Blessings in Silence

Photo by Sage Friedman on Unsplash

Last week I was away on a seven-day silent Jewish meditation retreat led by the Or HaLev organization under the leadership of Rabbi Dr. James Jacobson-Maisels.


As their website notes, “Or HaLev was launched with the goal of giving people access to a deep meditation practice through a cross-denominational approach to Judaism. We are a destination for Jewish mindfulness that creates open and immersive opportunities for deepening spiritual practice in Israel, the UK, and North America.”


The idea of a silent Jewish meditation retreat (let alone 7 days of it) evokes one of three reactions from people:


  • Isn’t silent and Jewish an oxymoron?
  • YOU are doing this?!? No Way!!!
  • Oh that’s kind of cool. Tell me more…


I’m going to assume, dear reader, that you are the third reaction and tell you a bit more.


Every day we begin early in the morning (6:30am) with a silent mindfulness sit / practice for 45 minutes- 1 hour.


Then we have a chanting practice for another 45 minutes, taking lines from psalms and prayers and singing them over and over for 5-10 minutes at a time.


The beauty of those melodies and harmonious voices is simply breathtaking and certainly ranks as one of the most spiritually fulfilling experiences of my life.


Following that is the opportunity for joining together in a traditional minyan or in a non-traditional one, then breakfast (silent of course) and more opportunities for mindfulness practice either sitting or walking.


The day proceeds like this with opportunities to ask questions at a certain point, to hear lectures / teachings about mindfulness and Jewish tradition and to engage in a blessing practice.


What is a blessing practice?


It’s based upon this week’s Parashat Naso in which the Kohanim/ Priests who served in the Temple in Jerusalem would bless the Jewish people.


May the Holy One bless you and guard you — commentators say this refers to physical blessings -- food, clothing, shelter, to feel safe with the basics we all need.


May the Holy One deal kindly and graciously with you — this refers to emotional blessings -- love, light, chen / grace, the relationships and connections we need with others.


May the Holy One bestow favor upon you and grant you shalom — this refers to spiritual blessings — to being able to feel at ease, at peace, to feel whole (shalem), to feel we are enough.


At Or HaLev, our teachers asked us to focus on one aspect within each of those blessings:






Equanimity/ Wholeness


Then we were requested to send these blessings to others— people in our family, our friends, members of the community who we felt needed blessing.


It is such a powerful act to send blessings to others.


It really helps you feel a sense of connection to them and it increases your own energy and light as well.


But the most powerful blessing of all was… to bless oneself.


“May I be safe”


“May I be loved”


“May I know equanimity and wholeness”


It is such a delicious and emotional feeling to offer oneself a blessing.


Give it a try — find a quiet moment, take a seat, close your eyes, focus within, and recite these blessings (or any variation that suits you) to yourself.


“May I be safe”


“May I be loved”


“May I know equanimity and wholeness”


Then feel the power of holiness...

Shabbat Shalom