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  • Writer's pictureIOWA Project

Preparation IS spiritual practice

This teaching from Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe (d. 2005, Israel) made a huge difference, first in my prayer life and then in life in general. He writes that the yetzer harah, and contemporary society (he doesn’t say capitalism, but I think this is what he means) keeps us constantly busy, moving mindlessly from one activity to the next. It is an act of spiritual resistance to pause and bring awareness to what we are about to do. This is certainly the case with prayer and mitzvot, and can also be applied to all our activities. The pause, or Hachana, can be as short as a few mindful seconds. For example, before I start to pray in the morning I’ve learned to pause and say quietly, “Thank you for this opportunity to pray before You.” Surprisingly, these few seconds make a big difference to my experience of prayer. The month of Iyar is a time dedicated to this spiritual practice of preparation.

Iyar is sandwiched in between the Exodus from slavery in Egypt in Nissan and the receiving of Torah in Sivan. Based on the idea that the Jewish holiday cycle serves as a template for spiritual potentialities every year, this time between Pesach and Shavuot is a time of preparing ourselves to transition from servitude to whatever it is that keeps us constricted to having the vessels to receive the wisdom and consciousness needed to be free. The act of counting the days and being present to the uniqueness and call of service in each day helps us prepare these vessels. The Ovdim Social Justice Leadership Fellowship is using this teaching by Rav Nosson of Breslov as a focus on the uniqueness of each day.

Hachana is an element of social change as well. In campaign work there are moments of intense activity, be it mobilzing for turnout and practicing an action, getting out the vote or conducting a short-term fundraising campaign. How do we prepare ourselves and our networks for these moments of intense action? Hachana can look like the one-to-ones we have away from the heat of the moment to strengthen the fiber of our relationships; the study and practice of the middot/soul traits on our soul curriculum, or meditation and prayer practices to build our spiritual vessels to engage in the often conflictual work of organizing. In this spirit, T'ruah MA and Yhe IOWA Project just began a partnership to bring Mussar study and practice to our work on a prison moraturium campaign in Massachusetts. Responsibility/Achrayut, Courage/Ometz Lev and Forebearance/Savlanut are the soul curriculum of the campaign. Our study and practice of these middot is a form of hachanah for the outreach, testimony, and showing up in support of the women most directly impacted that make up this campaign.

Learn more about the #NoNewWomensPrison campaign from:

May this month be one in which the subtle and often overlooked practice of preparation take hold in all areas of our lives to help create the conditions for liberation.

Chodesh tov,


Image from Families for Justice as Healing Facebook page.


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