Today could be as challenging as the Desert because it is the day is when we go to celebrate Shabbat with an unknown family, this includes accompanying them to their Synagogue and then sharing the Shabbat meal in their home. We are split into pairs (although there is one group of three because of numbers). I am going with Sr Jackie to Miriam and Michael Bendcowsky whose daughter Hana has been one of our lecturers on the present day situtation in Israel and Palestine. But that's all for later.
First, the day starts with Siddur with Maureena.
You grace humans with knowledge
and teach mortals understanding.
Graciously share with us your wisdom,
insight and knowledge.
Blessed are you, Adonai,
who graces us with knowledge.
Page 84,Mishkan T'filah, A Reform Siddur
The thinking today was that when we pray for wisdom, insight and knowledge, we must be prepared for change, to move from thesis (content of faith) to antithsis (new knowledge) to synthesis (the new thesis) and so on - each movement perhaps bringing a falling apart, a confusion, a desert experience - knowledge may be dangerous, but stagnant faith is also (final comment my own).
The first lecture was our final one from Mordecai Silverstein, a great lecturer and storyteller, whose subject today was Haftarah for Behukotai, Jeremiah 16:19-17:14, 'Face the consequences'. Full notes to follow.
At 10.30 our second lecture was from Maureena, whose title was Emor, Lev. 21:1-22:33). This session was the big one on Maureena's booklet 'Sabbath Rest and Sunday Worship - We are entitled to both.'
Once again full notes will follow so begin thinking about how to use your Saturdays if they become the Sabbath for you - it's in the Commandments and it's not Sunday which is the day we celebrate Christ's Resurrection.
One more session at 4.00 when Sr Cecilia Martin (Ces) from New Zealand, ministering in New York, guided us on how to prepare a Parashat. Each week Bat Kol publish on their website a commentary on the reading for the week, this is called the Parashat, and Bat Kol Alumni are invited to volunteer to write these and submit them for approval. We were asked to sign up to take a turn at this and I will do so in due course but somehow the list went missing so that's still in abeyance for most of us.
Then the big time came to prepare for Shabbat! Jackie and I joined Kasia in a taxi to avoid another gruelling walk. Miriam and Michael gave us a very warm welcome, and Miriam lit the Shabbat candles (14 in total one for each member of the family). Then we went to the Synagogue which was Orthodox so quite different from the one we had attended before. The liturgy took place in a school, but the congregation are having a new Synagogue built which will be complete in about three years. The hall in which we met was divided down the middle by a net curtain; women were on the left and men on the right. The liturgy was very fast, the Siddur was entirely in Hebrew, the tunes were ones we did not know. A nice lady, whose name sounded like Susannah, kindly sat with me to help me through the service, but it didn't really work for me because of the speed. However, the Rabbi did pull the curtain aside before the end and welcome us as visitors which was really nice of him.
Supper was delightful, both food, conversation and friendship. Miriam and Michael spoke English very well so there was no problem in that connection. We had to remember during the evening that the light had to remain on in the bathroom and that there was no light on the stairs since Orthodox Jews observe very specific rules for Sabbath, no switching on of lights, no computers, no television, no driving and so on. They shared with us how the Shoah had affected their family and how delighted they have been only recently to find in America a handwritten record in Yiddish from one of Miriam's ancestors, which Michael is in the process of translating and hopes it may go to the Holocaust Museum if Miriam and family are willing. This will fill in some of their missing ancestory on Miriam's side of the family. How many, many people who have survived have got this huge gap, this nothingness, this unknowing about the lives of those who have no closure, no knowledge of the outcome of whole groups of family members. It's horrendous and heartbreaking ....
All too soon it was midnight and we left accompanied by Miriam to search for a taxi which we quickly found and then Miriam returned home. So ended a wonderful evening with a lovely couple.