For all of the eleven months of the Jewish period of mourning and beyond, I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to move beyond the unbearable pain I felt all the time. Of course, I was completely distraught—and the intensity of my agony corresponded to the magnitude of my love.
In this multi-ethnic society, we don’t hear the term “melting pot” used anymore. But there are unstated assumptions that remain nevertheless. We see the other through the prism of our own view of reality.
It is thus no accident that Rabbi Waxman is the first woman and the first out lesbian to head a rabbinical school and a Jewish denomination in Jewish history. While this leap forward is not surprising, it is significant nevertheless. We often try to imagine what the world would be like if it were run by women, and Waxman’s inaugural address yesterday provided a clear taste of how gender can make a difference.
I conclude that everything I do comes from God, but not purely. The spirit is filtered through my ideas, my feelings, my cultural presuppositions, my woundedness. How the divine spirit is expressed through me reveals as much or more about me than about God. It’s never just one or the other.
I am a decidedly universalist Christian. I believe that because people are all different from one another, and the Holy One is unfathomably multi-faceted and complex, the world needs many different spiritual paths. I treasure my own spiritual tradition, but believe that it is not the only legitimate way.
I am not as honest as I’d like to be, not as compassionate, not as generous, not as loving. There is a tyranny in setting expectations of ourselves and others that are unattainable. There is a freedom that comes with self-forgiveness and self-compassion, with acknowledging that even though I will never find every last crumb, my home is kosher for Passover.
Our teachers’ values at Salanter Yeshiva were drummed into us with a very heavy hand. We heard many stories about people burning in hell (geihinnom) for their sins and were told that if we did not observe all the commandments, we would be joining them. Whether we were asked if we had remembered to pray the evening service the night before or if we had told any lies this week, the emphasis was invariably on the reward or punishment for compliance or noncompliance.
Our different religious traditions may lead us to identical emphases on the centrality of the life of the spirit. We may share a devotion for social justice, economic equality, pluralism, diversity, immigration reform, and LGBTQ rights, and yet my deeply held attachment to the Land of Israel and to Jewish people in Israel and around the world often mystifies non-Jewish friends.
Somehow, my fervent hope that our child would be perfect, and my insight that becoming a parent was a radical act of losing control, developed together. They arose out of the same source. A new baby is a window to the unknown, unpredictable, uncontrollable future. I was hoping for the best and dreading the worst.
The practice of mindfulness meditation is simple but not so easy to do. You sit, focusing your attention on your breath, to live in this moment. In part, this is a concentration practice. The more I am able to notice what arises in my mind, the better I am able to respond wisely and compassionately, rather than getting angry or upset.