Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Finding my Makom Kavua in the Jewish world

היום שבעה ימים  שהם שבוע אחד בעמר
Today is seven days, which is one week of the omer
מלכות שבחסד
A day of nobility in a week of loving kindness

In Jewish tradition, there is a concept of makom kavua - a set place for prayer. The idea is that one's prayer can be more focused when there is comfort of being in place. As someone who tends to be a creature of habit, I appreciate this minhag, this custom. It is important to guard against becoming too attached to a place. It's not kosher--and certain not welcoming-- to insist on dislodging a visitor who has unknowingly taken than space. And there are circumstances when a change in place is necessary. In my almost 14 years of prayer practice, I've had major changes--such as when the building housing my space was torn down and then replaced; and small changes-- like when a newcomer arrived and appropriated my place just as I was gone for a long vacation. There's nothing I could do about the former; as for the latter, I found a new place in the spirit of shalom bayit--peace in the house.

It's fairly easy to adapt to changes in makom kavuah in my prayer life. I can always find another place to sit. Finding my makom kavua in the Jewish professional world has been a much harder task. I began my path back to Jewish observance and study in the spiritual realm. The physical practice of yoga led me to look at its philosophical underpinning. The similarities I found there with Judaism propelled back to the practices that I was so drawn to in my youth, but now in an environment without gender biases. I could develop a meditation practice within the container of Jewish tradition.

Through the years, I have found my self drawn to leading services, chanting Torah, finding ways to help my communities connect to the Jewish rituals that so deeply touch my soul. I felt the calling to reach out to those who are on a similar search but need help finding their way. How to fulfill that calling was and issue for many years.

No matter how many times I hear someone tell me I should go to rabbinical school, there are many reasons that will not happen. I have, however, found a place in Jewish education. As a teacher of both children and adults I can share my love and connections with Judaism on many levels. In return, I learn much from my students, and the spiral of give and take keeps everything fresh and relevant.

The way isn't always smooth, my confidence level wavers, and I am often the victim of my own doubts. But while the specific space may change, I have found my place, my makom kavua in the Jewish world. With the help of many wonderful communities to support me, I hope to keep my focus as I continue to answer the call.

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