Shine the Divine:

Creativity IS a Spiritual Practice

When we see through our hearts, we recognize that every single one of us is infused with creativity. Divine Sparks are embedded in everyone and everything. It's up to us to be courageous, to look and listen deeply, to find the sparks, gather and release them back into the universe, transformed into something new. Join me as we wake up to the sacred-ordinary blessings waiting to greet us each and every day.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rooted and Reaching

Like a tree, rooted in the earth, reaching up towards heavenly realms, each child has the potential to grow and blossom into an extraordinary human being. To me this is what parenting is all about; nurturing our children with love, with all that we have learned through the rich soil of our traditions and personal wisdom so that when they are ready, they will discover their own purpose in the world. Perhaps one day they too will recognize their holiness reflected as they gaze into the eyes of a child of their own.

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Skywatch Friday

It occurred to me in the past few days that as many of you who read this blog are not Jewish, you might not know the fullness of what becoming a Bat Mitzvah means beyond a big family celebration. If you are curious, below is my lay person's summary. I warn you that it is a bit long for a blog post, but I needed it to be so in order to explain the points I felt were most important.

The simple translation of the words "bat mitzvah" is "daughter of the commandments" (bar would be son). This rite of passage is the time in a Jewish child's life when they are officially expected to take on responsibilities in the Jewish community (and the world community as well through acts of tikkun olam-repairing the world). For example, fully accepting and acclaiming that God is One (Oneness), remembering the Sabbath, fasting on certain holy days, being part of a minyan (a quorom of at least 10 people) to support mourners during certain prayers that are meant to be said with community (so the mourners are not alone in their time of grieving), feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, caring for the earth/environment, visiting and caring for the sick and elderly, (Rosewillow's commitment to raising funds for the MS Society was part of learning to care for the sick), studying and reading from the Torah (holy text) and so on. Technically speaking there are 613 mitzvot/commandments written in the Torah. (Follow the link to read a list of them if you are interested.) Contemporary Jews observe many of these 3,000 year old laws but not all as some apply to ancient rituals we no longer perform-like animal sacrifices in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem (which no longer exists) and certain laws around agriculture as we are no longer mainly farmers. Some laws have been modified to reflect current culture. For example, depending on which branch of Judaism one follows, intermarriage is allowed. Gordon was not Jewish when we were married 22 years ago, but chose to convert about 6 years ago. This would never have been acceptable for an Orthodox family, and we had to be married by a Reform rabbi because a Conservative rabbi is not allowed to perform a marriage ceremony for interfaith couples (although there are many interfaith families within the Conservative's complicated). Embracing GLBT individuals and couples as part of the community is another important change in most modern day branches of Judaism as well as an egalitarian approach to rituals in and out of the synagogue.

Rosewillow will lead the hour-long service Friday evening, June 25th and most of the 3 hour service Saturday morning. She will receive and start wearing a tallit (prayer shawl) on her bat mitzvah day and will continue to do so for all morning services there after (as is the custom). The four corners of a tallit are embellished with a ritually knotted fringe, a reminder that God is to be found everywhere, in all “4 corners” of the earth. The moment that a child of 13 is called to the Torah to recite a special blessing for the first time is the apex of the ceremony. Rosie will then go on to chant a portion of the text, being witnessed by the community. Afterwards she will give her explanation of the Torah portion as it relates to her own life experience. This drash, (interpretation) is crucial, because it teaches a child that these are more than ancient words meant for another time, but vital and intertwined with her own life. Rosie will then chant the haftarah, text from one of the books of prophets corresponding to the Torah portion of her special day in Hebrew. (Her portion is the story of Balaak, the magician sent to curse the Israelites by the Moabite king-ultimately he is only able utter a blessing issued by God when he sees the people Israel. Click here for the whole story).

A bat/bar mitzvah ceremony is a sacred time a Jewish child prepares for all their young life. For example our kids have attended supplementary Hebrew school, 2 hours a week from k-2nd grade and then 6 hours a week from 3-7th attending and learning to pray and lead services (in Hebrew) at least twice a month since the 3rd grade. In Hebrew school they learned to read Hebrew (although there isn't nearly enough time in those few hours a week to really learn to understand the language)...but they can recite all of the prayers...and they learn about Jewish ethics, history, culture, holidays, rituals and participate in local social action projects. Of course a lot of learning goes on in the home as well. Not every modern day Jewish family takes on all of these commitments but this is how I was raised, so this is how Gordon and I chose to raise our girls. We also keep Kosher (a commitment to conscious-holy eating) and light Shabbat candles every Friday evening to welcome in the Sabbath along with other home based rituals throughout the year. For Rosie’s bat mitzvah celebration we will have a luncheon following the service to which the whole Jewish community (plus out of town friends and family-somewhere around 140 people all told) are invited and traditional dancing to the music of the Raymond Street Klezmer Band (her Dad is the piano player in the band and they are awesome!) Later in the evening our family will gather at our home for a more intimate continuation of the celebration (intimate being 32 relatives and a few close friends!)…dinner, havdallah (lighting a special braided candle and reciting prayers separating Shabbat-holiness from the mundane rest of the week).

I am so grateful that both of my parents and many of our relatives will be in attendance. My grandmother passed away two years before my bat mitzvah and that was very hard for me, as we were close. She lived in our home from the time I was 5 until I was 11 (my grandfather died when my mom was a little girl). I wrote and read a poem in her honor at my bat mitzvah, a way to hold her presence with us that day. We will be lighting candles using her Shabbat candle holders to start the ceremony Friday evening with my mother, sisters, daughters and nieces gathered round to recite the blessing together. My mother tells me they originally belonged to my nana (grandmother) Reggie's mother, Zollie (my mother Sally, was named for her)-she was Rosie's great-great-grandmother! Passing on our ancient traditions is very important to me personally and I am so pleased that there will be three generations physically participating in Rosewillow’s bat mitzvah ceremony and clearly many more spiritually.

