Meditations for Your Trip to Israel
I want to suggest some meditations for visiting Israel. The Hebrew language has a great word for “meditation”—kavanah. Kavanah is a meditation/reflection that turns into a prayer of thanksgiving and a prayer of longing, a prayer of intentionality, a prayer that attempts to set the stage for a powerful spiritual moment. Here are a few sample meditations or kavanot that I have written for people visiting Israel. You are welcome to use these. Perhaps you will create your own that you will read as your journey through this Old-New Land.
Meditation (Kavanah) at the Port in Jaffa: We stand here overlooking the place where some 3,000 years ago Jonah the Prophet tried to run away from God and from his responsibilities. We stand here overlooking the port which was one of the main gateways to the Middle East for thousands of years. This is the place the Jewish people landed, century after century, hoping to gain a foothold in their homeland. And right here, after 2,000 years, the boats landed, bringing tens of thousands of Jewish people back home. Dazed and full of hope people made their way to dry land. May our imagination capture this moment. How many years! How many tears! How much longing! We can imagine them thinking about all the generations that tried to come home. Now here we are, able to witness this place, and to experience this story. Dear God, Creator of the Universe–may we appreciate and celebrate our good fortune to stand in this place.
Meditation (Kavanah) in Tel Aviv: We are about to explore the first Hebrew city created in twenty centuries. We are grateful for the chance to dig deep into this young, vibrant, growing city, so full of energy and hope. May we not miss out. May we grasp what is special here and come to understand her rhythm and the power of her beat. May we come to feel her Jewish vibes, often well camouflaged. May God grant us the health and strength that will enable us to experience the markets, the port, the museums, the stores, and the streets that give life and vitality to this young country.
Meditations/Kavanot Upon Aliyah (coming up) to a Look-out Over Jerusalem:
שיר המעלות בשוב הי את שיבת ציון היינו כחלמים—
(Psalm 126) A song of going up, when God will bring back the captivity of Zion, we’ll be like dreamers. From far away Israel seems like a mist, a dream you can’t really grasp. But here we are. It’s no dream. Dear God, we thank you that we have lived to see this moment and this place. What our great grandparents would have given for ten minutes here! And here we are privileged to be here and liable to fairly soon take it for granted. May we not take this for granted! For this is the place where people really felt God’s presence. Here is the place where the 10 Commandments rested. Here is the place where Jewish kings read Torah. Here is the place where Hebrew prophets insisted that the pursuit of justice reflects the deepest desire of the Divine. This is the place where great rabbis in their academies first began to teach us the challenge of being not just servants but partners of the Holy One. May we be worthy of the memories and the messages that came forth from the haunting holy city of Jerusalem.
A Song of Ascents—Psalm 122
|1 A Song of Ascents; of David.
I rejoiced when they said unto me: ‘Let us go unto the house of the LORD.’
2 Our feet are standing within thy gates, O Jerusalem;
3 Jerusalem, that art builded as a city that is compact together;
4 Whither the tribes went up, even the tribes of the LORD, as a testimony unto Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD.
5 For there were set thrones for judgment, the thrones of the house of David.
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; may they prosper that love thee.
7 Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.
8 For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say: ‘Peace be within thee.’
9 For the sake of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good.
|שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלוֹת, לְדָוִד:
שָׂמַחְתִּי, בְּאֹמְרִים לִי– בֵּית יְהוָה נֵלֵךְ.ב עֹמְדוֹת, הָיוּ רַגְלֵינוּ– בִּשְׁעָרַיִךְ, יְרוּשָׁלִָם.ג יְרוּשָׁלִַם הַבְּנוּיָה– כְּעִיר, שֶׁחֻבְּרָה-לָּהּ יַחְדָּו.ד שֶׁשָּׁם עָלוּ שְׁבָטִים, שִׁבְטֵי-יָהּ–עֵדוּת לְיִשְׂרָאֵל: לְהֹדוֹת, לְשֵׁם יְהוָה.
ה כִּי שָׁמָּה, יָשְׁבוּ כִסְאוֹת לְמִשְׁפָּט: כִּסְאוֹת, לְבֵית דָּוִד.
ו שַׁאֲלוּ, שְׁלוֹם יְרוּשָׁלִָם; יִשְׁלָיוּ, אֹהֲבָיִךְ.
ז יְהִי-שָׁלוֹם בְּחֵילֵךְ; שַׁלְוָה, בְּאַרְמְנוֹתָיִךְ.
ח לְמַעַן, אַחַי וְרֵעָי– אֲדַבְּרָה-נָּא שָׁלוֹם בָּךְ.
ט לְמַעַן, בֵּית-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ– אֲבַקְשָׁה טוֹב לָךְ
Kavanah Upon Entering one of Israel’s Deserts: I am ready to perform the Torah’s teaching—arise, walk the land! (Genesis 13:17) I am ready to try to empty myself as I enter the wilderness so that I might fill myself with the spirit of those who came before me—Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Miriam, Tzipora, Elijah, Deborah, the desert dwelling holy Christian monks, David Ben Gurion, and the early Zionist pioneers. I am willing to linger like Abraham at the entrance of his tent, like Elijah in the wilderness, trying to find the Holy One. May I too have a Torah moment in the desert. For a few minutes may I shed the priorities of the city so that I can feel the deepest part of me—the part that’s like the desert, strong and pure.