My God Is Better Than Yours

512px-The_Crossing_fo_The_Red_SeaWhat a miracle! They had been freed, the Israelites, from Egypt, but moments after they set out on their way “home,” Pharaoh changed his mind, whipped his chariots and troops into a fury of pursuit and were fast closing in on the Israelites trapped by an impassable body of water before them.

And then…and then…and then, safe on the far shore, their enemies drowned when the walls of water collapsed over them. They sang, they beat on frame drums, they danced: a victory song and dance, the song of the sea!

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Is My Truth Your Truth?

meditationI do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

—Wallace Stevens


Jewish Mindfulness Teacher Training Program instructions for this month:

“Choose a phrase from Psalm 30 or Hallel to begin and/or end your sitting practice every day. Use the same blessing every day. Memorize it. Notice if it changes your practice, if you recall it during the day, if it inspires awe or connection to life.”

How to choose?

Psalm 30: it’s shorter than Hallel, a section of the Jewish worship service, included on particularly joyous days such as the three pilgrimage festivals, in which all the psalms include the word hallel or the concept of praise. I can read Psalm 30 quickly and see if any verse calls out to me, and, if it does, I can work with that verse this month.

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Murder in the Synagogue

20141119-JERUSALEM-slide-6X2A-superJumboWhen I see him, I don’t see Israeli. I see Jew.

Like the other men in the crowd at the police barrier on the sunny day when this photograph was taken, he’s wearing a long black coat, black slacks, and white shirt: the standard attire of an ultra-Orthodox Jew.

A traditional tallis (prayer shawl)—white with black stripes—is draped over his shoulder. The commandment (Numbers 15:38): “The children of Israel…shall make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments.” One of his long, tightly coiled peyot (earlocks)—”You should not shave the corners of your head,” (Leviticus 19:27)—tapers down the right side of his chest. The other seems to be tossed behind his shoulder. Someone more knowledgeable than I could identify, based on the length and style of his peyot, the ultra-Orthodox sect to which he belongs.

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The Self and the Shadow

saudi-eid_2703921bGuest post by Holly LeCraw

Lately, I am drawn more and more to the thought of Carl Jung. I’ve been thinking a good deal about the stages of life (I’m approaching fifty); I’ve been having some pretty vivid dreams. Jung has plenty to say about both these things, and he’s always been especially appealing to me because he was a scientist who endorsed humankind’s need for the spiritual.

This past week, a friend with far more knowledge of Jungian thought than I brought up the fact that Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, will coincide this year—are coinciding as I write this, on October 3.

Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice (not to be confused with Eid al-Fitr, the Feast of the Fast-Breaking, which occurs at the end of Ramadan) is the second-biggest holiday on the Muslim calendar, commemorating Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son. It’s a joyous celebration with a great deal of food, music, and family gatherings.

In contrast, Yom Kippur is, of course, the Day of Atonement, a solemn turning inward. While not central to Yom Kippur, the Binding of Isaac, or the akedah, is a vital story in Judaism in much the same way it is in Islam: a symbol of the willingness to martyr oneself for God and to submit completely to God’s will. The Temple Mount, in Jerusalem, is traditionally believed to be the site of the akedah, and the blowing of the shofar is a reminder of the ram who took Isaac’s place once he was spared. [Read more...]

A House Blessed

vincent-van-gogh-paintings-from-the-yellow-house-4The doorbell rang around 11:00 a.m. My hubby George and I were both upstairs.

“Can you get it?” I called to him from my study.

“Nope, I’m changing my clothes. I don’t have pants on,” he answered.

So I ran downstairs and opened the door.

A small woman stood there smiling, wearing a suit and a straw hat that seemed to be from an era long past. She looked to be in her early sixties. “I’m Rose Goldman,” she said. “I grew up in this house.”

“How lovely,” I replied.

Not missing a beat, she continued, “I know it’s odd to have a stranger come to your door, and I’d understand if you weren’t comfortable letting me in, but…” [Read more...]