Dancing with Torah

Fall and the Michaelmas Moon

Thursday gratefuls: Simchat Torah. Rabbi Jamie. Bereshit. Alan. CBE. Dancing with the Torah. A full workout. Kids. Jon and his medical woes. Rigel and the sagging bed. Michaelmas and its promise. 37 degrees this morning. Rain. Greg Lell, now starting on Monday. Coyote HVAC.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Dancing with the Torah. Seeing it fully unrolled. (Simchat Torah=Rejoicing in the Torah)

Tarot: Three of Swords, Druid


Funicular. Valparaiso, Chile 2011

Started painting again. Abstract, influenced mostly by Rothko, but also Kandinsky. Fun. Realized I’d gotten myself into a productive rut. That is, my time either had to be productive or restful, nothing in the intermediate state of fun. If I wasn’t handling bills and errands, I worked out. Cooked. Pruned. Planned for projects. Trying hard to get life into flow. Except. Life won’t push into flow. It arrives there on its own.

When Elisa and I met on Monday, one message came through bright and mature: have fun. Oh? What do I do for fun? As I considered that, I awoke to my recent needs to be either productive or relaxing.

No surprise, really. Over the caregiving years if I was not relaxing, and often even then, I cooked, made appointments, got errands done, organized. A flaw in my caregiving was not honoring the need to have fun. For Kate and for me. No wonder that state persists.

Pushed myself last evening to get out of the house and over to CBE for Simchat Torah. This is the holiday that ends the sweep of holidays that include the High Holidays and Sukkot. It marks the reading of the last parsha, Torah portion, and beginning again with Bereshit, Genesis.

In the last reading Moses looks out on the Promised Land from Mt. Pisgah, but learns he will not get there. He dies on the Mountain. The Torah ends. And, the Rabbi reads both the Moses passage and the start of the next:

“1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

A never-ending story. If you are Jewish and a regular attender of Shabbat services, you will have heard the complete Torah read through as many times as you are years old. This is the origin story, a historical saga, a religious primer, a law book, but most of all it gives the Jewish people a common mythology, a fairy tale shared among all members of the tribe. Naming it mythology or fairy tale in no way denigrates the Torah. It is the foundation for the dreams, the aspiration, the daily life, the purpose and mission of all observant Jews and most non-observant ones as well.

Knowing this story is, in my outsider opinion, more important than circumcision, the kippah, the chuppah, or ketuba in Jewish identity.

Yet, it manages to retain its centrality without becoming a prison, as too often happens with Christians, especially those who claim to believe in the divine inspiration of scripture.

How? Thanks to the Jewish love of debate, discussion, a willingness to consider the opinions of others. Studying Torah is not like studying the Koran or even the Christian scriptures (which include the Torah). Jews go into the study of Torah, an activity given very high priority for all, not just Rabbis, with an expectation of differing opinions, no solid, definitive interpretations, but a belief that out of such learning will come guidance for daily life.

On Simchat Torah the scrolls themselves are held by members of the congregation who lead congo lines of congregants dancing and saying blessings to the accompaniment of music. Last night a trumpet and a piano.

The atmosphere is upbeat, celebratory. Fun. I like this holiday and its energy, but in years past though I’ve attended I’ve held back. Observing, not dancing.

Last night I danced with the Torah. I let my self-consciousness disappear (mostly), got my feet twisting, shoulders turning as we moved through the sanctuary behind the two carrying the scrolls. I was a bit out of breath, but I wouldn’t have missed it. I needed to get out of productive or relaxing cocoon and let loose.

Who would have thought it would happen during a Jewish holiday? Rabbi Jamie, I imagine. Jews celebrate physically, musically, emotionally, communally.

After the dancing the entire Torah scroll is unrolled and congregants take up prayer shawls, put the shawls around their hands so they won’t get oily hands on the scroll itself and hold it up. It becomes a physical never ending story as a circle is formed and the end comes next to the beginning.

I did not yet join in holding the Torah. Still a bit too shy. Next year in Evergreen!

After all this Rabbi Jamie had Torah study in which we looked at the first chapter of Bereshit. Bereshit is the first word in the Torah and is often translated in the beginning, but that’s not the only translation. This was intellectual dancing with the Torah. I blurted out part way through, “I love this!” And, I do. Studying scripture I find great fun.

So there. I had fun. I danced. I thought. I saw friends. Maybe the curly haired boy from the Rebirth card yesterday came part way out of the dolmen.


This entry was posted in Feelings, Fourth Phase, Friends, Health, Holidays, Judaism. Bookmark the permalink.

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