Monthly Archives: March 2013
It’s a weird week, religion-wise. I held a Seder on Monday, the first night of Passover (Pesach). My SO, daughter and son-in-law were there. I did the service with a different translation/edit of the Seder from last year (and from previous years when my mother was alive), and I’m not sure if I liked it (it covered more than last year’s Concise version, but still left much to be desired.) The older version I used to do drives me crazy, as it’s almost a straight translation, and bores me to tears with it repetition and droning quality. Anyways, this year’s Seder is done, and I’ll continue my search for a version that really does suit me, an interpretation that has deeper meaning.
This coming Monday heralds the last day of Passover, and also is one of the four times of the year we are supposed to have a Yizkor memorial service. I will be doing this for my mother, who passed away in October 2012, and for my father, who died in 1999. I am sad to say: I never went to a Yizkor service for him, then. I am doing this, now, in both their names, as well as for my grand parents, uncles, aunts and cousins who are no longer with us.
What makes it a weird week is that it also is running consecutively with Easter week celebrations. I’ve wished many of my friends (and my SO) well during this time, and I will be going to Easter service with my SO. Then, Monday, the Yizkor service. From one to the other…but, for me, it all fits. It’s a complete spiritual journey I’m on. I’m not turning my back on my heritage. I’m opening up to what so many others who surround me have: faith in a higher power. I’m still not sure where I stand in all that, and I think it will be a long ongoing process for me.
I’ll be saying a special Yizkor mediation, one that was sent to me by Rabbi Pam, one that deals with the mixed emotional feelings I have with my parents. I hope that it will give me the cathartic release I’m looking for, and the start to move on.
My friend Rich sent this in an email, from The Rabbi’s Study, Congregation Beth Emek in Pleasanton, CA:
Dear Chaver (Member),
On Monday morning, the seventh day of Passover, we will gather to worship at 10:30 and our prayers will include a brief Yizkor service. There are four Yizkor services during the year – on Yom Kippur, Simchat Torah, the 7th day of Pesach and Shavuot. Our celebration will be festive and lighthearted with a lovely luncheon for all who attend, but when we pray during Yizkor our happiness will be of a much different nature…melancholic, thoughtful and reflective. We will acknowledge our loved ones who have died and their presence will be felt.
One might think that once the body disappears love would vanish too, but love continues after death. Jewish philosophers have taught that what is real is that which lies between two human beings. We may have bodies that exist as separate entities but the essence of life is the in-between – the relationship. Two poles exist but the love that connects them is the true essence of life and that relationship – between two souls – knows no physical limitations. Death is a veil that separates two bodies but love, knowing no boundaries, joins one soul to the other.
Our God is good. Would our loving God allow our cherished bonds to break? Every soul glows forever in relationship.
On Monday during Yizkor we will recall our loved ones who have entered eternity – our fathers, our mothers, our spouses, our grandparents and cousins, and cherished friends, as well. And we will know that they are with us still, for God has created a pathway between their world and ours…by the memories we cherish and love that never ends.
Monday morning…10:30… Festival service and Yizkor.
Rabbi David Katz
I wish you and yours a Good Pesach (Passover), a Happy Easter, and for those who celebrate other things, or nothing at all, a good and healthy time to come.
“Passover has a message for the conscience and the heart of all mankind. For what does it commemorate? It commemorates the deliverance of a people from degrading slavery, from most foul and cruel tyranny. And so, it is Israel’s – nay, God’s protest against unrighteousness, whether individual or national.”
~ Morris Joseph
“Passover affirms the great truth that liberty is the inalienable right of every human being”. – Morris Joseph
At this Passover season, I wanted to find more meaning for myself in the holiday, as I did during Chanukah. Again, the Seder used to be conducted solely in Hebrew (first by my Grandfather when I was very little; then, in our home, by my father) and held little to no meaning for me. It was done, and we had to wait for dinner to be served. The meal itself was always anticipated with delight, as it was one of the few times a lot of interesting dishes were made.
