Monday, July 19, 2010

The Preparation Begins. . .

Tisha B'Av can be a profound experience. We listen to the mournful chanting of Eicha, Lamentations. We grieve for the loss of our center in the commemoration of the destruction of the Temples in ancient Jerusalem. We break down as we take in so many of the calamities that our tribe, the Jewish people, have suffered.

Rabbi Lew, z''l, saw this day of breaking down as the start of the yearly path to the Days of Awe, the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. As the evening of the 9th of Av draws near, I share some of his teachings from his book This Is Real and You are Completely Unprepared"

"Tisha B'Av comes exactly seven weeks before Rosh Hashanah, beginning the process that culminates on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Tisha B'Av is the moment of turning, the moment when we turn away from denial and begin to face exile and alienation as they manifest themselves in our own lives -- in our alienation of estrangement from God, in our alienation from ourselves and from others. Teshuvah -- turning, repentance -- is the essential gesture of the High Holiday season. It is the gesture by which we seek to heal this alienation and to find at-one-ment: to connect with God, to reconcile with others, and to anchor ourselves in the ground of our actual circumstances, so that it is this reality that shapes our actions and not just the habitual, unconscious momentum of our lives."

"The time between Tisha B'Av and Yom Kippur, this great seven-week time of turning, is the time between the destruction of Jerusalem -- the crumbling of the walls of the Great Temple -- and our own moral and spiritual reconstruction. The year has been building itself up, and now it begins to let go -- the natural cycle of the cosmos, the rise and fall, the impermanence and the continuity, all express themselves i this turning. The walls come down and suddenly we can see, suddenly we recognize the nature of our estrangement from God, and this is the beginning of our reconciliation. We can see the image of the falling Temple -- the burning house -- that Tisha B'Av urges upon us so forcefully, precisely in this light."

"Tisha B'Av is the beginning of Teshuvah, the process of turning that we hope to complete on Yom Kippur, the process of returning to ourselves and to God. And the acknowledgment of the unresolved in our lives, as a people and as individuals, is the beginning of the sacred power the Days of Awe grant us -- to transform our lives in this moment when we feel the pull of both the waning moon and the setting sun; in this place, in this life, here and now."

To help anyone who will continue on the journey of Teshuvah, I recommend reading Rabbi Lew's book in these seven weeks. While we no longer have him with us in body, his spirit lives on in his teachings which remain as powerful as ever.

Zichrono L'vracha - His memory continues to be a blessing for us all.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Birthday Girl

Today is my 56th birthday.

Most of you who are reading this know that I am a birthday girl. As long as I've been conscious of the birthday ritual, I have celebrated with some sort of gusto. I used to say, "Lincoln has his day, Washington has his day, I have my day." Those poor guys have lost their individual days to President's Day, but I maintain mine. This year I bring back one tradition I have let lapse--the birthday message.

I enter this next year of my life with certain clarifications that have eluded me for too many years. I had a calling, but the path to the what and how has been foggy. Taking the plunge into teaching this year has cleared the way. There's still much work to be done with more adventures along the way, but that's the best part :) But I have a direction that goes inward and outward; lets me connect with others and feed my soul.

I'm also gaining some balance--something I've been struggling with for years. I feel myself breathing again, making space while setting boundaries. I am learning to release my anger. With the meditative, reflective month of Elul ahead, that work with continue.

I am mindful and grateful for the advantages I have in life. Sixteen years ago, in my 40th Birthday Message I wrote:

Life has certainly been anything but boring up to this point. Interesting things have happened to me, and I've made interesting things happen. I've gotten to a pretty good place without too much compromise. I'm lucky to live with a special person in my life whom I love, and who loves me. I have the love and support of friends and family.

All that still rings true.

The heavy mist that surrounded me in this past years brought a disconnect with many people in my life that I hold dear. As a birthday present to myself, I'm going to reach out and reconnect. I'm hoping some of you are reading this now. If so, I apologize for my long absence, but know that none of you ever left my heart.

So as I pass another marker on the journey of life, I thank you all for accompanying me along the way.