Evolution, Holidays, Religion, Sacred Space

Holy Days

Every since I was a little girl, I felt quite “spiritual”.  I remember reading the book Conversations with God when I was about 10, and was super inspired!  I thought spiritual was “normal”.  “Everyone feels like this, right?”

Truth is, I also believed in Santa Clause until I was about five, even though my parents raised me essentially Jewish. They always gave me a choice though.  You see, my mothers’ mother was Catholic, and she was the most devout, faithful person I knew, going to Church religiously, and making these  holy days very special for us grand-kids.  Even though the whole rest of the family was Jewish, and I was Jew-ish, I remember always admiring her strength in her own spirituality.  I never once questioned my own center of belief, and I knew that the spiritual inkling inside of me, even at five-years-old, was sacred.


My father broke the news about Santa that Christmas eve, explaining that it wouldn’t make any sense to the kids at the Jewish Day school I attended if I started talking about Santa.  Broken heartedly, I agreed.

Growing up, my parents taught me that God is everywhere; we are all God and God is inside of us. I learned later in life about a Kabbalah concept: “God is a Verb”.  I discovered that in a magical book, that jumped out of my Rabbi’s shelf and info my psyche almost ten years ago.  What a blessing to find all of these concepts and ideas about spiritutalty swimming around in my mind, inside a book!  A Jewish book, none-the-less.

Facts: Judaism is built on three pillars: Torah, Study and Acts of Loving Kindness.  When you do a good deed, or a mitzvah, it’s considered a holy act.  Doing an anonymous holy act is one of the greatest mitzvot one can do.  (Side note: having sex on the Sabbath is considered THE holiest act possible.  At least the Jews had some things right.)

Now, despite my very intense relationship with Judaism, I’ve always loved Christmas time, even though in my core, I am a Jew.  I was raised Jewish, I speak Hebrew, I’ve worked at a synagogue for ten years, I’ve been to Israel and my dad keeps Kosher.  Though some extremely religious people would tell me I need to convert, I laugh to myself because I know in my core, I am what I am, what I have always been, and that is love.

Every year, holiday cheer always brightens me up inside, especially during these dark winter days, because it is a time for our families to come together and cherish one another.  It’s a time to pause, reflect and give thanks for these precious experiences.  It’s a time to celebrate light, even in the dark.  Though for some, undoubtedly, the holidays can be a very rough and depressing time.

I have a theory about spirituality and ‘religion’; it’s really all about nostalgia.  If you have a strong fond memory of holiday times with your family as a younger person, then chances are you really like this time of year as an adult, because it reminds you of those happy memories.  If you didn’t much like your family, or your Church much as a kid, then chances are Christmas time makes you gag, and that’s okay, too.

Whatever these times mean for you, I do hope you will choose to spend time with people you care about.  If you’re alone, then cherish that sacred time to reflect, ground, center and embrace your place in life.  With our worlds spinning so fast and chaotically, a moment of quiet can be a true gift.
Though I still can’t really explain my faith, I enjoy every minute of it. I enjoy the woven stories we tell, learning about our histories and how they relate.

Here is a fine example of three different stories, each holding their own special meaning and traditions.  Enjoy!



Still Jew-Ish

I am often presented with the imminent wonderings of… “hey…. you’re Jewish!  How does it feel!?! …. I’ve always wanted to take to a Jewish person about Judaism…I knew a Jew once….”

My response: “Awesome, I LOVE the Jews!  YES Let’s talk about  being Jewish… it’s.  It’s wonderful.  It’s everything.  It’s… I got nothing”

“So like… do you believe in heaven or hell?” is usually the next question I get.

My response: “Do you?”.

