The Deep Well of Grief Teaches Us to love

Last week’s torah portion, Chayei Sarah told the story of Sarah’s death at age 127, her burial in the cave of Machpelah in Hebron, where many more ancestors would be buried. It tells of Abraham sending his servant Eliezer to find a wife for Isaac and meeting her, Rebekah, at the well, where she offers he and his camels water. Rebekah returns to Isaacs home in Canaan, she meets his family and is soon comforting him because of the loss of his mother, Sarah. Abraham marries again, to Hagar his after Sarah’s death. Hagar Abraham’s Egyptian handmaiden and Ismael her son are banished because of Sarah’s fear that Ismael will inherit what she wants her son Isaac to. When Abraham dies he is buried by his two eldest sons Ishmael and Isaac.

The stories in this portion are very much about love and death. About unions, births and intuition.

What does it mean to love? With every breath in and every exhalation we can understand that this breath may be the last. It is only one breath that keeps us from death. Take a deep breath in. Exhale. To feel the preciousness of this one breath is to know love. The Jewish mystical texts called the kabbalah teaches that we know God in moments but we can’t hold onto them. The moment is what builds our connection to the divine. I wonder how our experiences with loss and what we do with them can build these moments, or build on these moments. When I have encountered mortality, through the loss of loved ones, I’ve had these moments of feeling the interconnectedness of life. It’s through my grieving that I understand life continues and not always in our human experience of breathing.

It’s hard to let go and admit that for myself. I’ve held my breath my entire life, as if I’m trying to control my experience of being alive. Ultimately, we can’t control when we will die. Holding my breath doesn’t control anything, it just makes my body more tight. When I let go and breath, I have more opportunity to experience the breadth of my emotions, of being alive. I’m actually more supple, can respond with more flexibility. But death is daunting. Even our ancestors felt the enormity of loss. We are physical beings and when someone dies, we lose an experience of connection on the physical plane that is so important to our souls growth. We come here in physical form for a reason. One of those reasons is to experience loss and grapple with how to live in these earth body sacks with more grace and integrity. We can’t control who will live and who will die but we can control the actions that define our lives and align those actions with love.

When people are killed unnecessarily or die because of systemic oppression, I question who is this god who decides, who will live and who will die?

Judaism is a religion where we wrestle with understanding justice. The Akedah, the binding of Isaac Abraham and Sarah stepping into the ring when Abraham “hears” a voice from god telling him to kill his son, Isaac, to prove his allegiance to god. But when he goes to do it, something in him stops and he does not kill his own son. Here’s how I and some other feminists chose to remember this story: As Abraham was about to kill his own kid, he heard his wife Sarah who was over a hundred years old, wailing, begging him to stop.

I’m here because of my first ancestor, Sarah. She called out in her grief, with her breath, to save a life. Every year on the high holidays we blow the shofar, to awaken our souls to what we must be, who we must become. It’s Sarah, calling out to us, reminding us to call out, with our breath, to remember expressing our pain can save a life.

But where is Sarah’s voice in the story? Instead we hear about the angel that supposedly talked to Isaac, telling him to hold back from killing his son. I think Sarah was the angel. The disappearance of Sarah’s voice in the story is relevant, what gets left out of these stories are sparks of voices we now want to lift up.

The other part of this story is about Hagar and Ismael. Because Sarah is threatened by Ishmael’s life and the possibility of her son Isaac, not becoming the heir, she banishes Hagar and Ismael. Ismael goes on to be the first ancestor (or was it Hagar?) of Islam. We see in this story that pain and grief in one can cause pain and grief in another if our actions are not aligned with love. Humans are so complicated.

We also see in this story how deeply entwined we are as Jews with Muslims. We literally share the same ancestors. I was deeply moved this week to hear about a vigil in NYC Jews for Racial and Economic Justice did, for the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue, with Muslims surrounding them in a protective circle.

When I first heard of the attack at Tree of Life synagogue, I felt scared. My first thought went to Palestine. Dang, the Israeli right is somehow going to use this to justify more attacks on Gaza and Trump is going to make sure every friggin synagogue in the U.S. is protected by cops. Then, I thought of my friend, from my Hebrew priestess community who is a Jew of color living in Pittsburgh. Isn’t that her synagogue where she leads services? Is Keshira ok? I quickly went to our groups Facebook page and read, she was. Thank the goddess. It was not the synagogue she leads services, but the one she grew up in, was married in. And now, she was stepping up to the immediacy of the moment offering support, leadership and as she always does, love. The complexity of her identity as a Jew of color in this moment was not lost on me. I felt the depth of her courage.

Next, I told my mom what had happened. She immediately started crying and we embraced. She let go and said, “I can’t. I can’t deal with this right now.” What she was referring to was the enormity of grief she felt. Because it wasn’t just her grief, it was the grief of generations of Jews who had been killed by hate crimes. And no one person can hold the enormity of that grief.

