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Posts Tagged ‘derekh’

Introduction:
Today is Day 10 of My Selfie Challenge. This is my time to look at how I walk in the world and to shake loose from some of the very things that bind my spirit.  And if I am going to be really truthful, it is my hope that as I take each photo, I will learn to be just a little happier with the person that I am. This is my time for me to really see myself!

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens. 
~ Carl Jung 

Sometimes we find the perfect words in the perfect moment. Today was one of those days. First I received my first birthday wish; it was a day early and it totally warmed my heart. And then there was the quote above.

As a steady seeker, I have learned to look inside myself. It is this work that keeps me grounded and focused on staying on a derekh, a path, that will ultimately or continuously jazz my soul. I really do honor where I am.  While I can’t always speak from my heart, I am getting better and better at living authentically.

The more “real” I am, the more awake I become. Holy living is my goal. With every breath, I hope to become more and more true to my spirit. For me this means that sometimes I have to reach outward and share the fullness of who I am, sometimes I need to go inward and allow for the silence, and sometimes I have to be ok with simply not trying so hard.

Day 10Today was one of those days, I needed the day off, but somehow that didn’t happen and it won’t tomorrow either. Still I found pockets of time to go inward, to laugh out loud, and to do what I had to do.

And while I am wiped out, I am also feeling very much alive. I think taking the time to learn with my Monday Morning Torah Study group and time to play with Magic (my new pup) and Maddie, M & M for short. Life is good, but this year, I really do need to learn to rest and play better. That is my work!!

Sending love, light, and blessings. . . .

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Chava's Shadow 17January2016

 

“. . . have patience towards everything that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms or like books that are written in a remote foreign language. Do not search now for answers that cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And everything has to be lived. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually live your way, without noticing, into the answer some day.  Perhaps indeed you have the capacity to educate and develop others as an especially happy and pure way of life; train yourself for this – but accept what comes in great trust, and as long as it comes from your will or from some innermost need, take it on yourself and hate nothing. ”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Today, I am 50. I know more about myself than I knew a week ago, a month ago, a year ago, five years ago, and so on.  I know that I do not have all the answers, but I wish I did.

Life’s journey has not been easy and yet my life is really quite beautiful. I often get in the way of myself; my intensity leads me into some challenging shadows, but the light that often follows is worth it.  Life’s wounds have healed and loved ones have helped and continue to help me emerge even if I have to do most of the work.

In so many ways, I have chosen to walk a very different path than my friends and family.  My choices have not always been good ones, but they have lead me where I am today. In spite of some of my decisions, my sons are amazing young men that are following their own derekh, path.  I trust most of how they choose to walk in the world; as a ima, mother, it is my job to wonder, reflect, and hope that things go as good as they can and that they make the ‘right’ decisions for themselves.

I have traveled many miles, both in distance and spiritually. With each step, I find my footing, but sometimes I slip and hurt myself (and others) along the way. That doesn’t always mean I have taken a wrong turn and yet the truth is that I often have a lousy sense of direction. Sigh.  Yet, the good news is that I climb mountains that some find insurmountable, but I do it! And each mountain leads to new insight and a stronger me.

There is so much more  work that I need to do in this world. My gut is telling me that I will make a difference for good! I just have to remember to do the work and nurture my body, mind, and soul so that I can do the holy work.  I wish I knew how I could make the most positive impact, but that answer seems to elude me at this time. So I am following Rilke’s advice (above) and living into the answers.

As I take the time to treasure where I am, I also feel the need to look at what more I need to do for me so that it is possible for me to be the healthiest I can be.

My body needs some serious revamping. I have no choice, but to listen to the messages that are speaking so clearly to me. It is time to sleep more, exercise, eat better, and allow for the quiet to nudge me to where I need to go.

I also need to make more time to read great books, go to fabulous museums, hike new pathways and sit in cafés; one of my favorite things to do in this world is to sit in cafés while drinking my tea latte, people watching, and writing.

Stretching means that I need to leave my comfort zone a little bit more often and reach for new heights and become more open to hearing that which makes little sense to me.

