Tag Archives: Torah community

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.

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?