I have a joke with a friend of mine where we make light of difficult and, light things by saying: it’s not that deep. Hey, I’m going to be late for lunch. No worries, it’s not that deep. Um, so, ends up rabbinical Judaism kind of erased all of women and gender non conforming people out of our history. Eh, sarcastically, it’s not that deep.

Ends up it is that deep. Patriarchy is deep. White supremacy, is that deep.

The terror we feel in our cells as Jews because of this hate crime is real, today. It also stimulates an epigenetic memory of pogroms, holocaust and a milenia of being blamed, othered, stigmatized and violently acted upon, because of our religion. Because this is the truth of our history, it’s been passed down, through our cells and we understand these things viscerally. The recent attacks at Tree of Life Synagogue bring to life for many of us who are Ashkenazi Jews, a modern day terror. It reminds us that white supremacy is real and alive for those of us who have spent our lives with the privilege of being seen as white. After World War II Jews came back from fighting the nazi’s and not only did the western world beg our forgiveness (I realize this is a simplification) by helping to colonize Palestine (to their benefit) but also by granting us in the census, white status. We have since had our history remembered through the mass media and our culture largely recognizes and feels an empathic solidarity with it.

What I see in the world is Black, Brown and Indigenous people haven’t had that experience. they don’t have the widespread empathy Ashkenazi Jews have. They have been in constant danger since the inception of the United States. They have never had the reprieve of whiteness that Ashkenazi Jews have received. Nor the widespread cultural understanding of their pain. And now in this moment, that cultural understanding does not protect us, as we understand in the sinew of our bones that we may be white, but we are still Jews. We now have a recent experience of the deadliness of white supremacy. We can know something of the immediate feelings of terror our black friends have when they hear a cop has murdered another black person. With this recent tragedy we get to understand in our bones that white supremacy won’t let any of us who aren’t cis white able bodied Christians forget who we are and we can commit again to the struggle to end it, for all people. Because white supremacy wants to invisibilize trans people, take healthcare away from many of us, most directly affecting and potentially killing people with disabilities. It wants to deny climate chaos and global warming brought on by human self centeredness. It doesn’t see that poisoning our waters will kill all living beings.

We must weave this terror we feel into the struggle for justice for all people, remember that similar hate crimes happened very recently. As my friend kohenet Orev Katz reminded me, this happened at the Québec City Islamic Cultural Centre Mosque shooting - January 29th, 2017, 6 people killed, 19 injured, and of course the tragic Charleston Church shooting - June 17, 2015 9 people killed, 3 injured. Even the day before the Tree of Life synagogue shooting, a white supremacist attempted to enter a black church, wasn’t able to and instead killed two black people in a nearby Kroger’s parking lot. We will pay reverence for all these people when we say the kaddish.

Despite it’s anti-semitism, our administration still aligns itself with Israel. Many choose to see that as proof that they are not anti-semitic. But as Jews, we know, Israel is not Judaism. I feel Palestinian liberation must be woven into the fight against white supremacy as much as Indigenous solidarity work here on Turtle Island.

The murders at Tree of Life synagogue wreck us with grief. We may not know anyone who was killed but the grief is ours because we feel it. We are animals. Our grief is animalistic. We need to hold and be held. We need to love and be loved. We need to cry and shake and wail because we are animals, earth bodies moving in time with all the other celestial beings.

Grief teaches us to love. Grief teaches us the ethics of being alive if we choose to head it’s call. First we grieve, then we act. Sometimes, when fascism is nipping at our heels, we grieve while we act. Our action, done with love is what transforms our grief, it changes our cells. It saves lives. We need your one act of reaching out for help, reaching out to someone you know, or don’t know. We need your vulnerability of feeling, of questioning, of saying, I don’t know what to do, help me understand what to do. We need you loving and supporting those who are most affected by systemic oppression. Your one act of feeling is what we need. We need your grief.

White supremacy does not control us but there are many white supremacist in political power right now that are deeply motivated by greed and it deeply affects our lives.

Because this is deep, we need a deep well of support to make it through. We need community and we need those who tell the truth and don’t hide from the depth.

When we experience the infinite, when we know god in one breath, this knowing begins to define our lives. It may not be god in a traditional sense, whatever that even means. It might not be some grandiose thing. Simple magic happens in the moments, a hand reached out, a hand received. It might be in the moment when we call a friend in need, it might be when we mend a broken relationship, it might be when we say that thing we’re terrified to say, interrupting the status quo, when we rewrite the dominant history to include all the stories. let our hearts change through the grief we feel, listen to someone who experiences different systemic oppression than we do. We can’t control white supremacy but we can decide to align our actions with the struggle to end it. So take a deep breath in. Exhale. This is an act of love.