But, the ceremony itself? The meaning behind all the words? It was a chore to sit through as a kid and even as an adult.
Then, with my father’s passing, the task of running the Seder fell to me. Since I barely speak any Hebrew, I do it primarily in English, with Hebrew phonetics for the prayers and certain passages. I still remember the songs, and the lilt, the cadence, of the readings, and do my best, at times, to emulate what I do remember.
We used the same Haggadah for years, and the literal translation of the Hebrew text was ponderous. Last year my mother was unable to be with us (she had had an operation and was in a rehab center) and this year she is gone. I have tried two different texts both years, searching for a translation/interpretation, that would bring the spirit of the Seder to life. Both texts offer sections that illuminate, but neither is “just right” yet, in my opinion.
In looking at Passover quotes, I found the two above from a 19th Century Rabbi, Morris Joseph. Those two quotes have helped me, a lot, already. There are many ways that liberty of the individual is still confounded; it is not an ancient concept, the thousands of years ago story that is told during the Seder. Yesterday on Facebook, so many people rallied around issues of equality. It stirred up things on the boards, from both sides of the issue. It also spills over into those around the world who have no freedom, whether it is sex trafficking, child soldiers, fear of reprisals from “gangs” or power groups, or even a people not being allowed their own land: yes, I do believe that Palestinians should be allowed to live in peace, as I do believe Israelis deserve it too.
I’m trying to find my own inner peace (read HERE for my friend, Lisa Kramer’s, take on Inner Harmony) and I’m trying to understand what I embrace on a deeper level. Passover is one thing that I still need to dig deeper into.
Click on the link for the beauty and joy the arts can bring to many…all for just the drop of a coin.
Zissen Pesach!!! (That means sweet Passover to you)
What degree of suffering do you experience?
Do you take the knocks at your level and confront them, work to find a positive outcome, or do you just complain about it?
What got me started on this: I was in a location, having my lunch, and a group was sitting three tables away, on the other side of the room, complaining bitterly about their jobs, about that day’s situation, about their bosses…and I was sitting there thinking about everyone who does not have a full time job, who is struggling to pay bills, to survive. Which then got me thinking about people who are even worse off, who-in this country or around the world-have nothing, living in and off the streets. Dying, bit by bit.
What would each of them give to be even at the next level up from where they are?
I then heard a teenage girl state, in response to a boy saying his pants cost $50, that her “cheapest” belt-a belt-cost over $100.00.
Mentally, I shook my head.
William Ackerman, The Opening of Doors (1992): 6 mins, 13 secs of beautiful music. Mr. Ackerman founded Windham Hill Records in 1976. I still have many records from that label. I Googled the name of this blog, and found that Mr. Ackerman had an album and lead song with that title, and in listening to it I thought I’d share it, and make it easy to find for myself for times I need something soothing.
Way too many days that I do find I need something soothing. I’d rather want it than need it, but…you do what you can for yourself.
“You have blessed me with many gifts, God, but I know it is my task to realize them. May I never underestimate my potential; may I never lose hope. May I find the strength to strive for better, the courage to be different, the energy to give all that I have to offer.
Help me, God, to live up to all the goodness that resides within me. Fill me with the humility to learn from others and with the confidence to trust my own instincts.
Thank you, God, for the power to grow. Amen.” ~from Talking to God, by Naomi Levy (c)
I found a letter yesterday when going through yet even more papers that my mother saved. She wrote it to me in 1983 when she was very angry with me. It was never given to me: I found it amidst an assortment of bills and receipts, photos and greeting cards. At first, I started to read it. I decided I’d leave it for later, but in flipping through it a word struck me towards the end, and I read the last page. She was writing that the good qualities I had were in no small part to the way she raised me.
It ended with “I love you but I don’t like you.”
