Jerusalem poem #2
This week's portion: promises

Dinner with the Renewal gang

Renewal folks in Jerusalem, summer 2008.

On Tuesday night we hosted a potluck supper for the Jewish Renewal community in Jerusalem. Five of us are rabbinic students, and one is hovering on the margins of applying to the program. Three of us around the table were in my DLTI chevre, group 4, which was sweet for me. Two of us had been at Pardes for a year; one was about to begin a Pardes year; two of us are students this summer at the Conservative Yeshiva; one is studying at Hebrew University.

When we sat down at the table, Yafa led us in a moment of prayer for those who were impacted by the incident yesterday (another piece of construction equipment used as an implement of fear and damage; last I heard, twenty-four had been wounded, though the only fatality was the driver of the machine. Read more on the BBC website, or at Ha'aretz.) We prayed for healing and comfort for all who were affected by the incident, and for peace here and everywhere. Then we followed our usual household pre-dinner minhag (custom): Arielle, who is three and a half, led us in offering a blessing of gratitude for one another and for the food on our table.

And then we ate, and talked, and talked, and ate. And talked. We talked about yesterday's incident, and about different ways of coping with things like that, and about the implications of the common Israeli practice of asserting that the way to keep terror from winning is to staunchly cling to normalcy. We talked about different schools in Jerusalem, and about what it's like to be Jewish Renewal folks within Conservative and Orthodox and secular academic institutions. We talked about Buddhism and Sufism and mystical Judaism.

We talked about looking at the incident through the prism of this moment in our calendar year (we're in the Three Weeks between when we remember the fall of Jerusalem's city walls, and when we remember the fall of the Temple; for many Jews this is a time of semi-mourning.) We talked about things we've learned from Reb Zalman. We talked about many of our beloved friends and teachers. We segued from pasta and quinoa salads to yellow watermelon and halvah from the shuk.

Eventually we sang "Brich Rachamana" (the one-line blessing after meals which the Talmud says is the absolute minimum one may recite.) We sang it to the tune of a gospel hymn -- the same tune we use sometimes for "O Lord, prepare me / to be a sanctuary," though I don't think that's its origin; it might be "Let the circle be unbroken"? Anyway, we broke into impromptu six-part harmony, and when we were done the melody lingered in the room like fragrance at havdalah.

I'm having a good time at the Conservative Yeshiva. But I've really missed my Renewal chevre, our common experiences and assumptions, the shared lens through which we look at Judaism and God and the world. It was a real blessing for me to spend the evening with this crowd.

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