Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Pekudei and Time to Go Forward

By Emet

In this week's parsha, Pekudei, Moshe and the Israelites are continuing to work hard to complete the Mishkan according to Gd's specifications. At the end of the parsha, the very last chapter of the book of Shemot, the excitement of the completion is palpable:

34And the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the Mishkan. לד. וַיְכַס הֶעָנָן אֶת אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וּכְבוֹד יְהֹוָה מָלֵא אֶת הַמִּשְׁכָּן:
35Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud rested upon it and the glory of the Lord filled the Mishkan. לה. וְלֹא יָכֹל משֶׁה לָבוֹא אֶל אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד כִּי שָׁכַן עָלָיו הֶעָנָן וּכְבוֹד יְהֹוָה מָלֵא אֶת הַמִּשְׁכָּן:
36When the cloud rose up from over the Mishkan, the children of Israel set out in all their journeys. לו. וּבְהֵעָלוֹת הֶעָנָן מֵעַל הַמִּשְׁכָּן יִסְעוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּכֹל מַסְעֵיהֶם:

You can only imagine this moment of awe, wonder, and joy after the people's coming together as one to build a dwelling for Gd. They are leaving the place they had settled and become accustomed to. They are finally ready to continue forth into the desert, with their trust in Gd and Moshe. They know that whatever they happen upon, they are prepared for it.

Right now, the cloud in our life is rising, letting us know that it's time for us to travel on our way, to continue on our journey. It's been an honor and a privilege to be a part of building a space with everyone at Pardes, where we are all striving to know Gd, each in our way.

Just as Moshe blessed the people after the completion of the work in the parsha, may we bless everyone that when you recognize that the cloud in your life is rising, may you be just as full of excitement, joy, wonder, and gratitude as we are right now.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Putting on Tefillin for the First Time

There has been a lot of hype around women wearing tefillin lately (see here, here, here, and here). Since I just started taking the "Women and Mitzvot" class, this is a topic that I have followed. I've also been intrigued by the whole idea of tefillin for a while now.

For most of my life, I saw tefillin as something that Orthodox men do. It was never part of my life, nor did I ever see anyone wearing it. I just knew that they were boxes that Orthodox men wore when they prayed. This year, I saw other women wearing tefillin, both at Women of the Wall and in the Pardes minyanim. My curiosity peaked. What was special about tefillin? Did it really change the way one prayed? Does it make the person feel more focused during prayer?

When I was 13 and becoming a bat mitzvah, I received my first (and only) tallit, but I haven't worn it since. Whenever I have prayed, it is just me, nothing else. But I started thinking about how wearing tallit or tefillin could make that prayer space special and separate it out from the rest of the day.

I decided early in the year that I wanted to try tefillin. To see what it felt like and how it might affect the way I relate to prayer. This week, I got that chance. My friend Sam who blogs here graciously showed me how to put on tefillin.

I felt like I was doing something that had been forbidden - like getting a cookie out of the cookie jar in the middle of the night. I can't tell you all my feelings about putting on the tefillin, only that it was really cool. I felt like I was connecting with the past and the future. I felt like part of the Jews. Not that I don't feel that on any other day - I do, but this was different.

Because I didn't actually pray with them on, I don't think I got the real feeling of wearing tefillin.  I'm looking forward to the next time I could try praying with tefillin. I wonder if that will affect the way I pray or how I feel connected to prayer. When I get my tallit from my parents' house, I want to start praying with that, too, so that I will especially mark out the time in prayer as different. I think creating a special prayer space will enhance my prayer so much more. Shabbat shalom!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Shabbat: New Experiences and Emotions

Since I've been keeping Shabbat, I have had some that are absolutely fabulous and some that aren't as much. It depends on whom I'm with, mainly. This past Shabbat was so amazing; I can only attempt to explain it.

On Friday night, Emet and I went to a Reform shul. I haven't gone to a reform service since 2012, and so it noticeably is different from what I've been used to. There was just the right amount of silent meditation, and even though we didn't sing all the songs in Kabbalat Shabbat, there was a great deal of beautiful songs. As we got to the evening Amidah, I at first started reciting what I usually know, but when my words didn't go along with what was on the page of the book, I stopped and restarted with what was on the page. I was pleasantly surprised that the text had inserted references to Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah, in addition to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I recognize the lack of our mothers in the usual Amidah that I recite, and whenever possible, I include them in the blessing after meals. Even so, I was overjoyed by their inclusion that it instantly affected the way I related to the Amidah that night. We continued praying and there was a lot of lovely singing. The shul we typically go to on Friday nights has been inadequate lately with the singing, and so it made me feel good when the singing was both beautiful and generally On (key, tempo, and together).

After shul, we walked to dinner, where we had been invited last minute. At the table, the queers outweighed the straights, and we had engaging conversations talking about all sorts of things. There were a few new people at the table, and it was interesting to listen to new stories.

In the morning, we went to Shira Chadasha, where Emet received her first aliyah to the Torah. I had forgotten that it was Rosh Chodesh and there was an inserted section called Hallel. This section is added into the morning service on certain holidays and festivals, including Rosh Chodesh. It consists of a number of psalms that have specific tunes, and not only are the tunes lovely, but the meaning of the psalms are very touching. I saw this line: "How can I repay unto Gd all Gd's bountiful dealings toward me?" - and I meditated on all the good fortune I have right now. I'm in a beautiful place, learning, and engaged to be married to my bashert. My family and friends are all in good health, and I'm so lucky to be here at this very moment. The singing and the meditating on the goodness in my life made me very teary. I was in this space of happiness, and it was so great.

After Hallel, Emet was called to the Torah for her first aliyah. She had practiced a lot with me the week before, and I know she was nervous. A few of our friends came to shul to support her. She did so wonderfully! I was and still am so proud. She sang the blessings perfectly! I know she was very touched by going up to the Torah and was emotional afterward.

This Shabbat seemed to be a culmination of everything lately - learning, love, friendship, and community. I know both Emet and I felt how special it was to have Shabbat here in Jerusalem with the Pardes community, and overall, I just feel that this past Shabbat could not have been better.

Crossposted at Two Frum Queers