Rabbi Dayle's January 2020 Letter to Congregation

posted Jan 2, 2020, 7:47 AM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Jan 2, 2020, 7:51 AM ]
January/Tevet, 2020/5780
Dear Leyv Ha-Ir Hevre/Community,
I have recently been studying Psalms, which I find to be a treasure trove of wisdom. I’d like to share a teaching with our community. Psalm 16 contains a famous line: shiviti Adonai l’negdi tamid—I place the Eternal/the One/Being/the Ultimate before me always. This phrase is a favorite text for meditation, and it is often integrated into works of art.
Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi translated the verse this way: I place myself constantly in Your Presence; I will not falter because You are at my side.
The rabbis offer a myriad of interpretations of this verse. Does it mean that staying aware of the Divine, we will not give into the temptation to miss the mark (sin)? Does it mean that cultivating consciousness of God’s presence is inherently comforting? Perhaps.
I am drawn at this moment to an interpretation by the Ba’al Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism. He suggests that the word shiviti, which we have understood to mean placing ourselves in relationship with God, might be related to shivui, which means equilibrium. Shiviti Adonai l’negdi tamid means to the Ba’al Shem Tov: with the Divine presence, I can find equilibrium in whatever is l’negdi—facing me.
In this understanding, our relationship with God/what is deepest/ultimate/transcendent (however we understand it), calls us to be right where we are-present to, and yielding to, our reality. However beautiful, bright, painful, challenging what we are facing is, we will not falter if we breathe, acknowledge, and accept. Our Leyv Ha-Ir community, and our shared spiritual practice, can support us in meeting our experiences with equanimity and grace.
May this teaching give us strength and inspiration in the month ahead.
Meanwhile, please enjoy this setting of the verse from Navah Tehilah, a Renewal congregation in Jerusalem.
Bivracha–with abundant blessing,
Rabbi Dayle