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Posts Tagged ‘shiva’

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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Death happens.  Sometimes we see it coming; sometimes it hits us by surprise.  But in the end, no one lasts forever.

When I consider the reality of death with broad strokes, I find myself in a quiet and peaceful space.  Death happens and that is really ok.  Mostly.

And then reality strikes.  Someone you love is dead and you can no longer talk to them; unspoken words are left unsaid.  After someone dies you can no longer hold them in your arms, kiss them on the forehead, or touch them gently in passing.  After someone you love dies, you can never physically do the the things you used to do with them.  Memories help you through the loss; while you can’t be with those you love physically, you can treasure the memories.

Tomorrow is never a given.

What I know is that life matters; each and every moment makes a difference.  If we are lucky we live fully and learn from both gifts and challenges.  Each step will ultimately lead us to where we are heading.  My hope is that I always live in a place of kindness and good intentions with not only those I love, but with the world around me.  Most of us don’t know when the end of our days will come.  Knowing that I live fully now and that my loved ones know they are loved is critical in my life.

A Moment of Reality

Nothing in life is perfect.  None of us are capable of being on our best behavior every moment of every day.  We are human beings; we have good days and more challenging ones.  May I always walk gently and may my spirit  be full of light.

You just never know what tomorrow will bring. . . .

Nearly two weeks ago, three families/people that I love faced the death of a loved one. The first death was for a young woman who’s entire energy reverberated life; she had so much to give and a rare illness stripped her of her life.  She died tragically after enduring tremendous pain.  The other two of the deaths were both tragic and sudden.  There is no words that I can say to help my beloved friends, all I can do is listen and surround them with loving energy.  My guess is due to the tragic nature of each death, sadness will quite possibly permeate the survivors for a very long time.

As a spectator in watching my friends experience grief, I find myself considering my  life and whether or not I am walking with integrity and light. Since you never know what tomorrow might bring, I want to know if I am making a difference in the life I live.  Will my children remember me with a spark in their eyes? Do I make people smile? Have I done enough to change the world? What more do I need to do to make a difference?  Should I reconsider some of my views and open my eyes a little more widely?  Have I made a difference in the lives of those I love, my friends, my students? Am I being the best person I can be?

I’ve made some mistakes in my connection with some people that I have loved.  Over the past few years, I have had to look deeply inside myself after navigating some very painful interactions.  Losing friends never feels good.  With each loss, I struggle to come to grips with with the fact that connections sometimes end and each ending feels like death.  Only you can’t sit shiva (mourn) for the loss of a good friend, not when they are alive and thriving outside of your life.  What I have learned in the last few years is that death can be both the finality of life and at times it can be the finality of a connection.

Life incorporates so many realities and few of them are simplistic.  May I always take the lessons I learn from life and from death and incorporate them into our life.  And may those that lost their loved ones find blessings in their memories.

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