Finish the Week Strong: Strengthen Your Container

The Hebrew word for “hope,” tikvah is related to the Hebrew word for ritual bath, “mikvah.” People immerse in the mikvah when seeking renewal and/or transformation. Likewise, transformation and renewal occur when we immerse ourselves in hope. Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi taught that both words have in common the idea of “container.” The mikvah holds purifying waters. Tikvah, hope, holds our vision, our aspirations, our energy to progress.

It’s not just that we have hope because we see a path forward and are motivated to take action. The reverse is even more true: we see a path forward and are motivated to take action because we have hope.

Kintsugi (Japanese for “golden joinery”) is the Japanese art of repairing broken vessels with gold.

Today’s exercise:

  1. Part 1 begins with a contemplation on a single, difficult question. Take a few deep, settling breaths in a calm, quiet place. Set a timer for seven minutes and write as continuously as you can, in a stream-of-consciousness, about the following: Where and when does Hope “leak out” for you?

    Here is a range of examples that may not apply to you, but will hopefully spark your thinking:
    ● When I face an authority figure who reminds me of the adult who abused me as a child.
    ● When I interpret events with a narrative that says, “I have been abandoned, again!”
    ● When I criticize myself or hold myself to perfectionistic standards.
    ● When I try to “go it alone” and don’t reach out for help.
    ● When I frame things as “do or die,” or “now or never” and put too much pressure on a given deadline or experience.

  2. For part 2, turn the page or open a new document on your computer. Take a few deep, settling breaths. Set a timer for seven minutes again and write as continuously as you can, in a stream-of-consciousness, about the following: What can you do for yourself right now, plan to do, or ask for help with, that could prevent “hope leakage” and shore up your inner container for hope?

    Here is a range of examples that may not apply to you, but will hopefully (pun intended) spark your thinking:
    ● Speak to myself the way I would speak to my best friend or child.
    ● Meditate and ask for wisdom from God, my subconscious, the Wisdom within.
    ● Call a compassionate friend or mentor and ask them to brainstorm ideas with me.
    ● Give myself more time to generate options. Don’t rush to say, “it can’t be done” or “I have no choice.”
    ● Find someone who has achieved what I want to do and then read their blog or book or invite them to lunch.
    ● Join a support or professional group (online or IRL) for people with similar goals.

“I hoped and hoped for Adonai. God inclined toward me and heeded my cry….God has put a new song in my mouth.”

Psalm 40:2, 4

Wishing you joy in this moment and in the anticipation of a good future,
Rabbi Debra

About the Author
Debra Orenstein, rabbi of Congregation B'nai Israel in Emerson, NJ, is an acclaimed teacher, author, and scholar-in-residence. She is editor of Lifecycles 1:Jewish Women on Life Passages and Personal Milestones and Lifecycles 2: Jewish Women on Biblical Themes in Contemporary Life (Jewish Lights). A seventh generation rabbi, she was in the first rabbinical class at The Jewish Theological Seminary to include women. She earned a Certificate in Positive Psychology and teaches online. Visit RabbiDebra.com to learn more.
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