Posts Tagged ‘honor’

My entire being has grown raw.

50 dead!

And we are now starting are next political crisis. Progressives vs Conservatives. Both defending their views while hundreds of children, partners, and loved souls are no longer alive in this world.


One man causes terror in the name of his radical beliefs and many are ready to condemn all Muslims.

I am so sick to my stomach. 50 dead. 50 people who were tragically murdered. 50 human beings who never got to say good-bye to their loved ones. And thousands of people, hopefully millions are now mourning for 50 now dead souls.

Tragedy strikes again.

This is not ok!

 “AR-15 Rifle Used in Orlando Massacre Has Bloody Pedigree. it was used to slaughter first graders at Sandy Hook, murder Batman fans at Colorado movie theater, kill county workers at a holiday party in San Bernardino.

Now the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle has the dubious distinction of being the weapon of choice for a homosexual-hating gunman” CORKY SIEMASZKO

Something has to be done.

This afternoon Aryeh lit a candle in honor of those lost to this brutality and to the beautiful soul that opened up this bar in honor of her brother’s life journey.

Tomorrow I will go to a vigil. There I will hopefully meet the right person, the person who will open the door to my activism around making sure that an aggressive bastard has no legal ways of carrying a gun or rifle of any kind!

My heart is breaking. So many people lost in the name of mental illness, radical beliefs, or simply because of some of their deep seeded desires.

Years ago, my friend Susan Windle referred to me as a Spiritual Warrior. It is time for me to birth the Warrior’s spirit and better learn how to sit down at the table with those who have different roles so that we can really stop the massacres that keep happening.

And to my friend that shared the horrific rhetoric of one Muslim shiekh, I want to say that I have heard some repulsive words come out of both rabbis and other faith based leaders. In fact there are those people that firmly stand with the following Judeo-Christian teaching that is found in the bible. It says in Leviticus 20:13, within the Judeo-Christian Bible, “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” Sometimes religion sure focuses on narrow minded thinking. I am so happy to stand with those that seek understanding and healthy ways to interpret or maybe re-frame some of the difficult texts that our part of all faith based traditions.

Without modern day interpretations or a respect for when ancient texts were written, all of our teachings can lead to darkness. The reason I left Orthodox Judaism so many years ago was because I did not believe the Torah was written or inspired by God.  I see the Torah as our guide to life. And like any good book, we learn to synthesis the information and then grow as we study. As a progressive Jew, I think of our Torah as the Living Torah, it is my job to find meaning in the teachings and practices. It is my guide and I treasure it. But do I believe all of it’s teachings are just? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Before I understood the complete ramifications of prejudice, there was a persOne_race_human_eV2on in my life who was extremely prejudiced. For the first time in my adult life, I encountered someone that repulsed me because of their  core beliefs, so I found passive aggressive ways to cope. While this wasn’t a fabulous way to move forward, it felt right at the time. One thing that I did was to engage in conversations so that I could enlighten this man. As you can imagine, that didn’t go over too well. And then one day, I found the most wonderful t-shirt. And thanks to Google images, I found it again. I don’t know who made this, but I do know it was the final way that I knew, at that time, to cope with hatred. Until it fell apart, I wore it every time I saw this person. My guess is that he wondered if I owned any other t-shirts. 🙂

I am now a little wiser than I once was. With that in mind, I realize that it is time to navigate the very real realities that exist and do my part to help things evolve. Lighting a candle was introspective, going to a vigil is supportive, but perhaps I need to connect with some of the organizations doing good work with gun violence issues. Here is one important link, I know I have a few friends that have worked with Everytown for Gun Safety, http://everytown.org/act/.

50 human beings dead, let’s not pause any longer.

There are so many layers to taking care of the human race. Let’s make connections with one another and  do our part collectively. We can make a difference.

