Wisdom from Our Teachers
Rabbi Lisa Goldstein
I am coming up on the conclusion of seven years as the director of IJS – a full cycle, like the fullness of creation or the cycle of the fields. I am so proud of the work of IJS and how we have grown, offering spiritual seekers opportunities to deepen their practice, and reaching out to connect with new people who may not have even thought of themselves as spiritual seekers. I have learned so much about so many things. But one of the most meaningful “perks” of the job has been getting to know my predecessor, Rabbi Rachel Cowan.
Rachel is rightly known as a visionary pioneer in the Jewish world. Her own life experience revealed places where the Jewish community needed to grow and Rachel is the kind of activist who recognizes that if something is true for her, it must be true for others. She consistently connects her own needs to those of the larger community and helps make things better not just for her, but for everyone. You might even say for the sake of the Shechinah.
One of the things I have really learned from Rachel over the past seven years is what real wisdom means. I come from a family where intellectual learning is a critical criteria for someone to be considered an exemplary teacher. I observe how people are drawn to sit at Rachel’s feet and have come to understand that it is not exactly about her knowledge, although, make no mistake about it: she is extremely knowledgeable. But people want to learn from Rachel because of her wisdom. It is because of the way that she is authentic, open and real. There are no masks. You can witness how Rachel engages in on-going practice, in hitlamdut (engaged curiosity), in working on cultivating her own compassion and gratitude. You can feel her wisdom washing over you in all its gentle encouragement and it feels like a gift.
One of the students of the Maggid of Mezritch famously commented that he went to the rebbe to learn how to tie and untie his shoes. Rachel’s wisdom, born of years of commitment to spiritual practice, is a shining contemporary example of this insight. May our own commitment to our practice help us follow on the path she has set out before us.
The Good in the Other, the Doubt in Ourselves
Krista Tippett with Frances Kipping
Becoming Wise is podcast initiative that has evolved as an inquiry into the mystery and art of living. In this podcast, award-winning journalist Krista Tippett interviews scholar and activist Frances Kipping on the wisdom of goodwill and understanding, rather than agreement or victory, as bridges between difference.
“You’ve got to be willing to risk in order to make change. You’ve got to approach differences with the notion that there is good in the other.”
Rabbi Nancy Flam
Being young is no picnic.
There you are, a giant soul in a small body
Beset by the overwhelming task of
Learning how to become a person
Use a toilet eat with utensils speak a language convey your needs
Dress right look attractive relate to television have something to say
And then at some point
They start asking you
What you want to be
When you grow up
What you want to be
When you grow up –
In terms of work, they mean
You are ten
Fascinated with drawing designs in dirt
Marveling as you look up at the source of shade
That plums grow on suburban trees
You are full of fears
And your parents’ unspoken unhappiness
And the knowledge that you are very small
In a human world you do not understand
And they ask you what you want to be
When you grow up
And all you can think is one thing
And you know it is not what they mean
And you know you cannot say it
And you know it is true
It comes from that place no one names
They ask and you shrug
To protect your soul
And you think:
Wisdom on Wisdom
Linda Thal, PhD, co-author of Wise Aging: Living with Joy, Resilience, and Spirit
A wise person hears one word and understands two. (Yiddish proverb)
Although wisdom is not something that can be taught, it can be cultivated. We need to think more deeply about the nature of wisdom and the ways in which we can cultivate the growth of wisdom both in ourselves and for those with whom we work.
Wisdom has generally been the subject of philosophers, but scholars of psychology and neuro-psychology are beginning to ask about both the nature of wisdom and its correlation to life experience. In this webinar, Linda Thal will introduce some of the ideas and questions these researchers are exploring and we will relate their preliminary answers to the IJS Wise Aging program curriculum.
Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appell
“מרבה ישיבה מרבה חכמה”
“Marbeh yeshivah, marbeh chochmah” – “The more sitting, the more wisdom.” – Pirkei Avot 2:7
This teaching from Rabban Gamliel in Pirke Avot points the way to a Jewish mindfulness approach for developing greater wisdom. The more we sit, and the more we train in our capacity to just be with whatever is present right now, the more we are able to be clear and grow in wisdom. This is akin to the “sitting” we do when we “sit” shivah in a house of mourning: we just sit with what is present, with the sense that a wise response to the loss will emerge from our first just sitting with the loss.