“In this is all that is.”
Julian of Norwich (while purportedly holding a seed in her hand) – 14th century
“Even if I knew that the world would end tomorrow,
I would plant an apple tree today.”
Have you ever had bedbugs or lice? If not, you’re lucky. If so, you understand just how hard they are to get rid of. Why is that? Because they are essentially seeds with legs.
Seeds need to be able to travel in order to be successful spreaders of life. For example, when an acorn falls from an oak tree, it probably can’t germinate right where it falls. The mama tree has already taken up all the earth/soil space as well as the water sources for its own roots. And the mama tree’s own leafy branches will block out access to the sun. So the innate goal of the seed is to move to find a more friendly space. Evolution has created all sorts of ways for seeds to use motion in the service of finding their own place to germinate. In the case of the acorn, there are squirrels. Because they are a food source, many of the acorns get taken to dens under the earth. Many of those are not eaten. Either they are forgotten or the squirrel in question meets another demise. An acorn that is nestled in a den under the earth, can have a potentially perfect environment to sprout far from its origins.
Continue reading “Ode to Seeds by Janet Maika’i Rudolph”
As I curl up
in my hatchback
open to sky
I am a snail
loving her shell
me from behind
by a freeze.
in full glory
Acorn browned oak
geese fly by
A dragonfly lands
on my foot
Not a grouse
live to see
Scarlet pockmarked palms
lie face up
on the ground.
Signs are everywhere.
Insect ridden leaves –
Continue reading “When Earth Meets the Son by Sara Wright”
The parshah for November 26th is Toldot, Genesis 25:19-28:9. In it, we have the struggles of Isaac and Rebecca to conceive, the relations between Abimelech and Isaac’s family, the birth of Esau and Jacob, and the loss of Esau’s birthright and his father’s blessing. As we will see, this is a tricky portion from a feminist perspective because of Rebecca, yet, from an ecofeminist perspective, I find the way in which the portion discusses the interconnection between the water, the land, and divinity helpful.
Let me begin with the water and then we will look at Rebecca. Toldot takes place in and around the city of Gerar in Philistine territory, while Abimelech ruled. Isaac and his family travel through the land quite a bit between verses 26:16 and 26:32. Most of this section pertains to them moving and then digging new wells, the covering of wells, and the finding of water. What I find particularly interesting here is the way in which water and peace seem to go together. For example, in 26:20-21, Isaac and his family have constructed a well but it is causing them to have troubles with the locals. Isaac seeks peace and thus leaves. In verse 26:26, Isaac is visited by Abimelech and eventually a formal peace is declared. This is followed in 26:32 by Isaac’s servants finding water in a freshly dug well. In other words, Isaac is willing to uproot his family time and again to cultivate peace; he is not willing to go to war over what in the desert really is a quite limited resource.
Continue reading “The Mixed Bag that is Toldot by Ivy Helman.”
In my last blog post, I explained what we lost when the Israelites became monotheists. That post looked at the move to monotheism from a more historical, feminist perspective. In this post, I want to understand monotheism from a more modern, feminist lens. Using the Shema as a starting point for modern Jewish monotheistic thinking, my question is: how do we honor the deity based on who we understand that deity to be? In my opinion, Jewish monotheism requires we honor G-d by moving away from one-sided gendered depictions of the deity and think about how we act in light of the interconnectedness of life.
Judaism highlights the Shema as the description of the divine. It reads, “Hear, O Israel! The L-rd is Our G-d, The L-rd is One!,” (Deut. 6:4). The key aspect of this verse is twofold. First, we have a relationship with the deity hence the description of the deity as “our,” and, second, this deity is one.
Oneness used to imply that no other deities count, and perhaps also that no other deities literally exist. For example, if one were to read the Torah, one would understand the deity differently. On the one hand, the deity is one of many possible deities one could worship. On the other, it is quite clear that no matter what the deity is called, there is one specific deity that chose to help the Israelites. In the Torah, the divine is always referred to as he, using only masculine pronouns for the deity. In addition, he is often called king, lord, and master. G-d is depicted as powerful, wrathful, jealous, and even scary. Continue reading “Monotheism and the Shema: Lessons on Oneness and Unity by Ivy Helman”
Interfaith, a wonderful term that brings only happiness to my mind. So many days spent sitting and planning out events at the local coffee shop (shout out to The Lost Bean in Tustin, CA. which was one of the first small businesses to support “interfaith work”) and attending many meetings at various houses of worship. We worked year after year to promote one another. To get to know each other, to promote peace, and community building. I sat in living rooms, hearing different faith perspectives from many voices, from the young up to the old and wise. Each time it was refreshing to see the dedication and respect the participants had.
