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Awe is Awesome

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

As we come together for Kabbalat Shabbat, I want to talk about something really awesome. That is- the sense of awe itself. In Hebrew we use the term “yirat HaShem,” to be God- fearing, which is sometimes challenging for us to connect with. We are much more comfortable loving God than fearing God. Yet, the word “yirah” can also be understood as- to be in awe. And awe, according to the NY Times[1], turns out to be very healthy for us. So, as our time together begins, let’s all take a moment, take a breath, maybe close our eyes, and reflect on a time we felt a sense of awe. Maybe it’s a big thing- like being at the Grand Canyon. Or maybe it’s a small thing- like witnessing an act of loving kindness. Quoting the research of Dacher Keltner, the author describes awe as a “perceived vastness,” as feeling at peace with our place in the universe. Awe, research has uncovered, promotes the release of oxytocin, the hormone responsible for love, for trust, for bonding. Awe moves us away from our self-centeredness into inspiration from the transcendent. Awe, Dr. Keltner concludes, enables us to find our place in the larger community. “It doesn’t require privilege or wealth; awe is just all around us.” And, here’s the big takeaway, “People who are . . . praying. . . experience more awe.” Wow- that’s us! As we come together on this Shabbat, praying with each other, noticing the good that we do as individuals, the ways we are there for each other, “realizing our place in the larger context, our communities,” more awe, less narcissism- turns out all of this is good for body and soul. Let’s all take a breath, connect with our feelings of awe, and appreciate the awesomeness of this very moment. [1] Reese, Hope, “How A Bit of Awe Can Improve Your Health,” Jan. 3, 2023

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