Category Archives: Community Life

The Calm Before…

Just a quick share of photos taken when my dear friend and I went to a state park.  Rock structures left by an ancient sea.

Then life stormed on us all, as the work week hit like a plains thunderstorm.  We’re feeling a bit ragged, as it seems the current work environments are a bit like fracking -forced pressure at our base materials to extract the final product.

 

 

In Anticipation of A Guest

zinnia rock

 

Tomorrow will bring with it the arrival of my best girl friend, in time to share the celebration of Sukkot.

The new moon sighting in Israel set the times for the Seventh month celebration, and Yom Kippur has passed.  Now we celebrate the time spent by the Israelites in booths/temporary structures as they traversed the wilderness.

On the agenda: some outdoor photo treks, some fun kitchen  and garden time, visits to local interests and a lot of chatting it up.  🙂

Yeah, I’m stoked!

 

Recompense

What is it that drives religion?  What keeps the gears of the masses oiled, the coffers full, the leaders employed?

Predominantly, it is fear of punishment or desire for reward.

Fear of hell-fire and damnation.  Fear of a god named satan, a devil, an angel gone bad.  Spending eternity in a fire pit ruled by the devil, surrounded by the worst of the worst sort of evil people – rapists, murderers, cannibals, thieves, liars.

clouds 1

Desire to live in a paradise with no pain, no death.  Streets that are lined with silver and gold, and mansions galore.  Rights to rule over and judge other people, to enact punishments upon others.  Ultimate power, to be like a god.  Angels floating nearby, surrounded by all of the note-worthy saints and patriarchs of old.

I took up residence in that camp, or one quite similar, for a long period of time.

I’ll concede that there are many variations to this view, and I’ve taken the most liberal case in point.  The gist is still the same, however.

I’m no longer fearful of hell or a make-believe devilish character.

I no longer strive to spend eternal days in the heavens, ephemeral beings and blissful promises dispelled.

I’ve chosen my truth.  The fact that what I have, what I know, what I live, is what it is.  There’s no better place, there’s no better time.  This is my life and this is what I have to work with.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The punishment, sans an operational Priesthood to govern, is self-imposed.  If I transgress in one of the minor issues, I do the best that I can to make the required restitution.  It’s pretty simple, really.  Thievery – pay it back, and add a fifth.  Liar – okay, there’s no punishment for this unless it’s been as a witness, or to incur punishment on another who is not guilty.  If the lie was to hurt another, then the pain should belong to me.  If my dog gets out and eats a neighbor’s chicken, I need to repay the chicken.

Major punishments – those I intend to never have to deal with.  I don’t want to be expelled from my already virtual camp, nor do I want to die.  I’ll keep myself from that evil by remaining faithful to my husband, by keeping the Sabbath.  I’ll control my anger and not go into a rage and kill another person.

As a result of grave misdeeds and vile doings, the people I would reside with, the community in the Land of Almighty’s choice, have been expelled, punished, judged to live outside of the Land, outside of the covenanted protection.  Therefore, the ultimate reward of Torah, to dwell safely, to have productive lands and productive wombs, is suspended and not available to those who would join the community.

intense blue sky

The ability to continue to enjoy Almighty’s creation, however, is still available.  The joy of Almighty’s created beauty is still reward.  The ability to wake up each day, to know that there is no other; this Creator, this Almighty, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is my God.

What more reward would I desire?

Love Thy Neighbor

An oft bandied phrase, one that has been ping-ponging in and out of my thoughts for weeks, months even:  Love thy neighbor.

How do I treat the woman next door who is sneaking out the back door to go cheat on her husband?  How am I supposed to love the two men at work who just announced their sexual relationship?  I believe those things are against Torah, so how am I supposed to love these people?

The attached condition, “as thyself’ also gives me pause.  How do I apply that if I don’t so much love myself?

I did an online search and looked at the context of the Law:  18 ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

Ah, some context is now given.  It’s not simply a willy-nilly overview of how humanity should be each others’ doormats; to the contrary, this is a simple provision that it’s not up to me to take the matter of law/justice/judgement into my own hands and apply as I desire, angrily so.

