Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My First Jewish-Renewal Yom Kippur

So this past Yom Kippur, I had the privilege of attending a Jewish Renewal Yom Kippur sponsored by the Chavurahs of "Har Kodesh" and Mile End. We used the Ukranian Federation building, which was a synagogue decades ago when Mile End was a more predominantly Jewish neighborhood. I mean, it still is Jewish, but now it's mostly Hasidim.

Anyway, I had worked that morning (and broken a 14 hour fast with yummy pork-sausage and cheese and egg sandwiches), so I missed most of the prayer. I did manage to talk to an awesome old timer named Jack. He was able to point out some older landmarks of the area, and talk about how things used to be. He also knew a little bit about my family and was able to point me towards a couple of resources where I could learn more. I won't go into it too much, but I am the daughter of a holocaust survivor and a fleeing suspect/possible-political-refugee. I am the only one who is a first generation Canadian, so learning about my family has gotten more important as time goes by.

I was able to enjoy some Torah study; we covered the book of Jonah, which is traditionally read on Yom Kippur. Of course, I arrived late and hadn't read the book beforehand and was pretty confused. I have to say it was a treat just being around other people who were interested in studying scriptures in an open environment. I mean, I wouldn't have brought out my "Abraham is a rapist" opinion to the table right then and there. But so many things were mentioned, even the idea of how Christians use the book of Jonah as a reference to "foreshadow" Jesus's coming. Old pagan mythology, the sun, human relations, why exactly the book of Jonah is read on Yom Kippur towards the harder end of the fast.

When I studied at Aish Hatorah's Jewel program (which is an amazing, wonderful opportunity for Orthodox women, or women thinking about following an Orthodox path), I learned a lot of fascinating ideas about Jewish customs and theology. When it didn't make sense, teachers helpfully tried to explain it to me. When I understood their explanations and it still didn't make sense, there was a problem. I don't believe God "wrote" the Torah, the Bible or the Quran. A lot of the Torah confuses me, and a lot seems downright horrible.

What I am learning is that even though I find it confusing, the people who wrote it originally had many different reasons for doing so. Two or three thousand years and multiple translations can seriously impact how a text is read. So if we assume these ancient peoples were just like us, but we don't understand why they wrote what they did, or how they applied it to their lives, or whether they even believed it, well that opens up a lot of interesting questions. That's just one of many ways to look at ancient scripture, especially Western civilization's favorite tome, the Bible.

My experience with the Orthodox environment was often : they talk, I listen. I ask for clarification, but don't question the basis for what is being taught. How nice to finally be in an environment where we can rip open these texts and see what's inside. We don't have to prick the fruit with a pin and siphon out juice with a tiny straw. We can open it, chew it, squeeze it, make preserves with it, stew it, and even dry it with cloves for an aromatic decoration. And yes, I have been checking out etrog (citron used in the Jewish festival of Succot) stuff online today.

There was other fun stuff, most of which I wasn't present for, but I'm thrilled to have finally gone and met up with real live Jewish Renewalists in the Montreal area!

Check out the sites for Chavurah Har Kodesh and Chavurah Mile End! You may just find me strumming a nice melody at one of their Sukkahs this week!

No comments:

Post a Comment