Venus Retrograde, a visit from the literal Moon Angels

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Today I was visited by a Moon Angel. I literally picked it, from my deck ;). This is no coincidence (not much is if you ask me). Those of us who are female identified, non binary, trans and women (and many cis men too) have collectively been triggered by societal’s refusal to acknowledge sexual assault. I have been too. This morning, on the first day of my moon, when my body is particularly vulnerable and blood is gushing out of my body, I’m scared I won’t be able to do stuff for too long, because I often get debilitating cramps. I needed the gentle reminder:

You are a mammal. You are soft. Air touches your skin. Remember a hand on your cheek. Remember when fire was new and the cold rock we call the moon rested its memory in your chest.

In your vulnerability:

You are surrounded by moon angels.

The planets, stars and space all want you to experience their beauty and protection.

* * *

We are amidst an incredible fall, literal and figurative. Venus is working with us to help us transform on a potentially deep level. We’re crying, kicking and screaming for good reason. This kind of rage is positive, anger moves energy and drives revolutions. When the anger is coming from legitimate feelings of being hurt we can use it to build the foundation for our revolution.

Venus, central to our current evolution is offering us gifts to work with this anger. I’ve been studying astrology with an astrologer, Rosie Finn I’ve long admired and learned from here in Olympia. Though I’m just a beginner at astrology, I’m pairing it with my learnings from the Sefer Yetzirah, a mystical Jewish text. I hope my beginner mind paired with my priestess training can bring you practical magic to make real change.

On October 5th, Venus went retrograde. We’re 11 days in! Unlike the Mercury retrograde which gets a bad rep (though not bad at all, depends on how you look at it), Venus retrograde helps us transform something big around our creative life, love life, sense of abundance, feelings of harmony, relationship with beauty and how we share our gifts with the world.

Venus wants us to evolve, to meet her. According to esoteric astrology, Venus is an enlightened planet and Earth is in the process of becoming enlightened. Venus hangs out near us in the solar system to help us evolve and meet her evolutionarily.

According to mystical Jewish thought, Venus is associated with the letter kaf, Friday, the directions of up (which makes sense in terms of evolving towards the stars) and I also personally think, down (which also makes sense for integration), grace, love, lust, children and fruitfulness or, abundance. All very similar to mundane astrology (the common astrology we see in most media).


The time leading up to October 5th, Venus was moving forward, bringing up issues that we now have the opportunity to transform during the retrograde. We are deep in the transformation at this point. Because Venus began the retrograde in Scorpio, the depth of our stuff was being revealed. Collectively we are seeing this as the #Metoo movement founded by Tarana Burke amped up (and will continue to for quite a while).

Rosie pointed out this week that many of the key players in the Kavanaugh case have 9 degrees Aquarius (so does Oprah). 9 degrees Aquarius is a power point, these are people who help us move collectively towards our collective vision. Strange it would be a bunch of power hungry misogynists (minus Oprah of course, she’s the shining example of 9 degrees Aquarius). But these people are helping more people understand what they are pushing back against. We often clarify our vision by understanding what we don’t want. The biggest lesson in all this is: our strength comes from what we say no to. The more people saying no to this outrageous regime is the more people saying yes to:

  • Celebrating vulnerability

  • The strength of survivors

  • Believing women, trans people, non binary people and survivors of all genders

  • Survivors Thriving

  • Healing

  • Healing the earth

  • The right to choose (yes, talking about abortions)

  • Getting closer to love

How to Make this Venus Retrograde work for you:

Here are the basics of what you need to know and practical ways to make this time work for you. The retrograde last about 42 days, the first half should be focused on what you are letting go of. What’s keeping you from your personal offerings of beauty to the world. In the kabbalah the central point of the tree of life is beauty, tiferet. You have 11 more days to focus on letting go. Here’s a practice to guide the rest of the letting go period of the Venus retrograde:

  1. Make an intention for what you want to get out of this time. Pick a card from the Moon Angels deck to guide your intention (or another deck).

  2. Then, make a list/journal about what’s getting in the way of you manifesting your beautiful truths.

  3. Put it on an altar dedicated to Venus: think red, silver, things you associate with beauty, love, grace and money or abundance.

  4. Focus some time every day, even just a few minutes on letting these things slip from your body into the earth to be transformed. Your body will be in collaboration with the earth body (which is you) on our evolution to enlightenment.

  5. At the end of the first 21 days (of the retrograde), October 24th during the full moon in Aries which is the ram, blow the shofar (ram’s horn), inviting your breath and the ram to move into the action. Or, make a deep sound into your pillow or let out an intentional deep breath to transmit the energy to the earth.

  6. A ritual where you burn what you are letting go of will also be in order. Burn rosemary and cedar and other plant allies to help transform these things, floating them up into the air, up to the stars.

Within the next couple days you can begin your next ritual (I’ll post another ritual next week before the full moon which will also include how to work with the shadow energy of Venus, when she is not visible to our sight.

The second half of the retrograde you will be focusing on what you want to bring in. The depth of this retrograde falls during Samhain and the dark time of the year, when the veil is thin and the ancestors are nearby. They really want to work with us for this transformation!