Additionally, the condition defines that I’m not to act by my own determination against the sons of my people – against my tribe, so to speak.  This certainly isn’t an obligatory statement regarding the whole of humanity.  The whole of humanity is not addressed by Torah, just the nation of the Hebrews and those who would take that citizenship.

By extension, this relieves me of an obligation to pass judgement, to call to attention a broken Law of Torah unless the violation is made by a fellow Hebrew.  I can point out the matter to the violator, or serve as a witness when it’s my fellow tribesman, but assignment of the duty of repayment and the pronouncement of recompense is not mine to dole.

This also means that I should not take vengeance or bear a grudge against myself, right?

Not as simple.

When my guilt is intertwined with that of the culture in which I’ve been raised, the separation of the threads of real guilt and perceived and societal guilt is an intricate and timely endeavor.

Not truly an easy task, that:  cleanly separating what would be expected of me should I truly live in a Torah community, and take an active part in the scales of justice that would prevail there.  In order for a release from guilt, there is a penalty to be applied.  Justice served, penance done, go on and live your life.  Complete.

In absence of that community – well, what then?

So, I continue to live the Law as best I can, in a society not understanding of that Law, not conducive to the keeping of that Law.  I keep to myself, do my best to get along with others, because I have no need and no right to judge others’ choices or to preach my beliefs.

And wonder:  will there ever be a day that I could wholly practice this simple phrase?

Community Life and The Holy Convocation

An integral part of living the life of the Hebrew is the observance of the Holy days, primarily Shabbat – the Sabbath.

The seventh day, observed from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.

A day of rest, to do no work.

A day to assemble as a community.

A day to touch base with the lives of the other believers, to recap the week, to share and to care.

A day that reminds us how important we are to each other.  A day that reminds us of the connection we have to one another:  Almighty and the Law of Torah.

We often talk for hours.  Some talk more than others, we’re just like everyone else in that aspect.

We talk about the week, our ups and downs.  We talk about joys, kids and grandkids and accomplishments.

We talk about disappointments, and hard times, and challenges.  We talk about Torah and the world around us – how those things are often at odds.

Sometimes, we talk about troubles between us, the differences we may have, or our contrasting opinions.

Most importantly, we talk.

Our time is mostly free for the talking.  Sometimes, we have other items on the schedule – family time, or time to gather with friends who believe differently.

Sometimes, there is simply a need to recharge with silence.

We’re so much like others, you see.

Except, we’re different.

🙂

Narrowing It Down: Define The Hebrew

Of all of the religions, all of the religious groups, and all of the belief systems that exist, the Hebrew religion – the Hebrew people – may be defined very simply.

Torah.  Only Torah.

No Talmud.

No Prophets.

No additives, no chemicals, no preservatives.

No heaven to aspire to.

No hell to be damned to.

Seriously, the basis for the Hebrew belief is that following Torah, in its pure form, is the requirement.

This presents a new twist on religion, a new but old thing which typically sends minds reeling from the shock.  Hebrews rely on the priest to deliver the Torah information, as defined in… (wait for it… you might already know this… ) Torah!

Just as Torah describes, the Aaronic priest is born into the duty, born into the hierarchy, to lead the Hebrews in their religious life.  The priest directs the community, according to Torah.  The Levites are directed to serve the priests, and to carry the Tabernacle (yes, tabernacle not temple) and Courtyard and Articles.

I don’t have a need to do Torah readings, Torah studies, although I spent nearly twenty years doing just that.  As my priest told me, “you know Torah, just go live Torah.”

Had I been a true member of a Hebrew community throughout life, or came upon such during travels, I would have been exposed to the Torah by the priests there.

