Friday, January 16, 2015

Transformative Experiences

I was driving in the car last night on the way home from Disneyland.  It was a great day with my cousin, who recently lost his wife.  We had a lot of fun, and his 9-year old daughter was amazing with EG.  But I digress... I was driving home and I heard this song on the radio:

I couldn't help but turn it up and start singing along.  Imagine my surprise when there are tears flowing down my eyes, and I'm thinking about my mom, my family, my marriage- the little girl asleep in the seat behind me. 

"Then it hit me like a lightning late one night
I was all out of hope and all out of fight

Couldn't fight back the tears so I fell on my knees
Saying, "God, if you're there come and rescue me."
Felt love pouring down from above"

The moment it ended though, I couldn't help but feel a tiny bit guilty. Now, please don't misunderstand me- especially if you are a devout Christian.  I don't mean that what you believe in isn't true, I only mean to say that I don't believe it the same way you do. 

It's strange that a song about- I don't know- baptism, conversion, christening?  would affect me so deeply when I fundamentally believe that there is more to conversion than just a single action and a thought.  I don't believe that saying you believe in something makes it so.  I appreciate that Judaism has a formal conversion process, and that it can be a bit daunting.  I felt guilty because here is a song about an aspect of G-d I don't believe in, yet here are the tears flowing down my eyes.

I can, however, say that I believe in the transformative power of different experiences.  I hope you know what I'm talking about. Those moments when you feel touched by G-d.  When something makes sense, or touches you so profoundly that everything inside of you is changed.  That's what touches me about this song....

Most recently it was seeing my Mother's dead body.  In Jewish funerals you don't look upon the dead, however, it's not only necessary according to law, but also traditional for the close family to see their dearly departed before burial.  For me that was the moment I really realized my mother wasn't here on earth anymore.  I've always believed we had a soul, but knowing my mom, and seeing her body without her spirit, her soul there- I finally realized that it wasn't her.  That she wasn't here anymore.  The immensity of realizing that there is something after death in such a literal way.  Of knowing in my soul that my mother wasn't here on earth, and at the same moment knowing that she was somewhere else- with G-d.

Before that it was a profoundly transformative experience to give birth to Ocho.  You would have thought that the transformative birth would have been EG's, since she literally transformed me from a woman to a mother, but her birth wasn't really like that.  Giving birth to Ocho was possibly the best moment of my life so far.  It was difficult, scary, harrowing. It was pain and screaming and doubt.  But I overcame.  We overcame together.  And when she came into this world her birth was like an amazing moment of serenity.  A transformative experience.  Meeting G-d in the birth of my daughter.

Before that I would have to say I've had one other transformative experience.  And this one is linked not only to the song, but also to a tenant of Judaism- the Mikvah.  For those of you who don't know a mikvah is a natural body of water that a woman immerses herself in after she has had her cycle.  She has to be clean for so many days, then she goes and she changes.  There's a lot more to it, but traditionally a woman would go before she gets married for the first time.  I did that before marrying Working Dad and I remember walking out of that water and feeling so peaceful.  So ready to be his wife.  So ready to take on the responsibility of a family of my own, of creating something new.  Of joining back together with my besheret.  So calm and confident. 

A woman is only obligated to do three mitzvot in the Torah.  Lots of people say this makes Judaism as an Orthodox Jew negative to women, but we can get into all of that later.  What our sages teach us is that when a woman fulfills one of the mitzvot (Challah, candles and the mikvah) she is ultimately closer to G-d than anyone else. That he is listening to her in an intense way.  I felt exactly like that in the mikvah.  As Carrie says, there must have been something in the water.  Because in those moments it felt like there was nothing between me and G-d.  Me and everything I could possibly be in this world.  Everything that's out there in front of me- my whole future in front of my eyes.  The whole world.

Have you had a transformative experience?  Do you feel like you've met G-d?

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