Intention: A Teaching From Rabbi Shefa Gold
This is an excerpt from R’ Shefa’s soon to be published book, entitled, “The Magic of Hebrew Chant: Healing the Spirit, Transforming the Mind, Deepening Love.” ( Jewish Lights). Check the ALEPH Bookstore for this and other titles and authors available now…
Many years ago I worked at Disney World. I was a Monorail Pilot and it was my job to transport as many people as possible, as safely and as swiftly as possible, from the Parking Lot to The Magic Kingdom and back. (Some of my students have commented that I am still doing this job, in my own way.) I wore what I referred to as an old-fashioned futuristic costume- blue and green polyester with a pilot’s helmet. I studied the safety procedures and, in my spare time, drew flow charts, determined to improve the efficiency of the system. I even set up meetings with my superiors to share my ideas, which were politely ignored.
One night I had a dream. In my dream, we had finally found a way for the trains to run perfectly on time. They stopped at each station for exactly the right amount of time…. But the doors didn’t open… and then the train just continued on to the next station. (What had kept the train from running smoothly before, were all those unpredictable people- old people who moved too slowly, young children who were distracted, families trying to stay together.) In my dream, I watched the train move gracefully around its circuit, keeping to schedule, keeping its doors neatly closed. What beauty, what efficiency!
I woke up and immediately realized that this was a dream about PRAYER.
The train represented the words of prayer, moving from station to station in our service. Yet they were empty! We needed to stop, open the doors wide, and fill the sacred word with Intention.
The great Hasidic master we call The Baal Shem Tov, came to this same conclusion on his prayerful way to The Magic Kingdom. In a commentary on the story of Noah, he reminds us that the word for “ark” (tevah) also means “word.”
Genesis 6:16 says, “Make a window for the tevah (word of prayer)…. So that the Light can shine in.: And in 6:18… “You and your entire household must enter the tevah ….enter into the word with your entire body and energy.” (Tzava’at Rivash 8b)
Chant is a way letting the Light into the word, and of filling each word with my “entire body and energy.”
The way that “filling” happens is not through the force of my will, but rather through the force of Love. I come into relation with the word; I fall in love with the word; I allow myself to become completely vulnerable to its power; I call on all my knowledge of sound, melody, harmony, rhythm, breath, tone as I play with wild abandon; and finally I surrender.
The word takes me from the Parking Lot of normal discursive perception and expression… to The Magic Kingdom of unitive consciousness. When I get back to the Parking Lot, I have been transformed. My heart is open. I am fully alive and inspired.