Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Through the Interdisciplinary Studies Program, Ma’ayanot sophomores recently enjoyed a full day of programming on the topic of spirituality, including explorations of different paths to spirituality and how spirituality can enhance their daily lives. The day was organized by Interdisciplinary Coordinator Devorah Wolf. When asked about her goals for the program, Ms. Wolf explained that “the purpose of the day is to complement our regular studies—which tend to focus on intellectual and religious development through text—with an exploration of more spiritual ways to connect to Judaism.” In her opening remarks, Ms. Wolf told the students “you will hear about Hasidut, you will learn about mindfulness, and hopefully it will be a day of connection to Jewish thought, to Jewish experience and to our own inner lives.”

Rabbi Moshe Weinberg, mashgiach ruchani at Yeshiva University’s Irving I. Stone Beit Midrash Program, delivered the keynote address on the topic “Hasidut and My Life.” Rabbi Weinberg pointed out that it is particularly appropriate for him to be speaking about Hasidut at Ma’ayanot because the Ba’al Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidic Judaism, is known to have said that Mashiach will come when the “wellsprings” (i.e., ma’ayanot) of Hasidic thought spread to all Jews throughout the world. In his talk he addressed ways one can cultivate a spiritual connection to religion and how Hasidut can enhance one’s life.

Students also enjoyed a session on “Meditation and Mindfulness” by Ms. Yael Shy, senior director of the NYU Center for Spiritual Life, and founding director of the Mindfulness Project at NYU. Ms. Shy opened the session by explaining that mindfulness, brought about by meditation, helps people live in the moment, which in turn helps people appreciate and feel gratitude for God’s presence in the world. This idea seemed to resonate with the students, one of whom made the connection to brachot: “Maybe brachot are more important than we think; for example, they are not just blessings on food, but on our ability to eat that food.”

In the afternoon, students had the opportunity to choose from among numerous sessions given by members of the Ma’ayanot faculty, including Mrs. Rivka Kahan, principal, who presented on “Finding God in Times of Suffering,” Ms. Natalia Kadish, art teacher, who explored “Spirituality Through Art,” Mrs. Orly Nadler, director of technology, who addressed “Paths to Happiness in Hasidic Thought” and a faculty panel on which numerous faculty members shared their experiences with spirituality—where they are able to find and feel spirituality and where they struggle.

In an effort to ensure that messages of the day remained with the students, all students participated in one of three faculty-led discussion groups exploring how spirituality can be further incorporated into the Ma’ayanot school day. Finally, the day concluded with an outdoor tisch, led by guest presenter Rabbi Yaakov Nadler, which provided a final opportunity to connect to spiritual learning through songs, stories and community.