Some of the differences between a Hebrew and nearly every other religion:

  • We work to accept our punishment.  The reality dealt to the Hebrew people and their generations for their refusal to keep Torah Law.
  • We do not ask of Almighty, YHWH.  This means we do not make prayer requests.
  • We, the congregation, do not read the Law.  We rely on the priest for matters that are too difficult.
  • We accept that we do not have the right to live in the Land.  We’re in exile, see the first point.
  • We are not commanded to ‘go forth and gather people’ to believe as we do.  You either believe as we do or you don’t.  Each and every human being has the right, the ability to choose.  If you choose differently, so be it, you are allowed to do so.
  • As exiled people, we recognize that the land we live in is not up to us to rule.  We are subject to the laws of the land we’re in.
  • A Hebrew may or may not be genetically tied to the original people of Torah.  The only difference for the Hebrew who voluntarily joins the community is that they don’t appear to be included in land inheritance.
  • There is no satan, no messiah, no king, no temple.  Our sole worship, our sole belief is in Almighty and the hierarchy set down by Almighty.  The anointed one is the High Priest.
  • The commanded Dwelling is the tabernacle and the enclosure – to keep out any but those who are of the tribe of Levi.  The priests are the only who offer, and the only who enter the tabernacle.  Only the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies.
  • It is up to the community to freely give items for construction of the tabernacle, the enclosure, the cloths and coverings, the Ark, table, lampstand, priestly clothing and articles of the clothing and tabernacle.
  • There are elders chosen who take the message of the priest to the community, should the community be too large for adequate delivery.
  • Only Hebrew Priests are allowed to say the blessing.  As described in Torah.

Those are the primary differences, for any who were wondering.

 

Emotional Dictates

We’ve reached a societal point where we look at a situation, wrap a strong emotion around it, and label it “good” or “bad”.

Murder, bad. Right?

What if the person who was killed had committed a crime deemed punishable by death? Would that change the judgement? Is the guilty party still deemed guilty for murdering when the dead was going to receive a death sentence?

That’s the thought that kicked off my recent pondering. I applied this concept more locally and liberally, and realized how easily the public is manipulated by emotion: “If it feels good, do it”.

I focused on the subject of Gardening/Crops.

Almighty created all living things; herbs of the field, trees for food, animals, fish, birds and mankind. Creation was labeled “Good”.

morning light zinnia

 

Rules were established to maintain a system supported by Almighty and optimal for mankind.

Included in those rules were those specific to foods:

  • Certain animals and creatures were not meant for consumption
  • Mixed seeds and mixed breeding are not allowed
  • The soil must be allowed to rest and replenish every seven years

Seems pretty easy to follow, right? The great thing is that when the Rules were followed, Almighty would respond by giving good rains to keep the cycle running smoothly.

Enter the illusion of intelligence called public thinking.

  • If an animal or creature tastes good, then it’s meant to be eaten
  • When plants or animals don’t produce as profitably as hoped for, create a hybrid or GMO product to outdo the original
  • Use up the soil, wear it out, then toss in some chemicals to make it more productive

These emotional based choices don’t look toward the long-term effects; they’re the product of a spoiled child’s litany: “I want more, I want better and I want it now.” Forget about what’s right, what’s good and what’s been proven to endure thousands of generations. We can do it better.

Similarly, emotions are used to ploy people with items they simply “must have” to feel valuable, or to meet societal expectations, or to follow societal “norms”. This tactic has proven quite useful in separating people from their hard-earned wages. Without drawing on those emotions, we’d simply be left to make purchases that were necessary. Oh, the horrors!

Emotions hold so much importance in society, but truly they change more often than the wind direction. How can a firm stand be made on a shifting base?

A favorite quote states that permanent decisions should not be made based on temporary emotions. How appropriate. How many times have a group of pained people pressed for policies to protect others from pain? Isn’t pain a fact of life? You have joy and you have pain.

Often, state and national laws follow similar logic. Look at seat belt laws. Emotions run amok from grieving family members create rules and dictates that penalize a person for not buckling a strap on their body each time they sit in a vehicle.

