Friday, September 2, 2016

A Ritual with Blessings and Confessions for Our Pets on Rosh Hodesh Elul / The New Year of Domesticated Beasts*

On Rosh Ḥodesh Elul, the first day of the new moon of Elul, we begin an accounting for all the souls with whom we are in a relationship.
Listen for the voice of the animals in the sound of the shofar.
(The shofar is blown once, a single tekiyah/blast.)

Cat Baby, Dog Baby, Fur Baby, My Baby, 
Baby Boo, Love Machine, Poosy, Schmushy
Pupster, Puppino, Doglet, Kittenhead, 
Fuzzy Wuzzy, Wiggly Tush, Mr. Nose, Miss Whiskers
Pearly Pink Paws, Mr. Claws, The Cuddly One, The Silly One
Belly boy, Muffin man, Old fella, Pretty boy

Fluff Meister, Wiener dog, King of Soft, Mr. Ruff

Barkmeister, Mighty Hunter, Miss Poo, Mr Vomit

Cat from Hell, Dog o' my dreams, Bark-a-roni, Flat cat
My Boy, My Girl, My Cat, My Dog
For all the love you allow me to give you,
For all the love I allow myself to believe you give me,

For all the times you have protected me from physical or emotional harm,
For all the times you warned me,

For all the furntiture you have destroyed,
And all the rugs you have peed and puked on,

For all the exercise I got walking you,
For all the sleep you got on my head,

For all the pleasure I get watching you eat,
For all the litter boxes and plastic bags I used to clean up your shit,

For all the nights I dreamt about you,
For all the work days you missed me,

For all the blood pressure lowered
For  all the depressions mitigated,

For all the tails wagged,
For all the purrs purred,
I thank you, loved pets and companions.
Specifically, I ask give thanks for the lives of (my pet's names)
Do you want to thank your loved ones?  Call their names out!  
 (they call out their pet’s names)
For all the services you render us as our pets and companions,
Anachnu Modim
we give thanks.

(The shofar is blown a second time.)

Dear Friend and Companion, I am your
(together) My friend, my captive.
You eat when I decide to feed you, You don’t eat if I forget.
(together) My friend, my captive.
You pee where and when I tell you And I punish you if you do it in wrong place.
(together) My friend, my captive.
You only go outside if I let you.
(together) My friend, my captive.
If I want to  hit you I can hit you, If I want to caress you I caress you.
(together) My friend, my captive.
I have decided that I want you to keep me company for many years, so I force you to go for check ups and treatments at the vet, which you hate
(together) My friend, my captive.
I have cut out your reproductive organs to make you more pliable and easy to live with.
(together) My friend, my captive.
I keep you shackled in a collar and it’s up to me whether that collar is comfortable or has rhinestones that humiliate you or spikes that dig into your flesh.
(together) My friend, my captive.
I named you without asking what you call yourself.
(together) My friend, my captive.
I went to a shelter to pick you out and I told myself I was rescuing you, that when you happened to look in my direction that you chose me, but all the choosing was on my side, you had no say in the matter.
(together) My friend, my captive.
I might be a good master, or I might be a bad master, it doesn’t matter.   You can’t leave.
(together) My friend, my captive.
For your lack of freedom,
For my demands for attention and comfort,
For your lack of the company of your freely chosen fellow creatures,
For my theft of your sexuality,
For my many terms of endearment that mask your captivity,
For all the privilege I exercise over you without thought,

I ask your forgiveness.
Specifically, I ask for the forgiveness of (my pet's names)
Do you want to do the same for your beloved captives? Call them out!  Thank you…?
 (they call out their pet’s names)
For all the times we have transgressed against your dignity and agency, as our pets,
Selach Lanu
We ask forgiveness.

(The shofar is blown a third time.)
Baruch Atah Adonai
Brucha At Yah
Praising One-ness
We are so blessed by the soft and attentive animals that we are able to love with all our hearts and all our souls,
Together, let us give thanks to the One-ness
Out of which we have found our pets.
We give thanks for the simple love between us and them that teaches and mirrors the simple love for God and from God
That we return for every year
When we make Teshuvah.
Perhaps during this month of Elul,
We will pray to to show our beloved companions and captives how much we appreciate them
And wish for them a healthy and happy New Year.

Baruch atah Adonai Elohainu Melech HaOlam,
Blessed is the Fierce Mystery
Blessed are the domesticated beasts of the earth.

Rosh Hodesh Tov. 

* With gratitude to the resources of OpenSiddur.Org 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

For Mommy, on the anniversary of her death

I was far away for the summer when I was 16

When I found out about women's liberation from my first boyfriend, 

a 19 year old Marxist,

The moment I saw my first feminist flyer,  

I thought, 
This is for me. 

The second thing was, 

I can't wait to tell my mother! 
This is going to change her life! 

She hates her marriage

She hates cooking and cleaning
She hates her children, sometimes.

Now she can be free! 

But she died about a week later, 

while I was still away,
long before email and texting and Skype.
So I never told her about my discovery. 

I always thought that if she'd just lived until I got home 

Feminism would have saved her. 

Mommy --   I think there's going to be a woman president.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Blessings For The Sad

For when you are too sad to remember:

May your sadness be  felt as deeply as it needs to be
And may it lift in its proper time.

May you understand that just because some people can't be there at your sadness
Doesn't mean they don't love you.

May you be able to take pleasure in the pleasures of those around you
Even when you can't feel your own.

And may you not lose hope in the possibility of your own happiness,
Even when it is out of your line of sight.