That ripped through me, as I’m sure it would anyone else. I flipped through, scanned, saw what she was angry with and did not read anymore after that. The negative feelings of that time period. those words, affected a good part of my day. In trying to deal with it, I talked to a few people. The hurt, thirty years after it was written, was too alive at the moment.
One friend said (and I’m paraphrasing): “you’re not looking at the whole: she said she did love you.” That is something I’ve questioned for so long, simply because so much of my mom was bitter in her later years; it’s hard to remember anything other than the negative side of her that I lived with for so long. Rabbi Pam has remarked, as has the therapist, that I hold onto the personal hurt too much, not anger towards another, but the slight and hold it as “truth” in this present moment. In actuality, those hurts are in the past, and should remain so in their own context.
It’s a negativity loop, and I really want to break that habit.
I can easily excuse away anything that has happened, but that is not helpful either. This goes hand in hand with the question of forgiveness: how to forgive myself for things that now are long gone, and can do little or nothing about them. If I learn from it, that is a positive thing, and that is what I’m trying to do. I am sorry she felt that way, and I wish we had the relationship to talk things out, but, as was her want, she would rarely tell the person she was having an issue with how she really felt. She kept it inside most times, and it ate at her (or, in this case, wrote it out, which was not like her at all: I wonder if she really intended to give it to me and was either talked out of it by someone or thought better of it).
So, looking at it from both sides, she wrote of the positive and the negative that she saw in me. We all have that in us; I guess I am glad that she did find the positive traits in me. I know the circumstances of that time period that angered her so, and I also know that there is nothing I can do, now, but to learn from this again: don’t hold things in and let them eat at you; don’t carry a grudge; find some way to let yourself accept, let go, and move on.
I’m still working on the forgiveness to self part.
Etched into the faceThe eyes The shoulders, tensed Fingers rigidly grasped Broadcasting Observed, Those who see Who are aware Who open up beyond themselves Who are concerned. Unfathomable to so many An abyss lies before them What they see is the darkness That they detour Avoid Move away from Not understanding The darkness is the abyss As the abyss is that someone Who could not detour Avoid Move away Who is in that abyss Plunging down. Light comes in many forms But it has to be taken in Wished for Prayed for Delivered By one’s own doings It is a burden On top of so many others. *************************************************
This is my 100th post since beginning this blog on November 18, 2012. I began this a month after my mother passed away; I had been writing, but my feelings and such were mixed in with my creative writing on Tale Spinning. You may, or may not know, that the Rabbi I had just begun seeing. She asked me to try and write in the first person, not hiding anything in my fiction. As that was not what Tale Spinning is about, I created this blog four days after meeting with her.
What does this mean for me? 100+ days have passed (as I have not written every single day, though I have tried) since starting this blog, plus the extra month. I wonder if this blog has just about run it’s course, and I ask myself that on the days that I feel I have nothing to write, nothing to give. I know I will not place an extra burden on myself by continuing this just for the sake of continuing. It needs to have meaning for me; this has never been about getting a large number of readers, but just a way to find some catharsis in releasing, in self examination, in being as open and honest as I possibly can.
I hope that while I continue this it remains helpful to others. Some have written to me, either here or in private communications, telling me that this has been important for them, in various ways. For that, I am glad.
I want to thank: Rabbi Pam for (inadvertently) starting me on this path; all my friends, whose caring has helped see me through this dark time; and you, the readers who I’ve gotten to “know” through comments and those of you who read but keep to yourself. For all: from Talking to God, by Naomi Levy (c):
“Please, God, help me to recognize my strength. May I always remember that no matter how far I have fallen, no matter how bleak my life may seem, no matter how lost I feel, that I can always begin again. Amen.“
Thank you for being here with me. I hope you find the strength within yourself and are able to continue sharing it with others.