I realize it may seem counterintuitive to do a releasing ritual while the moon is becoming full but the energy of Venus in the first few weeks of her retrograde supports this. Think about as saying no, is saying yes.


In the Land of Rainbows, Rage Heals

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No matter what, no matter what those in economical and political power say, I believe, you believe and we are building something no one can ever take away.

Thank you Christine Blasey Ford for being our hero. On the heels of another hero, Anita Hill (all hale), who as a black woman in the early nineties paved the path that many of us have walked since then. This is all part of the foundation we, our ancestors of thrivors and survivors have been building. And now, the revolution is building dears. By 2026 (I’ve been studying astrology) this crap will be fully crumbling. Let your grief fuel your life right now, let your tears quench the thirst you are dying (this is literal, we and our planet will die if we do not release this grief and let it transform us) to heal.

Rage heals. Our anger is a storm, when the storm settles, the light of our bright souls shines through. When the sun comes out after a storm, we make rainbows. This time it’s a rage rainbow.

I’m realizing that the year I was raped as a teenager, was the year Anita Hill was making testimony. Wow, life has a way of circling us back around. Bringing us back to times over and over again so we can receive deeper healing.

Like the cycle of water are the cycles of our life. This year I have cycled back around myself, in a deep way. I’m humbled by the gratitude I feel at this moment in my life. The chance I get to heal something very deep with the land I am now on.

Forgive my radio silence dear ones. It has been an extremely full handful of months. I’ve finally landed, back in the land of rainbows: Olympia, Washington. After many moons away I have returned to this land of the Chehalis, Nisqually and Squaxin, on the Salish Sea.

For the most part I loved living in California and Philadelphia but the last year and nine months have been particularly challenging around home. I moved eight times, not the kind of diaspora I seek out. It’s also been three years of a heavy Pluto transit that rocked my ideas of relationship, family and home, calling me to some dark places. At times I embraced it and at times it just felt like living in a middle of a chrysalis (not fun actually). I have a home in Olympia and that was a big part of my decision to move back. (Plus a dream about a baby sperm whale, but that’s a story for another time!) Now that Pluto is cycling out, I am currently happily puttering around the house and yard, hanging out with the grapes and hummingbirds, honeysuckle and oak, and reuniting with human friends. A rainbow graced my neighborhood right before the close of Yom Kippor filling up the whole sky. I took that as a big blessing for the beginning of a year full of transformation and delight.

This weekend is the end of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, our last days of celebrations until Chanukah. Sukkot is the harvest holiday and the one where we pray, dance and sing for rain! Us Jews have been celebrating it up the last couple months. These last few holidays are the ones that soak us in love, help us create silos of love to last us through the winter, give us a chance to begin again, filled to the brim with community and celebration.

Autumn and the Land of Rainbows

Happy Autumn! Happy Sukkot! This is the time of year we reap the harvest.  It’s also my favorite Jewish holiday. In ancient times Jews spent this week in a great festival dancing and praying for rain, giving thanks to the waters and earth and working hard, bringing the bounty of the food into the sukkah (impermanent structure that was open on four sides and you could see the stars from the roof). Sukkot is a week long, it began on Sunday and ends this coming Sunday.

I celebrated on Sunday by building the most beautiful sukkah I ever did see with friends here in Olympia. As the ancients did, we poured libations of well water over stones, beckoning the rains, acknowledging the holy cycles of water. I lit one of the soul candles I made on Erev Yom Kippor (the day before Yom Kippor, see Narrow Bridge Candles for more on this ritual) as a symbol of the lamps that were burned, soaked in old worn priests (and priestesses, as I like to remember it) clothing in the temple times. We sang our hearts out and gorged on dishes filled with garden vegetable delight!

My friend and fellow kohenet Nomy Lamm made a lulav (a bundle of plants most in need of water) made of skullcap, blueberry, willow and a gourd. My teacher Rav Kohenet Jill Hammer teaches that the lulav represents the four parts of the body. Traditionally these plants have been: the palm representing the spine and fire; the willow leaves, the mouth and water; the myrtle, the eyes and air; and the round citron, the heart and the earth. We called upon the dreams of our bodies and the dreams of the stars and plant spirits to source our joy and expressed our gratitude.

We welcomed in the ushpizin, the benevolent ancestors as is the tradition of each day of Sukkot, welcoming them into the tabernacle of the sukkah. Friends who are Indigenous to Turtle Island were also welcomed in our festivities. To me, this cultural sharing is an important part of being in diaspora. Where once I was withholding of my Jewish practices, scared that people would appropriate and misuse the rituals, I have become generous in the sharing. My Lakota friends who shared their ways so generously despite having experienced such extreme genocide on their land have inspired this in me.