“If you want connection, it’s because you are connection. Be what you want, and then it happens all around you. If you want love, be it. You’ll have more love than you know what to do with. Whatever you are inside, you receive a thousand fold on the outside.” ~ Adyashanti

Onward – Now & Always,

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Note: I will be Counting the Omer for a total of 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom. For many, this is simply the Counting the Omer; for others, it is a tool for exploring the kabbalistic teachings in an organized way. For me, it is a time to actively reflect on my Journey Towards Wholeness. The more I am whole, the more free I will become.  [http://t.co/dBPYjDxSGj . . . .]


Honoring Our Many Moving Parts

Being a mother has been the most amazing gift in my life. And yet Mother’s Day feels arbitrary in every way. Being a mother is part of my entire being and so is being a woman, a Jew, a writer. . . .I don’t need to be celebrated on any day, my soul needs to be loved every day.

Fortunately, I am surrounded by love – not only from my sons, but from so many in my world. I am a blessed person!

Besides being a mother, a woman, a Jew, and a writer, I am also a teacher, a friend, a sister; and I am a student, a dreamer, and an activist.  And. . . . The list goes on and on; all of us have many roles in our lives. I am far from unique.

I’d like all of us to be appreciated for the whole people that we are. And for me, I want to be accepted for the intense, passionate, goofy human being that I can be. I want those in my life to smile when they think of the person I am, laughing at my Chava-isms or my love of tie dye is fine too.

May we all of us feel loved and supported – ALWAYS.  May we nurture one another’s spirits.

Today is double chai (double life). Somehow that seems totally appropriate as a day to honor the people that each of us are!

Sending love, light, and blessings,

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Note: I will be Counting the Omer for a total of 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot or from Slavery to Freedom. For many, this is simply the Counting the Omer; for others, it is a tool for exploring the kabbalistic teachings in an organized way. For me, it is a time to actively reflect on my Journey Towards Wholeness. The more I am whole, the more free I will become.  [http://t.co/dBPYjDxSGj . . . .]

Photo Courtesy of Randall Miller: Western Minnesota

Photo Courtesy of Randall Miller:
Western Minnesota

Sometimes when you listen to that quiet voice inside,
the one that is speaking so softly, you can hear the truth.
uote by Chava Gal-Or

Over the last several years, I have been listening to the quiet voices in my head.  The voice that doesn’t always allow me to follow what is expected of me by others.  That is a choice that I have made.

The journey wasn’t easy at first, but now, it is – mostly. I live with integrity and I trust my inner wisdom.  Life can’t get much better than that. But in the midst of some of the greatest challenges, I found myself questioning my values and questioning what I believed.  As someone who wanted to be liked, it was painful to see that some people didn’t like the transparent me. Learning to honor myself hasn’t been easy, but in the end it has become a non-negotiable.

Over the next few weeks, I will be able to share some of what has been happening since I have grown as I have.  Much good has come my way since I have chosen to listen to my inner voices.

Living authentically has given me wings to fly and a spirit to soar. I am blessed to feel free within my being. The best gift of all is now I surround myself with people that see me as I truly am.

Facebook message that greeted me this morning: "This is for you. May you always hear the music and the Still Small Voice within it."

Facebook message that greeted me this morning: “This is for you. May you always hear the music and the Still Small Voice within it.”

Receiving this message is confirmation of how far I have come in the last few years.

May we all have the ability to listen to the voices inside our heads.

With love, light, and blessings,

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Each of us has faced death at some point in our lives or we will face death over the course of our lives.  Death is a part of life.  Yet with each passing death I have to reach inside my heart and remember that although the person is gone from my physical world, they are with me – always with me.

After my mother died, I needed to fill the void somehow.  At the time of her funeral I was pissed at how her sisters chose to manage her burial.  My mother lived a very tragic life and caused me substantial pain nearly every moment that she was in my life and long after she was gone too.  Yet I felt drawn to Jewish rituals as a structure to manage the period of time directly following my mother’s death;  unfortunately that was not what would come to pass.

My road to healing from my mother’s death came only when I embraced the Jewish Laws of Death and Dying by doing my part to help others navigate this process.

