Posts Tagged ‘Mourners Kaddish’

Honor Yourself

Courtesy of Terri St. Cloud of BoneSighArt.com 

One of the most powerful transformations that I have made since the fall Jewish holidays has been learning Torah twice a week with two groups of passionate woman (by coincidence). Both have become the highlight of my professional and healing journey. I am processing life with others and the Torah is fully becoming my guide to living more fully. Simply put, I have found a new way to honor myself differently than I ever have before now.

Last week in my Thursday afternoon Torah Study, we spoke about Jacob’s devastation over the loss of Joseph, the son who who he loved “best of all”.  While I don’t understand what it means to love one son over another son or to have one of my children die, I do understand that losing a child is perhaps the worst kind of loss that any of us can imagine.  So after Joseph learns that his son was devoured by a beast, his reaction is totally understandable:

Jacob rent his clothes, put sackcloth on his loins, and observed mourning for his son many days. All of his sons and daughters sought to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, saying, “No, I will go down mourning to my son in Sheol.”  (Genesis 37: 34-35)
The conversation that followed our reading of the above verse was heartbreaking and enlightening.  One person understood such a loss and allowed us a window into her experience and I finally understood more clearly why in traditional shiva houses, houses of mourning, we do not supposed to reach out to the mourners until they initiate a conversation.

Going to Sheol after learning of a death of someone you adore makes sense – always. Even if we are surrounded by loved ones, we are also feeling desolate and alone. And with that discussion came an enlightening discussion about mourning practices within the traditional Jewish world. Torah came alive.

Today’s Torah study was a fountain of flowing energy that ignited my soul – it always does. While we explored the difference between being a sage and showing discernment, we grew to understand what it means to have knowledge and the ability to impactfully work with others.  We also spoke about our health journeys and how we need to take care of ourselves. We also spoke about the mourner’s kaddish and the problem with how many progressive congregations do it today. How can we support mourners when we all rise together? We spoke about the options.  Finally, we wrapped up with how we say perhaps the holiest prayer in our tradition. We spoke about how we say and teach the Shema, our communities proclamation that we have One God. (Note: In Progressive Judaism there are many ways to see God and Godliness. What I LOVE about our tradition is that even if some of us see this a little differently, the Shema is a central prayer for all of us.)
Woven through every discussion was a thread of knowledge that came from the way Joseph interpreted dreams and how he, his father and his brother lived their lives. There is so much to learn from the tangents that are all part of Torah.
Each and every time I learn Torah my heart feels broken open differently than it was before we started.  My Monday morning Torah Study has strengthened my connection with five people. I can not imagine this connection ever fading. For one hour women from all corners of the United States talk Torah, education, and life.  Individually we are broken vessels that somehow emerge more whole when we grow/learn together.  Another way that my friend and study partner Iris Koller articulated our experience was that, “We each bring our fragments of lights that shine through”; our time together creates one of the most beautiful rainbows that I have ever seen.
On a side note, it has only been in the last 15 or so years that I have developed close connections with women. Before that time, I was rarely close with more than a couple of women at a time, but now I am so much more balanced because of the many soul sisters that have touched my life. Wow – I feel blessed.  I find myself thinking and opening up different that I ever have and it makes me want to cry.  I love that Torah is coming alive as it is.

There is so much holiness that comes alive when the two groups of women I study with bring our many moving parts together            in order to study together. The learning of life’s lessons through our study of Torah is making me more whole.

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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 . . . .]

Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation -  Sanctuary Bethesda, Maryland

Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation –
Bethesda, Maryland

Rambling Musings of Going Home-to Adat Shalom

Yesterday I went home.

I didn’t go to the place I was raised; I wouldn’t want to go there.  Instead I went to the spiritual community that raised me as an educator, pushed me as a human being, and nurtured my soul when I needed it most. I went to Adat Shalom Reconstuctionist Congregation in Bethesda, Maryland.

From the moment I drove in the parking lot, I knew I was returning home. With a sense of overwhelming joy, I couldn’t believe how fortunate I was to be visiting my old stomping grounds. As soon as I got out of the car, I met with one of the most beautiful souls that welcomed me into her home on numerous occasions without question whenever I wanted to gather my Rosh Hodesh Girls. (This was a group of tweens and later teens that celebrated the new month together.)

