The Gregorian year is winding down: time to go back through all of my 2012 posts, and choose the ones I think are best, or most enduring, or most worth highlighting one more time. I've come up with ten favorite prose posts from the last twelve months. And here they are, organized chronologically:
Living in Jewish time. "I used to wonder what it was like to be a dancer. To have a whole choreographed performance internalized in your body, such that even as you're dancing one movement, you know what movements come next, and after that, and after that. I still can't imagine the literal experience, but on some level, I think maybe it's a little bit like this experience of being rooted in the Jewish year. Doing the dance steps of Tu BiShvat, knowing that the Purim steps come next, and the Pesach steps, the Omer steps, the Shavuot steps. It's a balancing act, being wholly in this moment even as I try to lay the groundwork for moments to come."
Bedside. "It is humbling to sit by the bedside of someone who is transitioning out of this life."
The black dog, the shadow, the fog. "No one "deserves" depression. The voice of depression often whispers, insidiously, that this is who one really is, this is what life really is, that anything which has seemed pleasurable or joyful was merely an illusion -- but it's not true. Depression does not mean that you are weak-willed or not trying hard enough. Depression is real and it is awful -- and there are ways to banish it. If one way doesn't work, there are others. Always."
Sleeping and waking, Torah and revelation. "In the Hasidic understanding, the Torah which we know in this world is a physical manifestation of -- and also a pale reflection of -- the supernal Torah which is known to God on high. Bereshit Rabbah (a classical commentary on Genesis) teaches us that when a person sleeps, a portion of their soul ascends on high and is united with God; upon waking, the soul returns to the body. Who can know what Torah was revealed to our ancestors in that holy sleep? Their souls (or, as another midrash has it, our souls -- since we all stood at Sinai, every Jewish soul which has ever been or will ever be) ascended on high and connected with God. And then they woke up, and received revelation in a different way."
The moment, here and gone. "Now that the big-boy bed sits in boxes in our entry foyer waiting to be assembled, I'm discovering that I wasn't exactly correct when I swore I would never miss those early days. There are things I miss, though most of them are hard to verbalize -- like his peachfuzzed baby head with its scent of milk. When Drew needs comfort now, it's a bit of a struggle to fold his long-limbed body into mine, his head onto my shoulder. When I put him to bed now, hefting him up into my arms and over the bar into the crib, I know our days of this particular bedtime routine are numbered. There's a poignancy in that."
Cultivating equanimity. " Maybe equanimity is the quality which enables us to encompass both the moments of blissful connection and the moments of agonizing disconnect. Because I can't stay in that lofty headspace and heartspace, no matter how I wish I could. At some point, we always have to leave mochin d'gadlut (expanded consciousness or "big mind") for mochin d'katnut (constricted consciousness or "small mind.") For me, the question is: once I'm back in "small mind," how will I respond to the world around me? How will I respond to injustice, to unkindness, to lack? How will I respond to compassion, to connection, to joy?"
Wishing for a different communal discourse. "Why does it matter to me that someone is "wrong on the internet"? Because this is part of a bigger picture of people trying to define who's "in" and who's "out;" because this is part of an attempt to define me, and my colleagues, with words we would not use to describe ourselves; because labeling us as "anti-Israel activists" is not only factually wrong, but also hurtful; because this is part of an attempt to bully and silence those of us in the Jewish community who criticize Israel's policies, and I don't think it's wise or healthy to create a situation in which anyone who critiques Israel is considered beyond the pale."
Ten years in Jewish Renewal. "I came home from that first week at Elat Chayyim and said to Ethan, "I've found my teachers. Someday I want to be a rabbi like they are rabbis." // Ten years. Could I have imagined, then, who and where I would be now?"
A sermon for Yom Kippur Morning: In The Belly of the Whale. "Once his ship is at sea, a mighty storm arises. The sailors are in a panic. And Jonah is sound asleep belowdecks. This is comedy. Imagine the ship rocking wildly from side to side, sloshing with seawater and in danger of foundering: and our hero, or perhaps our anti-hero, is sound asleep! // It's also a deep spiritual teaching. How often, in our lives, do we hide from what we know we're meant to be doing? How often are we spiritually asleep?"
On 'Otherness' at Christmas. "I think there's something profoundly valuable in the de-centering experience of recognizing that one's own paradigm is not the only paradigm. But I recognize that it isn't always easy or comfortable. And if it isn't happening in a reciprocal way -- where I recognize that my way isn't the only way, but so does the other guy; specifically, so does the person with the privilege of being in the dominant / majority position -- it can feel alienating and painful. Everyone else is having a great time and I'm outside the party -- alienating and painful. That mainstream experience is "normal," and I feel perennially "other" -- alienating and painful. // Nu, what to do?"
Here's to 2013!