One of the most under used tools we have to feel God's presence is silence. Our prayerful clamoring, calling upon God to be present in our lives, is a meaningful way to express ourselves. But only in silence can we hope to perceive a response.
Most of us are uncomfortable with silence. We have all sorts of ways to fill the void -- music, television, telephone chatter. While most of it is enjoyable and some of it enlightening, it does not take much to overwhelm the still, small voice which can only be heard by careful attention without distraction.
Yitzhak Buxbaum, in his book Jewish Spiritual Practices, suggests this practice: "after prayer, having talked with God . . . sit silently for a while listening for a response -- to hear what [God] is saying to you . . . Thus, you will be leaving some space in your time of prayer to hear as well as speak."
A brief period of silent reflection is not as easy as it appears. Clearing your mind to be open to the silence makes you vulnerable to flights of distracting thoughts (monkey-mind, as it is known in meditation). And while most kavvanot I have recommended precede the action, this one follows, seemingly as an afterthought.
But it is after-the-thought in which the response will come, perhaps not immediately nor in ways you hope or presume. And even if the result of your quietude is nothing but a few moments of uninterrupted silence, you will find the peaceful oasis an important gift.
My current contract includes provisions for a six-month sabbatical, to be scheduled after the construction project was completed. In all likelihood, I will be on sabbatical late in 1997 or during 1998, during dates which will be finalized before March 1997. This early mention is to make congregants aware that I will be away for an extended period of time and unavailable for life cycle events. The congregational board and I will make all necessary arrangements for pastoral coverage during my absence.