4 Questions for Bruce Shaffer
Bruce Shaffer, local Boulderite and “Brother Fred” in the Passover internet film sensation, likes talking about how being a part of an Ayeka group impacts his outlook on life. While spending last year learning at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, Bruce was part of an 8-week Ayeka course called “Bringing God into My Relationships.” His group was led by Ayeka’s founder and director, Rabbi Aryeh BenDavid.
How has Ayeka impacted your life – what did the process cause you to re-examine in your life?
The Ayeka plunge into honest self-examination begins with internalizing and activating the Jewish teaching that we are all created in God’s image. If I really do have a unique, God inspired calling and contribution to make in this world than I want to claim that gift and make the most of the opportunity and responsibility that comes with it. Rabbi Aryeh Ben David says,
The goal is not simply to be at peace with myself. The goal is to use my unique God-given gifts to bettering the world. Through accessing and living my inner life I can help the world become more in the Image of God.”
That excites me. That is where the Torah action is– can you and I bring Godliness into all relationships with every one, everything, for a healthier world? Ayeka is helping me do my part – right here, right now, today.
What are the highlights of the Ayeka model?
Accessibility. Sensibility. Orderly arrangement of the building blocks. Hey, I like riffing on the esoteric stuff, too, but you gotta be able to take it to the street. That said, Ayeka is not a short cut, a 12-step program, a free download. The more familiar one is with Jewish text and core concepts, the farther you can go with Ayeka. It is as if Rabbi Ben David was thinking, “Okay, I’ve got the teaching over here, and some tried implementation techniques over there. Now, is there yet another accessible, soulful way of internalizing and authentically living our traditional Jewish teachings, without compromise and without requiring suspension of a broadly informed modern belief system.” And out came Ayeka (and it is good).
What is the value of being part of an Ayeka group?
Rabbi Ben David speaks of the goal of Ayeka as becoming souls evoking souls. “The things we do in the image of God give us the opportunity to evoke the same in others.” The group experience allows us to try that on for size in a safe place, then we walk it outside.
I think there’s room in Ayeka for various notions of what spiritual growth means. Rabbi Ben-David suggests that “The test of spiritual growth is whether I am becoming a more loving person,” and I could definitely work on that for a very, very long time. My group and hevruta intereaction – and afterward with other Ayeka alum – remains a check-up on my spiritual progress.
Did being in a group impact your perspective on personal spiritual growth?
Coming soon in the Torah nearest you, are these words: “Surely, this instruction which I place upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach….No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it.” Deuteronomy 30: 11-14. That’s my experience of Ayeka: a way to bring the Torah to Life.
Click here for more information on Ayeka groups in Boulder. If you are interested in organizing your own Ayeka group or in hosting your own Jewish learning group on any topic, please contact Boulder’s Ayeka Coordinator, Karli Sherwinter, at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is available to help launch and sustain groups by providing an educator, curricular materials (either designed by the educator or predesigned curricula like Ayeka) and administrative support.