Category Archives: Torah

No Traditional Yom Kippur

Our Hebrew observance of Yom Kippur is not what you’ll find in the search engines; the current traditions that have been set for many years are not followed among our people.

In fact, I was astounded to see a search option come up to show that the scapegoat was taken to its death on this Holy Day.

Not so.

In fact, as I pondered on that change to the commands, it occurred to me that my picture of that scapegoat was also in error.

When the bull and the two rams were chosen for Yom Kippur, it would not be clear which of the rams was to be the offering and which was to be the scapegoat, as the lots had not yet been cast by the High Priest.  The rams would have both been choice, healthy and vigorous animals.  Fit, without blemish, choice for offering to Almighty.

The ram that was sent away with the sins of the community figuratively upon its head would have been capable of survival in that wilderness, should it make it past the predators in the early time period.  Accustomed to domestic life, there would be a quick learning curve – or death.  But the ram was not sent to die – rather it was released to freedom, to a clean slate.  Its choices would determine its future.

So it is for us, should we follow the commands – the command to refrain from work and the command to afflict our souls.

Unlike the days of unleavened bread, where we’re commanded not to eat leaven, we are not commanded not to eat on Yom Kippur.  We’re commanded to afflict our souls.  That is a hard concept and leaves some room for translation.  To my mind it means to reflect, to self-examine and find my inner motives, my inner workings and check them against Torah expectations to see where I find myself lacking.  It’s also to recall where I’ve made outright errors according to the Torah laws and to acknowledge that guilt, that fault that should have already had restitution made and to bring that to the forefront as an item that would today be released.

And so the day began.  A pot of coffee to stir the mental works.  A bit of rest upon the cozy sofa as the achy morning muscles and joints stirred and loosened.  A little bit of music once the brain cells were beginning to fire.

Then the journal and favorite pen were pulled out and the commencement of self inspection began.

Well timed, the Holy convocation – the meeting with the community – was announced and began, only moments after the pen was set aside and just after I had snacked on curry seasoned cashews.

We discussed our perspectives on the day.  We talked about the happenings of the week, and a few current events.  We discussed concerns over family, and life.  And then we spent some time talking of those joys we’ve had, those things we look forward to and relish, and how thankful we are for those.

After the convocation, a quick lunch and a short walk for the dog, I returned to the inspection and discovered a few more items for which I could find reason for relief of guilt, for cleaning the slate.  Items that I could improve upon.

Not every moment of the day has been spent wallowing in self pity for wrong doing – and moments outside of the meeting and the self inspection were not swept away by napping.

I set a bluegrass station on the stereo as background and did some wishful thinking, some reading, and some thinking about the fall weather approaching.

And look forward to the evening and a clean slate – and a full return to the rituals commanded by Almighty.

 

Hebrew Community Bonds

Fragmented communities, one of the hardest obstacles in today’s Hebrew life, become a very sobering circumstance when there are dangers to parts of the community based on their geographical location.

It’s difficult navigation on a day to day basis.  But an impending natural disaster situation for a small portion of the community makes you stand up and take note of your real community bond.

We don’t see each other, except on Holy days when the budgets and the timing works out.  Technology allows us to assemble otherwise, to keep in touch and to keep a finger on the pulse of our connections, our commitment to Torah.

Irma threatened my family.  Firstly, my Torah family, but also my extended family – and my friend’s family.  I could do no more than sit from very safe sidelines and worry as I watched the mesmerizing giant wheel storm approach.  As I kept myself busy with my housekeeping tasks, I kept the radar going, with a commentary running on the speakers – touch-points, an audio and visual perspective to those spaces that contained a portion of my important peoples.

All have reported in safe, and I’ve yet to hear all of the damage reports – but it seems to be minimal.

But I’m changed a bit.

My disconnect, my aloofness, my resolve to be independent of My Almighty and never make requests has been shattered.

I cried, and I asked for Mercy for my connections, my Community.  My priorities became more clear than ever.

That, I need to remember.  My bonds.

 

 

 

Rights? What Are Rights?

I keep hearing ‘God-given rights’.

I want to know:  what are those rights?  Seriously?!

If those rights are based on something that isn’t factual, frequent repetition of those words doesn’t by default make them law.

If those oft-repeated rights are based on something seemingly factual but being attributed to the God of Torah, the God of the Old Testament, then the title of God has been taken in vain.  Dangerous ground there, slippery slopes and all.

God given rights are to breathe, to multiply, and to die. Given equally to mankind, to animals as well as to plant life (breathe termed in alternate forms) and organisms.