כן יהי רצון

Friday, June 3, 2016

Malkhut: A Kavannah for the Last Week of the Omer Count

We count the Omer for seven weeks, 49 days:
The loving kindness and benevolence of Chesed;
The strength and holy limitations of Gevurah;
The spiritual balance and beauty of Tiferet;
The eternal endurance of Netzach;
The prayer and intellecutalism of Hod;
The gateway of Yesod, collecting all of these sephirot and transmitting them to
Malkhut, the end of the chain, our human world.

Malkhut –  It is the culmination.
This is where we live, this is the here and now,
God's name in Malkhut is Adonai ha Eretz, Lord of the Earth. 
But in Malkhut we are ALL the lords of this realm,
We are one in the One-ness.
These are our laws, our nations, our communities, our religions,
These are our choices.
We are the rulers, here.

When I was little I knew I was an American Jew
And I knew what that meant -- 
UJA and Holocaust memorials,
Hebrew School and Fiddler on the Roof,
Chicken on Friday nights and Brisket on Passover,
Charoses made of apples, cinnamon, walnuts and
Manischevitz Concord Grape wine.
I was it, the Real Jew, a Pintele Yid, there was no other
And no other way to be.

There were, however, Others:  The Goyim.
Everybody who wasn't us.
My father sat in front of his TV, labelling every famous white person who appeared:  
Jew.  Not Jew. 
Jew.  Not Jew.
Jew was Good, Not Jew Bad.

Everyone was Jew or Not Jew, except for the, you know, them:
The S-words,
Literally the yiddish word for blacks,
Which could have been meant just as a description but wasn't, it was demeaning, no more than a step or two less disgusting than the N-Word.
And those people, the S-Words, were the Other times two,
The Permanently Not and Never Jews.

Even when i was really little I knew that this was a bad word to say and I was embarrassed for my father whenever he used it, which was a lot.
Because he was my father, I will make excuses for him:
Maybe to a people used to being The Other, it feels good to make someone else The Other? 
Or maybe it was a way to make himself more American, to be superior like all the other Americans, the white Americans? 
Or maybe, because he grew up on the streets of the Lower East Side and Brownsville, and he fought with the Black, Italian and Irish kids on the streets for survival, he thought he'd earned the right to be a tough guy? 
Or maybe he was just a racist?
I hope not.

Well, I'm all grown up now
And is is upon me to face the truth
Of racism and Euro-centrism and privilege.
And that there are Real Jews
Of many colors and genders and nationalities and practices.
And I am only one amongst us all.
And because I know this truth,
I am obligated by Malkhut to be conscious of my choices.
Can I try tunes and prayer rituals that feel "weird"?
Can I be aware of my privileges without someone reminding me?
Can I shut up and learn from others?
Can I refrain from telling people I understand when I don't?
Can I be led by people I have never been led by?
Can I give up power I didn't even acknowledge I had?

I don't know, I guess I'll find out.
I hope so.
And really,
Brisket isn't very good for my health or the environment
And Manischevitz Concord Grape is cheap crappy wine
(I don't care, I love it).

So here's a prayer for this world of Malkhut and all of us real Jews
In the last week of the Omer,
Making our choices,
As we gather at Sinai to receive Torah:

Baruch HaMavdil
Blessed Is The One That Divides,
Giving us the illusions
Of time and space
Of days and weeks
So that we may grow and learn
And take joy in the moment,
So that we may rest on Shabbat
And not go crazy,
So that we may count 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot.

We give thanks for this seventh week of the Omer
And the metaphor and earthiness of Malkhut,
Which gathers us in community
And takes us to the 50th day of the Omer,
To study the choices of Ruth and Naomi
And join with all these real Jews waiting 
At the foot of Mount Sinai.

Blessed HaMavdil,
The One-ness giving us the joys of holy separation,
We are many and we are gloriously different
But we are also one in the One.
Please may we not divide ourselves against ourselves
So together, different and the same,
We may behold the Godhead.
So together, different and the same,
We may pray, forgive and be forgiven, study, create acts of loving kindness, heal the world
And receive Torah.
And let us say, 


Friday, April 22, 2016

Plagues Are Not Cute

Plagues are not finger puppets,
Plagues are not soft and furry stuffed toys,
Plagues don't have googly eyes,
Plagues are not cute.

Plagues are not targeted attacks,
Plagues are not guerilla warfare,
Plagues do not show up in a court of law,
Plagues are not fair.

Plagues are not a bland topic for a mild discussion,
Plagues do not call for objectivity,
Plagues are not subject to ironic humor,
Plagues are not interesting.

Plagues are disaster without explanation,
Plagues are revenge without a solution,
Plagues are acts of desperation,
Plagues attack everyone,
Plagues hurt the poor more than the rich,
Plagues kill the innocent as well as the guilty,
Plagues are not cute or fair or interesting.

So I drop wine onto my plate to remember all who suffered, Hebrew and Egyptian.
I drop wine onto my plate for the desperate acts that often come with freedom struggles.
I drop wine onto my plate so that I will not forget that

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Color of Light: A Kavannah for Putting on Your Tallit

For with You is the Fountain of Light
In your light we shall see the light
      -- Psalm 36:10, translation by Robert Alter

God might be like the color of light:
When you look at it without holy separation, everything is bright and blinding.
But when you have the right tool, like a prism,
or a tallit,
You can set yourself apart and enjoy most of the colors:
And the world opens up.

But there are colors our eyes cannot see
And understandings that our minds cannot grasp but we know they are there.
When you have the right tool, like a spectograph,
or Torah,
You can perceive some of the unseen colors or at least posit their existence:
And the mystical opens up.

When you have observed all the colors your eyes could see
And then learned about all the colors they could not,
Perhaps, after much time and effort,
You may realize
That it is all part of the One,
Each color separate and together, different and the same.
Flowing from the Fountain of Light,

And there you are, wrapped in the prism of Torah.
And you always were.