Saturday, August 9, 2014

Learning with Rabbis - Today I Noticed

If you told me 20 years ago that I would be immersed in my synagogue, studying with Rabbis and even calling some of them friends (the real kind, not like on Facebook), I would have laughed and told you that you were crazy.  Luckily, this is what my life is today and for that I am extremely grateful.  As we say in meditation, today I noticed.

First, a little background: I would periodically attend shul because my kids attended the adjoining school and my husband worked at the school as well.  It was my obligation to show up for my family and to participate in all the required activities.  I enjoyed many of them, but I began to notice that I didn't have my own relationship with the shul, school and Rabbis.  Then my dad died, and then my father-in-law died and through the shiva minyans, I saw that I was part of a beautiful community.  (Shiva brings out the best in a community).  I began to be drawn in, but without regularity.  And then it happened.  At a Shabbaton, Rabbi Kligfeld and the then Cantor Magda Fishman gave the most beautiful and thoughtful morning prayers service.  They discussed them, we sang them - no we chanted them and it was transformative. I physically felt different and I told my husband later that I now understood what people meant by a powerful meditative experience.

Within a week of that Shabbaton, my friend told me about a meditation service at my shul ( I had no idea) and I didn't miss a beat, "I will be there."  From the first meditation and learning experience with Rabbi Ruth Sohn, I knew that this is where I had to be.  That was 2 years and 9 months ago (but who is counting).  I rarely miss it.  In fact, I have even led some.  Each week brings me closer to Judaism and to ritual.  There is still a lot to learn, but I can definitely say that I have my own beautiful and rewarding partnership with my shul.

So why did I notice this morning?  Because today was a 2 parter.  I went to my regular meditation minyan Rabbi Ruth Sohn and then attended a Torah study with Rabbi Adam Kligfeld.  Both experiences were fulfilling in ways I wasn't expecting and again, thanks to meditation I noticed.

  1. I am no longer afraid of that voice telling me I don't know enough Hebrew, Torah, or Talmud.  The truth is clear - I don't, so that is why I want to know more.  But it is not about whether I know enough compared to others, it is about my own comfort level in the group and honestly, I just love listening to the discussion.  I chime in when I can and appreciate all the different thoughts and ideas that are voiced.
  2. Rabbis (at least mine) are very kind.  They appreciate all who show up to learn and say thank you when you share an idea.  "Glad you brought that up."  "Thank you for sharing."  
  3. When I leave shul, I am aware of how these lessons will carry me through my week.  And I look forward to returning the following week.
  4. I have started attending Friday night services.  I still feel like the least experienced participant in the room, but again, I don't care.  The singing and the teaching from the Rabbi helps me end my week and think about Shabbat as more than just Saturday morning services.
  5. I am grateful to all who meditated and studied today - I loved every minute with you.  Your presence is also why today was so special.
Looking forward to more and more.  Wishing you all a week of learning and noticing.  And if you want, join us at Temple Beth Am.  

Sunday, August 3, 2014

My Perfect Day - Visitors Day at Camp

I know what you are thinking - "just a long drive for a brief visit; it is hot; other than seeing our kid, what else should I be doing and did I bring everything she asked for?"

I admit it; I was not looking forward to the experience.  Of course, I want to see my daughter, her friends, meet her counselors and hear all the stories that she didn't include in her letters AND I was so worried about the heat, the drive, the time going too quickly and then the part about leaving her.

But that didn't happen today.  Today was different.  Though my husband and I arrived on one of the last buses, our daughter greeted us with pure joy as if camp was her own home.  She completely embodied, "Welcome to my home."  We found a place to have our picnic, and before we even begun our meal/snacks, she was sharing stories, introducing friends and so truly grateful to be with us.  Her smile never left her face.  Her confidence shined through every action and she also showed great compassion during a few significant moments in the day.

So what is so special about Camp Ramah?  I can only share what I witnessed today.  My daughter and others are immersed in beautiful balance of friendship and spirituality.  While I realize this is not everyone's experience, she and her friends are always happy to see each other, even when I know that they had only been apart for less than an hour.  Where is G-d in this?  For my daughter who is sometimes searching, G-d is definitely at Ramah.  Her soul is richer and her curiosity and commitment to engaging in this religious exploration is with great determination and joy.

As we left today, my daughter and I were both fine, happy to go back to our remaining days apart.  While my husband and I drove home, tears came to my eyes when I realized how often my daughter will look back on this summer as one of her best.  You can feel it and now I understand again why she referred to Camp Ramah as her "Garden of Eden," and her "paradise" last year in her bat mitzvah drash (I've included the link below if you want to read it).

My Daughter Wants To Be More Like Eve

The tears in my eyes also reflected how true her words remain a year later.  She may not realize it, but it is not lost on me.  I am so proud of her.  I am so glad that she made the decision to go to this camp and allow herself to experience all that it has to offer.  She has deepened her friendships as well as her own search for her spirituality.

This will definitely be filed under "Best Days" file.  And boy, did I need this one.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Living in a Puzzle - A Poem Inspired by Morning Meditation

I'm living in a puzzle
some pieces do not fit.

I'm looking for answers
and only have questions.

I'm hungry to learn
and can't ever feel full.

I wonder where I am 
even when I am still.

Sadness is only one feeling
Confusion and fear are there too.

My smile comes back slowly
when true love shows up.

Love revealed in family and friends,
and in kindness from a community of strangers.

How can I find peace in discomfort?
Only when I walk on my path with 
love, compassion and strength.

I will walk in the world to find peace 
for myself and for others.