Saturday, May 11, 2013

Trite or Right

"I'm sorry,""How are you?" and "Shabbat Shalom" are pleasantries that I use.  Do they seem trite to you?  I have always loved words and in my past year of writing, I have developed a greater appreciation of both the written and spoken word.  And in my year + of meditation,  I am more sensitive to the intent and sincerity of my messages and expressions.

We teach our children to say, "I am sorry, " but what do those words mean to them? They simply want to move past being in trouble.   My husband began a new practice with our kids; When they are apologizing to someone (anyone), they must say the reasons for the apology (i.e. "I am sorry for ...).  This has increased their level of understanding for the act that hurt the other.  Though sibling rivalry, tension, or simple annoyance has not yet diminished, their communication skills seem to recalibrate their moods more quickly.

"How are you?" Do you really care?  This is what I think often when some people ask.  For some it is simply a conversation starter, an obligation or filler.  In the past, I have responded to that question with "fine" when in fact was I was great pain.  With help from others, I began to answer that question with honest answers which meant nine times out of ten the answer was not "fine."  As I found meaning in answering the question, I made a greater effort to ask the question with sincerity and purpose.  If you hear me ask, "How are you?", it means I really want to know.

"Shabbat Shalom."  Growing up as a reform Jew, this greeting always felt awkward on my lips.  I thought it was for the more observant Jews.  I would watch them and see the ease in their conversation and the warmth and love that emanated from these two simple words.  As my friendships and commitment deepened in the Jewish community, I am able to speak these words with the understanding of what I was intending for the recipient.  I write and say, "Shabbat Shalom," with a full heart and sincerely hope that you and your loved ones have a beautiful and peaceful Shabbat.

The phrases are repeated so much in our daily lives that it would make sense that we would find them trite.  Over and over again, the repetitive nature desensitizes us to their original or momentary importance.  These phrases when said with loving intention, "I'm sorry," "How are you?" and "Shabbat Shalom," are not trite, but right!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Prayer for Peace - My interpretation

In my Rabbi's sermon this week, he spoke beautifully about the Prayer for Peace.  We have read it often to ourselves and out loud in services many times.  As with many poems, they come alive once we take some time to consider the words and their purpose.  Yesterday, as I listened to the Rabbi's words, I felt that I was hearing Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav for the first time.  Perhaps, my recent return from my Israel and London vacation made me more open to hearing the thunderous clap of the words.  Perhaps, the attack on Boston which is still on my heart allows me to feel the words rather than simply hear them.  Or maybe the Rabbi's heartfelt passion for the words is what made them come alive.  Whatever the reason, I left shul yesterday knowing that I had to write about it.

May we see the day when war and bloodshed cease,
when a great peace will embrace the whole world.

Then nation will not threaten nation,
and mankind will not again no war.

If you say these words with the full intent of prayer, it feels possible.  "A great peace will embrace the whole world" is a loving and courageous thought.  Could all the evil turn to love just by having the desire of peace?  If only it was this simple.  But if you imagine G-d, the Almighty, your Higher Power, a great energy (whatever it is that you think is the all loving source), could touch the hearts of those in so much pain that they turn to evil, just maybe...

For all who live on earth shall realize 
we have not come into being to hate or to destroy,
We have come into being
to praise, to labor, to love.

Wow!  Reading these words in their beautiful simplicity gives me great hope for peace.  Don't hate or destroy, this is not what we are meant to do, rather tell people that they matter, work hard and love all - this is our purpose.

Compassionate G-d, bless the leaders of all nations will the power of compassion.
Fulfill the promise conveyed in Scripture.  
I will bring peace to the land, 
and you shall lie down and no one shall terrify you.
I will rid the land of vicious beasts 
and it shall not be ravaged by war.

In this partnership, G-d asks us to fulfill the promise in the Scripture, live life with the laws and rituals of the Jews.  As we do this, G-d will bring peace, we won't be scared, evil will be gone and there will be no more war.  And with all this gone, he promises that following:

Let love and justice flow like a mighty stream.
Let peace fill the earth as the waters fill the sea.

The love in these two last lines just makes me smile.  I am overwhelmed by poetic strength and the simplicity in their power.  Love and justice will flow like a mighty stream = with some stability and force.  Let peace fill the feels like one superior embrace.  Let peace fill the earth = not just one area, but the entire world. the waters fill the sea = Water can fill even the deep crevices of the sea leaving no dry area.  The sea is a huge body of water, not just an area, but all the seas on earth.

And let us say: Amen

This is my interpretation.  I am sure that once I begin to study more about this prayer, I will write even more.  I love this prayer.  It sits in my heart and I am comforted and hopeful.

Amen indeed.  This week, I will frame this and keep it in my office to remember the words, "We have come into being to praise, to labor, to love."  Let us all try to change the world with love.

Thank you Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav for the extraordinary words and thank you to Rabbi Lucas for opening my eyes and heart to these beautiful words.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Communal Parenting

When I was pregnant with my daughter 13 years ago, my best friend and I were pregnant at the same time.  Since then, we both have had a 2nd child and we are fortunate to be able to spend time together.  From the moment the kids were born, we have always had an agreement that we are safe to co-parent our children.  When her kids need me, I am there and even if they don't.  And my kids know that they can call her anytime they need her.  I am so lucky to have her.  But we live about an hour an hour apart (in traffic - sometimes more, sometimes less) and therefore, moments together are cherished and filled with gratitude.

As my daughter grew up, I got lucky again and found myself with a great group of friends who were the parents of her friends - not just one or two, but five.   Over the past years, these women and I became close friends.  When one of our daughters has a problem, we work it out together.  When I have a problem, I check in with one of them.  

It became noticeable to me when I went to a class meeting for my son and realized I didn't have the same support system as with my daughter.  Luckily, two of the moms have sons the same age as my son so that trust is already built.  The moms in his class are nice and I am friendly with some, but the circle of women that I met through my daughter is special and has grown over time.

Communal parenting is powerful.  It takes honesty, trust, and a willingness to be parents together.  I am aligned with these parents, together we find solutions rather than blindly defending our children.  We are willing to hear the others, we are compassionate to the other children and parents, and we also really like each other as people.  

Communal parenting is what I call it, others have said, "It takes a village."  Recently, my mother, daughter and I took a trip to Israel and London.  At dinner one night, my mother told me that she thought my generation of parents have it so much harder because of the greater pressures to raise our kids, more decisions to make about schools, and the impact of technology on our behaviors.  I appreciate the acknowledgement that times have changed which is why communal parenting is so important to me.  As I continue to raise my kids, I call upon these women to help me, guide me and to love me and my kids.  

And thankfully, they always answer the call.