Kavannah of Transformation

One month from now, we’ll gather on Rosh Hashanah and read from the Torah about Hagar, the Egyptian handmaid of Avram and Sarai, cast off into the wilderness along with her son, Ishmael. Without food or water, Ishmael was near death, when an angel of God reaches out to Hagar. In a moment of Divine intervention, God opens her eyes, and she sees a well of water, providing the sustenance to save Ishmael’s life.

I’ve always been struck by this phrase in the text. It isn’t that God made a well appear in front of her. It seems that the well was always there; God just opened her eyes so she could see it. We might understand, then, that the change taking place wasn’t in the world around Hagar. This change wasn’t external; it was internal. It wasn’t physical; it was spiritual. In a sense, it was a spiritual redirection that reminded her of her own strength, transforming her circumstances, the life of her son, and the future of her people.

This text so beautifully frames for us the journey of the coming month. In so many ways, this period serves as a manifestation of the power of spiritual redirection and transformation itself. It’s an annual reminder that change is possible, even in the areas of our lives and the parts of the world that feel the most stuck. Through heshbon hanefesh (accounting of the soul), teshuvah (repentance), and the broader spiritual work of the season, we are reminded of the holy possibility of transformation.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing daily kavannot from members of the BJ community, each reflecting on the moments and experiences that have transformed them, as we meditate collectively on this holy possibility of change. That relationship that you think is irreparable: it can be mended. The blinds that prevent you from seeing injustice in the world: they can come down. In a moment—in a single interaction—the ground can shift, altering how we experience ourselves, our loved ones, our community, and our world. May these voices help us in our own spiritual work leading up to the Yamim Nora’im. May our eyes be opened, and may we bring about transformation in our lives that is true and enduring.

Cantor David Mintz

Written By Cantor David Mintz

Cantor David Mintz serves as the director of the Center for Prayer and Spirituality at B’nai Jeshurun. He lives on the Upper West Side with his wife, Deborah and their son, Nadav.