Slacking ~ Sacred Work

This is the month of Elul, the sacred time in which we prepare ourselves for the new year and for the holiest of days – Yom Kippur.  Although it is called the day of atonement, its meaning I think is much more interesting.

We are called on, in this time of preparation, to look at our year, our lives, our internal and external selves.  We are supposed to see what we could have done better, what we can do to be our better selves, to improve.  What we have to apologize for, to make amends for so that each new year begins as a clean slate, lunar calendar that is.

And I admit, I have been slacking.  Life intrudes as always and makes it hard to make quiet space for the reflection we are asked to  do.  And even more important, I think it should be done with pen and paper, not just in my head.  So this confession is to inspire me to make that space.  To do the work.  It is never easy if you do it right, it requires serious internal digging, but the rewards can be remarkable.

Looking at my physical self, I know I can do better, food, weight, exercise, meditation.  The list is self evident and requires a bit of a deeper look.  My communal relationships, of course I can do better, again. Reaching out to people, feeding my friendships, building relationships. I can always do more. My emotional self, I can always work on not living in feelings.  As I know feelings aren’t facts.  I can always work on gratitude as an antidote to the hard feelings and enjoying the good ones in the moments they happen. My spiritual self, we are back to meditation, prayer and the internal work of this most wonderful time of year.

So, not really slacking, just a little slow in putting pen to paper and doing the digging. The pen is the most effective shovel I know of, just have to pick it up. This is the start.  [tweetshare tweet=”Hopefully by Yom Kippur I will be ready, a clean slate once more for the year to come, or at least having cleared some of the detritus away.  L’shanah tovah umetekah. A sweet and wonderful new year, just a snitch early.” username=”@trienahm”]

A Land of Milk & Forgiveness

This week’s Torah portion, Eikev, is most wonderful.  You could say that about most but some are hard to deconstruct or find happiness in.  This one is easy.  Moses continues to tell the people what they will find when they enter the land of Israel, the promised land.  Something he will never do.

So even as he describes this beautiful land flowing with milk and honey, he reminds the people of their shortcomings and failures.  What I take from this is a truly resonant lesson, to remember your failings and mistakes, they are part of who you are, but not to live in them.  The people, even as they they are scolded for their shortcomings are about to go forward to something new and wonderful.  And best of all, we are told, G-d forgives them.

Forgiveness is a powerful force.  More so for the forgiver than for the forgiven. In this case, however, the forgiven are freed for the way forward to a new life.   In life I have found that forgiving has everything to do with moving forward. When you live in bitterness, regret, anger it affects only you, not whoever is the “target” of those feelings unless of course it is yourself. Moving past those feelings is possible only with acceptance of the reality of your, or their, failings and with forgiveness.

It is also interesting that this portion of forgiveness and moving forward also includes the second, virtually unknown, part of the shema, the central prayer of Judaism. The “chapter” reminds us of the power of prayer.  And so this portion as a whole exhorts us to two of the most powerful forces we can bring into our lives, forgiveness and prayer. Imagine the beautiful and peaceful way forward impelled by those forces, if only we can internalize them.

Shabbat Shalom.

NASO ~ Nurturing Community

This portion, Numbers 4:21 – 7:89 is about the dedication of the Mishkan, the tent in which the people gathered not only to worship but to become community.  Our “tents of offering”, our communities, are a precious and fragile thing, requiring constant care and love.

Our communities can be many things, they can be our Temple family, they can be the greater Jewish community in which we live, they can be all Israel, they can be our classmates, our colleagues, our friends and/or our families.   And each of these, each network of relationships, requires a different kind of nourishing.  And from each we seek something different in return.  It is, in some cases, a bargaining or bartering relationship as is often the case with colleagues.  But in most cases, we nourish our relationships because they provide us with something just by their existence, not because they actively “give” us something.

in the world of Naso, the idea of “home” was ephemeral as the people were still nomadic in the desert.  And so that tent of meeting, that communal place of worship and community became the stabilizing home place.  Today we are emotional/cultural nomads, living in geographically fractured families, extraordinarily fractured politics, constantly fractured finances and careers.  So home matters crucially as it did for those desert nomads.  What is home?

