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February 11, 2015

I am involved in a wanna-be group. We’ve desired to form a Chevrah Kadisha and begin providing taharah rituals in our area for several years. We have come up against many obstacles, interestingly, mostly from within (ability to organize, commit time, etc.). 

I had this experience recently and still don’t know how to interpret it, other than being ready.

>I am a midwife, and I was working an overnight shift. I had 3 women in labor. Gratefully, they were all stable and well-cared for at the same time, and the nurses noticed how tired I was and suggested I go to the call room and rest. I was asleep for under an hour and in that time I had a truly odd and vivid dream.

I was in a poorly lit room with wood walls, kind of like a cellar or an old shed. Behind a door was a smaller room with a long shelf. On the shelf was a long, sleek, white coffin. Very like those used to transport vampires back during the day in the True Blood series (sorry, I’m a devotee). I was alone, but the dream started with the knowledge that I was part of a group and it was my turn to wash the body of the person in the coffin. It wasn’t a Chevrah. It wasn’t quite a medical connection, either. But it was part of my job. There was no religion or ritual attached, although, of course, if this was the routine of these people, then of course there was something I didn’t understand. I was nervous, but then I remembered, in my dream, that I had had a previous dream about the same thing. And in that dream someone had trained me to the process, so I felt more calm as I remembered that I knew what I was doing.

And I began. It was a man in his sixties. The dream showed me nothing of his nakedness or the details of the cleaning. I was using my supplies and doing the job, and I wasn’t surprised that he was sitting next to the shelf in a three-piece suit. It was the kind of suit that men wore early in the 20th century. We’ve all seen that suit in old movies. A man would open the jacket and pull his pocket watch out of the vest pocket, then replace it. He would often be smoking a pipe. That suit. And this man was sitting there and he was pissed off that he was dead. Not scary-angry but annoyed-angry. Like he knew it was coming but hadn’t had time to come to terms with it yet. He griped for a while about should-haves and shouldn’t-have’s. Then he sighed and took out a locket with a 3-D picture of his wife as a young woman. It showed her from several angles. I admired her beauty and he sighed again as he put it away. I knew he was thinking about her at the end (hers or his) and missing her.

I finished my job and put my supplies away. We said goodbye and it was ok. It was normal. Like we were two regular acquaintances who met, exchanged pleasantries, and were moving on, each in our own lives. And I felt, at the end of it, like I had both given and received. And I imagine that this will be the feeling after taharah, when we begin performing this sacred tradition ourselves.

 

Rachel Kay is a certified nurse midwife in Cleveland, OH.  She has been interested in taharah for as long as she has been interested in midwifery (now over 15 years).  She has been involved in a so-far-unsuccessful but ever-hopeful attempt to create a community Chevrah Kadisha in the Cleveland area.  Contact her if you are interested in joining to form a group. 

 

 


 

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