That being said… year’s ago, I asked MY Rabbi this eternal question of heaven and hell.  Earnestly. With my big eyes, looking at him, knowing rightfully so that I probably would have known that answer to that if I paid attention at Hebrew School.  He looked at me wistfully, and then handed me what must have been an 1,000-page book and said “I’ll answer you that question after you read this book”.
Really, there just wasn’t a simple answer.  There never is to a good question.
Judaism, simply put, in my view, is about choices.  Are you Reform, Conservative, Orthodox or Hasidic? (I’m Reform, the easy one).  Do you keep Kosher or not? (We didn’t).  Do you want to have a Bat Mitzvah of not? (I did, though my parents really didn’t care either way, mostly because they didn’t want to foot the bill, I speculate).  We were always frugal.  But always had plenty of money for what mattered.   Judaism taught us: Family First.  Always do acts lot loving kindness.  Be nice to your neighbors.  And really, I grew up being taught that God is everywhere, and God is you and me and this food and my clothes and it is all encompassing.  It is nothing.  (Ein Sof)
While there are at least two sides to every story, there are about a billion takes on this ONE collection of stories. It really all started with THE BIBLE, and us Jews specifically like to focus on the Old Testament, we call it the Torah.  The first five books of Moses.  But what about the other books, I always wondered?  I mean why these five, and some of the others, but not all of them?  Why did we go so wrong with Jesus? SO MANY QUESTIONS!!!
Welcome to the never-ending story….
So, I’m having lunch with my OTHER Rabbi just last week, and I ask her the same question, “do we believe in heaven and hell”? and the answer I got is “sorta, it’s complicated, do you?” and she then proceeded to break down even further about these ancient texts and books I wasn’t entirely aware of.
Enter: The Talmud. The Talmud is the central text of the Rabbis.   It’s a collection of stories and conversation had ABOUT the Torah.  It is composed of two parts, the Mishna, which are documentation of the oral instructions and teaching of the time when the Bible was written.  Gemara is the other part, which are writings of explanations that the old Rabbi’s marked as worth being printed, as to clarify what was being said in the Talmud.  Are you following me?  I’m barely there.
Being raised at a local Kansas City Reform synagogue, that I now just so happen to work at, I can safely tell you, I feel very confident and comfortable in my “Judaism”.  But it’s not something that I can entirely explain or even begin to translate, just what it is about Judaism that pulses so strong…that feels so good.  I do feel it.  Even though I don’t always acknowledge it. Then again, I think EVERYONE can feel the pulse, whether you are jewish or not, but you have to tap into the well, intentionally.
When I got the job working for the temple, MY Rabbi (who I had known since birth), asked me to house sit while he was out of town.  It was a lovely home, and I regret not spending more time there.  One quiet evening I came by to feed the fish, I walked up to his giant bookshelf and said “show me a book… give me my book”.  I reached up and pulled out without hesitating: “God is a Verb” by Rabbi David A Cooper.  “Kabbalah and the practice of mystical judaism”. “PERFECT!  I’d always wanted to study Kabbalah”, I thought to myself.
You’re supposed to be a 40 year old male to even consider studying the Kabbalah (which literally means: “To Receive”).   Some say Kabbalah can only be learned from a gifted teacher.  Others say it comes in the school of Ecstatic reality.  Some tap into the akashic records of universal everything.  God is everything.  You are everything.  If you can believe it’s possible, it just might be true.  But it’s up to…. you choose what you believe in.  What I’m saying is, I fell in love with this book, this concept of God being a Verb.
“Kabbalah is not a system, as some suppose.  Rather, it is an outlook, a way of perceiving the nature of reality In Essence, Kabbalah is founded upon mystical conceptions regarding life, death, creation, and creator.  it teaches us about the mysteries of life, how the creation works, where we are going, and how we get there.” – God is a Verb
God is an action.  It is how you treat people.  It is how you chose to live your life.  With kindness.  Dignity. (And maybe a hint of magic and wit).  While I will continue to read this book from start to finish over and over again, probably for the rest of my life, attempting to understand just a bit more each time, I have accepted that none of us will ever know the full true story until we are gone.  We can only enjoy the ride, and hope it’s entertaining enough to take care of yourself and live healthy, happy and holy.
My father, who is now an active member of a local orthodox synagogue here in KC, is rather devout, and there is so much pride in his prayer.  And why I love it, I don’t know that I could give my life to it.  I’ve thought about Rabbinical school, but it seems limiting.  I wish I could fit myself into the nice box of religious understanding, but it just doesn’t seem to work that way.  So I still say, “yes, I am jew-ish.  I can’t tell you a whole lot about it that makes much sense, but I can tell you what’s working for me.”  And why I may not entirely understand the weight I am carrying, I too will remain prideful and humble in my faith.
“I am he as you are he as you are me And we are all together”
-The Beatles
As if that wasn’t enough for you… Jew-Ish Spoken Word Piece:

Love All Ways,