September 24, 2018

Receiving the Birthday Gift of Taharah

The first thing I did on my 55th birthday was to participate in my first Taharah (ritual purification).  I can’t think of a better birthday present.  Perhaps calling another person’s taharah one of my best birthday presents ever seemsas strange to you as it did to some of my friends.  Yet what better time than on your birthday to perform the ultimate selfless act on another’s behalf?  What better time to reflect on your coming into being and your life so far than when that contemplation is literally physically placed before the eventuality of your departure from this plane of existence?  Yet it is not your own actual departure, but rather, that of the met’s or meita’s (the deceased person), so it’s a safe distance, a way in but not too far in, for now.

The taharah team of five women including me with whom I worked from 9:00 to 10:30 pm on that Saturday night was wonderful:  focused, cooperative and communicative, and lovingly cared for the meita none of us knew.  The rosha (leader) was clear giving directions, deeply spiritual, and deeply caring for all six of us in the room.  When she reminded us that we should try not to walk behind the head of the meita because “Shechinah” [the feminine immanent aspect of the Divine] might be there, I felt such gratitude for the recognition that we were all being accompanied in our work by the Divine.  While we worked and prayed with our hands, our mouths and our hearts, we sensed the relaxing of the meita into our care. 

The next morning, I traveled home from Boston via car and boat, I arrived weary and in need of a nap.  When I awoke, I put laundry on the line, a spiritual act for me in many ways.  I studied Torah.  I worked a crossword.  My plans for canoeing in a gorgeous pond landscape or walking in a stunningly beautiful wildlife sanctuary seemed too large and ambitious after the previous night’s magnitude of holiness.  I stayed on my tiny little property appreciating the nasturtiums and parsley, the song birds’ songs and the insects’ chirping, the cat napping and my husband’s violin playing.  And it was perfect.  I’d already received the best birthday gift ever.

 

Lori D. Shaller is an ordained Mashpiah Ruhanit – Spiritual Director, and anticipates her Rabbinic Ordination in January, 2015 from the ALEPH:  Alliance for Jewish Renewal Rabbinic Ordination Program.  She is also an educator and curriculum writer in the fields of World History and English Language Arts.  Lori lives on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard, where she leads Clergy Spiritual Direction Groups and Spiritual Eldering Groups.  She is guest clergy at Jewish and Unitarian congregations and works as an Administrative Assistant for the Unitarian Universalist Society of Martha’s Vineyard. Lori is a student of the Gamliel Institute. She can be reached at lori_shaller@comcast.net.

 

 

 


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