Sunday, December 10, 2006

Going forward

יום ראשון י"ט בכסלו תשס"ז

Well, I have been absent from this blog much longer than I had planned (I had planned on just giving myself a 'break' for the week of Thanksgiving). I'm sad about that because the blog -- when I was posting daily -- had quickly become a powerful part of my spiritual life and had helped me get more in touch with a regular practice of Jewish learning.

But, I don't want to focus on what was lost -- I would rather focus on the lessons. I think the number one lesson is about the importance of discipline. You (or, at least _I_) need to stick with a discipline to keep something going. . . . I had such a discipline going. I thought I could just drop it for a while and then pick it right up again. That turned out not to be true. So I have to be much more wary of breaks in discipline going forward.

On the other hand, I did "take a break" for a good reason. I wanted to rethink how I'm using this blog. In particular, I need to tie what I do here (in particular the text entries) to projects I am working on elsewhere. In particular the building of a "prayer toolbox" that supports my work as a chaplain.

So, here is the revised plan going forward (for my text postings):
  • There will be seven text postings a week. They will be broken down as follows:
    • Two lishma postings (for now, continuing my work going through pirkei avot one mishnah at a time)
    • Three "prayer toolbox" postings
    • One psalm posting
    • One parshat hashavua (the weekly torah reading) posting
  • This first week "back" I will give myself something of a break -- requiring only five postings

So, what do I mean by prayer toolbox? Well, they are prayers (or other excerpts from Jewish Holy texts) that I want to have "in my pocket", so to speak. That is, prayers that I feel I know and that I understand how I will use them (that is, what situations they might be appropriate to). . . . I am considering having a sub-category here of "Jewish pastoral care texts". That is, texts that I wouldn't necessarily use with a patient, but that I might use to _teach_ pastoral care (or that might underpin my theology of pastoral care).

A good example of such a "pastoral care" text would be the one that Joseph Ozarowski borrows from for the title of this excellent book, To Walk in God's Ways: Jewish Pastoral Perspectives on Illness and Bereavement. "To walk in God's ways" is a reference to the central text for imitatio dei in Judaism -- Sotah 14a, which explicitly says that Bikur Holim (visiting the sick) is one important way that we can "walk in the ways of God". Another would be Sanhedrin 98a, which contains the famous story of the Messiah depicted as a poor, ill person binding and unbinding his bandages one-by-one so that he will be prepared when he is called (this story is even quoted in one of the foundational works of Christian pastoral theology, Henri Nouwen's The Wounded Healer).

So, I think I will reread some of Ozarowski's book and use his citations as inspiration for choosing what Jewish pastoral care texts to feature on this blog.

In terms of the prayer toolbox, I think I want to start with the weekday Amidah, and will go through it bracha by bracha (there are 19 total). But there are other important texts that come to mind:
  • David’s prayer of thanksgiving at the end of the first book of Chronicles (29:1-13).
  • The Mi She Beirach
  • Chapter 3 of Kohellet (the basis for the song Turn, Turn, Turn)
  • Psalm 23
  • Psalm 6
  • Nekevim, Nekevim
  • Psalm 121
  • Modeh Ani
  • Psalm 30
  • Hashkiveinu
  • The Vidui (confession)
  • There are also some phrases I would like to pay attention to
    • Sukkat Shlomecha

So, here is how I think I'm going to approach this prayer toolbox material. I'm going to work simaltaneously on three tracks:
  • Start at the beginning of the siddur and stop (and write about) each text that I find relevant
  • But also start at the beginning of the weekday amidah and go through each one of those brachot
  • Reread some of Ozarowski's book and allow that to inspire to me to focus on some sources.

I think that will keep me very busy!!! :)

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