Like Christian congregations have done for so long, Jewish groups are reportedly providing more opportunities to get away from life’s hustle and bustle through retreats, filling hotels and lodges in efforts to worship and converse. The push among Jewish groups is reportedly part of a move toward more participatory and experiential practice of faith — beyond the traditional confines of synagogues.
How do retreats play into your faith? How do they affect the life of your congregants, and/or your own?
Recently, we have seen a proliferation of programs designed to enhance spirituality and promote a religious lifestyle — and certainly one of the most significant among these is the retreat.
Few initiatives can provide the intensity and authenticity of these immersion experiences. Once we are removed from our daily, often stressful routines and are placed in a natural and relaxing environment, there is great potential to reinvigorate ourselves and reconnect to the positive energies within.
The rewards of a retreat are even more valuable in today’s fast-paced world. Many of us feel relentlessly bombarded by distractions like e-mails, mobile phones, text messaging and the like.
A retreat provides a serene environment set apart from the strenuous schedule of daily life — and offers a place where we can replenish the body, mind and soul.
I have also found that retreats provide a non-threatening atmosphere, where people of various walks of life and different degrees of religious commitment can mingle easily and get to know one another.
These new friendships often serve as a springboard for greater commitment back home, and prompt deeper involvement in the community and religious affairs long after the retreat has ended.
Overall, I am thrilled that religious retreats have grown more prevalent, since they serve as a way to get more people involved in spiritual causes — which in turn fosters a kinder, gentler world for us all.
RABBI SIMCHA BACKMAN