What is Asiyah? Part one: A dream and a name


People sometimes ask me, 

“So what’s Asiyah? What’s your vision?”

This is the first of two or three posts attempting to distill three years of thinking into something that's more than an elevator pitch and less than an essay.

In Hebrew, Asiyah means “doing” or “making.” The name itself literally came to me in a dream, but like I said at our first Kabbalat Shabbat gathering two weeks ago, a dream needs an interpretation. In my dream, I was telling a group of people about my vision of starting a Jewish Renewal prayer community, and the name I gave that community was "Siya"—which doesn’t rightly mean anything. The following morning, as I was telling Amberly the dream, she heard, “Asiyah,” and thus the first collaboration of dream and interpretation gave us our name. 

In Kabbalistic understanding, the world we live in is actually made up of four worlds—Asiyah, Yetzirah, B’riyal, and Atzilut—corresponding roughly to doing, feeling, thinking, and spirit. All four worlds coexist, and we live the most aligned lives when we are holding them in balance. Each world also holds seeds for the other three. Asiyah, then, is a community of doing Jewish, infused and informed by the totality of who we are: body, heart, mind, and soul.

I keep reiterating that Asiyah is an invitation to co-create. To do Jewish together in a way that nurtures our souls and selves. I wrote a couple of months ago about the first instance of this: how a question from an early participant is turning into a small parent teaching cooperative for our 5- and 6-year olds. With someone else, we’re exploring her interest in offering communal text study. I don’t know how any of this this will turn out. But I do know that the next iteration of doing Jewish needs to pull from all our wisdoms. “Who is wise?” asks Pirkei Avot, the Writings of Ancestral Wisdom, “The one who learns from everyone.”

On one level, Asiyah is an experiment in a possible Jewish future. On another, it’s the answer to an ancient longing for being in community, which is a much-overused word in our age. I mean it in the deepest, thickest sense: the place where you want to come and share yourself and where people notice when you’re gone. How can we make that a full reality? Together. More thoughts on that in a future installment. Next week: a Vision and Mission statement you’ll actually want to read.

Enjoy the last Hanukkah lights, but also relish the darkness of a (nearly) moonless solstice.