My soul aches for the quiet as much as it aches for meaningful interactions. For whatever time I have left on this earth, may I allow for the quiet while navigating towards meaningful relationships and spiritual work.

I seem to always be seeking balance.

My spiritual work is inspired by climbing both real and metaphoric mountains so that I can create a sanctuary wherever I am.  May my energy and light spread out into the world while still warming my very own heart and soul.

Happy 50th to me!

Louisa - late winter 2015

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. ~Lao Tzu

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“Friendship is one soul dwelling in two bodies.” ~Aristotle

Loving my friends is part of my being, just as my blood flows; my breath sustains me; and my heart beats, etc.   It is what it is.   And sometimes friendships end.  Death and personal choices sometime sever a connection forever.  With each ending a heart shatters and sadness penetrates one’s being.  Losing someone we love literally takes our breath away.

We have all experienced loss yet with each loss, I am never certain how I will heal from my loss.  How can one survive the pain?  Loneliness quite literally shatters my being; darkness shadows my essence.

This year has been full of loss.  I have lost people that I love.  I have had to say good-bye and to move forward and find my sunny disposition while darkness shattered my essence.

In Hebrew, the word for neshama is often translated as soul and sometimes translated as breath.   With each loss of a soul friend, I literally lose my breath.

I see my closest friends as puzzle pieces that make me feel so much more whole as a human being when when we are connected.  Yet sometimes we lose those that we feel most completely connected to.  A knife can enter us and drain us of our derekh (path) for a period of time.  Again, it is what it is.  Somehow we find the power within ourselves to heal, to move forward.

While the pain feels insurmountable, I am blessed with one realization that will sustain me until the end of time.

Don’t cry because it is over.   Smile because it happened.

~Dr. Seuss

May we all find the blessings in our beloved friends even when they are no more a part of our lives.

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Saying by-Lisa Villa Prosen; Photo-Tre Le

Today on Facebook, I saw this photo posted on My Renewed Mind’s status line.  The moment I saw it, my mind soared.  Life’s journey has not always been easy for me; there has been intense loss, dramatic pain, and deep sadness.  In truth, none of these realities have ever overtaken me for long.  I have always found a way to surpass the challenges.  That doesn’t mean that I haven’t suffered, it means that I have had to do a lot of work in order to become the healthy person that I am.

Many of the challenges that I have faced have been out of my control; I was forced to survive and even thrive in difficult conditions.  An example is when my son was critically sick; I had to spend days, weeks, months, and even years taking care of him in all sorts of settings that were not necessarily of my choosing.  Our children are never meant to suffer, but sometimes they do.  During that time, I had to honor the reality that we were facing and I had travel a path that kept my son alive and yet took away every ounce of freedom I had.  During the years of his illness, I couldn’t write, take walks, or explore the world around me.  The gift is that at the end of his journey, I was able celebrate his life with him.

Each one of us faces challenges in our lives.  Sometimes we can maneuver ourselves through the situations for a while and sometimes we are stuck.  It would be great to have choices, but reality doesn’t always allow it and sometimes it takes a little time to work situations out.  When I was a little girl, I had to grow up before I could leave home and become safe as an adult.  When I have had struggles in my work, I have had to try to work through the scenarios before moving forward.  Working through challenging relationships takes work, as does moving forward when those relationships are over.  Work, friendships, family dynamics are all part of life; honoring yourself in the midst of them is about deciding what makes you soar.  What do you need to thrive as a person?

For me, taking chances and letting my creative soul live is how I can be the happiest person, how I can be free.  Yes, I am part of a beautiful family as well as loving friends.   But in order for me to thrive with those I love, I must thrive within my own being.  Writing is how this becomes possible.

In this moment, boxes surround me.  I have been pushing hard since making a decision to leave Washington DC for Tucson a little more than a month ago.  And I have missed taking time to write in my own space and at a moment that writing calls to me.  I am doing taking the time now.

Writing,

the song of my heart;

the feeling of my soul;

the meaning of my mind;

Is what makes me One.

These words were written when I was a young girl going through hell that none of us should ever know.  And today they touch me as much today as they did when I wrote them at 14 years old.  These words encompass the essence of my being.

