Samain Joe and SeoAh Moon
I’m assimilating, in reverse. Yes, I’m gradually become jewish, small j. Last night Rabbi Jamie came in and he had shaved. “I thought you only shaved after Purim,” I said. Just like I always say things like that.
The Jewish approach to death and mourning has completely won me over. From the washing and preparation of the body, to sitting with the body until burial, then providing food and sitting shiva with the grieving family, to a year’s mourning, to the yahrzeit, annual remembrance, this is a humane and human way to grieve.
I thought last night how different our family might have been if my mother’s sudden death at 47 had had this kind of cultural context. I recalled running out of the house one night, I hadn’t thought about this in a long time, screaming. This was not long after her death in October of 1964. In my mind the night was a black tunnel, a featureless empty hole into which I could run and never reappear. True horror.
Both kabbalah and mussar offer a way of viewing life and ultimate reality that I find very useful. To be honest, I’m not sure they’re more useful or cogent than similar disciplines within other faith or philosophical traditions; but they are useful, they are profound and humane. They’re more tools to add to the leather wallet I carry over my shoulder, the same one that contains my bread and cheese for the pilgrimage.
Jewish holidays have been added to my personal liturgical year, spotted, as they must be, on the Great Wheel and the Gregorian calendar. My friends here are predominantly Jewish, not unusual for me since I’ve always had Jewish friends; but this is the first time I’ve known them through a Jewish community.
Of course, my sweetheart is Jewish and Judaism has been a part of our marriage since we crushed the wine glass in the Federal Courtroom in the Landmark Center on March 10, 1990. My small j Jewishness adds to the richness of our relationship, gives it another venue for growth. Always a good thing.