This week’s Torah portion is Chukat. It covers a lot of ground. There are the mitzvot concerning purification with a red cow, the deaths of important individuals, and the continued wanderings in the desert, which are rife with complaining Israelites, plagues of snakes and destructions of enemies. It would be impossible to cover all of these events well in the length of this post, so instead I will am going to concentrate on a theme: water. I also want to explain some of the ways Jewish feminists have enriched our connection to water.
Water is first associated with the prophetess Miriam. Miriam is first called a prophetess in Exodus 15, when she takes the women of the community out to sing about their deliverance from Egypt by way of the Re(e)d Sea. Her “Song of the Sea” is thought to be, by many scholars, one of the oldest written texts of the Torah. Yet, the connection between Miriam and water starts earlier in the Torah. Miriam is Moses’ and Aaron’s sister and the one who watches over Moses when his mother, Joheved, hides him in a reed basket on the edge of the Nile (Exodus 2:4). She approaches the Pharaoh’s daughter to secure a milkmaid for her brother (Exodus 4:7).
Continue reading “Chukat: Miriam, Feminists, and the Power of Water, by Ivy Helman.”
My simple daily rituals and spiritual practices are what keep me mindful of G-d and G-d’s presence in my life. They also remind me of G-d’s call to justice, care, compassion and love.
“I find by experience, not by reasoning,
but by my own discovery that G-d is near me,
and I can be near G-d at all times.
I cannot explain it but I am as sure of my experience
as I am of the fact that I live and love,
but I know I do.
In the same way, I know I am in contact with G-d.”
This poem by Lily Montagu speaks to me. I read it most mornings as I say my morning prayers, and it is one of those mantras I try to live by. I have found that contrary to popular belief, sustained religious practices can be just as transformative as instantaneous conversion experiences. This is why I have developed certain spiritual and specifically Jewish practices (For more about my joinery to Judaism, see one of my previous blogs “Reflections on my Spiritual Journey: Claiming Judaism”). I find that they help me develop and cultivate a strong relationship with G-d. For example, I keep a kosher home; wear a kippah daily; try to pray at least twice a day and before snacks and meals; practice the principles of Mussar; attend regularly Shabbat services Friday evenings at my Reform Congregation in Lowell and Saturday morning services at a Conservative congregation in Nashua, NH; light Shabbat candles; try not cook or create on Shabbat; make Havadalah to mark the end of Shabbat; give tzedakah as much as I can and study Torah with my friends. This list is not all encompassing and there are quite a few areas of my practice I wish were more disciplined as well.
Continue reading “The Transformative Power of Daily Practices by Ivy Helman”