Over the coming weeks, I will be continuing a 12 part series called “Seeking My Own Path to Simchah (Happiness): My Own Personal Happiness Project” This was inspired by book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  This series will explore the ways I have learned and continue to evolve as someone who seeks simchah, happiness.  The first two installments that were started before I moved to the southwest can be found:

May each of us move forward as individuals who strive to find our best selves; may we be free to explore our dreams and then follow our own dereckh, path to our own personal simchah, happiness.

With blessings  & light,

Chava

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The Journey Song

Lyrics by Debbie Friedman z”l and Tamara Ruth Cohen; music by Debbie Friedman

Where does the journey begin?
Where will we go?
Hours pass, the answers might change
As we keep moving along.

Each Friday night, I light my Shabbat Candles and then recite the blessings to the niggun (tune) of the above song.  I think it is my way of acknowledging that life is always a journey.  With each Shabbat, I can look back to the journey of the past week and celebrate so much of what has been and is.

Like my sister, Miriam, before me, I am doing the dance across the sea.  Instead of timbrels in my hand, I hold my drum and I move with all my heart and soul.

Every day of my life is a journey towards the living.  I am blessed with my ability to breath deeply and with the beat of my heart.  I am also blessed to be a work in progress that is transitioning towards being a sounder and healthier me. I am truly a woman who is filled with so much joy even when I navigate some dark moments.  My life is a gift.

Today I celebrate my 45th birthday.  Grappling with life’s questions and allowing time to answer the questions of my soul is what I do.

The celebration of my life is intense this year; I am not certain why.  It could be that I have just completed counting 45 days towards building an even better foundation for myself.  In truth, while intellectually I know it is huge deal, it ended up being easy to live with the choices I have made.

Forty-seven days ago, I went to the doctor and he told me that due to some health challenges that I had to take myself off of all caffeine and soda. I knew he was correct in his wisdom, plus I decided to take myself off of all added sweeteners (fake and real) with the exception of honey.  Sweeteners are trigger foods for me and they feed into addiction.  Since I have always struggled with weight and food addiction, I decided it was time to take the ‘bull by the horns’ and actively seek a healthy me.

What has happened is that I dropped over 30 lbs; I feel better; and I have more visions for my future.  My mind is so much less foggy and my drive and intuition seems to be soaring.  I am feeling grounded and joyful in ways that I have rarely felt.  While losing the weight is awesome, what I am valuing most is my ability to find my derekh, my prana, my path with much more clarity.

And what I found most profound about this part of my journey is that I had a fairly tough time for only a couple of days.  Days three and four of weaning myself off of highly addictive foods was tough, but then it was really easy.  My body has adapted to these food changes easily; it is as if I should have been this way all along!!  My body is responding exactly as if I am giving it what it needs and it is appreciating my new choices.

With each passing year I am learning to do more things to honor myself.  That doesn’t always come easy, but it is now an integral part of my life.  In order to love myself fully, I have to take care of myself and allow myself wings to fly.

My world is wide open.  While it is still unclear exactly how I will evolve, I am thriving in so many ways and it is my hope that this year will be filled with fabulous physical health.  My body needs to start becoming a sacred vessel in the same way I take care of my spiritual self.  The soul work that I have been doing now needs to make room for a healthier and more conscious physical being.  I am alive.  I want my inner being to be filled with incredible light, spiritual energy, and physical strength.  Only through loving my body, my mind, and my soul will I become that light.

My amazing journey continues. . . .

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Being Present: Possible?

The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.’

~Thich Nhat Hanh

Lately, I have been considering how I move through life.  There is so much to manage in my daily life; I also feel passionate about making conscious decisions, taking time to write, and remembering to remain present in all that I do.  I am filled with expectations of myself and I also feel the need to be fully present for those I love.  My creative juices are pulsating through my body without enough time to flourish into a source of joy in any way, shape, or form.

