The Dalai Lama
It never dawned on me until this morning what a holy week this has turned out to be. Three different Passover seders, the once every 28 years Birkat Hachama--the Blessing of the Sun, a Friday night Shabbat synagogue service, an Easter service at a mega-church, followed by my favorite Sunday morning yoga class.
Birkat Hachama (The Blessing of the Sun)
This once-every-28-years event occurs during the spring equinox, which occurs every 365¼ days. It occurs at dawn on a Wednesday (the fourth day of creation, based on Jewish beliefs), when Jews recite the blessing. According to Jewish beliefs, God created the sun, the moon and the stars as the fourth day began.
This year it was one of only a few times in history that the Blessing of the Sun coincided with the eve of Passover, the Jewish holiday commemorating the release of Jewish slaves from Egypt in Biblical times.
The next Blessing of the Sun will occur in 2037. Not sure if I'm going to be around in 2037, so I didn't want to miss this one! It was supposed to be recited at 6:58 am. We recited it outside with all our Seder guests at 6:58 pm. Better late than never!
First Night Seder - A cozy intimate gathering of friends who are like family, held at my house, using my current favorite haggadah--A Night of Questions: A Passover Haggadah Same order, same songs, but it's always different--and this year was no exception.
Second Night Seder - A large group gathering of cousins & aunts held at my 94 year-old aunt's apartment. This seder used the traditional Orthodox haggadah. Same order, same songs, but much more Hebrew.
Friday Night Shabbat synagogue services - In front of us sat the grandparents of the baby who was about to be named. We chatted before the services began. One set had just driven in from Virginia, the other was local and Catholic. I knew in a few months my husband and I would be the proud new grandparents.
As always, for some inexplicable reason--maybe the music--maybe the singing--maybe the Hebrew prayers--tears start to well up in my eyes. They don't stop. It happens often in synagogue--sometimes more--sometimes less.
By the time the Rabbi begins to bless the couple who is celebrating their 66 years of marriage, and bless the 87 year-old wheelchair-bound man celebrating his birthday--I'm undone--watching this man use every ounce of his strength to stand up. The congregation joins in the traditional Sheheyanu prayer, which thanks God for keeping us alive, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this season. It's a prayer that's said often on happy occasions & first-time events. I can't open my mouth, because I need every ounce of energy to not cry--I'm so inexplicably touched.
Third Seder - A medium sized group of friends, grown-up kids, and friends of the kids. This seder used an original haggadah created by the hosts' three daughters years ago. Same order, same songs--but with unique twists that only this wonderful creative family can come up with.
Sunday Morning Easter Service - This was my first ever Easter service. One of my husband's patients is a minister at local mega-church and he had invited us. Why not? There were at least 1000 people there, and this was the first of three consecutive services to be held this morning. I was struck by the upbeat music, the full orchestra, the words of the sermon---the many similarities of its underlying message. But most touching to me, was noticing two women in front of me who were dabbing at their eyes, catching their tears as they sang. I understood.
Sunday Yoga class at a Jewish Community Center. - I wasn't going to miss my Sunday class after all. I arrived a little late, and sandwiched myself in between two women who are Hindu, one man who was born Polish Catholic, but converted to Judaism, and one man from the Philippines who is Christian. My yoga teacher happens to be Christian. As we end the class, Dawn asks us to put our hands together and bow to our neighbors and someone we don't know, and say, "Namaste", the sanskrit word which means, "The Light within me honors the Light within you."
I am the dean of religious life at a liberal arts college. Yesterday, I went to a Maundy Thursday service (interdenominational Protestant), a Holy Thursday service with foot washing (Roman Catholic), and the second seder. Having been raised Roman Catholic, I resonate with the words and sounds of prayers and hymns of my childhood so powerful that it is almost instinctual, but in my adulthood I have come to discover and be spiritually nourished by other traditions, particularly Judaism. At last night’s student-planned seder, many of the participants were not Jewish but have participated every year of college and wouldn’t miss it. That has to be a good thing.
She couldn't have said it better.