Friday, September 07, 2007

Make It a New Year

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God.


This is a biblical quote from the book of Micah. My mother in law, Barbara Burnett has always lived by this. And I think, when it comes to the way we live our lives, it’s a pretty good guide. I figured enough blob whining, let’s get spiritual for a change.

The Jewish holidays are upon us. This is the time that, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, God decides whether or not to write us into the book of life. Recently, I have had serious thoughts about whether or not I will always want to be written into that book, but that’s another blob. And by the way it’s David’s birthday. Happy birthday sweet sixteen—oops I got that number backwards.

Anyway, when Jordan was little we belonged to conservative temple in Shirlington, about 20 minutes from home. We never got involved in the activities, but we liked the Rabbi, Jack -- despite the fact that he was adamantly opposed to interfaith marriage – even if one party converted. Mostly, we loved his Yom Kippur sermon, which always brought every member of the congregation to tears. One year he told a story about forgiveness and not putting things off. Although much more eloquently, it went something like this. When he was a kid he had a best friend, Paul. They were inseparable through high school and into their college years. But after they graduated from school they were not in touch because of some foolish misunderstanding – Jack couldn’t even remember what it was. Every year, around Yom Kippur, Jack thought about finding a way to reconnect with Paul. They had a special bond and Jack really missed all that they had meant to one another. And every year he thought, well maybe I’ll call him later. Then one day, after Jack finished his Rabbinical study, he got a call from his mom who mentioned she ran into a neighbor who told her that Paul had been ill for many years and had recently passed away. Jack was inconsolable for weeks. “If only I had called, maybe I could have comforted him in some way,” he thought. But he waited too long and it was too late.

Tina and I, who were also inseparable, had also had a falling out. When I heard that sermon we hadn’t talked in quite a few years. I don’t remember why. But I figured the sermon was a sign and I should try to reconnect – which I did with a note pretending there was no distance between us. We decided to meet that following February in New Orleans and spend a few days getting reacquainted. Jordan came with us because I thought it was important for Tina and her husband Mark, to get to know her. Well, we had a fabulous time. It was like there had never been any estrangement. Jordan loved them so much she decided she wanted to spend all her birthdays in Milwaukee. They were so wonderful that she wanted to celebrate with them—because there would be no place (except maybe Disney World) that could possibly be more fun. They had a very special relationship. Mark even started to teach Jordan how to drive an old stick shift Toyota. Of course, Tina and I had to watch this adventure so we snuck over to the empty parking lot where the lessons were to take place, and watched Jordan and Mark moving long with many short stops and bouncy halts. We were hysterical. To this day I thank Rabbi Jack for that sermon because Mark died only a few years later and Jordan would never have known this kind and generous person who she depended on for advice, so many good times and much love.

We left that congregation because the only thing we liked was Rabbi Jack, and joined a Reformed temple. We thought we would fit in because the services were in English. Jordan studied in their Hebrew school and because we liked the Cantor, had her Bat Mitzvah there. She was among the first students to actually sing her Torah reading. It confirmed for us that she had a great voice as well as a personality. We were wrong about finding comfort in this Temple. We never liked the Rabbi and made only two friends. So when Jordan’s Torah studies were complete we moved on to Fabrangen. This is a Congregation without a Rabbi. It is no frills. You make a contribution but there isn’t a fee for joining or attending services. High Holiday services are held in the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. It’s an amazingly spiritual group, and the services, which are conducted primarily in Hebrew (but lots of the prayers are sung without words just syllables. So you can just join in and feel like you are actively participating,) are never the same because the Congregation determines what’s going to happen. For example, the Torah is often passed from one congregant to the other, rather than having the President of the Sisterhood and all the people who give the most money, parade around the temple with it. In addition, the Yom Kippur service is always moving and meaningful. During the memorial service for those who have died, someone inevitably touches your heart with a story. My favorite part comes at the end when the 23rd psalm sung in English and Hebrew. I want that sung at my funeral in 120 years.

We are not going to Fabrangen this year. David is traveling. Mom doesn’t feel strong enough to go and I will probably just hang around with her. I have learned that I don’t need to be in a place of worship to pray for all the people who could use a little help in the prayer department. Or to be written into the Book of Life. I merely need “to do justice, to love kindness. And to walk humbly with my God. We’re just sayin...Iris

1 comment:

m_harding said...

Thanks Iris. Happy Birthday David.