Friday, July 27, 2012

Ta'ali: Go Up!

Accept the prayer of your people as lovingly as it is offered. Restore worship to your sanctuary. -Rosh Chodesh Amidah

Ta’ali . . . al tif’achadi . . . zeh rak anavim. “Go up. Do not be afraid. They are only stones.” The young woman reached for my hand. I ascended the natural bimah at Robinson's Arch.

The Women of the Wall Rosh Chodesh Av morning prayer service began at 7:00 a.m. One-hundred women created a semi-circle in the back of the women’s section at the Western Wall. Our female voices added a sweet soprano sound to the kotel plaza.

Nevertheless, we were under special security. A young policewoman scanned and recorded the proceedings, while another policeman weaved in and out of the crowd, admonishing several young Israeli women to adjust their tallitot: One of our women was detained last month because she wore a masculine type prayer shawl in a “manly” way.

One woman, holding her prayer shawl under her arm, stood on the side.

“Would you like to put on your tallit?”

“No,“ she replied. “I don’t want to be arrested before Shabbat. I wouldn’t get home in time.”

This month, no one was detained. No one was arrested. Sheer serenity.

After reciting Hallel, the special prayers of praise for the new month, we strolled and sang respectfully and reluctantly up to Robinson’s Arch, designed and designated by a decision of the Israeli Supreme Court in 2003 as a place for alternative services. Women can read Torah or wear traditional prayers shawls only there.

When we reached our outdoor sanctuary, we fussed over the presentation of our special possession, the Sefer Torah. Three women read the passages from the Book of Numbers, Chapter 28, directly from the parchment. Another month of grace under fire.

Ta’ali. Al tif’achadi.

Surrounded by this faithful band of fervent followers, I climbed two stone stairs and began Musaf (a special service which honors the additional sacrifice brought to the Temple in ancient times on festival days like Rosh Chodesh). With every bow and blessing, beating drums were heard from the valleys through to the Jerusalem hilltops. The drums provided a tempo for my public chanting of the Amidah.

The sun streamed gold on my head and warmed my body. Reaching into the pocket of my soul’s seam, my voice found a new timbre and attuned itself to this uneven, unorthodox sanctuary where rocks become seats and walls become personal lean-tos.

For 23 years, with the appearance of the new moon, the Women of the Wall have flocked like birds in search of a nesting place that is both holy and historic.

Ten years ago on Rosh Chodesh Kislev, I experienced a spiritual solidarity with Nashot Hakotel (Women of the Wall) for the first time.

Ta’ali. Al tif’achadi.

Now during the second time, I was the vessel for our supplications. Psalm 104 provided the physical landscape for my entreaties. I was in the place where the Psalms were written. The text twittered through me, electrifying my orientation. Looking upward and searching inward, the strong morning sun crowned my insight and voiced my prayerful personal and public vibrations to the Holy One of Blessings.

You make springs gush forth in torrents to flow between the hills.

The high hills are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge.


Women, let us take the high road together. These are our precious stones. Do not be afraid. Reach up. Take my hand.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Acquiring Faith

How do we acquire faith?  Is it a learned behavior from a parent or grandparent? Is it a discovery found in books and lectures? Or do we meet faith at the crossroads of a difficult dilemma? Do we abandon faith when we ourselves feel abandoned?

I believe is more than a statement of faith. It is my daily mantra that plays on several wave
lengths in my mind and on my heart. I practice believing. I acquire faith.

I am in Jerusalem working for The Women of the WallThis Friday morning, July 20, at 7:00 a.m. I will be praying with other women at the Kotel (The Western Wall) as the new Hebrew month of Av is ushered in with special prayers. Please go to the organization's website to understand the religious freedom implications of this issue in Israel. I will report on her experience in next week’s spiritual letter.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Jerusalem in the Sun

For with You is the fountain of life; in Your Light, we see Light. Psalm 36

No matter how early I arise, the sun is always waiting for me. With hat and sunglasses, I prepare my body for my 15-minute daily walk to the Hartman Institute. I walk past a playground, an elementary school and a small garden where the roosters call me to the morning’s glory. The streets are narrow and centuries old; the landscape is open and surprisingly contemporary.

I am in Jerusalem where the ever-present sun illuminates my spiritual path.