Part 1: Tahara 

Eleven months after my mother’s death I took on doing tahara, a ritual washing and care of a body before burial.  Over time, that one mitzvah or commandment became profoundly meaningful to me.  It was a way I could give without expectation of anything in return.  Spiritually, I felt connected to each and every person that was part of the tahara experience.  The feeling of working with a beautiful group of souls that were doing the tahara with me had a lasting effect.  By doing tahara, I also healed my soul from a tragic and painful loss.  Working with each and every chevra kaddisha, also known as the Jewish Sacred Society,  is a powerful experience because each person on the chevra kadisha gives with an exceptional amount of warmth and kavod (honor) for the deceased.  Even when I worked with chevra kadishas that do things differently than I do, the respect of the body and the warmth of our mission superseded our egos.

After I left the Orthodox Jewish world, I have faced periods of deep sadness because progressive Jews don’t seem to value or even know of the laws of burial.  And while they might not be bound by the laws of burial, the tradition is always profound and has grown to be a meaningful part of life and death for me.

Over the past few weeks, my son Aryeh has expressed how he would like to join me in my love for tahara.  While we would never “work” together because as I woman I always do taharas (taharot is actually the correct reference word for more than one tahara) for women/girls, and Aryeh would always do taharas for men/boys.  At 19 years old, he is touched at the ‘idea’ of caring for a mate, a dead person.  He has seen both of his parents do what they can for others in life and in death; how beautiful is it that he wants to follow in our footsteps.

My hope and prayer is that as time progresses and progressive Jews seek more spiritual practices, that more folks will decide to have taharas for themselves and those they love.


Part 2: Burial Plots

A few years ago, I had the honor of going to a Chevra Kadisha conference where I was able to connect with others that worked with Chevra Kadishas all over this country and Canada.  At one point, I learned about a cemetery in Northern California that created a cemetery for all denominations within Judaism.  They described how people that were buried in their cemetery would be buried in the most traditional of ways.

  1. with Tahara
  2. with tachrichim (shrouds)
  3. in a canvas sack
  4. in a cemetery that would include only indigenous plants that did not need watering.
  5. the grave stones would be indigenous and taken from the area of the cemetery.
  6. no vaults would be used in the ground, people would be buried in the soil in a respectful way.

After the presentation, I found myself crying silently to myself.  One of my new found friends and conference participant came over to ask if everything was ok or if I wanted to share something.  With that I had to dry my tears and share my thoughts.  Initially, I had to tell her that I had no plans of dying at that point in time nor was I facing loss of a loved one.  But I was profoundly touched that burial could be so beautiful.  In Maryland where I had lived for many years, each and every person was buried in a vault.  That meant that their bodies could not decompose in the best of all ways.  It felt surreal for me to hear that there was an option that resonated with me.  My lasting thoughts since hearing this presentation is that I want to be buried in Marin County, California.

Of course the decision is complicated by the fact that I always consider my carbon footprint and I don’t know where I will be living when I die.  But if it were to be possible and practical, I would want to be buried at the cemetery that is bound by tradition and walking gently with the earth.

In Closing
We will all die and so will our loved ones.  I love being part of  a tradition that not only honors the living but honors those that have died.  We also have a framework for taking care of mourners as they navigate their losses.

Now that I am in my forties, I have faced the death of many loved ones; I have held my friends who have lost their loved ones; and I have faced the loneliness when someone I love has died.  Doing this within a Jewish framework has strengthened me and helped me navigate what could be a challenging and sometimes painful process.

Reflecting back on my different journeys of life and yes death, I feel a sense of comfort in the blessings that I have experienced.  I have buried numerous family members and some friends, I saw my mother’s body within minutes of death and sung Tehillim (Psalms) to my father days before his death.  Together my brother and I sat with my father as he took his last breath.  Being part of the Jewish community and specifically the chevra kadisha has strengthened my foundation as a human being and a Jewish woman.  Saying good-bye to the physical being that we have loved is challenging, but knowing that there is a sacred group of people that are on this journey with us helps.

May we be blessed with a full life, loved ones, and a community that surrounds us.

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