But, after 10 years of advocating for interfaith work, my light dimmed. For me in particular, Islamaphobia was on the rise. Terrorist attacks were plentiful, and I was out of excuses. How many times could I say “this isn’t Islam. These aren’t Muslims, this is not what the religion teaches, I would not be a part of a religion that promoted violence.” I was getting tired of showing up, explaining, defending, and leaving wondering if I made a difference or if another terrorist attack would simply negate everything I just said? Eventually, I retreated into the cocoon of motherhood, and building my career. My days of community service within the interfaith context were done. I had no more mojo, encouragement or inspiration. I really didn’t. I was just done. My last speaking engagement was over a year ago to a group of Catholic moms, such a great talk but I didn’t feel the urge to go back and talk more. It’s like a flower that wilted. Petals fell off, and nothing was left to blossom.
Continue reading “When “Interfaith” Started Losing its Luster for Me by Valentina Khan”
Like so many women, I read Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon and got caught up in her vision of the Holy Isle and the priestesses who knew how to navigate those mists and travel between the worlds. Like so many women, I wished Avalon existed still.
In fact, Avalon does exist, because Jhenah Telyndru did more than wish. In 1995 she founded The Sisterhood of Avalon. Twenty-two years later, the Sisterhood is going strong and growing, attracting members from all over the world. I urge you to explore their website where the Sisters speak eloquently about their vision, structure, and purpose.
Continue reading “Sisterhood, Service, Sovereignty: The Living Spirit of Avalon by Elizabeth Cunningham”
Embodiment is a feminist principle which has, as its basis, two fundamental criteria. First, humans require their bodies to live. We must acknowledge that our existence is tied to our bodies. This fact grounds us in this world. Here, and not in some other-worldly place, we live out our lives. We are dependent on our bodies and what the world provides for our survival. In other words, humans are inseparable and interconnected to this world. Humans are not above nature as the Western hierarchical dualist mindset would suggest.
Second, embodiment challenges the hierarchical dualistic notion that the mind and body are separable by connecting the mind to the body. Humans do not exist because they think, as Descartes once said. Rather, humans exist because of a complex system of interactions between body and mind. Without the body, the mind fails and vice versa. The link between the mind and the body has led many feminist theorists to reject any sort of existence beyond this physical life. That is a topic for another time. Continue reading “Supporting Embodiment: Societal and Jewish Views on Body Modification by Ivy Helman”
Rabbi Amorai said: “Where is the garden of Eden: He answered himself: “In the earth.”
Sefer haBahir, 12th century Provence
For many liberal Jews, the phrase “tikkun olam” has been an important rallying cry. The phrase is often used as synonymous with “social justice,” but has more esoteric roots. Tikkun olam, repair of the world, refers to a kabbalistic view of creation. In this view, the Divine set out to create the world by vacating a space, an empty space within which creation could occur. The Divine then created vessels, planning to pour divine light into them, in order to form all created things. But when the divine light was poured into the vessels, the vessels could not hold the effulgence. They shattered, scattered sparks of light and shards of the vessels everywhere. Since then, the cosmic job of humanity is to find these sparks of light and free them to rejoin the One.
Isaac Luria, a Jewish mystic in the city of Sfat, told this tale of creation in the seventeenth century. It caught the Jewish imagination and has been wildly popular as a Jewish creation myth ever since. It captures our longing for wholeness and our experience of brokenness. It also offers a parallel with the Big Bang (a hot seed of light that expands into the universe as we know it) that many find quite compelling. I have loved this story for a long time. To me, it is reminiscent of the story of birth: an empty space that becomes full, then leaks out into the world as a new being. Yet as a feminist who is also committed to sustainability, as more news of our planet’s scorching rolls in, I find this myth is beginning to crack. Continue reading “Judaism, Feminism, and The Twoness of Creation by Jill Hammer”