“A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.” ~Aesop
“The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.” —Paulo Coelho
Yesterday I made dinner for a High School friend who lost her father only a week ago. She has been staying with her mother through the week. This is the same person who wrote that compassionate letter to me (see HERE) when we were only 17. We talked about our parents, about forgiveness, about High School, about ourselves, now, and all that is wrapped up in being “our age.” I know that I was barely eating a week after my mother passed away, and she also picked at her food. My hope is that our time together was beneficial for her, in some way.
It was for me, in a number of ways. I wish and pray for only the best for her, her mother and brother, as they go through this and continue on. It may not be much, but it is what I can do.
There are so many things sizzling in my head: two consulting jobs that are compteting with each other (and have their own headaches attached to them); no work past June at the moment; paying bills; removing the clutter of so many years (mainly my mother’s, but also my own); and then…
…there are the issues I am going through mentally/emotionally, dealing with spirituality, prayer, forgiveness, bereavement, and bouts, still, of anxiety, depression &/or despair.
Besides the daily prayers, I just started a 21 day meditation program instituted by Deepak Chopra & Ophrah. So far, coming on Day 4, I’m not sure about this, but it is only asking 16 minutes of my day. I will stick it out and see what it brings. It is way too early in the process to judge it one way or the other.
Overall, I’m still feeling listless and without direction. It gnaws at me, and I get frustrated. My days are often filled with worry: today, just not a good one. I looked for some guidance, some succor: I just opened up Talking to God by Naomi Levy, and this is the prayer (pg 249) that I came upon:
“I want to know You, God. I want to see the world through Your eyes. To feel intimately involved in all of creation. I want to know why things happen the way they do.
Help me, God, to accept what I cannot understand, to accept life without constantly trying to control it. Teach me how to bend with life, how to repair what I can repair, how to live with my questions, how to rejoice in Your wonders.
When I am faced with events that baffle and astound me, help me to transform my frustration into humility and awe. Teach me to embrace the mystery, God. Remind me to enjoy the ride.
Thank You, God, for this spectacular life. Amen.”
How do you enjoy the ride?
“Not to forgive is to be imprisoned by the past, by old grievances that do not permit life to proceed with new business. Not to forgive is to yield oneself to another’s control… to be locked into a sequence of act and response, of outrage and revenge, tit for tat, escalating always. The present is endlessly overwhelmed and devoured by the past. Forgiveness frees the forgiver. It extracts the forgiver from someone else’s nightmare.” – Lance Morrow
The question of forgiveness has been on my mind for the last few months. It has been brought up in the prayers I have read over &/or said; it has been mentioned by friends; it has appeared in a number of more subtle ways. I’ve thought about things that I’ve let go, and especially feelings I still have to conquer in that vein.
I’ve never said the words “I forgive you,” or “I forgive myself, or “please forgive me.”
I’ve said I’m sorry, and have meant it, to others if I hurt them in some way (no matter the intention: they were hurt). But forgiveness? It was not part of my family’s lexicon. It is something I’m struggling with-the word itself-in this next step of what I’ve been going through.
I understand that how we react to things determines the power something has or doesn’t have over us. If we “feed the bad wolf” that wolf will thrive, in all its negative and draining ways. I don’t want to be that person, nor emulate things that I did not like in my parents…and the things that I have to let go that are inside of me, that I have to forgive, purge as best as I can, learn from it, and allow myself to move on.
Forgiving myself is somewhat the hardest.
There is nothing I can do about the past. I can never achieve a better relationship with my parents. Things are left in whatever state they were in when they passed away. I can work on how I react now and in the future. Do I forgive my parents for their faults, the things I felt wronged in? I’m not sure if forgiveness is the word at this moment; yes, it may be semantics, but I know I have it within me to let these things go, some more easily than others.
I’m still trying to understand the whole concept of forgiveness.
I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes- it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, ‘I’m sorry,’ and then you say to yourself, ‘I’m sorry.’ If we all hold on to the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can’t see what we’re capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self. – Maya Angelou