There are a lot of sayings about home.  It is where you hang your hat, it is where your heart is, it is where your dog is, it is where they have to take you in (thank you Robert Frost).  It may be all of these things, but it is much more complicated than that; but that is for another blog.  Suffice it to say that the Mishkan, our Temple, our place of meeting and community, matters.  It, like all our relationships, requires love and care if it is to sustain us.it is as fragile as everything else and demands our selfless service.

a belated Shabbat shalom.

 

 

 

Singularity ~ Pun Intended

So over the last year and half or so, I have been doing and going and showing up at all manner of things by myself.  Having ended a marriage of over 25 years, I am re-learning the joys of doing things “single”.   People often speak of the joys of partnerhood, and I will come back to that later, but rarely do you hear people speak of the joys of singlehood.  So here goes.

I find that I am much more able to make space in my busy life for solitary prayer and for meditation practices.  Now mind you I don’t often find a 30 minute block of time, but I do find short spaces for meditation and I feel much more centered and at peace for those short spaces.  By solitary prayer I mean prayer that is not in a ritual or congregational setting.  There is nobody here to think I am weird if I just sit up in bed, close my eyes and talk to G-d.  Who, by the way, does not mind if I drink coffee during these prayer conversations.

I do not have to ask what anyone else wants to watch on tv, what movies they like or what kind of music to see.  I happily have gone to symphony, american folk, several types of jazz, blues, musical theatre and gospel without needing to find out if any of those are acceptable to a partner.  It is not easy to find folks with broadly eclectic tastes to share these things with.

I do not have to explain that I rehearse twice or three times a week because music is everything, with books, teaching and live performances close behind.  I am free to stand out on my front porch and contemplate the moon and stars or sit out on my lanai and watch the raccoons and listen to the frogs whenever the mood strikes me.  There is nobody to think I am crazy.

But then, there is that moment when you turn to the partner who is not there to say “look at that beautiful moon” or “listen to that frog choir”.  There is nobody to bring the coffee in bed.  There is nobody to talk about the music, and the joy it brings, with.  There is nobody to put your feet on while you watch a movie at home.

[tweetshare tweet=”I have learned, this past 30 months or so, how singular I am and that I can be joyful alone, and that I am not alone.  I have amazing people in my life.  But I have also come to understand that singularity makes you difficult in ways that are hard to explain.  And so, I am not only singular, I am single and, for the moment good with it.” username=”@trienahm”]

Va’etchanan ~ Sh’ma redux and redux

I wrote this two years ago, and since I have been laid up and didn’t write this week, and because I like this, here it is again.

People often talk about Deuteronomy as the “laws” book, and there is a lot of that.  But Leviticus is all about rules too.  In fact, much of the Torah is really two strands, the historical saga and the rules.  These are always intertwined.

Va’etchanan – pleading. As with other parshat, it comes from the beginning of the portion where Moses tells of how he pleaded with G-d  to be allowed to enter the promised land, to be told no. He is only to see it from a mountaintop. The notion of pleading with G-d is interesting.  How often have you tried to bargain with your G-d, for relief from a behavior, redemption from a wrong, freedom from an addiction, life or peace for a suffering loved one?   Just as Moses was told no, so I think are we; I just don’t think it works that way.  [tweetshare tweet=”I struggle to pray for grace, dignity, courage, strength, serenity and love and for the same for those I love.  The G-d I understand is more likely to help me to find those things than to grant specific wishes.  As usual, however, I digress.” username=”IyXDESKC7WZImwBH2rIY3LE^gzyLO&v):1:1″]

I learned something new last week, because I am a Torah rookie. The Sh’ma has more verses than we normally presume, one of which is the v’ahavta prayer.  In this Torah portion the Sh’ma in all its glory and verses is repeated by Moses as an exhortation to the people.  What it is, really, is another “pleading” to retell our story, to remember the rules that make us Jews, to remind ourselves and our children in our homes and all the time what we believe.  As with so much in the Torah and our tradition, we are ever reminded of where we came from, we are encouraged to cry “never again”, we are instructed to teach our children well.

Whether you take a literal view of the Torah, or, like me and many reform Jews, a more expansive and interpretive view, everything you need to know about living in the world at peace and without anarchy, is contained here.  As is, again, our central prayer, the verse that binds all Jews, everywhere, of every kind, together.  And so we should plead with G-d for that, for a world in unity, at peace and without anarchy.  Isn’t that a vision of the world redeemed some day? And why we pour a glass for Elijah, on the off chance.  Shabbat Shalom