Everyone is trying to do their best.
It’s only natural for people to feel shock and confusion amid tragic and unforeseen events. Do any of us recall experiencing an ongoing period where we can’t get a grip of control over that which is both surrounding us as well as what’s in our midst? For the past year and a bit we haven’t been able to know from moment to moment whether the next big thing would be a building collapse, a pandemic, or something closer to our personal lives. Extremism and bigotry appear to be gaining steam. The news is full of holes and contradictions. Very very little is adding up. So what can we hold on to?
Around the world, Jews are currently observing a period of collective mourning known as “The Three Weeks,” which culminates with the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, Tisha b’Av, or the Ninth of Av. During this time, we focus on elevating ourselves spiritually, and on the final day, Tisha b’Av, we mourn. We mourn the loss of our Jewish center: the Temple in Jerusalem, destroyed not once, but twice during our history. The Second Temple, destroyed in the year 70, was the center – and the heart – that united our people, a place to form a spiritual and ritual connection to God. Our collective longing to rebuild the Temple remains central to daily prayers till this day. In essence, we mourn the fact that we don’t even know how – or what – to truly be mourning over. This can very easily lead to a very unsettled spiritual state of being.
Achieving Spiritual Wellness
When we talk about wellness, we generally refer to mental health. Yet I would like to suggest something I call spiritual wellness. While spirituality presents many deep questions for which we may not have answers, challenging situations present us with the imperative to open our hearts and practice patience, as we advance to the next day, the next month, the next era, with hope and determination.
What’s the best way to achieve spiritual wellness?
As much as the phrase Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, has gained familiarity, Tikkun Adam, the fixing or wellness of the individual, is where it all begins. Here are a few small steps we can all take to achieve – and maintain – our spiritual wellness.
Shine your light. We believe that each person was created with a purpose. You may pray for strength to maintain your center and stay away from negative influences. The key is to cast aside doubts that can obscure our ability to believe in ourselves, to shine our light, so that we are free to manifest our spiritual potential. Smiles are heavily contagious. Practice goodness. There are so many ways to achieve goodness, mainly by giving continuously and looking upon others generously. Attend to the disadvantaged. Love unconditionally. See the glory and love even in those who may falter. Draw inspiration from the cycle of the year. Our Jewish calendar revolves around holy days and festivals that keep us grounded, while making enlightenment accessible. The special days keep us bound in community and in practice, and allow us to spread goodness and light (see above). Seek out spiritual leaders. Achieve spirituality through a spiritual leader who inspires you. We are fortunate to live in a time where we can access the wisdom and teachings of many inspirational leaders. Become a vessel for the goodness they impart, and share their wisdom with others. Cry out to God. Reach for God every day, any time. Strive to develop your relationship with God by giving thanks and praying for your needs. Work to see God’s hand in your life. Look for the changes in the world that are giving way to positive outcomes. Don’t make yourself afraid. Manifesting our greatest potential sometimes takes a counterintuitive act, a spiritual breakthrough. With so much history behind us, we must come to trust in the present.
The world has now lived through more than a year of pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, which at best, offered us the opportunity to look inward and reassess the things that matter most to us. May we achieve spiritual wellness that allows us to bring a renewed light into the world.
Rabbi Shlomo Katz is an author, teacher and an internationally known musician who shares his wisdom, love, and light with audiences around the world. In addition to a large online learning community, Rabbi Katz serves as the spiritual leader of the Shirat David congregation in Israel.