Friday, August 28, 2009

Needing the "We"

There has been a discussion taking place amongst some of my colleagues on Twitter (still trying to figure THAT out!) about making a compelling case for people to belong to Jewish community. What are the reasons that people NEED community (my favorite word, just ask my 'kids' from Orange County, see photo) and specifically Jewish community?

I came across a list a few days ago - which I think is mostly comical and not compelling. So I began a search for my own meaning.

Tonight, I went to shul for Kabbalat Shabbat. For those of you who know me, you know that this is a fairly random occurrence made more "out of the blue" because I went alone and there wasn't even a Singles Event taking place (still on the search for my b'shert!). A local congregation (Beth Tikvah) had an Open Door Shabbat for prospective members. While I don't need an "Open Door" to feel welcome there (no one does, it's a great place) - I in particular don't need it as I have a great relationship with many members of the staff and specifically their Rabbi - but it gave me the excuse I needed to get off the couch and go.

It was during the singing of L'cha Dodi that my list started formulating in my head. I need Jewish Community because.....
  • I need someone to sing harmony with during L'cha Dodi and Shalom Rav
  • I need someone to Pass the Torah (and someone else to pass it to!)
  • I can't play Jewish Geography with non-Jews.
As I flipped through the siddur (the new Mishkan Tefillah), I came across the blessing for Benching Gomeil - a prayer recited when you have come through a dangerous experience (car crash, giving birth, long journey, etc) and it is said RESPONSIVELY between the "survivor" and the "congregation."
  • In order to Bench Gomeil, you need a congregation.
And then the Rabbi called for people to mention names of friends and loved ones who were in need of physical, emotional or spiritual healing before the congregation recited the words of the MiSheberach. This provided me another answer ...
  • We need community to recite MiSheberach on our behalf. Especially if we are too sick to ask for our own healing.
Sitting there singing many melodies I have heard thousands of times drew me back to many experiences of standing, arm-in-arm, swaying to the liturgy of the Havdallah service. While I don't need a community to recite Havdallah....
  • I need community to stand arm-in-arm with in a Havdallah circle (or spiral)
Then, as the service was concluding, we recited the words of Kaddish. But before we did, we heard the Rabbi recite the names of all those who have been a part of the congregation whose yahrtzeit (anniversary of their death) is this week. This provided me another reason for community....
  • Long after I am gone and even my nephews are gone (and maybe even children and grandchildren I might have one day), I will be remembered perpetually because the Jewish community will mark it on my yahrzteit.
This thought led to one final thought about needing Jewish community. Last week, my friend Bruce Manning passed away. People have been leaving heartfelt and tearjerking messages on his Facebook wall. The day of his funeral, someone wrote about being a part of the community which put dirt on his grave.
"Although it was difficult, I felt honored to place three shovels of dirt on the casket.
Bruce did so much for me and it felt good to do one last thing for him! "
There is nothing worse than the sound when those first shovels of dirt hit the casket (so much so my mother has requested we don't participate in this ritual when her time comes - she wants us to walk away before!). But, there is something about having people who loved the recently departed take care of him/her until truly the very end.
  • We need Jewish community to take care of us, to give to us, when we have no way to give back to them.

I know that while these are compelling reasons for me, they might not be for you. Therefore, I invite you to comment and give your own compelling reasons. I just hope that at least one of my reasons (and those listed above are just a few) will convince someone who doubts the need for Jewish community to reconsider the power of Kehillah!

Monday, August 24, 2009

All About this Talit

I was adamantly opposed to wearing a talit. It just wasn't what I was brought up with and I am not one to be forced into something I don't want to do. As part of my job in Orange County, we had the teens make their own tallitot. But how could I ask each of them to do it if I wasn't willing to do the same?

So I set out to make a talit that meant something to me.
  • The butterflies are in memory of a very special little girl Shoshana Tikvah Cohen z'l who passed away at 3 years old. She loved butterflies and she loved pink. The irony is that Shoshana was being raised in a modern Orthodox family and ultimately wouldn't be a talit-wearer herself. But her Ima gets me ... and gets this talit.
  • I tied three of the four tzitzit corners in Southern California. The fourth I tied in Jerusalem.
  • My original talit bag was actually a pillow cover (the zipable throw-pillow kind) that I bought in Daliyat el Carmel - a Druze Village with amazing textiles. I lost that case and hope to get myself another one on a future trip to Israel. The pattern in the case matched a wall-hanging that one of my best friends has hanging in his kitchen (we bought them at the same place at the same time while staffing a birthright israel trip).

Other facts about my talit:
  • The directions I use for tying tzitzit (and teaching others to do so) come from a Torah Aura Instant Lesson.
  • I used fabric glue to put it all together.
  • My cat Allie has chewed two of the strings, I guess I need to fix that at some point.
  • I almost got beat up in a Jerusalem hotel but a group of young haredim who didn't approve of a woman with a talit. Thank goodness for hotel security and a good friend!
  • If I am ever without my talit, I won't wear another one.