When I was 15, I went to an overnight Yeshiva summer program in Italy, where I met a counselor who continues to have an impact on my life today. He is, in a word, a mashpia. A spiritual mentor. He is someone I can call to get guidance when facing spiritual or personal dilemmas. I do call him, and he is there for me. He is honest and wise and discreet, he is my friend.
I bumped into my mentor this past weekend in New York at a large Chabad conference and I had the opportunity to reconnect with him a bit, and was reminded of some of our good times together. I gave him a lift in my car and due to NY traffic a short ride turned into an hour long discussion.
I heard some of what is going on in his life, and shared with him much of what is going on in mine. I told him I am on a journey to live more intentionally. I am too old to be reactive all the time. I share that I am working on having intention in everything that I am doing. I find, I told him, that when I make a decision, good or bad, then I feel better about my life. I don’t look over my shoulder second guessing or thinking that it might have been better elsewhere. I don’t have “FOMO” or fear of missing out, because I am living intentionally. So where I am, I am completely, including in my head, and certainly in my body.This is a modern application of a well known chassidic discipline, Ah Chassid, vu er iz, iz er ingantzen – A Chassid, where he finds himself, he is there in entirety.
Obviously this is not always easy, and often I need to recalibrate to get back to this centering thought tool, it is a truth and perhaps one day, this may become an involuntary muscle that can operate with this intentionality more naturally.
Friday afternoon, on this same weekend conference I found myself walking down the main drag in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn heading to the large Shul where thousands (literally) go to pray, and bumped into my mentor friend again. This friend is saying Kaddish for his late father so he needed to lead the service at the afternoon Mincha Prayer.
This process requires a minyan of ten, so he asked me and the handful of others heading down the street to be part of his minyan when we entered the Shul building. He led the services flawlessly, easily reading the prayers that he must have said many thousands of times.
I watched and was transported to a time when he didn’t read so smoothly.
Some 25 years ago, when I had first met this man in Italy, he would teach us Torah, however then he had a lilt in his voice as he articulated each word very very slowly, and with a soft musical melody as he read the words.
Photo Credit Psychology Today