Choice is an option given mankind. Not a right, an option. People often choose to be emotionally driven.

Right to live?  Well, until you die… sure.

Liberty? No, not a right that Almighty granted, but seemingly a cultural perception graced upon society in general.

Pursuit of happiness? Whatever. That’s another cultural perception of mankind, not a God-granted right.

The words of Torah, the history of Tanakh comes to mind… 

People were born poor.

People were in situations where there was no food, no water.

People died.

People were born into slavery.  All colors.

People were isolated into groups.

People were restricted and persecuted for their beliefs, their race, their cultures.  Across the earth.

These situations are often the direct result of consequences.  Choices made and consequence of choice being the equal and opposite reaction.  Assigned situations based on circumstance and consequence.

Breathing.

Reproducing.

Dying.

 

Rights equal to all.

The rest is conceptual. Even if penned by founders.

 

Sh’ma Yisra’eil: Return to the Law

altar rock color

Sh’ma Yisra’eil – Return to the Law.

Torah Law, that is… the religion of the Hebrews.

I can keep it, it’s not terrifically hard, but it doesn’t matter.

Outside the land – It doesn’t matter.

I can live my life restrained only by civil law – eat, drink and be merry.  An ocean away, across the border, on the moon… as long as I’m not in the land chosen by Almighty, the Law is not a matter to much concern me.

So why am I so morose, so concerned with doing what YHWH commanded?  What keeps me on course, holding the line, standing apart and keeping separate from everyone and everything I know?  Why do I not just blend in, become a comfortable fit with society, with culture, with family and friends and community?

If nothing else, so that I can sleep well at night, so that I can practice what I believe with all of my heart.  Even if my obedience makes no difference, none.  Inconsequential, insignificant.  Important only to me.  Important only that by extension, I hope to revere YHWH by keeping the commands.

Truly, YHWH said I will bless them that bless you and curse them that curse you – by you all of the families of the earth will be blessed.

Not me.  Almighty didn’t say that about me.

Not anyone outside the land.  Other nations didn’t get this condition, this special selection.

Only Israel.  Chosen resident of the land.

So hey there Israel – Are you listening?!? – people in the land, citizens, strangers, residents of all shapes, sizes and beliefs – do you not believe YHWH?

Are you fearless, thinking Almighty, YHWH will not require?

The land is chosen, deliberately; forever claimed by YHWH – a possession only lent to others as punishment to those peoples who defiled it, those who denied that YHWH owned the land.

Israel – pay attention before you also are spewed from the land!  Please!

There are terms.  There are conditions.  Go back and search for the God of your father Abraham.  Look to the ancients, those Hebrews who came out of Egypt to serve your Almighty, and repair your ways.  Strip your extraneous laws and traditions and return to YHWH who chose you  – to be the blessing, to dwell safely in the land, to become the rightful servants of YHWH.

Find your priests, the sons of Aaron.  Ask them to take their stand, to resume their required positions.  Support them.  Give them reason  to seek YHWH, to inquire of, and worship YHWH as they have been commanded.  Ask them to seek out the old ways, the ways of Abraham.  Ask them to become servants of YHWH, as designed.

Kick those fucking rabbis to the curb.  Eject them from the land if you have to, if they, like others before them, refuse to honor the established hierarchy set forth by YHWH.  If they continue to usurp the position of authority set forth by YHWH, then send them away.  They lead you astray.

The rest of us are counting on you – whether we know it or not – our future hangs in the balance, waiting on you.  All of the families of the earth are looking and hoping for a thing that will not happen without you.

Save yourselves, and allow us to rejoice in your resumed status, as Chosen of YHWH, rightful residents of the Land of Israel, Land of YHWH.

 

 

Atonement

Oh Almighty, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

I and my predecessors and my offspring have sinned and done exceedingly wrong before you.

Your laws have been spurned and cast aside, your priests denied and your dwelling treated as naught.

Your creation has been given no rest and your land is profaned.

Your people no longer know your Law and your Priests no longer know your people.

Justice is treated as wrong-doing and wrong-doings are treated as just.

Knowledge has become base and lawless and laws of men exceed all boundaries.

Men think themselves  gods and make mere men their gods.  Is there no hope for mankind?  Is there no turning back to do right?

I see people whose intents seem good, yet they know you not.  Will they get the chance?

Will you remember the Land and remember the Covenant?

Is there yet a remnant left to glorify Almighty God?