While all loving connections are complicated, Adat Shalom was the community that empowered me to grow as the person and the human being that I am today. For six years I worked at Adat Shalom. Each and every day I was stretched, watered, and even pruned. There were moments when the growing pains were intense and other moments that my soul couldn’t stop singing.  And looking back, I can clearly see how deeply this Makom Kadosh, holy place touched my life and does to this very day.

The clergy and the community taught me how to be the most authentic me I could be. Each and every day that I came to work, I felt loved and respected. On the bad days, I knew I had some growing to do; on the good days, I knew I was far from becoming the best educator I could be. Through working with such thoughtful leaders, lay people, and families, I learned the power of discernment.

Looking back, I see that I worked with soul workers. The clergy, the teachers, Sheila Feldman (our executive director), and the staff. The lay leaders and the members were passionate and wise. While I sometimes struggled, I was also deeply in love. Leaving Adat Shalom was painful, but it was the right thing to do at that time in my life. And I will forever feel a sense of loss that I am no longer there.

The community was passionate about the world they live and those that live in it. It was at Adat Shalom that I started to understand individual rights and our collective responsibility. It was at Adat Shalom that I began to seriously (and with decisive information) to contemplate our impact on the environment and how we could make a difference for good. And it was at Adat Shalom that I found my voice. I became more thoughtful and conscious of my responsibility as a Jew, a woman, and a human being. I had a lot of work to do and I welcome the fact that I will always be doing the work.

When my child’s life hung by a thread, it was the loving energy of such a caring community that gave us the strength to navigate and ultimately survive the years of trauma.  Both strangers and friends brought us food, offered their prayers, and even visited us during the nightmares that nearly took my son’s life.

As soon as I walked into the sanctuary, I knew exactly where I would sit. Seeing my beloved friend sitting by himself, I was thrilled to totally surprise the person who I had lost track of. Years before he and his loving wife were traveling on the west coast when we were preparing to what would become a 22 hour brain surgery in Los Angeles. Even today, Aryeh, my son, who remembers little of that time in our lives, remembers our friends going out of the way to comfort him. BTW, it worked.

I love that I had Aryeh with me yesterday. He has ALWAYS loved our Adat family as much as I did. We have both missed our Adat Shalom community.

What no one realized yesterday is that my son wore a tallit that I made for him. The words on the atarah, the collar, said I am still alive. In Hebrew, the words remind us that in spite of what many believed would be his death sentence, my son is still alive. At one point during services, I rested my head against his arm and he quietly said, “It feels so good to be here wrapped in this tallit and at Adat Shalom.” My son is very much alive and I think it is the Adat Shalom community and his relenting spirit that gave him (and our entire family) the strength to soar.

Towards the last moments of the service, Aryeh decided to rise for his first time to say Mourners ‘Kaddish, for his father’s father, his grandfather who had died two weeks earlier. No one at Adat Shalom knew that he was mourning a significant loss in his life, but it was at home that my son was given the space to cry and to feel the full impact of his loss. It didn’t matter that no one knew, it was at Adat Shalom that my son felt safe to stand and mourn.

There are many that come to Adat Shalom with their own Jewish journeys. I love that I learned so much about what it means to honor each individual’s spirit during my time there. I wish I could thank EVERYONE that crossed my path so that I could personally thank them.

Being called to the bima, stage, by Cantor Rachel, my childhood friend and colleague, literally took my breath away. As I stood on a bima that I had been on many times before, I saw the faces of so many beautiful souls. While I didn’t get a chance to connect with each and every person individually, I felt like the luckiest person in the world at that moment. And then carrying the Torah around the sanctuary made my heart sing. It was during my time at Adat Shalom that my entire relationship with the Living Torah evolved and was given wings that had been clipped earlier in my life. It was with this community, that my relationship with the world grew to beautiful heights. It was this community that I learned that everything is Torah.

Yesterday, I went home. I can’t wait to do so again in a couple of weeks before I move to Houston to what I believe will be a beautiful taste of what I had at Adat Shalom. Wow, I am so blessed.

May each and every one of find Makom Kadosh, this holy place within ourselves and within the communities that we call home.

With love, light, and blessings,

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