Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Circle of Life

In the course of this weekend Ken and I were witness to commemorations in life, from birth to death and the journeys we take in between.

Yesterday at Beth Sholom was filled with simcha's -- happy occasions. First, there was a special baby naming--special because the baby was 6 months old so she already had a name. But this was a family where the dad is Jewish but not the mom. So on Thursday, the family gathered to witness the little girl's conversion, as they had four years before for her older sister and on Shabbat, she was publicly introduced to us by her Hebrew name.

Obviously, whatever compromises the parents have made in their relationship, they have made a commitment to raise their children in a Jewish home. With all the gloom and doom in the Jewish world about intermarriage that goes on these days, this is proof that we will survive as a community and as a people.

We also celebrated the 90th birthday of the father of one of our core congregants. This man moved to San Francisco last year after his wife died so that he could be close to his children who live here. He's a lovely man who comes to services each week, davening with gusto, using his magnifying glass to follow along with the Torah reading. He was pleased to be honored with an aliyah, with the joy coming from those singing to him feeding his soul.

We celebrated Gay Pride weekend with the members of our Keshet (rainbow) Havurah leading the service, reading Torah, giving the drash. How wonderful it was to hear the announcement of two couples who will be married in August. One couple, honored with an aliyah, have been together for 35 years. The other couple will mark the occasion of their 25 year anniversary with a wedding. One of those grooms gave the drash, and the catch in his throat as he talked about their upcoming nuptials touched us all.

Today I went to a farewell gathering for a young family on the move. They met, married, and started their family with the birth of their son here in San Francisco.Their work situation prompted their move to Scottsdale, Arizona. While they are sad to leave friends behind, you could feel their excitement as they embark on this new journey to plant new roots as their family grows by one more this December.

Then on to another baby naming--this time the baby was a newborn. In the past year, this family has suffered through the deaths of three of that child's grandparents. Her parents spoke movingly of life and death, feeling close to both ends of the cycle. Our eyes were filled with tears of joy and sadness, the mixture reminding us of the meaning of life.

While I was traveling from one event to another, Ken had a more difficult visit to make. He drove out to Walnut Creek to attend a memorial service. A young man in his thirties--someone Ken worked with, married to another work colleague--died this past week of food poisoning while on a business trip in LA. The tragedy is compounded by the fact he will never know his child, who will be born this August; and that child will never know him. This is too sad for words to convey.

I will end this post with a poem by Marge Piercy from her book The Art of Blessing the Day. It is her interpretation of the Kaddish--the Jewish prayer one says to honor those we've lost by honoring life. For it's certainly been a weekend to honor all parts of our life.


Look around us, search above us, below, behind.
We stand in a great web of being joined together.
Let us praise, let us love the life we are lent
passing through us in the body of Israel
and our own bodies, let's say amein.

Time flows through us like water.
The past and the dead speak through us.
We breathe out our children's children, blessing.

Blessed is the earth from which we grow,
blessed the life we are lent,
blessed the ones who teach us,
blessed the ones we teach,
blessed is the word that cannot say the glory
that shines through us and remains to shine
flowing past distant suns on the way to forever.
Let's say amein.

Blessed is light, blessed is darkness,
but blessed above all else is peace
which bears the fruits of knowledge
on strong branches, let's say amein.

Peace that bears joy into the world,
peace that enables love, peace over Israel
everywhere, blessed and holy is peace, let's say amein.

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