I grew up in a religiously, culturally and gastronomically Jewish home in Willingboro, NJ which is a suburb of Philadelphia. Our family went to synagogue weekly, practiced holiday rituals, lit the candles on Friday night, but kept kosher only when my paternal grandmother lived with us. I attended Hebrew school until I was 16. […]
I was raised in the Jewish faith tradition, going to synagogue every Friday night with my parents and sisters for as long as I can remember. Rituals for various holidays, including kindling Shabbos candles, creating the Passover seder and lighting the Hanukkah menorah were an integral part of my life. Saying the Shema which is the signature prayer in the religion, has been something I have done automatically since childhood.
“Shema Yisrael, Adonai, Elohenu, Adonai Echad,” being chanted by rote, and the translation I followed it with then, “Hear, Oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” Much later in life, when attending synagogue services at Beth Or, in South Florida, the rabbi, Rami Shapiro, introduced me to words that resonated more fully with my searching soul, “That which we call God is Oneness itself.” It was such a vital ritual in my childhood, that even when my parents went out for the evening, babysitters would listen to our recitation.
I’m not sure how many years ago I adopted a practice of saying before getting out of bed, the morning prayer called Modeh Ani:
“Modeh anee lefanecha melech chai vekayam, she-he-chezarta bee nishmatee b’chemla, raba emunatecha. (Click here for audio of a Modeh Ani song.)
I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.”
In 1999, I enrolled in The New Seminary to complete a two-year program (in 6 months) and was ordained as an interfaith minister. I now speak, counsel and offer rituals in that capacity. A nice Jewish girl became a Rev. Imagine that.
Daily, I am faced with the question: How can a loving and just God allow for the atrocities in the world? Since the 2016 election, that thought pops up several times each day when the newest appalling piece of news is broadcast. There seems to be no rhyme or reason. How can children be torn apart from their families? How can hatred be permitted to spew forth from the mouth of one whose role is supposed to be a leader and not a dictator? How can those who align with his vitriolic tirades be allowed to kill in his name? How can anyone be permitted to prosper when they are robbing people and the planet of life?
I have what I call God-versations, that enable me to speak 1:1 with the Divine. I wonder if they are monologues or dialogues. Am I talking to the God within, the animated spark that fills all spaces? Am I conversing with an energy like The Force in Star Wars? Can I know that my petitioning for peace and healing is really heard and acted upon? I struggle at times to believe that anything I say or do can possibly make a difference and then someone will thank me for my presence and words. That helps me to keep doing what I am guided to do.
My prayer for this day is that I will find the ways to communicate the love of the One I am coming to understand. May peace and love prevail on Earth.
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