It’s akin to the declaration my Hubby made when my son could have killed himself during a fall from a very high tree branch he had climbed. Hubby firmly stated “you cannot climb any more trees!” While I was similarly shaken with emotions from the near fatal incident, I was quick to alter the edict (one of very, very few times that we disagreed on issues related to the kids). Kids climb trees, kids get hurt.

top of the tree

We cannot eradicate boo-boos and pain by employing more emotion-based rules, but we can apply common sense to keep ourselves out of the most dangerous situations.

My personal choice is to look at life through the lens of Torah, where sound judgement rules – rather than emotions.

 

Hillbilly to Hebrew

I recall during the early years of grade school, a teacher had asked us to find out about our ancestry. So, I went to my best resource, Mom.

I asked “what are we Mom?”

Well, she must have been in fine humor that day because she answered me “hillbilly”.

And that’s what I reported back to the class.

I’m really glad that I don’t recall the reaction, as I’m certain that teacher was moved to either shock or laughter!

Seriously!

I thought Hillbilly was my label for a long while.

It did make sense, somewhat.

The family reunions for Mom’s side were happy, musical affairs, always including acoustic guitars, tambourines, banjos and mandolins. Bluegrass was always the theme, and quite a few of the relatives could play and sing.

There’s a small town (population 200 or so) that several of the relatives call home, so when we all assembled to enjoy each other’s company, moving from house to house – mostly barefoot – it seemed like it was “our town”.

They’re fabulous memories to have: My hillbilly memories.

For the record, it turns out I’m mostly German/English.

Whatever that means.

You see, I’ve transitioned.

I don’t want to be thought of as hillbilly

or German

or English.

I have a preference now, and no – it’s really not Hippy either, hehehe.

Because I’ve taken the label of Hebrew – in fact, it was a label that was given me by my Priest.

Accepted; willingly, eagerly, and with great respect for the serious implications that it requires.

You see, I have agreed to keep the law of Torah as best I can in a world that is not conducive to Torah.

It’s sobering.

It’s complicated, yet breathtakingly simple.

If only all things were so simple!

On Behalf of the Cat, and More

It seems that the camps are often split. No matter the topic, the opinion, there’s not much middle ground and all parties line up on one or the other side of the fence, the rope, the line in the sand:

Democrats vs Republicans.

Black vs White.

Country vs Rock and Roll.

Us vs Them.

You vs Me.

Ya know? Why is it always one or the other? What is it about us that makes it so hard to come to terms with each other? Why can’t we just agree to disagree, and get along? Why does it always have to be a competition of opinions?

Okay, not a problem that’s left for me to solve, right? But I can share an opinion about a rather minor sort of split.

Dog vs Cat
I saw a post about animals yesterday and found myself countering a recent cat vs dog post last night. The post is about the difference in how dogs and cats greet their owners.

There’s a photo of a dog, mouth in a happy and open pose, tail in the mid position, obviously in wag mode – and the phrase “omg you’re home, I’ve missed you!”
Then there’s the photo of a cat, kicked back in ownership style on a recliner (presumably the master of the house’s favored chair) and with a look of indifference – and the phrase “I see you’re home, feed me now.”
I’ll concede, I have seen cats act similarly (and there’s no question the dog pose was straight on). The strange thing is, the cats we’ve owned (albeit there have only been two) do not fit that stereotype.

Both of our cats were the first to the door as we came through. Both were vying for attention alongside the dog, and both were extremely happy to get that attention.

For the record, both the dog and the cat are trained to expect a ‘treat’ when My Love comes home from work each day. That may be the key… but I get the same reaction whenever I walk through the door. I don’t give treats by schedule. No sirree bob! It’s always going to be a happy little surprise when it comes from me. I’ve always said that our cats truly think they’re dogs. Perhaps that is where the real secret lies. Who knows.

At any rate, could I judge the whole cat kingdom by mine? Could I presume that all cats will playfully box a dog snout several times during the day and the dog would always playfully nuzzle the cat’s belly? Could I solidly state that every cat would sit at the window watching for our arrival and then be the first to the greet us at the door?