I hope this helps to put into perspective what this is all about. There is still some cooking to do for Saturday evening with my Mom (thank goodness we are having the synagogue celebration catered!!!), and many last minute details to attend to. I know I will be much too busy to post in the next week so I want to finish by saying in advance:

Mazal Tov sweet Rosewillow...Yasher Koach...May you be strengthened!


  1. Laura,
    that photo melts my heart.
    congratulations to your daughter, to you , and your whole family.

    thank you for taking the time to share your faith and some of the details of this important milestone.

    enjoy the together time. enjoy.

  2. I love your sky photo the white clouds looks like a feather to me. And thank you for a great and interesting post. Happy Friday!


  3. Dearest Laura,
    I read every word of the lovingly long post. It so touched my heart. It also brought tears to my eyes. I loved reading about the traditions of your family. What a beautiful legacy of meaning you have.

    So many of us are disconnected from such richness of ritual and I think we long for it. I know I do. I try to create meaningful rituals for my family in more interspiritual ways, but nothing like what your family shares. I bless you for all the time and energy it takes to raise a family in this way. And blessings to Rose Willow for her special day!

    (May your health and energy prevail and may Love fill the air!)

  4. I love the sky shot with the beautiful tree and the words accompanying it. Also a very good description of Bat Mitzvah and I love the touching black and white photo at the end.

  5. That's a beautiful photo, I love the pattern of the tree and the clouds.

    Congratulations on your daughter's Bat Mitzvah. Although I'm not Jewish, I've been to a Bar Mitzvah, and several Jewish weddings.

  6. Beautiful Skywatch entry! I really enjoyed the info on Bat Mitzvah. Your daughter is lucky to have you ;)

  7. Beautiful splash of clouds in the sky. Congratulations to entire family.

  8. I am so glad you shared this post with us, Laura. This is a special time in the life of your family and an extraordinary moment in time for Rosewillow. Her commitment and your love shine through. Breathe it all in and savor every minute. Blessings to all of you ~

  9. Dear Laura,

    yoru faith helps me to survive...Your faith helps me ton continue fighting for better days to the refugees in Mozambique.

    IN september I will go an exhibition in Sweden(my works in photos...)and I will sell many of them and with the money I have a project to take out of the refugee center,. 8 children from Rwanda.
    I know taht I would like to do more...but I cant...
    For me to travel from Sweden to Mozambique I spend lots of money...with tickets, hotels, food...And I am calling to friends and ask for help ..Help ...not to me...I dont need...but until now..I got some helps from a brazilian company, a swedish doctor and a brazilian architet..
    And if u want to help..I think so that the best it by paypal...dont u think?

    You photo? I like and I have taken one like that in Brasil, last november...I love it

    Have a nice day, sweetheart

  10. What a lovely sky and it looks like a revelation and so with your great informative words re Bat Mitzvah. Thanks and I wish you quick healing.

  11. Great sky shot!

  12. Darling photo of your little girl, hope you are having a great weekend.

    Really enjoyed your photo post for this week too, the tree sweeps up into the clouds for am amazing image.

  13. Beautiful skywatch photo! the clouds are beautiful. Congrats to your daughter's Bat Mitzvah. I'm sure she worked hard. Lovely photo of you and your daughter. Happy skywatching.

  14. Beautiful photo

    Have a nice Friday

  15. Beautiful sky and post Laura.
    Thank you for sharing the information about a bat/bar mitzvah ceremony.
    Happy weekend.

  16. Your traditions are beautiful. I'm sure your daughter will grow up with a strong knowledge of who she is and where her family is firmly rooted. It's a wonderful gift you are passing on to your children.

  17. Dear Laura, thank you so much for sharing your traditions here with us.
    Blessings to you all on this special occassion.

  18. thankyou Laura for illuminating some of the 'mysteries' of an unfamiliar spiritual heritage

    i was particularly drawn to the four-corner fringed prayer shawl and the way Rosewillow will interpret the portion of torah as she relates to it in her life today

    what a privilege your children have to be raised in a home that values rituals, blessings and a public ceremony to celebrate and acknowledge a rite of passage

  19. rooted and reaching - a very powerful and well thought title.

    photo at the bottom is striking.

    have a very nice day Laura.

  20. Wonderful clouds behind the tree.
    Wish you a blessed week:-)

  21. Thank you everyone for your kind and supportive comments :)


  22. Laura,
    Thank you.

    I felt the beauty of your heritage and the respect that you carry for your roots in every word that you've shared. How deep and rich is this tradition and how powerful that your children have been given the love and respect that allows them to move out into the world knowing where they come from, which hopefully will help them to always remember who they are.

    May the day be a blessing to all...I sense your Grandmother will be there smiling.

  23. It's interesting, reading your blog! Loved the skywatch photo and the second photo is really very cute!!

    Pixellicious Photos

  24. Laura, I am so glad you posted this, I have attended a few Bar/Bat Mitzvahs but never knew the full significance. I love the idea of something to fully mark an entering into a community in this way...this is something I will be missing since we are raising our kids in a 'spiritual but not religious' context. When they are of this age, I would like to find ways to mark it...

    I related to your last post too, and how it can feel like we are 'skimming the surface' of our spirituality in the busy phases of our lives, but really it is in the details...and so glad you have family around for this big event, I have had much family around recently too, for my twins 4th birthday...XOXO Lisa


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