Friday, June 19, 2009


Mindfulness is the buzzword today. It is used in Book titles, seminars, etc. Most people associate mindfulness with Buddhism. I would like to explain the origins of mindfulness in Judaism.

My definition of Mindfulness is: awareness of what is reality, being present and awareness of consequences of what my current and next actions will bring. In our tradition, we learn about being mindful in the first chapter of Genesis. God tells us to take care of the earth, having rule and dominion over all. In order to do this, we have to know what each part of the earth needs to flourish. In the second chapter of Genesis, we are told to take the seventh day, Shabbat, and make it holy. We do this by not doing any creative work. How interesting, we are commanded to take time to review what we have created in the past week and appreciate it and appreciate and be grateful for what God has created. To me, this is the height of mindfulness!

Adam then goes on and names all the animals. Here again, awareness of what each creature is and naming them according to their own traits takes being mindful. We are commanded to work the land and guard it. In order to guard something, we have to be aware of what is going on with it and around it. God is showing us mindfulness when God says that it is not good for a human to be alone and that we need an Ezer K’negdo, a helpmeet. This is someone who helps us do the next right thing and pushes against us when we are doing the next wrong thing. To know one from the other takes a great deal of awareness.

When man sees woman, face to face for the first time, he becomes aware of his need to be connected. So, we learn in this second chapter of Genesis to be aware of our need to love and be loved, to be known by another person and to know another person. Finally in the second chapter of Genesis, we are told to leave our parents home and have Devekut, a complete union, with our soul mate. Devekut is the same union that we seek with God. So, just as we have to be aware of our need to be connected to God, we have to be aware of and cultivate and grow our connection to our soul and to the soul of our mate.

Now, these are all positive examples of mindfulness. In Chapter three of Genesis, we see what happens when we are not mindful. This is the Garden of Eden story. When we don’t see what is and either talk ourselves into a lie or allow ourselves to be led astray, we go into hiding. Then, when found out, we blame another. This is the state of most of our world today, non-mindfulness.

We see another example of this when Cain is told that “sin couches at your door, it desires you much AND you can master it”. What does Cain do with this warning and direction? He kills his brother Abel.

The only way to “master sin” is to be mindful of what is negative in you and around you. Then, by knowing what the consequences of what acting on this negativity will bring and making a conscious decision to not give in to our negative impulses and, rather, transform the energy to do good, we live a mindful life. (Next month, how to do this) God Bless, Rabbi Mark

1 comment:

  1. Dear Rabbi,
    Your wisdom gets me through the day. As the sunlight dims, so do the effects of your teachings. You have Harriet as the day changes from dedication and hope to blankness at the impending twilight with no one to share it with for most of us. While you revel in a good life rewaded, in the looming darkness of night, we struggle alone, battling the dark before your light comes again. In the meantime, Hell encroaches.
    Why not a healthy, dignified matchmaking between sexes as part of recovery? At some point, are we "not good enough" for the congregation at large? Loneliness begets bitterness, which begets hair triggers that the Torah has? has not? prepared defenses for? Loneliness is too much to bear. Fellow residents cannot make up for intimacy. Sobriety is half a life. Intimacy completes it.