The key to remaining healthy in every way is to listen to the rhythms of my being as I walk in the world.  Lately I have been astonished by so much of what I am sensing.  I am feeling the vibrations of so many people that need to stop, including me.  I am sensing that my most beloved friends are thriving creatively and yet lacking what they need to follow through with their creative process.  I put myself in that category.

Many seem to be working his or her way through some very trying realities.  Sometimes it is a matter of living in an overwhelmed state, but still others are moving through challenging health situations (emotional and/or physical).  Life is really full for everyone and yet I admire how everyone moves forward.  All of us seem to doing what we need to be accomplished, but yet there is a cost.  We seem to be struggling to find personal equilibrium.

The good thing about facing reality is that I am coming to understand that this pace isn’t working for me personally.   My body needs to take more time to breathe deeply; my mind needs to take time to contemplate my thoughts more fully; my heart needs to feel more intensely and to allow the feelings to resonate within my being.  My legs need to stretch out and walk through all sorts of terrain; my fingers need to type more, write more and doodle more; my voice needs to be more expressive through chanting and storytelling.  I need to soar differently then I am soaring now.

Today I allowed myself the day off; I did some tasks for my family, but I also allowed myself to move slower, talk to a couple of my beloved soul sisters, and to rest when my body was hurting.  For me, the day was glorious; I loved having time to move slower.  I was bummed that my back was in pain, but it will be fine. . .it always is.  I have come to appreciate when pain or illness slow me down.   Life experiences echo what I already know; my body is telling me to slow down.

Over the coming months, I am hoping to move slower, to write more, and to pause with the intention of just being.  When I listen to my body, I am clear that in order for me to feel truly alive, I need allow myself the time to exist without feeling the need to always produce.  I am not sure that I will ever be able to fully do nothing, but I will work towards doing a little less.  Mostly, I want to feel the cool grass between my toes as I do my own little dance with life.

Walking gently,

Chava

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What I Know About Me

I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, and what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.

~Joan Didion

The last ten years have been full.  I have learned to hear my voice and to listen to the wisdom that resides within me.  I have grown to both love and like myself for who I am and to also strive to become more of who I want to be.  I have allowed myself to feel pain as a means to finding a healthier place to stand.  The blessing is that many people embraced me over this period of time and allowed me the safe space to grow with them supporting me as need be.

In so many ways, I have grown to trust myself deeply and to trust that the universe will give me what I need so that I feel cocooned with love and inner warmth.  Or maybe it is as simple as trusting and visualizing that the angels Michael, Gavriel, Uriel, and Rafael will support me.  Each represents a source of comfort from an angel.  It is a reminder that God is within me (Michael); Strength/protection surrounds me (Gavriel); A light guides me (Uriel); while Rafael has my back or potentially heals me.   I am no longer alone and yet I am quite content being alone.

The verse, not the song from Simon and Garfunkel’s song, I am a rock, has always comforted me.

I am a rock; I am an island

While the song is filled with images that no longer represent who I am, the words in the chorus touch me differently.  I am strong and can thrive as I am.  While I love many people, I also love having solitude within each and every day; I also welcome my time alone to chant, to write, and to just be. I have learned that I need to create my own sacred space and nurture myself.  I have also learned to reach out for others when I need that support.  I am surrounded by what I prefer to call mayyim chayyim, the living water.  I am surrounded by LIFE!!!!

 

For full disclosure and honesty, please know that over the years I may not remember each and every conversation I have had or what I have shared, but I do know that many have impacted my life and made me see my essence more clearly.  Some of the things have caught me by surprise and hurt me more than I knew I could feel pain; other things have helped propel me forward on my life’s journey.    Each insight has helped me to evolve and make it possible to move forward.  Over the last 10 or so years, many people have touched me.  With that beautiful energy and my own inner strength, I have come to know that:

  • I am intense at the core of my being.
  • I am not dramatic; I am expressive.
  • I have an intuitive wisdom that allows me to see life deeply for both others and myself.
  • I feel abandoned in so many ways, but it never rules my life.
  • I love life completely.
  • Laughing out loud makes the whole world brighter, so I share my laughter whenever I can.
  • Living consciously is not a choice; it is what I do.
  • I dream and actively pursue each and every one of my dreams as I realize them.
  • The process of closing doors hurts, but once I do – I let go completely.
  • The gift that I bring to the world is that I am a chameleon; I find a way to make every situation work.
  • I love people.
  • Writing makes me happy; I am hoping to one day spend most of my day weaving words to tell stories.
  • I am not afraid of death only of leaving my kids if I am the one who dies.
  • Life is a gift I allow myself to live fully.

