Sunday, May 17, 2009

Experiencing the Divine

There is a scene in the movie ‘A Woman Called Golda’ where it is brought to Golda’s attention that some of the children in the Jewish detainee camps on Cypress have never seen a flower and she weeps for this tragedy. During a recent Kabbalat Shabbat service I knew exactly how she felt and it was all I could do not to shed a tear. It wasn’t over flowers though but something even more important - or perhaps not, depending on where and how one experiences the Divine. One of the introductory passages we read, one which I had not run across before, was about experiencing the Holy One and IIRC, how this must be worked at with the implication that most people do not naturally perceive Him/Her. I’ve experienced the long dark night of the soul before and there are times I have to strain to hear the Still, Small Voice but these days I cannot see a tree or a stone without experiencing Shechinah, the Indwelling Presence of the Holy One. That some people do not perceive the Holy One in their everyday lives hurts; one of the reasons that I choose to make tallitot, kippot and other textile items for personal worship and considered becoming a rabbi. If I, in some way, can enhance someone’s spirituality and encourage the bond between themselves and the Holy One, however they perceive Him/Her, then I will feel that I have fulfilled at least a piece of my purpose for this incarnation.


Free at last, free at last, thank G-d Almighty we’re free at last! Free that is from winter and being snow and cold bound in the UP. We finally made it down for Shabbat services on May 8 - the first time we’ve been able to get to shul since Yom Kippur which has really sucked. Although I have missed it I didn’t realize quite how much until I was sitting there during the service trying not to shed a tear because of how deeply I felt that I was part of and how deeply the liturgy and melodies touched me. It was like the 6 months we hadn’t been able to come didn’t matter except for the fact that there was no way I could keep up reading the Hebrew like I used to be able to - have to work on that; hopefully I’ll have lots of opportunities this summer.

On the emotional/spiritual side of it though it was the same feeling I got when we started going there years ago - that here was a group of Jews who were personally invested in their Judaism and willing to put their energy into their worship and despite whatever differences there might be between them outside the sanctuary and service they put that aside in this time and place to come together as a people and for a holy purpose. I had the pleasure of having that same sort of spiritual community in our synagogue in IL and it is one of my few regrets about moving. I thought it was a feature of small synagogues since having less people means you have to put your differences aside for the good of the whole, at least some of the time, and that willingness to step outside of yourself and your particular perspective should cause enough good vibes for there to be some good collective chemistry; especially when you involve the presence of the Holy One. Unfortunately, my theory did not pass the test and I have experienced the antithesis of what I once again have been fortunate to be part of. I suppose I should be grateful for one appreciates the light all the more for having experienced the darkness but it sucks that the candle that shines that spiritual light is 4.5 hrs from home.

The chemistry in my current shul is amazing, at least in conjunction with services which is when we get to be part of it, and has given me a very good idea of what a good pagan ritual must be like with the building of energy, focusing and releasing of it to a specific cause and the grounding afterward. For my part, since the mi shebeirach (prayer for healing) comes at the right point in the service, I try to focus all the energy I can into weaving a green healing light around those who need it. I truly hope that I am not the only one intentionally focusing the energy raised since the thought of it just dissipating into the ether (although the world in general does need all the positive energy it can get) seems so wasteful especially since we’ve just identified concrete people who could use it. On other occasions, like the end of Yom Kippur, I visualize taking the energy raised (all that sacrifice generates some pretty powerful energy) and using it to resist the gates closing so that maybe one more soul can slip through or to give Hashem one more minute to reverse a negative decree (this is despite believing that the Holy One is essentially merciful since if S/He isn’t we make enough mistakes in our lives that we’re sunk and I don’t believe that the Holy One is interested in being a tyrant - that S/He is is what the religion would have us believe as a method of control). I know the role of focusing and directing the energy would fall to the High Priest/ess in a circle but I don’t think such things are on the conventional course list at the seminary; therefore I take it upon myself and hope I’m not at cross purposes with someone more skilled and of equal good intent. It seems though that people are generally not sensitive to such things.