The (surprisingly complicated) invitation list

So, I found this woman:

The (surprisingly complicated) invitation list.

While I was looking for design ideas for my own bat mitzvah invitations. I think I’m going to keep reading her blog, because she seems to be articulating well my own reasons for having a bat mitzvah.

It’s April, 2013 – my own Bat Mitzvah is set for August 10th, 2013. I met with my trope tutor yesterday, and we’re going to start working together next week.

I’m 30 years old. When I was 12, I didn’t feel I had the right kavanah towards having a bat mitzvah. Now, at 30, and wanting to have kids sometime over the next couple of years, I want to undertake this rite.

I like the above blogger’s image of, “I wanted to know that, if I were the only adult Jew left standing after some Holocaust-like disaster, I could lead a Shabbat service. I wanted to feel like I had earned my tallit.”

I haven’t talked about the tallit much, but it’s very common in my shul for both men and women to wear talliot and kippot. While I’ve covered my hair from the start, I sat down and had a think about the tallit. I came to the decision that I would not wear one until I have had my bat mitvah. Traditionally, the tallit is conferred to a person during their bat/bar mitvah.

Part of the process of preparing for a bat mitzvah, is learning what it is to be a Jew. To take responsibility for one’s own religion, and one’s own religious knowledge, culture, and history.

I want to be able to pass that down to my own kids, but to do that effectively I need to understand it more intrinsically myself.

Long term, I hope my bat mitzvah will be the first step on a journey towards a Master’s in comparative theology and eventually ordination into the rabbinate. But that’s a long way off – I’ve got two thirds of a lifetime left to accomplish those goals.

In the meantime, I get to design some invitations, and prepare to lead my first Shabbos service. Hopefully, the first of many.

Water, Water Everywhere…

My father lay in bed reading from his kindle by the light of the bedside lamp. I came in to say good night. I was thirsty, and borrowed the glass from the bedside. I walked into the en suite bathroom, poured myself a glass of water and drank it. It seemed to have no effect on my thirst, so I filled another glass and drank that, too. Still no effect. I looked carefully at the tap as I filled another one, and verified that there was water going from the tap to the glass, and the glass into me. I peered carefully at the water through the transparent glass. There seemed to be little spores floating in it. Concerned I looked around, and saw my mother had placed a large vase of orchids near the sink, some plant detritus must be falling into the glass.

I drank the water. Still thirsty. I drank more. Still thirsty…I woke with the realization that I would never be able to slake a real thirst with dream water. That if I stayed in the dream, continuing to drink in a way that lacked context, or meaning—intention, kavanah, I would eventually die. That abortion is what results from sex without kavanah. Death, whether literal or soul death, results from action without meaning. (Or, in the case of murder, from flawed intention) Both mother and child die of thirst.

There’s more, Freud would have a field day. My father (not naked), in bed but on my mother’s side. The orchids (vaginas), the spores (sperm that flow into and through me but do not germinate), and water—always life source, wellspring…and Miriam’s well which kept us all alive in the desert.

I am conflicted. I am pro-choice, but the strength of Graham’s convictions confuse me and make me uncomfortable. This tension between strong personalities is being played out in my dreams. I am not really sure what Shekhinah is trying to tell me here.

I also don’t want to have this debate in this forum, but I did want to share the dream.

Unconditional Love

Response to, “Spirituality in a Love Relationship” Philosopher’s Cafe at Or Shalom

When I was a kid, I once tried to express to my best friend that I loved her unconditionally. I told her that she was a wonderful person, that she had a strong intellect, a beautiful mind. She shot back at me, “What would you do if I lost my mind?” Initially I was stumped, but after I saw, “What Dreams May Come?” with her, I had an answer: “I’d do whatever it took to help you regain it.”

That conversation turned out to be prophetic. In high school she developed both anorexia nervosa and bulimia (she was indiscriminate – if it was easier to not eat, she wouldn’t eat. If it was easier to pretend to eat, and throw up afterwards, she’d do that.). For several years I watched the disease take over, degrade and defile her body, suppress her intellect, disguise her wit, bury her beautiful mind. I watched the disease lie to me about the progress she was making, about when she had and hadn’t eaten. I watched her hoard and consume food, and caught her throwing it up afterwards. I watched her, somehow, miraculously, come back from three suicide attempts – none of which she told me about until after the fact. I gave her all the help I knew how to give – I bought her food, I enrolled her in welfare, I helped her find jobs she never stayed in for long.