May I be blessed to have continued love of life, to reach for my dreams as I build my future, and to touch others with my actions and words.  I am so blessed to have a loving circle of family and friends that have been there for me as I have navigated my way through life’s journeys.   Thank you for loving me and helping me love and trust myself.

Being self absorbed isn’t what I am, but today it sure feels that way.    Life really isn’t all about me, or maybe it is.  🙂

With blessings and light,

Chava

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א֖וֹר זָרֻ֣עַ לַצַּדִּ֑יק וּלְיִשְׁרֵי־לֵ֥ב שִׂמְחָֽה

Light is sown for the righteous and for the upright in the heart – joy. (Psalm 97:11)

Rabbi Shefa Gold’s interpretive chant http://www.rabbishefagold.com/planting-seeds-orzarua/ utilizes the above Hebrew and the following words:

Plant the seeds of Joy and Light; Tend them carefully day and night,
In this soil so dark and deep, I plant the dreams that Love will reap.  (Psalm 97:11)

Lavender photo

I love following the path of light; to me light is filled with a warm soothing joy that penetrates my soul on a cellular level.  I love knowing that even when life feels cloudy, I can always find the light!  If I didn’t have the light as my guide, I would have faded away long ago.

On a core level, I am a good person; I am no angel, but I strive to make good choices although sometimes I miss the mark.  I am passionate about much of what I think and I live life fully; those two attributes sometimes collide with taking a deep breath before I act.  Loving life as I do means that I often soar towards making my dreams come true and my ideas realized.  Following my heart is how I move through life.  When I listen to the rhythm of my heart, my potential to succeed is always a possibility.

Sometimes I have to pause before taking flight; I have to allow silence to guide me until I better understand how the pieces to life’s puzzle are meant to come together.  I have always been blessed with an intuitive nature.  My intuition allows me to trust the path that life takes me.  What I have learned over the past few years is that while laughter and music fuel my every move, it is the chant followed by an intense silence that propels me to the most honest place I can go.

Above is the chant that has proven time and time again to be a source of growth for me.  The words remind me of my need to continue following my own derekh (path) of spreading seeds of joy and light in all that I do.  Even when darkness seems to loom overhead, I need to keep moving forward and planting seeds of joy and light.

Reality can be looked at in so many ways.

Many would say that life isn’t easy; in fact life is full of challenges.  When times are tough it is not easy to find the light or to find the joy.  But I do believe that you can absolutely find a positive moment as you wade through the tough stuff.  Perhaps not in the midst of tragedy, but I would challenge each of us to look for moments of light (if not joy) in even the most difficult of moments.

My life has had a few tragic moments and years of darkness, but I don’t think it is in me to live in that darkness.  I have always found a moment of joy even in the harshest of moments.

For those of you that have read my blog in the past, you might know that my older son Aryeh went through a few rough years to put it mildly.  As he laid the hospital bed du jour, each time the doctors/nurses would try to check his cognitive function by asking him questions with obvious answers.  Anyone that has a teenager (or any child for that matter) should realize that very few answers are obvious.  For instance, 1+1, why would anyone in their right mind think that it equals 2?  I can’t remember a day when Aryeh would answer 1+1 = 2, his answer was always 3!!!  In any case, as my son struggled for health every medical professional that used that simple equation to check my son’s cognitive function would totally flip for a moment as those of us who knew Aryeh well would LAUGH.  (Note: Don’t even try to figure how 1+1=3, I will blog about that soon.)  Yes, times were painful, but what I know for certain is that I had to find reasons to laugh or to see moments of light in order to get through the darkness. Those moments build on one another so that regardless of what transitions occur, one can look back and see moments of light.

