emotionally and move us spiritually. However, that rarely happens unless we also let prayer touch and open our hearts. We have the tendency to read prayer as prose, but prayer is the language of the heart. It is poetry. If we only relate to it with our intellect, prayer remains opaque. But if we can allow the words and the melodies to speak to our heart, we can awaken joy.
For more information about Rabbi Kligler’s Portland Shabbaton, visit shirtikvahpdx.org.
2016 Song of Miriam honorees feted June 5
The Jewish Women’s Round Table has announced its 24th annual Song of Miriam honorees. The Song of Miriam Awards honor women who volunteer their time and energy to ensure the continuity and vibrancy of the Jewish community of Oregon and SW Washington.
This annual event is sponsored by the Jewish Women’s Round Table, whose mission is to strengthen the Jewish community by honoring the excellent work of women volunteers and bringing the community together to celebrate Jewish life.
The 24th annual awards brunch will be held from 10 am to 12:15 pm, Sunday, June 5, at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center, 6651 SW Capitol Highway, Portland. Member organizations have chosen outstanding women to be honored for their volunteer activities and dedication to promotion of Jewish life and values.
The 2016 honorees are Susan Aronson of Congregation Beit Am (Corvallis); Karin Stolz of Congregation Beit Haverim; Stephanie Siegel of Women of Reform Judaism/Beth Israel Sisterhood; Susan Lazareck of Havurah Shalom; Susan Marcus of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland; Susanna Perrin of Congregation Kesser Israel; Davida Jordan of Congregation Kol Shalom; Dana Sirkin of Congregation Neveh Shalom; Joanie Levine of Congregation P’nai Or; Alison Rosenfeld of Portland Jewish Academy; Margarita Wolf of Congregation Shaarie Torah Sisterhood; Kalyn Culler Cohen of Congregation Shir Tikvah; Barbara Atlas of the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education; Sherry Dunning of Temple Beth Sholom (Salem); and Sara Charney Cohen of Temple Beth Tikvah (Bend).
The D’var Torah and Hamotzi will be given by Aviel Brodkin, principal at Maayan Torah Day School and rebbetzin of Congregation Kesser Israel. Music will be performed by Barry Lavine. Envelopes will be available for donations to the Oregon Food Bank.
Marki Maizels and Carole Glauber, both past honorees, will be the brunch emcees. Door prizes have been donated by various synagogue gift shops and area businesses.
To find out more about the Jewish Women’s Round Table, visit jwrt.org to learn about the history of the SOM awards, see a listing of past honorees and the JWRT board, and much more.
Honorees’ family and friends are encouraged to attend this annual community event. Ticket prices are patron $36; regular $24 by May 25 ($32 thereafter); and $10 for children 12 and younger.
Call Jerrie Roth at 503-246-4367 for reservations and answers to your questions.