On Jan. 16, the Asiyah Cultivation Crew, our valiant advisory committee, set aside half of their Sunday to take a deep dive into helping vision our community’s next steps. We started out with a State of Asiyah report, detailing all the programming currently under way and in the wings and with a look at our newly updated budget. However, the bulk of our time was spent on whittling all the possible goals we might have for Asiyah in 2019 (see brain cloud above) down to three.
I had an enlivening conversation last weekend with the heilege/holy Yiscah Smith over dinner at Asiyah member Mikhael Reuven and Naomi Kling's wedding. We were talking about lights, as one does on the last night of Hanukkah, and she recalled an anecdote from one of her Chabad teachers. "If you bring a match close to a burning havdallah candle, the smaller fire from the the match will naturally lean toward the larger one of the candle.* So it is with human souls and the Divine."
It reminded me of one of Reb Zalman's oft-repeated sayings, that just as plants are heliotropic, reaching for the sun, human beings are theo-tropic, reaching for the Divine. We yearn to be closer to the Source of Life or the Grandeur of Creation, or whatever moniker makes sense to us.
Sometimes it feels right there, and sometimes it feels impossibly far away. This is called being human! It also points to the reason spiritual practices are called "practices"—because they're not about perfection or an end goal, but rather a commitment to be in the circle dance. Lucky for us, the entry level of Jewish spiritual practice is also communal, so that even if we're feeling far from God, we can at least feel closer to people.
Being human is hard. Spiritual practice doesn't have to be. Just put it in your calendar and join in the dance.
Last week I was in Israel/Palestine, on a tour of intentional communities with Hakhel, Hazon’s intentional communities incubator, for which Asiyah was selected in the spring. Over six jam-packed days, our group of 12 community leaders from the US, Mexico, Ukraine, and Russia visited communities up and down the country. The diversity of communities we saw was stunning, and two things captivated me as I made my way through these many places…
Years ago, on an extended trip through Southeast Asia, I began to fully understand that there’s a way of being in the world that’s more intuitive than over-research, easier than over-planning, and much lighter than over-packing. It’s called being in the flow. And by following the pathways of teshuva, tefila, and tzedakah, we can clear the yearly schmutz from our souls in threefold process that allows us to be and act in the world less from the ego and more from soul consciousness. To be in the flow.
Our sages read the name of month of Elul as an acrostic, standing for a famous line from the Song of Songs: ani l’dodi v’dodi li, I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine. They were very intentionally thinking of the Divine Beloved. After the disconnection of Tisha B’Av, they saw Elul as a time to reconnect, to start making the journey home to our spiritual center, to reaffirm our connection with the All Within All. I’d like to use this acrostic as a guide in this month of reflection, to help us bring into focus different aspects of our lives.
We called our first “Village Gathering” earlier this month to start a conversation about what "community" means to each of us, what we look for in community, and what makes a community great. Our goal was to do some foundational community-building and start collectively visioning what Asiyah could become.