When we sit in darkness, it is darkness that surrounds us.  Without even the smallest moments of light, life ceases to exist.  The chant above allows me the opportunity to see the possibilities when we plant the seeds of life in the darkness that also feels overwhelming.  As long as we are planting seeds, we are trying to reach for our dreams!

Look back at the people that have most influenced your life for good.  Did you notice their joy or their sadness more? Did you notice their kindness or their moodiness? Do the people you most admire embrace life fully and do they find joy as they live their life?

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Life is filled with journeys.  Each of us have journeys that we follow throughout our lives.  Some of the journeys are filled with joy and some with pain; some of the journeys are filled with growth while others are filled with loss.  All journeys naturally encourage us to embrace change; we literally have no choice.  In the end, we have to either make peace with reality or feel challenged by what is.

Finding the blessings amongst the growing pains can be challenging.  I have always been the optimist.  Joy surrounds me at every turn. Opportunity can be found even in the darkest of moments.  As long as I can see a glimpse of sunlight, a ray of hope exists.  And sometimes when loss is inevitable, I learn from what is now out of my reach.

The last six weeks have been filled with so many journeys.  And with each journey, I have had to take a deep breath and look for the rays of sunshine peeking through the clouds.  I wish I could say it has been easy, but it has been painful.  I have had moments of intense sadness, but throughout each moment, I have felt the light shining through.  What a blessing that even in my darkness, I see the glass as being much more than half full.

My Uncle Phil died less than 3 weeks after being diagnosed with brain cancer.  He was a tremendous force in my life and the only relative outside of my immediate family that encouraged me to do my soul work; Uncle Phil encouraged me to write and to always use my creativity.  In truth, his entire family seems to continue his legacy; the Grayson clan inspires me to write in so many ways.  While my uncle has died, I feel the beat of his heart as I continue to build a special relationship with my Aunt Jane, David, and Karen.

On April Fool’s Day, I will have a hysterectomy.  The hysterectomy will do its part to make me a healthier person.  Taking care of myself is such a concept for me.  No one likes to endure pain, but sometimes we have no choice.  The question is always, what do we learn as we move through this process.  In my case, I feel enormous gratitude that I will be healing with the hysterectomy and with each passing day after the surgery, I will become physically stronger and healthier too.

Aryeh, my son, continues to be plagued by challenges due to a couple of brain surgeries that never solved all of his physical pain.  No parent wants to see his or her child suffer; watching Aryeh endure his pain hurts me in the core of my being.  Having said that, I am acutely aware of his spirit soaring with each and every flight he has been forced to take. I am amazed at his ability to push himself to succeed in his daily life through writing and acting in a school play. Aryeh shines with beauty that most of us will never encounter; his energy is guiding force and his wisdom is beacon of light.

Coping with the latest setback is tough; Michael’s job was terminated effective immediately.  The anxiety in this journey is intense because of Michael’s sadness over this situation; it is profoundly affecting us all and now money will be even tighter now than it was before.  But I am handling this journey in the same way I handle all journeys.  I believe that things will get better as we grow and actively make the changes we need to make in order thrive even better than we were doing before.  Michael is a dedicated gem that would have benefited from constructive feedback and healthy interactions; it is sad that Jewish and non-profit institutions lack the grace to do this on a consistent basis.  Michael will be all right in time and I have learned to be even more conscious of what’s going on around me and to listen to my own inner voice.  Over the coming weeks, I will write each of my own staff and honest letter about my evaluation of their work performance.  The blessing I have in my own work situation is that while we can all learn, my staff is kind and conscientious.  I am looking forward to offering professional feedback while letting them know in writing how much I appreciate their teaching.

Parenting Dovi has given me strength during each and every journey I have taken since his birth.  Dovi is kind to the core; loving to each and every person he meets.  He reminds me to walk gently and to breathe as I navigate the path I am traveling.  He encourages me to check in with how I am really feeling inside, but at the same time he guides me towards ‘finding peace within the storm’.  Having Dovi’s spirit in our family’s life has been a source of strength in every way and on every trail I travel.