Sorta like saying all Muslims are out to kill Americans, huh? Or like saying all Mexicans are trying to overtake America? No? Maybe it’s like saying all men are pigs, or all cops are power freaks? Or like saying all women are shopping crazed, man-hungry bitches?

See? It’s not that simple. Not one side or the other. And certainly not solid facts splayed across an entire segment of a population based on the action of a few.

I challenge you to see the other side, to read between the lines. I challenge you to not accept every stated fact-ism at face value, but to get to know the real information behind the quote, the article, the statement. I challenge you to check your ‘facts’ before you share them, before you help spread vitriol.

So, to speak on behalf of the cats out there: They’re gettin’ a bad rap. Ya gotta give those cats a break!

Shadowed Rituals

Funerals are never on the top list of things to do. Not the ‘I wanna’ list anyway.

But when a death occurs in the family, or in the family of a dear friend, you offer your support: attend a ritual to help the living move forward and let the dead lie.

That’s how I found myself inside a catholic cathedral last year. (I’m not christian, in case you’re just stopping by – used to be, was trained to be, but then I discovered my beliefs – long story  – follow along if you’d like to know more).

Life in a primarily christian surround becomes an ever-present obstacle course of fluxing themes and cultural inheritances; a deluge of seasonal visual and audio barrages that keep me reeling from sensory overload and instant transport back through my memory banks. There are times when I find myself with a hymn stuck in my head. Damn!

I digress. Back to the funeral. Not where I wanted to be, for certain, but where I went to give formal support to my friends.

There is a definite shadow of Torah upon which the catholic religion is based. I say shadow not to incite, but because when we’re talking about an entirely different god, I cannot with good conscience say that it is built on Torah. Structured to resemble/shadow, yes. Definitely. When you see a good thing… why reinvent the wheel, right?

So I’m watching the incense burner ritual, noticing the priest’s clothing, the washing of hands. I look around me at the grandeur, imagining that there is, at the very least, gold-plating on the vessels. Also, the physical structure of the cathedral, the massive columns, the intricate designs, the lavish shine and polish a replica of the temple built once kings were placed in an unwarranted position and allowed to replace the importance of the priesthood.

Suddenly, I feel the loss of what Almighty designed. The tears I shed are not the same as those shed by the people around me.

The loss of Torah, the exile, is more poignant when you have such a visual reminder.

Granted, those specific rituals would NEVER have been seen by the community. They were not available to the common man or to the Levites. Only Priests entered the Mishkan, and only the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies. The only things that may have been witnessed by the community were the sacrifices on the main altar, which stood outside the Mishkan.

The rituals served to bring back to mind the words of Torah, the commands in place for the structures, the rituals, the Priestly commands.

Catholicism has at least retained a decent copy of the hierarchical structure commanded by Almighty. Warped and extremely faulty, in my opinion, but a reminder, nonetheless, of the place Priests were given in Torah. The importance of an eternal heritage, a constant position to serve Almighty and to give the people a conduit for serving Almighty.

These thoughts were forefront as I contemplated the end of my life, in comparison.

What end-of-life closing rituals will I, or should I employ when I feel my life slipping away?

I have no need to accept a savior. I have no hell to fear, no heaven to which to aspire. I’ve no last rites or rituals commanded.

Those commands that I’ve broken are to be atoned as soon as I know them, and restitution made where required. Those commands that I’ve broken unknowingly are graciously covered annually through Yom Kippur.

What I will have is the ending of what I am now.

I reflected on the fact that I hope to have 30 to 40 more years of this life. A lot of time to live the example of my beliefs and to hope for an inheritance to share. A lot of time to watch the world go ticking along, for better or worse. A lot of time to put words on pages. A lot of time for pain, for sorrows, for hardships. A lot of time for beauty and joy and laughter. A lot of time for family and friends and food and work. A lot of time to consider my end.

And at the end, if the time of my end becomes clear to me, I hope to call a dear friend. I hope to make connection with my Priest and to tell him I’m ready for Almighty to give me Shalom. And I hope to sleep with my ancestors.