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Oct 30 2014

Why I Love Being Part of a Jewish Burial Society

By at 12:55 pm

After Work, I Purify Women’s Bodies for Burial

I have a secret identity. It doesn’t involve superhero capes or special powers. There’s no quick change in a telephone booth, but nonetheless I walk a little taller every time I complete this act. It isn’t for the weak of heart or faith. My secret identity is being a part of the chevra kadisha (“burial society,” or a group of committed Jews who prepare a body for burial) as we perform tahara (purification). I became involved with the chevra kadisha before I had children, when a shul member, who knew that I was a nurse and therefore experienced with death, approached me about joining.

In the dark of night, or light of day, I go with friends from shul to a funeral home, where a body awaits us and where we are charged with cleaning, preparing, and dressing a newly deceased woman in the Jewish traditional methods. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 25 2014

Yes, Mayim, You Can Still Go to the Mikveh

By at 9:58 am

Credit: Tom Kates


It’s been a year since you wrote “Since My Divorce, I’m Missing the Mikveh,” and you know what, Mayim? You and I have a lot in common.

OK, so I’m not a movie star. But I have watched “Beaches” approximately 517 times. That’s got to count for something, right?

Like you, I grew up in the world of those who knew not of mikveh, and significantly expanded my learning in college. I immersed before I got married and my introduction to mikveh was from a more traditional perspective. In all honesty, as I learned more about alternative uses for mikveh, I had a hard time with it. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 29 2014

Can Parenting Young Kids Actually Be a Spiritual Practice?

By at 2:15 pm

Sometime during my first pregnancy, or maybe soon after the baby was born, my mother-in-law gave me a copy of “Parenting as a Spiritual Journey” by Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kramer. I put the book in a pile with all of the other parenting books I intended to read; some of them I got to as the need arose, and some of them ended up gathering dust, including the one from my mother-in-law. Not surprisingly, my spiritual needs and practices took a back seat to the latest theories on how to feed my girls or get them to sleep through the night.

It’s been almost six years, and I still haven’t read the book. Meanwhile, my parenting journey took an unexpected turn as the stress of parenting took its toll on me and I began yelling at my girls. I wasn’t looking for a spiritual practice, I was just looking for a way to stay calm when my daughters were raging or sobbing or just plain needing more from me than I had to offer.

I had the heart of a social worker and the mind of an academic long before my soul found its home in Judaism, so it’s not surprising that I turned to the social science literature for ideas on how to find a little solid ground again. My research brought me to the practice of mindfulness, to the value of coming back to the present moment again and again, to the fundamental importance of noticing, and then letting go of, the worries and fears and wishes and all the other crazy spinnings of my brain so I can truly see my daughters, and myself, for who they are and what we need.  Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 29 2013

The Latest Parenting Trend–Radical Amazement

By at 5:01 pm

cup with strawThe other day, kind of by accident, my 1-year-old figured out how to drink from a straw. He put his mouth on the tube attached to the cup in his hand and started sucking–recreationally, it seems. I don’t think he had any expectations that something interesting would happen. His face, as cold milk pooled into his mouth, registered shock, surprise, delight–and, dare I say it–wonder.

Watching kids learn how things work down here on Earth is, as every parent knows, hilarious, amazing, and even inspiring. Seeing kids’ excitement when they pet a puppy, see fireworks, eat ice cream (or a lemon slice), or just find a good stick on the sidewalk can be magical for a lot of reasons–including the fact that they remind us how to encounter the world fresh ourselves.

The 20th century rabbi and theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel writes often about “radical amazement,” that sense of “wow” about the world, as the root of spirituality. It’s the kind of thing that people often experience in nature, for example, on the proverbial mountaintop. But not only–a lot of it is about bringing that sense of awe into the little things we often take for granted, or consider part of the background of our lives. This includes not only flowers on the side of the road, the taste of ice cream in our mouths, or how groovy it is to use a straw, but also things we generally don’t even think of as pleasures, like the warm soapy water on our hands as we wash dishes. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 26 2011

My Rosh Hashanah Standstill

By at 1:54 pm

Nothing marks the passage of time like the fall holidays.

I can’t believe that my first child is almost 5-years-old and that the baby that was in my tummy this time last year is now walking around my living room.

It really does go by too fast.  From Rosh Hashanah to Rosh Hashanah, my children are growing and changing, becoming ever more engaged with their world and their religion.

But I, oddly, stand still.

I began noticing sometime this year that my spiritual development has literally stalled. From ages 14-29 I, too, was growing, changing, learning, deepening my commitment to and knowledge of my tradition.

And then I had my first child, and it all came screeching to a halt. Read the rest of this entry →


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