Gradually, I came to realize that I couldn’t help her, that I needed to let her find her own way back. I began to see that my childhood pledge to help her regain her own mind was naive. That unconditional love is as much about self-care as it is about caring for the other. To preserve my own mind, to heal and nurture my own strength and soul, I had to let her go.

She met a boy. He has his own troubles and is sick a lot, but they depend on each other. They live together now, and they’re both slowly finishing their education and getting back into the job market while living on disability.

Unconditional love doesn’t have much to do with the blind adoration of puppies, “We’re going for a walk – my favourite thing!” “You gave me kibbles – my favourite thing!” “I’m going to eat your slipper now – my favourite thing!” It has the same problems as the word, ‘equality’. Equality doesn’t mean treating everyone equally, it means ensuring each person has their needs addressed and supported. Unconditional love means knowing when to step in, and when to let go. When to give of your own resources, and when to take time for yourself. That goes for every love relationship as well – sometimes the people we love the most, are the people we’re least suited to live with. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we find the ones we can live with, and with them create a family and a home.


Strange random thought of the day:

Yesterday, I extended my Or Shalom membership out for another year – 2013, and today I booked my next blood donation appointment. In about an hour I’m going to go help take down part of my shul’s Sukkah. In this past week, I helped sell KoC raffle tickets. A couple of weeks ago, I donated Tzdakah and food for the food bank on Yom Kippur. (and more, which I’m not going to list to keep it anonymous. I’m only listing what you already know about)

Yet, while I was booking my blood donation appointment, an ad on another website is imploring me to sponsor a child.

One can’t do everything for everyone, for every cause, and yet at times it seems prejudiced or selfish to support one cause over another. Maybe that’s what the perspective shift on tikkum olam (heal the world) is supposed to be about – no one person can heal the whole world, each person has to pick which of the four corners to work on, and be reconciled to never touching the others, and trust to Him that someone else will take care of them.

Still, it is hard not to focus on what we’re neglecting, and work on what we can.

Another Friend’s Thoughts on Yom Kippur

Learning to Return to myself

“So this is my Yom Kippur prayer this year. May I learn to accept and embrace the person I am, even if I do not know who she is yet. May I have the strength and the courage to forgive myself for the wrongdoings that I have committed against myself in the past, or will commit against myself in the future. May my teshuvah be sincere, and may it bring me closer to knowledge of my own truth. May I learn to recognize and to listen to the kol d’mamah dakah within me, and may I write my own Book of Life in that voice this year. May I love myself, may I remember that I am loved, and may I be at peace. Kein yehi ratzon—may this be so.”

Learning to return to myself.

The Jewish Eucharist

Standing in the ring of Jews holding Torah, I watched those not holding the scroll climb into the centre. Talliot over their heads, they slowly walked around the interior of the circle looking at all of Torah. Their posture evoked memories of Jews praying at the Western Wall. The scroll itself was a wall wrapping them in towards the centre, as the Wall once wrapped around the Temple. Continue reading

Impressions of Rosh Hashanah

Vignette I

The first morning of Rosh Hashanah, was the first service I have attended with Or Shalom at the JCC. As I walk into the room, I notice immediately that we are using the old ark, the portable ark we used when Or Shalom didn’t yet have a permanent home, and we travelled around meeting in basements and common rooms. The ark lives in a corner of the shul at Or Shalom, but seldom have I seen it open since I returned last year. I had forgotten about the curtain that hangs in front of the scrolls. It is a tapestry with a blue and purple scene of a Jerusalem hillside. How often did I, as a bored child listening to services in a language I did not then understand nor connect with, imagine to myself that the scene was alive? Imagine myself wandering the streets of Jerusalem on that blue and purple hillside.

Once Or Shalom purchased its current location at 10th and Fraser, a solid, permanent ark was built and installed, and it is the main one we use. I realized that now, as an adult, I am finally solidly and permanently built as well. Or Shalom, as a community, is no longer wandering with a portable ark, they have found their place. I, as a Jew, am no longer wandering through blue and purple dream landscapes; I have found my home.

Continue reading

Origins of the Holy Trinity

The Rebbe sighed. “I don’t know either. But maintain we must, and affirm we must, that that which clearly exists and besides which nothing else clearly exists – that is God.”

            The Rebbe stroked his beard for a few minutes and thought some more. “And what is soul, Moshe? Soul is that being that knows with certainty that God exists and that besides God nothing else clearly exists.”

