Author's note: In October 2010, a handful of teachers and students and musicians and seekers and faithful and doubters got together for a long weekend of -- I don't know that any one of us would describe the weekend in exactly the same way. I am convinced we were each changed by this weekend. I cannot begin to express my profound gratitude for what was given to me. This was the first Shabbat Shira. I have been so very fortunate that I have been able to attend every year since, and am eagerly looking forward to this year's retreat, which will begin next week.
In honor of the upcoming weekend, I am re-posting this (in somewhat truncated form) (and feel free to take a look, here, if you want to see the whole thing). This is the essay I wrote after that first weekend, and is dedicated to all of my teachers, but in particular, to Debbie Friedman (z"l), Craig Taubman and Josh Nelson, who reminded me, again, what faith and love and prayer can do: everything.
Thank you all, who continue to teach me, and show me, ever day, how to leap.
This past weekend, I got to learn something about faith. Again. I get to learn this particular lesson again and again. God laughs and waits and applauds for me. Every so often, God dances and catches me, pillowing my fall with grace.
I was at a retreat. It was possibly all about music. Or maybe about prayer. Or God. Or community. Faith, perhaps. All of the above. Certainly, music was the base, a foundation of sorts. Shabbat Shira--- Sabbath of Song. A few dozen people came together to learn and stretch and grow and teach. Silly me; I thought I was there to learn more about Songleading-- using music and song to lead congregants in prayer. Simple stuff.
What I learned was all about love, and community and faith. Yes, faith. That damned elusive thing, that spark of God and hope that I chase with all the singularity that a drowning woman chases a life preserver floating just out of reach on a dark and wave-wracked sea. Throw in a bit about vulnerability and truth and honesty and you have the weekend. Our teachers stood before us, offering themselves, whole and pure and unafraid, without pretense, and made a glorious noise as they lit a path to God. I followed. We all did, joyously, surrounded by love and faith and hope.
How? I asked. I demanded. I pleaded. How do you do it? How do you show up, vulnerable and raw? How do you give? How can I?
And really, that was my prayer. My quest had gotten me this far: from "Fuck you" to "How can I?" I want to serve. I want to give. I want to be an unsheathed flame, dancing along a path to God, letting others in to find their own paths, their own joy, their own prayer. I want to leap. Please God, let me leap. One more time, let me learn the lesson of soaring. Let me believe that I will be caught.
And my teachers, every one of them, whether they stood in front of us in service or beside me in prayer (because everyone at Shabbat Shira was my teacher), they all answered so simply, so stripped of artifice: you just do.
It is not what you pray; it is that you pray.
It is not what you do, it is that you do.
It is not what you sing; it is that you sing.
Do. Act. Pray. Sing. Serve. The grace (and gracefulness) will follow. God will catch me, soaring or stumbling in the dark., God waits to catch me And, after I have rested a bit, caught my breath a bit, then God and I, we'll dance.
Dedicated to my friends and teachers of Shabbat Shira 2010.
Thank you <3
- I write, mostly to keep my head from exploding. It threatens to do that a lot. My blog is the pixelated version of all the voices in my head. I tend to dive into what connects me to God, my community, my family and my doubt. I do a lot of searching, not as much finding. I’m good with that. I have learned, finally, to live comfortably in the gray. In the meantime, I wrestle with God, and my doubt and my joy.