Rabbi Goldie Milgram is the founder and executive director of ReclaimingJudaism.org, which offers seminars and web-based resources for seekers and teachers on the application of Jewish spiritual practices. She has pioneered more than thirty years of experiments in spiritual expression in contexts as diverse as Esalen, Elat Chayyim, Princeton University and Bard College, the United Jewish Communities, and the Hadassah Foundation. She has been training rabbis and cantors for almost seven years as dean at the Academy of Jewish Religion in New York City. She is the author of Reclaiming Judaism as a Spiritual Practice: Holy Days and Shabbat.
This user-friendly resource was written by Milgram over the course of four years of teaching in more than thirteen countries and fifty-three cities. In the introduction she states: "Spiritual practice reveals that the Garden of Eden is right where you are standing and helps you to be here, now. Therefore, Jewish spiritual practices cultivate love, joy, hope, resilience, and understanding so that you can undertake your soul's work in this lifetime with vision, passion, and integrity." Milgram is convinced that men and women can deepen and enrich their lives through regular spiritual practice. In this paperback, she gives examples of just how to do this through prayer, God, Torah, Hebrew, Mitzvot and Peoplehood.
"Finding Meaning Through Prayer" contains ways to connect with the body and creation and open the heart for compassionate action and creative breaks throughout the day. In her commentary on hand-washing as a spiritual ritual, Milgram writes: "When organizing a workshop for Jewish health professionals recently, I offered a similar experiment. Participants lifted up their hands after washing, which was nothing new for them. Then, each prayed in her own words for courage, wisdom, for her hands to remain supple, to not miss anything she needed to feel during an examination, to be guided in her work, to no longer be called that pejorative term 'health care provider,' to reclaim his role as healer, to regain respect, to be forgiven for errors, and to be blessed with enough time and ability to create meaningful relationships with patients and family." Think of the different emphases in a prayer for the hands offered by a bus driver, a grade school teacher, a bank teller, a painter, or an interior decorator.
Our favorite chapter was "Living a Mitzvah Centered Life," where the author introduces more than 50 practices to be done with focused attention. She notes that in Jewish spiritual practice, it is more than okay to be happy: "Achieving a positive outlook on life, lih' tote b'simhah tamid, is deemed a mitzvah." Among these guidelines for right action are tolerating no wanton destruction of the planet, receiving elders with respectful attention to their experience and needs, making the rooms of your home as sacred space for loving and listening, viewing the fruits of your efforts as a field, and finding ways to leave some gleanings for those in need. (see excerpt for more) This guidebook is tailor-made for adventurous individuals who want to draw sustenance from the Great Mystery, mine the meanings of the Torah, develop their Hebrew vocabulary, and make the most of the Jewish people as a resource.