Saturday, January 19, 2013

Speaking Journese

Bagan, Myanmar  photo by David Haberlah
      I am so struck by the different journeys the people I love are on.  Some are on the scary path that runs from healer to healer and clinic to hospital.  Another is traveling to be with his companion, whose life may be ending soon.  A family member has a new and special client. My beloved niece has announced her engagement.  A newborn smiled for the first time. All these ages and different stages. It’s such an adventure this life, and Monday Bill & I will have the great good fortune to travel to Burma.  But I want to tell you about today.

      Sometimes, remarkably,  the personal, spiritual, political and historical roads all come together, as they did this morning. I'll start with the historical, going back to the year 1954. The Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board, declared that the state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students were unconstitutional.
       In 1954, Martin Luther King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. He was already 
a member of the executive committee of  the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and about to intensify his political activity.

      And the spiritual? This morning a woman completed a journey. In 1954 the Board of the reform Jewish temple her parents belonged to voted against allowing women to read from the Torah (first 5 books of the Hebrew bible).  It was the rabbi’s desire to allow girls the same rite of passage that their fathers and brothers celebrated, but he was the only one who voted for it. Today this woman, a professional in her 50s, retiring president of the Board of her synagogue, celebrated her Bat Mitzvah.

      Exactly 100 years ago, the woman’s grandfather had celebrated his Bar Mitzvah, and she was reading the same excerpts from Torah that he had - a portion of the story of Exodus, the flight from Egypt.

      Synchronically, this is also the weekend we celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday, so after the Torah reading, the singers and musicians temporarily abandoned the Hebrew liturgy, and played and sang the verses of the gospel hymn Go Down, Moses. We all joined in the chorus "with great gladness."
       Such a moving and joyous occasion, for me personally. During the silent meditation, the words “blessed is the one who brings compassion to all creatures” came to mind. I realized that, of course, the words could speak for both the Jewish Shekinah, the divine feminine, and the Buddha whose temples and monasteries Bill & I were about to visit.  And then I saw, as if she were directly in front of me, the Shekinah bring her palms together and raise them in ‘namaste’, the gesture of peace.


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