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Mindfulness

Wednesday, 6 May, 2015 - 10:25 pm

Mindfulness is a word bandied about alot these days. The NY times recently posted an article called The muddied meaning of mindfulness, the synopsis of which is that mindfulness means a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment.

The Zohar tells a story of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai whose yahrtzeit (date of passing) is today Lag B'omer.

During a severe drought, a delegation came and requested of him to pray for rain. He started to lecture on the verse "Hinei mah tov..." ("How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in harmony..." Ps. 133) and immediately, it began raining.

Recently, while studying Talmud (tractate Taanit), my study partner and I learned the story of Choni Hamaagel. One year, most of the winter’s rainy season had passed and it did not rain. They sent for Choni “the Circle Maker.” He prayed and the rains didn't come. Choni drew a circle, stood in it and said: “Master of The World! Your children have turned to me; I swear by Your Great Name that I will not move from here until You have pity on Your children (Talmud, Taanit 23a),” and the rains came down. This story, is among others that Talmud discusses of people praying for rain, and what they needed to do to cause the heavens to bring rain.

Usually, in order to cause the heavens to open and bring rain, the leader needed to do something dramatic: draw a circle, take off a shoe (a different story) and pray. With Rabbi Shimon it was different, he just started to teach Torah and, voila, it started to rain!

Why was Rabbi Shimon different? How did he effect change with such minimal effort? Because Rabbi Shimon's profession, talent and passion was Torah study; mindful Torah study and focused Torah study.

We all work on being focused and ignoring the buzz of the phone, the noise outside and the internal noises that help us be unfocused. Perhaps, the Zohar tells us this story to encourage and tell us that we too can change the nature of things by making the time we set aside to learn Torah sacred, untouchable and mindful. Even if life is so busy and we can only learn 15 minutes in the morning and/or 15 minutes in the evening, let us be mindful of that time and focus on the present moment ... you never know; it may change the nature of the world and fill it with the rains of blessing.

Have a wonderful "Lag B'omer" and a restful Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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