Only through finding the blessings in the darkness and allowing myself to sit within some of my sadness will I thrive.  Chanting and writing give me the strength to navigate my pain and my fears.  Sharing my pain with those I love instead of remaining silent also helps me through the difficult times.  In my heart, I believe that all will be good and all of these challenges will improve in a short time.  My hope and prayer is that my loved ones, my friends visualize my life filled with simplicity and healing of both body and soul for all in my family.  Life is truly stunning. The beauty in each of the journeys above is that I feel the warmth of the sun shining through the clouds.

With love and light, blessings and peace,

Chava

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Lifecycle Reflections

For so many months I’ve been asking myself, “What derekh (path/direction) do I want to follow?  The answer is still unclear, but experiences are continuing to imbue me with insight on a regular bases.

Today was no exception.

This morning, I went to a workshop at my local Partnership for Jewish Life and Learning.  While there, I seemed to be on a different plain than my colleagues.  Thankfully they are kind individuals that didn’t put me out to pasture; I am absolutely lucky to work with other educators who really honor each other wherever they stand.

Our workshop started with a d’var torah (discussion on Torah) in which we discussed this week’s parsha (Torah portion), Mikkets.  In the parsha, Yaakov turns to his sons and says, “Why do you keep looking at one another?” (This is in reference to the reality that Yaakov and his sons have no food in Canaan, but there is plenty of food in the neighboring Egypt. Our forefather Yaakov appears to be asking his sons why they are just standing there.)  The question is one I often ponder when there is work to do and no one steps forward for whatever reason they have.

So when a call came in a few hours later from a local Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society) asking if I would help with a tahara (ritual washing of a body before the funeral), I had to ask myself if I would just stand around and do nothing or step up to the plate.  I had a few excuses why I couldn’t do the tahara.

  • My family was looking forward to spending the 7th night of Chanukah together.  This Chanukah had not been as family oriented as it usually is.
  • My hand was hurting terribly and I needed to refrain from using it for the evening.
  • Did I say it was really cold outside and I wanted to stay curled up inside for the night?

But the call made me jump into action and the excuses weren’t acceptable.  Some beautiful soul called me because she needed me to help her congregation out.  I was her twentieth call.  Once I realized that I was the twentieth call, I knew what I had to do; none of my challenges for the evening were voiced.

After nearly three years of taking care of Aryeh, my now 16-year-old son who was (and is no longer) seriously ill, I realized it was time for me to leave the cocoon.  Now that my son is stronger, it is my job to respond when I am being called into action.

Tonight’s tahara was for a real tzadekes, righteous woman; she must have been a gem of a person.  As I walked into the funeral home, I met two women that loved this woman tremendously.  With time to spare before the tahara was to begin, both women shared memories of their dear friend.  It isn’t often that family or friends can share a story with you about their loved one moments before a tahara is performed.  After hearing a few stories, I felt so honored to be doing this particular tahara. The women seemed to be gems themselves; they were warm and lovely people who seemed to view the departed as a mentor.

One of the two women actually performed the tahara with me.  She was gentle and loving with her friend’s body.  She was strong in spite of her sadness.  I hope and pray that I am always so kind and loving when I perform a tahara; I also hope that next time I look for ways to be more available when someone needs me.

As a progressive Jew, the calls don’t come in from my own communities; they come in from a more traditional community nearby.  The good news is that I have been trained to do taharas and I love being able to give in that way.  I keep wondering if there is more that I can do to help those dealing with the death and dying process.  Maybe.  This will be one of the things that I will continue to ponder for the time being.

After the tahara, I found myself chanting Nachamu Nachamu Ami (Comfort, Comfort my people) again and again.  I wanted to reach out and comfort those in mourning; I wanted to create a sacred space for them to move through their grief.  I felt, as I always do, that I was exactly where I needed to be when I was available to do the tahara and I was exactly where I needed to be when I was chanting with the family/friends of the departed in my heart and on my mind.

With light and blessings,

Chava

PS – My soul friend/sister posted a beautiful blog on her own tahara reflections.  Please take a moment to read it!  http://theitinerantrabbit.blogspot.com/

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