This week’s Torah portion is a double one, Vayak’hel-Pekudei (Exodus 35:1 – 40:38 and Exodus 12:1-20). Vayak’hel covers the construction of the Mishkan, or the temple that traveled with the Israelites while in the desert, and Pekudel outlines the requirements for Pesach, particularly the sacrificial lamb, the blood on the doorposts, and the requirement to eat unleavened bread. For this post I will focus on Vayak’hel as it is the only portion that makes direct mention of women. It reminds us of the ways in which religion and religious institutions would not be possible without the contributions of women.
Vayak’hel centers on the construction of the Mishkan beginning with the general assumption that everyone (here men and women) will donate the items needed to construct the Mishkan. The text also contains verses in which women are specifically mentioned. They donate their gold jewelry (35:22) and mirrors (38:8) as well as spin wool and linen into yarn to be used for the Mishkan’s copious amounts of curtains (35:25-26).
Continue reading “Vayak’hel-Pekudei: On the Contributions and Gifts of Women by Ivy Helman.”
I have always had a relationship with plants. All the women in my family were gardeners and I had my first garden when I was about four year old. But it wasn’t until mid-life that I began to sense that this woman-plant relationship might be more complicated than I realized. Blurred boundaries. Intimacy. Weavings underground. My dreams were full of vines that hugged the earth and spiraled like serpents sliding on bellies through deep green forests. I could grow plants that others could not. Was it the attention I gave plants? Love? I saw them as friends, as equals. I loved touching and caring for them.
When I saw my first passionflower blossom at a neighbor’s house I practically swooned. I fell in love with the flower and its scent. Not the generous type, I had to beg for a cutting for two whole years before this woman finally relented. Thrilled, I brought the cutting home. It was spring. I put it in water. To my joy it rooted in a few weeks warmed by the April sun, and within three months I was able to pot the cutting.
Continue reading “Passionflower: Women and Plants, and a Crown of Thorns by Sara Wright”
Yesterday morning, I sat in a sunrise fire circle on a ridge above my new Rocky Mountain home. Two years ago on the same day, I stood before a loom in a reconstructed Iron Age roundhouse in Wales. And in both of those places I realize what made those experiences powerful was the space I left for Mystery to stand with and within me.
The late summer sun sleepily climbed over the horizon yesterday, making its appearance only slightly later than the day before. I could feel the barest hint of autumn around the edges of the dawning day. Staring into the heart of the fire at my feet, I awakened to the sheer volume of tension I am carrying around in my body lately– illustrating just how tightly I am holding on to the fabric of my life and of the world around me. These are tense times. In so very many ways.
I inhabited what felt like a perpetually liminal space for the past decade or so, moving from one place to the next. For a long while, I thrived on the go. But callings and desires shifted and now I feel myself slowing down. I crave roots, the kind it takes time to grow. And I am guilty of trying to rush the process, trying to control so many details all at once. But control? Control is a tricky thing.
Meanwhile, the world around me careens towards chaos. The American political situation is untenable. Unemployment seems to be down, but the Labor Force Participation rate and stagnant wages are alarming. Both the terrorism abroad and the gun violence epidemic at home continue to claim lives endlessly. Countless social justice issues are coming to a head. The “culture wars” rage on.
Sitting at the fire, I felt into my body for just a moment and I witnessed the incredible tension, the desperate desire for control.
How much of the tensions of this time was I carrying within my own flesh and bones? How tightly was I holding on? How many calories was that death grip on my life consuming without my conscious permission?
Too much. Very. And too many. Continue reading “Loosening the Weave: Leaving Space for Mystery by Kate Brunner”