Friday, January 8, 2010

Shabbot Shalom,

Ok, you got me. If I were really observant, I wouldn't be on my computer on Friday evening but I have some quiet time before services so I thought I'd write.

This afternoon, I went to Cantor Shana's class and my friend and classmate, Laura, so aptly quoted her husband who called us," Cantor Shana and the Shanettes."

Where to start? This class started a few years ago as me and two other congregants, met with our lovely, beautiful and young Cantor for Friday morning lessons on how to read Torah.

But for me it actually started in 2005 at Austin's Bar Mitzvah. A friend of mine from Nepal was invited with her family and her mother who lives with her. After the service, her mother pointed out to me that while we spoke so meaningfully about passing down our Jewish tradition from one generation to another-l'dor va dor- , in fact, neither my husband, who is not Jewish, nor I read from the Torah, which is the tradition we were so pointedly passing down. Challenge!!!!

She was right. I could not, in good conscience, repeat the same mistake at my youngest son's Bar Mitzvah. I needed to learn how to read Torah. Not an easy task, as those of you who spent your youth in hebrew school know.

You see, I grew up as a reform Jew, and in my generation, few reform Jewish girls had Bat Mitzvah's. It was still a guy thing, and my brothers got all the honors, all the parties and all the money!!

I didn't mind at the time. I hated sunday school, and was "encouraged" to go until confirmation at 16. ! I remember my mother forcing me to write the last 500 word essay so that I could be confirmed with my classmates. Boy did I hate that!!!

A few years later, at the age of 23, I lived in Israel on a kibbutz and studied a little Hebrew. So when I began this project with Cantor Shana, I had some previous knowledge. I relearned my letters and vowels, learned trope( which is the music to which you sing while reading Torah).
And, yes indeed, I read from the Torah at Reid's Bar Mitzvah, and several times before and since.

I must say that the first time I read from the Torah, I was crying so profusely, that I had to be careful not to damage the delicate scroll which is so painstakingly written. Tears of joy I presume, but more so, the intense emotional connection I felt with my ancestors who have been reading Torah for thousands of years.

Well, even after I learned to read Torah, the lessons with Cantor Shana didn't stop, they simply evolved. We had so many questions during our Torah class, that we began a class on learning the prayer service. Brenda and I were joined by Amy, and Laura and now we also have Lisa and Amy.

Learning the prayer service is enlightening, but after a year of Fridays, we have now, I think as of today, reinvented ourselves for a second time as a Torah study group. We spent a lot of time talking about biblical stories, history, our ancestors, Joseph and his brothers who ditched him. (remember that one?)

We started our discussion today with the Cantor answering a question I had asked while passing her in the halls. (I hardly remember asking her, but I believe her when she says I did) The question was "Were the Israelites, who were slaves in Egypt, and later wandering in the desert, circumcised?" I know. What a dumb and ridiculous question, I mean, who cares? I guess I did at the time. And don't ask me why, I have no clue.

Anyway, two hours later, many subjects later, debating, laughing... we always walk away more knowledgeable and more connected to one another and to our past.

This afternoon was a celebration of my 50th birthday because it was spent studying, learning, connecting with friends, and with my ancestors- who left Egypt, survived the Babylonians, the Romans, the Inquisition, and of course, the Holocaust. And because of their determination to live, and their dedication to their God and their heritage, they have passed down to me their most beautiful traditions which I cherish dearly and which I hope will be passed down from my son's to their children and so on and so forth. L'dor v' dor!

No comments:

Post a Comment