Soul Experience with Rabbi Bortz Frees Us From Our Personal Egypt
It could have been any yoga, mindfulness, or spiritual gathering, but this crowd of young Jewish seekers came to hear the millennial rabbi, Daniel Bortz, and set him on a spiritual journey.
The setting spring sun cast a golden glow over the gathering of women and men, most of them in their early twenties. This was no ordinary gathering for the privileged. Tonight’s event centered on the experiential sense of freedom, a meditative preparation for Passover for the Soul led by Rabbi Bortz.
When I contemplate the spiritual moments that inspire me the most, they are those that touch my soul and are felt in the body.
When I contemplate the spiritual moments that inspire me the most, they are those that touch my soul and are felt in the body. Unlike most of my friends who were born Jewish, I converted in my late thirties, drawn to Judaism for personal reasons. In the years since my conversion, I have created many Jewish memories around holidays and celebrations, baking challah, lighting Shabbat candles, living in Israel and inculcating of a Jewish identity to my children. Where I have struggled is connecting spiritually as part of the synagogue and, like many Jews, I have stopped attending services except for major holidays or milestones such as the bar or bat mitzvah.
Through chanting, meditation, breathwork, chanting, and personal contemplation, he makes Judaism accessible to members of all ages, and especially to that cohort of millennials who identify as “spiritual” but have drifted away. from their Jewish roots.
This is where Rabbi Bortz makes the difference with spiritual seekers. With his Soul X (short for Soul Experience), he creates the kind of experiential Jewish gatherings that connect the intellect of Judaism with the yearnings of our hearts and souls to find deeper meaning in our faith and teachings. Through chanting, meditation, breathwork, chanting, and personal contemplation, he makes Judaism accessible to members of all ages, and especially to that cohort of millennials who identify as “spiritual” but have drifted away. from their Jewish roots.
I’ve attended several of his evening retreats in the San Diego area, his hub and childhood home (via Soul X, Rabbi Bortz hosts events in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and San Diego) . Each time, I am moved to see so many young people emotionally engaged.
The other night was no exception. The evening began with a breathing exercise led by Joshua Church, a Jewish healer who led a guided sunset session. Breathing is a tool and technique for connecting our mind, body, and spirit, and yet for most of us, breathing is automatic without focus or intention. Rabbi Daniel explained that in Egypt the Israelites were said to have “shortness of breath” indicating their enslavement.
The evening also featured performances by the “spirit folk” group Cedars of Lebanon as well as a guided sound healing meditation, enhanced with frankincense and essential oils based on biblical frankincense.
All of this set the framework for the purpose of the evening: to explore our personal journeys out of our inner Egypt, particularly “the doubts and negative self-talk” that keep us trapped in the past, “enslaved by our past actions and our anxiety about the past. future” according to Rabbi Daniel.
This is where Rabbi Daniel really shines, as he has a remarkable ability to connect Torah teachings and our history with the intentionality of mindfulness practices. Weaving stories about the Hebrew calendar and the sanctity of time, taking a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life in spaces that allow for more moving connections, he creates the sacred space for seekers to find the soul within their Judaism.
By marrying intentionality with Jewish intellect and prayer, he shows us the way to touch the souls of those who seek a connection to the divine in a Jewish way, beyond the structure of traditional Judaism today. .
Rabbi Daniel himself is a seeker. He became an observant Jew at age 16. He became an ordained rabbi at age 23 and began to focus his efforts on teenagers and young adults. He understands that to make Judaism accessible and powerful, he must meet young people where they are on social media with the intention of coming together in person. Beyond his powerful videos and podcasts, he has the most impact through his Soul X experiences.
Tina Bernard converted to Judaism in 2009, and is a former editor of the San Diego Jewish Journal. This is his first play in five years.