Why?

(My kavanah/intention as I do this work)

 

I love Torah study. Since my first day in Biblical Hebrew class, I thrilled to be able to "break the code" of these beautiful inscrutable clumps of Hebrew letters. I'd been appalled by the patriarchy and violence that seemed to emanate from the character of God in the English translations, and I loved being able to parse out meanings for myself in the more mystical texts, and find threads of the more ancient, feminine divine and earth-based veneration within the Hebrew texts. After years of study, I am able to re-translate, finding different meanings to words that may have escaped, not been chosen, or perhaps went unseen by other translators.

As our Sh’ma (daily Jewish prayer) states: The Divine is Many Faces; The Divine is One. Through my study, I have encountered many faces of The One that are nurturing and life-giving:

  • God/HaShem/YHVH as Presence, dwelling, Be-ing, and beyond gender.

  • Highlighting elements of the Feminine Divine within the texts, such as: openings, flow, the deep/chaos/unknown, wise woman, mother, and all life-bringers and nurturers, including Miriam.

  • Miriam as the original life-promoting matrix, as: salt waters in oceans, womb fluid; and Miriam as the processes through which life arises: the contractions of laughter, tears, orgasm, birth, and death; and the endless flow that promotes new life.

  • Human connection with earth and its ways and cycles, including reverence for trees, stones, mountains, and clouds as teachers.

I have been a spiritual seeker for many years, and my translations reflect practical knowledge gained from my experiences of:

  • reverence and relationship with the land itself whilst living six years in Ireland, where most of the population traces their ancestry continuously upon the land throughout their family history, and are familiar with indigenous names for sacred places, and the land is covered in earthworks dating back thousands of years, sites that are still visited and are replenished with human engagement. I engaged with communities practicing indigenous Irish shamanism, Irish Catholic mysticism, Anglican (Church of Ireland), and Progressive Judaism, and Irish Gestalt practice.

  • reverence and relationship with the land itself here in America, learning from First Nations people and making a clergy pilgrimage to Standing Rock to pray with elders there.

  • Presence through mindfulness and somatic awareness, from which I draw my felt experience of YHVH and Shekhinah (Being and Presence in Hebrew texts). I have practiced through many modalities and learned from many folks, including Yoga Philosophy and practice, Gestalt practice, and years of client sessions while in practice as a psychotherapy intern.

  • Knowledge of the feminine divine throughout world history, learning from (among many): Max Dashu, Starhawk, the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute; and many books, my favorite of which is The Great Cosmic Mother, the most comprehensive (and experiential). I also receive much from practice and prayers in Flowers of Torah, by Kohenet D'vorah K'lilah.

  • Experience in the Jewish Renewal community, including learning from Reb Zalman, zl; Rabbi Ingber, Rabbi Jill Hammer, and Reb Goldie Milgrim. Especially inspiring are Reb Goldie's Reclaiming Judiasm series and the ritualwell site.

  • I also incorporate my knowledge of Kabbalah and its lore on cosmology, along with principles of physics, evolution, plant medicine, and the history of power among human animals since the Neolithic Agricultural Revolution. I am especially interested in the development of organized empire and the overlap between formal temple structures and the civil/imperial powers in place contemporaneously, and I try to be aware of this in my Torah studies and translations. Sometimes this knowledge can lead me to a place of such hopelessness in the face of the continual historical onslaught of imperial encroachment upon every facet of life on this planet, I am tempted to chuck it all in, forget this path, and close my senses to the pull of the worlds unseen and "spirituality" in general, with the overwhelming feeling of defeat. And yet, and yet. The voices of resistance are in there, still speaking. They are my sparks. I have no creed, no belief, for such concepts in modern religion are the rubrics of the current empire which demands loyalty so that it can continue its objectification of life for its quantitative and managerial needs. My Divine will not be pinned down to any definition; in fact I find definition to be the antithesis of engagement with Flow, and That Which Stokes My Awe.

I am a seeker walking a path within the texts of the culture of my ancestors -  singing the songs, saying the prayers, and riffing/uncovering anew threads of meaning in our Torah (teachings) - as an experiential process and a living engagement with (what's generally known as) Judaism, and to leave record for the decendents of my engagement. For if I don't choose for myself a path of meaning in my life - of any sort ("sacred", "secular") - I am a vacuum to be filled by our current culture of the commoditization of everything. No thanks. We are meaning-making and story-telling animals, and I must choose every day what story is life-giving for ME. Here you see the results of that process.

Back to my texts and practice; listening to the world, sitting on rocks and being present to nature. There's a field out there, and I'll meet you there! (Thanks, Rumi, zl)

 

Marni Ashirah, 30 April 2018/15 Iyyar, 5778

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