Jewish Renewal, II

Maybe a bunch of Jews are longing for sweet and crazy-joyful celebration of who they are and what they do (and what God might have to do with all that). Or perhaps lots of people just find red boots fascinating. Another possibility? Jewish Renewal readers are out there just waiting to see something more about their own movement available on the world-wide web.

My posting on Jewish Renewal’s red boots produced more reader comments and more subscriptions to this blog than any other I’ve written – including the one on male lactation in the Talmud.

I mused about this some as I heard my Inbox bing and bing and bing again with comments and subscriptions and suchlike. Clearly, I had hardly begun nourishing the longing out there for Stuff on Jewish Renewal. I like to cook, after all, and I know that a good meal includes more than the main course.

My favorite dessert is dark chocolate mousse. I make it frequently. So, for a little textual dessert…

Jewish Renewal is an evening of Shefa Gold chants. One verse becomes the rich exploration of soul, of the Holy Breath that sustains our lives. Rabbi Shefa’s melodies and harmonies become mantras to live by; their beautiful repetition engraves them on the heart. Her Torah commentaries stretch the spirit. In them, she gives her readers the right to honor their own knowledge, their inner Torah, and to see it revealed in texts written thousands of years ago.

Jewish Renewal celebrates spontaneity, an in-the-moment approach to prayer as well as attention and intention to our deep roots and history.  Spontaneity: At Temple Or Olam’s Shabbat services I will happily sing in rhyme about the folks walking through the door, the children dancing in our midst, or matriarch Ruth Kingberg’s loving hugs.  Whatever is happening is a happening thing.

Here are the deep roots of Jewish tradition: We know that our relationships and friendships are about godding the world toward a meshiachzeit we long for, a time of real and lasting peace.

I like to sing about that, too, and my liturgy gives me age-old ways to do just that.

Jewish Renewal is the way our mashpi’ahs (spiritual directors) begin reflecting, considering, and even crafting healing rituals when they identify yearning for shleimut, wholeness. It is the way Rabbi Burt Jacobson brings us to Baal Shem Tov text study by beginning with meditation. It is the way we soak ourselves in the richness of tradition and Torah, the liturgical year and the practice of Shabbat.

It is the kippot on my congregation’s welcome table at every service.

I began making kippot years ago, and started mostly with pretty head coverings for all the girls of our congregation. I love to sew as I love to cook. Pink and purple and blue, beaded and braided and trimmed – I added some every year. I began finding little animal appliqués and made kippot for our toddlers. Ducks, alligators, donkeys, giraffes. I started making some for my colleagues and friendswith rich colors, with sparkles and beads and flowers.

I’d sewn blessings into each one.

God knows, we need blessings. We are wounded and small in so many ways, cut off from our own richly attired texts and traditions

How do we connect with a language we don’t understand but still use to sing our prayers? How do we find meaning in all the acts that seemed inexplicable to us in our youth? In what ways can we nourish our Judaism while enriching the world?

By renewing our understanding, our connections, our love of who we are, where we have been, and where we must go to make this world the one we hope and long for. We of Jewish Renewal can and long to do just that among fellow Jews and Muslims and Christians and Buddhists and agnostics and atheists and all the rest of humanity who are in pursuit of that thing we call a better world, a world renewed.

Keyn y’hi ratzon. May it be so.

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3 thoughts on “Jewish Renewal, II

  1. At the risk of exposing myself as an ignorant gentile, I am musing on the reaction of the Israeli Chassidim (who are attacking the schoolgirls) when they get wind of a mixed gender group studying their beloved Master. From several online descriptions, sounds like the Baal Shem Tov’s current disciples have strayed from his accepting nature. Renewal sounds like something he might be interested in, though a converted friend takes great comfort from the ritualistic consistency of the services and holidays of a Conservative synagogue. “Feeling Groovy” and red boots would drive her crazy. I guess we are in search of basic ingredients and less fillers in the food we feed our souls.

  2. Thank you so much for another beautiful post about Jewish Renewal, my dear! I love the way you rhapsodize about who we are and what we aim to do.

    And I love your kippot, as you know!

    (And ooh — I didn’t know you made them for toddlers. With animals on them. I might have to see about commissioning one of those for Mr. Drew, who sleeps each night with a little giraffe lovey and who is beginning, now, to identify all sorts of animals with great glee.)

  3. I have to agree that there is a shortage of information about Renewal on the web. When I began searching for such things a couple of years ago, there was really nothing to be found aside from ALEPH, congregational websites and Rabbi Rachel’s blog. And of course, there was no “definition” anywhere; once I got past my initial irritation that this was the case — once I attended a few of your services actually — I understood that for one thing, definition was sort of impossible. And for another, the moment we start saying this is who we are/are not, we begin defining ourselves right out of community.

    I love the way you manage to say “we are all/some/none of these things” without actually saying that, and that what you really end up saying is that Renewal is a labor of love for all who show up and participate in its enactment. We god ourselves into community with one another. . . it never ceases to amaze me the extent to which I feel that truth!

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