Are there yet punishments to be dealt and accepted?

Praise you, oh Almighty God – your mercy gives me hope, although my transgressions are many!

Thank you for Yom Kippur and the yearly cleansing of our souls.

May your established laws and statutes be forever known and kept to make difference between the clean and the unclean and the Holy and the unholy, to show glory to Almighty, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Buckets Are Too Limiting

Dust in the wind, worm food – either way, my personal take on death is that I will know no more.  It will be the end of me, the last breath, the circle of life.  Last call…

It’s a heavy thought – to think that nothing follows, that there is just an end – but it suits me, suits my practical nature.

One of my sons once posted a thought, which I’ll paraphrase:  if a person is only good because they’re focused on divine reward, then that person is a piece of shit.  I don’t know if these were his own words, and I don’t know that he won a lot of praise or ‘likes’ for that.  But if you stop and think about it, it makes sense.

If only rules, or rules hedged about with some eternal reward system are keeping you from bouncing out of control and into a psychotic rage, or killing frenzy, then you’re simply a caged rabid animal.  Where is the realness, the human connection, the compassion?

If those pieces are missing, then you really are a piece of shit.  Like it or not, calloused though it may be, it’s the simple truth.

There are moments when I think people see me in similar light.  Cold.  Unreachable.  Distant.  Tightly strung.

The truth is that I feel so deeply, watch ever so intently and capture essences and nuances of meaning and feeling that often escape others.  It’s painful, it’s draining, and it makes me put on the tough skin of protection to keep it from shredding me into millions of little pieces.  Dust.  Pieces of dust that would so easily blow away, carried off to unknown places and spaces, away from me.

Another son stated when announcing a pregnancy that he and his wife were ‘growing a human’.

How aptly said.

A combination of their parts, their pieces, that attach little parts and pieces of the generations preceding them – a tiny piece of me – grew inside the womb.  Destined to be an infant, this little nugget emerged last November, a wonderful wriggling, wrinkled version of itself, a new growth on the family tree.

There are few people who fit ever so perfectly into my comfort zone.  My introverted self, my regulated and logical nature requires that I have plenty of space to call my own, and plenty of time to fill that space.  My sons and their spouses are included in those few (hubby’s a given, a keeper, the magnet holding me in my space) and it’s always such an easy-going and comfortable time when they come to visit.

But during a recent visit, there was this edge to me, this pressure behind my eyes, this feeling of tears that could burst forth at any given moment – a strange thing when I was so relaxed and so enjoying the company.

It took words penned by my dear friend for me to realize that it was pure joy ebbing and bubbling beneath my surface.  I was so powerfully moved by this new event, this new growth that it didn’t have a proper slot to fit into my logic, nothing prior to name this, to capture and label this emotion.

pail and leaves

My bucket flows over.

My list is now such a pittance, such a distraction from the wonder of seeing what comes next, what this fabulous little seed of a human brought with her emergence…

Bucket lists are too limiting.  What I want to see before I die, I cannot even begin to fathom.

But the end has suddenly changed course, because not only will parts of me continue through my son after I die, now there will be parts of me to last another generation.  That, my friends, that’s what’s real.

Chag Sameach Pesach

Happy Festival of Passover.

On the fourteenth day, at dusk, we eat the lamb with unleavened bread and bitter greens, with feet shod and loins girded.  And any lamb left over from the whole roasted lamb, is not to remain until the morning, it is to be burnt entirely in the fire.

That’s what I recall from the reading.

And that’s why I don’t keep the feast, just the remembrance.  I don’t have the means to roast a whole lamb, and I don’t have a physical community with which to share the extra meat.

I have purchased unleavened crackers.  And I will rid the property of items that contain leaven tomorrow, as the First Day of Unleavened Bread, Hag HaMatzot, begins at sundown and will last for seven days.  I will also bake unleavened bread tomorrow, using a favorite recipe.

Just like any other restriction, just before the deadline, you’ll find me cramming in samples of the restricted item, slice by slice, piece by piece, bit by bit.  I’ve enjoyed buns and pound cake and toast and cookies and crackers this week.

Over-enjoyed, really.

It will be good for me to refrain for seven days.  Likely a shock to my system, considering the past month of over indulging on bread and baked stuffs.  I’m ready though.

I’m somber already, as the Holy Days always strike me as such sorrowful times.  I simply don’t consider them to be the celebrations they were meant to be, when I’m living in exile.

But I’m extremely thankful to be able to observe the Holy Days.

Todah YHWH!