As a Jew, I take to heart that I am in diaspora as an identity, a political and spiritual way of life. As Jews, our story is one of diaspora and that is where our strength lies. We have always had a culture of sharing our rituals with the people of the land we make home on. As an uninvited guest on Turtle Island, I feel there is healing in sharing and hope that the rituals of my ancestors will help bring healing to the destruction that’s been done here.

The last day of Sukkot, is the day of great praise, Hoshanah Rabbah, this Sunday. There is a practice of walking in a circle seven times behind one another (just like the Jewish wedding practice of circling seven times!), holding the plants of the lulav and etrog and reciting ancient poetry, asking for rain. Each time you complete the circle you ask for a different kind of fertility and each time around represents a different mystical attribute of Goddess. This circling ritual represents the cycle water makes. We use our water bodies, to praise and emulate the cycle of water.

Practice:

This week is a great time to think about what you can harvest in your body, speak with a friend or journal about these questions. Pick a Moon Angel card or a tarot card for each of these questions. Feel the plants of the lulav living in your body.

·      As the palm rises in your spine, what fire of gratitude do you want to stand up strong with, in your integrity?

·      With the willow in your mouth, what words of gratitude do you want to flow out to the world?

·      With the myrtle in your eyes, what visions of spirit do you want to blink into this present moment and then breath back in?

·      With the etrog, the citron in your heart, how will you align your beating heart to the earth’s heartbeat? Can you feel a simultaneous pulsing? This is the care the earth has for you, she is ready to align with you whenever you want it.

(As with all meditation, only do this to the point you feel comfortable, some people experience a retriggering of trauma in meditation, if you feel that coming on, please stop and take care of yourself)

Water Meditation: Feeling the cycle of water in your body.

Find a place you can comfortably relax. Feel the places your body touches material, other parts of your body. Take some breaths, keep your eyes open or closed.

Imagine a light rain starting to fall on your body. Feel the water enter through the top of your head, the place that was soft when you were a baby. Imagine it filling you up, to the edges of your skin, as the culmination of all your favorite water forms: springs with moss, morning dew, a cold lake on a hot day, humid ocean breezes, summer storms, a jungle waterfall, a sacred well, a rushing river. As your body floods with water sensations, elicit a feeling of gratitude for the earth for providing you with all these thoughts. Sit with those feelings for however long you like.

Then, elicit all of your understanding of your water body functioning: Your tears, your cum, your drool, pee, blood. Breath with these understandings. Feel your heart pumping blood, your stomach gurgling, the sensation of having to pee, beginning to feel turned on, the saliva developing in your mouth. Sit with those feelings for however long you like.

Take some deep breaths, come back to your current space. Take a sip of water and integrate your water love.



We begin Sivan in Heartbreak: Love for Gaza

Dear Ones,

I know I am going to lose a lot of you with what I’m about to say. I can no longer leave any semblance of my politics at the door. I know my business hurts because I share my politics at all. But it’s who I am and there’s no way to not speak directly and completely at this point.

In 2001 I was politicized about the Palestinian situation, by an Israeli, Simona Sharoni. Because she was an Israeli, for me, she was positioned to help process and quickly break denial about the Palestinian situation. I'm forever grateful to this woman, who was one of the people who started Women in Black and who continues to do groundbreaking work. In my process, I made art, I lost relationships. I will continue to. I’m not someone who believes in spiritual bypassing, trust me, I’ve tried it, I can’t do it.

Ever since I was first politicized about Palestine, part of my coping from the immense grief and horror I felt was to deepen my Jewish life and practice. If you are interested in my work, you have to know where it came from. I turned to making a Judaism of my own because I saw what a U.S. Judaism centered in zionism could do to our psyche’s. I saw what a straight Judaism could do to my psyche. I couldn’t do it.

Before the torah (bible) was written, before there were rabbi’s, long ago, Jews lived with the earth. We prayed to sand, we remembered we came from stars and planets. On an atomic level, we allowed our bodies to memorize these things. When you feel in the depth of your soul that you are an earth body, when you worship fur and eyes and burning bushes (there’s an actual bush, that actually burns), you know the value of a heart beat. These memories are still in my cells, and yours too. This memory is what fuels my work, it is a work of love. This memory understands justice. This memory makes me proud to be a Jewish ancestor.

An anti-zionist Judaism, aligning with Palestinian self-determination will save the Jewish people. In the cosmic web of our future existence, we need to be anti-zionist. Many Jews have known this since the first whispers of zionism were born. Aligning with Palestinian self-determination is an act of love.

We are in harrowing, heartbreaking times. My heart is heavy with the massive killings of Palestinians. I can’t really write or think about much else. That is how pain works. Our attention goes toward pain because our presence and actions are what heal pain.

When our bodies are physically hurt, cells rush to the place of the injury giving extra attention, giving it energy, that’s how the healing happens.

The same is true of our minds and spiritual lives. When there is an emotional trauma or breaking, we focus there. We talk to friends, we obsess, we journal, we feel it a lot. We put energy there.

The same is true in the world. When there is pain and suffering, that part of the world needs our energy for healing.