            “And faith, Moshe? Faith is the way the soul knows that God exists and that besides God nothing clearly exists.”…This story also teaches us that God is not some independent “out there” entity. God, soul, and faith – the known, the knower, and the knowing – are inseparable. We are one. (Conversation between Reb Liadi and a student, Moshe, as quoted in, “Jewish with Feeling,” pg. 29, Schachter-Shalomi, Z.)

Continue reading

Graham’s SCA-wife Dream

I dreamt that Graham and I were together at an SCA event, although neither of us had changed into garb yet. We went into a locker room together, which was adjacent to the hall, and sat down on one of the benches. A stunningly gorgeous Japanese woman came in, and Graham introduced her to me. He had known her back when she used to live in Canada, they had met in the SCA, and become very good platonic friends. He had taken her as his platonic, SCA wife before she had to move back to Japan. Now she was back after many years away on a brief visit. Continue reading

West Coast Trail

originally published: 2012-08-29

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Throughout our hiking together, several little routines had emerged, and though we both started out rough at the start of the Juan de Fuca trail, by the West Coast Trail we had things well in hand. Each morning I’d hear the watch’s tinny alarm (too high for Graham’s failing hearing), and wake Graham by starting to sing, “Morning has Broken,” he’d typically join in by the second line. Once the song was completed, he’d fumble for his pants and beadle off into the bush to relieve himself. While he was occupied, I’d get up and start packing. The largest portion of my packing was really stuffing my sleeping bag, then I’d roll up the mat, and stuff it in its bag, and dump my excess clothes down the tube it created. Continue reading

Gambier, A Glimpse

Originally published: 20120607

It turns out that when you take the man out of the city, you can in fact take the city out of the man. Graham, when removed from the crowded confusion and bustle of the civilized world, transforms from a bumbling, stammering absent-minded professor, into a calm, confident explorer meeting each challenge head on, tweaking and innovating as necessary. Continue reading

Room for the Holy Spirit

originally published: 2012-05-08

Saturday April 5

I woke up early for shul, and did some stuff on the computer until it was time to leave and I was worried I’d be late. I arrived at the shul at 09:01. Shortly thereafter Graham texted me to tell me he’d be late, and to expect him around 09:45. Meanwhile I waited outside the shul, and waited, and waited. I’m not sure what happened with who was supposed to open the shul, but someone showed up around ten to ten. I’d left my stuff up on the porch – which included my stretching mat I’d finally gotten back from Holly, but never had time to use it. I told someone to tuck it inside for me, and went down to the corner to meet Graham’s bus Continue reading

Baby’s First Bat-Mitzvah

originally published: 2012-05-01

Saturday April 28

I had forgotten that there was going to be a Bat-mitzvah at shul on this day, so very few of the regular congregants showed up, and there was a lot of family and extended family, of course. It was the first Bat-mitzvah I’ve actually ever witnessed, and I think I’ve only seen about two Bar-mitzvahs. I have two male cousins, but I can’t remember if I attended both, and I was very little. I remember loving noodle koogle. Continue reading

Compassion & Night Terror

originally published: 2012-04-30

Saturday, March 24, 2012 – Compassion

As we walked up the street to shul, I saw Judy walk into the shul ahead of us. Once we were inside, we exchanged small talk with Judy and, after she left, I lead Graham through foreshortened morning yoga and stretches. I was a bit nervous people would start assembling earlier because of our special guest.
Continue reading

Menorah-Rosary Dream

originally published: 2012-02-29

My dream plot today started out as a pretty cut-and-dried sabotage-and-running-away plot. These themes reoccur usually when I’m experiencing fear about change, or the unknown. When I begin to feel that I am getting too close to something, and feel the urge to destroy it before it has a chance to hurt me. My discussion with Graham today about my current job, my courses, and my future employment goals triggered those fears. Continue reading

originally published: 2012-02-27

You can’t always get what you want,
You can’t always get what you want,
You can’t always get what you want,
But if you try sometimes, well you just might find,
You get what you need.

I feel stretched. My body is stretched, my mind is stretched, my soul is stretched, my heart is stretched, and my intellect is stretched. I have been stretched this weekend inside and out, and I feel I have grown along new pathways of feeling and thinking, and developed deeper connections and relationships with my family, my friends, and G-d. As with every good stretch – I feel slightly sore, tingly all over, and exceptionally calm and relaxed. This is the true Intention of Shabbat: Rest. Relax. Rejuvenate. Renew. Grow. Continue reading

G-d Weekend: Parshat Terumah