Usually when we ignore our physical, emotional, spiritual or worldly pain, it becomes worse, it dements. That is what happened from the trauma of the Nazi holocaust. The world used atomic bombs (I really think they are called atomic bombs because their intention is kill atomic memory in our bodies and the earth body), the Nazi’s participated in genocide and somehow everyone thought the healing for this was to create an only Jewish country and displace ¾ a million people, creating an apartheid state. A lot of people thought this was a good idea.

Sivan, the month we have just entered, is the month of action. Action is energy.

Gaza needs our energy. Palestine has needed our energy for decades. The U.S. government (aka, for those of us who live in the U.S., our dollars) has been giving Israel energy since its inception- in the form of money. We give over 3 billion a year to them. The majority of this money goes to the military! We are funding this horror. We need to change the energy. We need to redirect this money to Palestine, to healing.

Please acknowledge the Nakba, the “catastrophe” as Palestinians call it, the anniversary of the the formation of Israel 70 years ago, please give Palestine our energy. Grieve for Palestine and keep dreaming of a free Palestine. Let’s keep remembering this historic Great Return March: feel the flight of the kites flying through the air, hear the feet dancing the dabke, see the celebrations-the weddings and hearts singing. Let your heart break for the children’s lives lost, the sons, daughters, bodies maimed by the Israeli government. Let the fierce self-determination and incredible peaceful organizing by a people living in an open air-prison, fill your body with strength to fight fight fight act act act.

Jerusalem is not a zionist prize. Zionism is not Judaism. Standing up against violence and injustice is very Jewish. Please stand with Palestine and Gaza and join the long history of the black liberation movement, indigenous rights movement and people all over the world.

Believe in Palestine.

I work with Jewish Voice for Peace and these are some amazing resources:

Sign this emergency petition

Call your state reps - ask them to speak out against the killings and violence in Gaza, and the Israeli occupation/apartheid in Palestine. Ask them to end military and security ties with Israel.

Find out about current actions/protests in your city

Weaving A Life

 Weaving hands and earth in ritual on Ohlone land. From the film: Release from Identity Control by Rebekah Erev & Wu Li Leung

Weaving hands and earth in ritual on Ohlone land. From the film: Release from Identity Control by Rebekah Erev & Wu Li Leung

As Spring is teasing us at the beginning of March, we’re listening to plants, the wind, and flowers, to receive sweet messages. In the same way, we can also listen to our bodies for information. Our bodies are made up of the same literal substance as everything else we see in the natural world. We are all a part of this miraculous web.

Literally. When we get down to the atomic level, everything is made of the same stuff. It’s an illusion that we are separate. Our ancestors knew this. I think the concept of god was developed by humans because we were just so damn amazed at the presence we were experiencing. Because we were gifted a mind, aware of our experience, we needed to conceptualize what we were experiencing. Thus, god.

But the concept I think our ancestors were trying to explain was much more vast than common conceptions. It was more like an experience of being a part of an intricate woven system, where we were both the weavers and being woven. When we can experience this connection, of co-weaving, we can build on a foundation that was gifted to us when we were born.

Weaving a life is embracing our unique abilities and offerings. When we understand physically how we are both completely unique and completely the same, it’s liberating.

I basically see our similarity coming down to one simple concept: pain.

Pain, the most motivating feeling on the planet.

Pain motivates us to change. Change is the essence of life. In the weaving of our life, if love is the weft, pain is the warp.

We work for justice because we understand our own pain to be universal. EVERYONE is in pain. A lot of pain. And we want to change that.

As far as I’ve discerned in my tiny life so far:

  1. Our capacity for joy is completely related to our ability to sit with pain: ours and, others.

  2. Pain is relative to one’s own experience. What’s painful to one person may be minor to another. Everyone has different thresholds depending on a million factors of experience, circumstance and the physical manifestation of the body they were born into.

  3. Pain is related to circumstance. It’s none of our business (as in, we didn’t consciously choose our physical, mental, and nuero functioning abilities). We don’t have control over our race, gender, sexuality, or class we are born into either. We live in a world that systematically treats people differently related to these things. They affect our level of pain because of how we are treated by others, our access to medical treatment and our resources for self-care and family care.

  4. Having experiences where we understand that you can live through pain creates resilience. Experiencing atomic memory (the memory that lies in our cells) of our ancestors living in us and the pain they went through, can also help build this resilience.

  5. When we unite with others to liberate their pain, it gives us more resources to live with our pain. In a world that is often unjust this is what freedom can look like.

  6. As many in disability movements talk about: We are all moving towards disability. We are all getting older. Our abilities change as we age. We are all fragile human bodies vulnerable to chance. Our abilities (and our lives for that matter) can change in the blink of an eye. Although having access to money and living in industrialized countries lessens the chance dramatically: It is still very possible. No one is immune to the cold hard fact of having a body.

  7. How we treat our own bodies mimics how we treat the earth body. We can feel her pain and she feels ours.

Protect Your Joy

Please. Please protect your joy. You are a precious universe, you in this body, at this time, on this planet.

In this time of the new moon, you have the opportunity to let go of self-criticism, blame and taking on more responsibility than is yours. Pine is a tree that can support you to take responsibility for what’s yours and then, to move on. This tree that stays green through the winter months reminds us of the verdant growth our hearts are capable of when we focus on joy. Our self-critic doesn’t leave much room for glimmers in our eyes and bursts of laughter.

The best, most effective way of protecting our joy is by cultivating more joy. Noticing in our days when we find those singular moments. I notice them in the sound of the rain, the warmth of my bed, petting a kitty, noticing the lush green of a plant, laughing at myself and joking with people on the street.

Adar, this month we are entering, is the month of joy in Judaism. The bubbling up of sap, leaking from the trees comes on in Adar. Things get sticky, in a good way. Purim, is the holiday of satire and gawdiness and falls in Adar. It’s a holiday to get so mixed up, you forget right from wrong and dance so hard and laugh so much your body exhausts itself into deep lucid dreaming.

Happy Rosh Chodesh Adar! Chodesh Adar Tov!

Practice: This month, before you fall asleep at night, remember three moments of joy from your day. Bring yourself back to those moments, letting the sensations hum over your body, filling your senses with a feeling of joy.

Blessing: May this month bring unabashed joy. May you express your joy with wild abandon! Walk down the street singing! Wink at a child in line at the grocery! Hug a tree! Tell bad jokes! Tell good jokes! Make sweet love to the universe!

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the Hebrew month. Rosh Chodesh has ancient roots. This monthly celebration falls the day after the new moon, when we see the first sliver of the moon in the night sky.

Visit my website for more information on Rosh Chodesh and my suggestions for DIY (do-it-yourself) ritual, here.

Shvat 2018: Manifesting the Tree Bodies and Tu’b’shvat

The sap is rising dear ones. Can you feel it in your body? Can you feel it in the trees? Happy Tu b’Shvat! Next Tuesday night is the beginning of the New Year of Trees. In Judaism we have four new years within the calendar year-- which means we’re always getting a chance to begin anew and renew our intentions! Or, if you missed one of the new years, you get three extra chances. Thank you Judaism for always having our backs.

Today is a sunny, gorgeous day in Philadelphia. Thank you goddess! The park by my studio has been locked, but today they opened it so I could get away from the EMF’s (Electro magnetic field emissions from mobile phones and wifi) and hug a tree. I’ve been working with the oak tree body/spirit since September and I love this epic beauty that’s home to so many squirrels and birds, insects and earthworms, spores and fungi and all the humans who walk by.

The spirit of oak is grounding, faith-building, and steady. It is helpful for letting go of worries, building resilience in hard times, and is a connector to our ancestors. In Judaism, it is a symbol of strength and the possibility of growth when things have been destroyed.

This time of year we are deep into winter, we’ve been hibernating. This time of rest and going inward gives us a chance to lay down the roots for what will come alive in the spring. I am seriously into this living with the seasons again. Although the Instagram-induced fantasies of sparkling San Francisco Bay water are ever present, I am grateful to remember the gifts of the cold, and the dark.

I’ve found a home, and after being very transient (to say the least) for the last year, this stability is everything. I love falling asleep in a comfortable bed (the same comfortable bed, over and over again, the same comfortable bed), knowing exactly where the tea is kept, being able to host people and not having to worry about MOLD. Simple things.

In this time of celebrating trees I also am focusing my prayers towards Palestinian people whose lives have been tragically affected by the Israeli government cutting down a big source of their sustenance, olive trees.

There is a teaching in Judaism that when the Jews were liberated from slavery and the Red Sea parted, fruit trees bloomed and birds landed in them, singing the Jews into their liberation. This Shabbat is Shabbat Shirah, the “Sabbath of songs” and there is an Eastern European tradition of feeding birds and the tale of crossing the sea is chanted.

Today I am making a donation in honor of healing and Palestinian self-determination by supporting Palestinian refugees with UNRWA. May we soon know the day when we can sing Palestinians into freedom.

I love Cannan, a Palestinian company for olive oil!

I also love this art by Micah Bazant and prayer by Rabbi Brant Rosen.

Forever grateful to Rabbi and Kohenet Jill Hammer for her wisdom in the Book of Days, a constant reference.

Tevet 2018: Blame Everything On Patriarchy

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You’ve been a year 2017. I send you off on the wings of Shekinah (Jewish name for feminine aspect of god) via the wings of a tawny owl. Off you go, into the frost of winter. You aren’t my year (the Jewish year follows the moon and began in September) but you are a placement of time many of us have been forced to acknowledge.

In many ways 2017 was the archetype of patriarchy we all want to see go. Bye bye buddy.

In Celtic tradition (I’ve got that ancestry on my pop’s side) owl, calilleach-oidhche represents a wisdom that turns disadvantage into advantage. The owl uses night to her advantage, a time many have come to fear during patriarchies rise. We too are using what we have been told to fear, to our advantage.

We’ve been told to be quiet but we’re being loud, fierce in our love. More than anything I am inspired by the uproar and force of movements to transform racism and our relationship with earth, movements based on dreaming alive what’s born in our imaginations, that our ancestors and future generations are whispering to us. Movements based on truth telling of horrors to claim a stake on love, justice and healing. I have eternal gratitude to the black, femme, indigenous, trans, fat and disabled people who are the core of our movements. Thank you.

The snake teaches us that our soul dies and is reborn within our lifetimes. It is a sexual energy that literally brings us alive and this energy also goes with us to death. As awful as things have been this year, on Turtle Island (North America) many of our literal ancestors have survived and thrived through intense horror. Some of my literal ancestors have also been the agents of destruction. I feel my work in the world is to transmute the legacy of destruction and activate the legacy of resistance and resilience.

The snake is a symbol of sexual power and the beginning of life in many traditions. Like DNA, the snake is life. Snakes have gotten demonized because of patriarchy. Just think about the snake in the Garden of Eden. That was an attempt to bring down the snake goddess and matriarchal goddess worship. Welp, it worked for many years but now we are taking it all down now!!!

One interpretation from the end of the Sefer Yetzirah (the precursor to the kabbalah, a Jewish mystical text) is that planet earth hangs from a serpent. 4,500 years ago the pole star was in Draco’s tail. The Roman myth of this constellation is that Minerva, goddess of wisdom and strategic warfare battled this serpent and threw him into the sky. Draco is the constellation by the north pole, this is perhaps the constellation from which we hang. I love this mythology of the earth hanging from a serpent whose been thrown to the sky by a warrior goddess.

These are my thoughts behind the symbology of the Moons 2018 image:

The hands: The hands on the dagger are in positions some of us use during sex. When we receive sexual pleasure we have an opportunity to invoke the divine. Divinity meaning whatever is significant to you personally. What happens when we create space for the divine to be present during pleasures? We cross our fingers as an invocation for luck, good things. What we embody with our hands we symbolically and metaphorically make manifest in the world.

The moons: New moons and full moons, each in opposite bodies. Moon bodies in serpent bodies. Symbolizing the light in the dark and the dark in the light. Life and death in each other, cycling, wrapped up in each other. Following the cycle of the cold rock in the sky body to fully experience the rapture and pain of our own earth bodies.

Saturn: Manifesting with responsibility, honoring the integrity of our dreams and our destiny, our daily routines, the work of taking steps, being patience, and seeing the bigger picture over small indulgences, details.

The sword: Using our fire, our passion to draw boundaries. Creating boundaries by becoming more and more of ourselves, more embodied in our creative, sexual energy. Cutting through bullshit. The best boundaries come from being ourselves, unapologetically. If you give zero fucks, even if you get fucked with, you still have yourself, your sense of connection to who you are.

The tongues: Sensuality, pleasure, made in the shape of a vulva. Intention in how we come together, join with each other in our creative/sexual desires and dreams. Tasting all of what life has to offer.

The serpent/draco/snake creatures: wrapping themselves around the sword in a figure eight, the mark of eternity. We touch eternity when our boundaries are clear.

The whole shebang: The Caduceus-looking image of this whole piece is actually a reference to an ancient Sumerian goddess, Ningishzida (not everyone agrees she is a goddess, some think she was a god) a deity of plant life and the underworld. When beings (plants) die they go to Ningishzida’s underworld. As parts of us die, they go to a place protected by a goddess who transforms the dead into new life. Many Kabbalists (Jewish mystics) speak of the words of the torah (bible) being black fire and the space in between the letters as being white fire. This image is painted in black and white to represent the fire visible and the fire inside, that which is not visible.

 Taking in 2018 like a priestess. 

Taking in 2018 like a priestess. 

 

This has been an extremely difficult year for me personally as I know it has been for many. I’ve moved a handful of times, once cross country as a single person, once because of a fire in my home and once because of a terrible mold problem that was affecting me neurologically and physically. I’ve supported my chosen family and a child through an extremely scary abuse situation, been severely depressed, participated in and ended a dysfunctional relationship and struggled with chronic health issues.

I’ve also accomplished things that I never thought were possible. (I know this is true for many of you too. And honestly, going through the hard stuff is a huge accomplishment as well.) Things I never even dreamed about. I’m directing and producing a film about queers and the Jewish ritual of water immersion, Queer Mikveh Project. I went to Toronto this past month to shoot for it. I had a residency and show in Oakland at CTRL+SHFT before I left California. I have reconciled that not all my childhood dreams will come true but the dreams of my soul are unfolding in real time. I have embraced that at almost 40, I am single and am going to try and get pregnant this year. I have worked to support the acknowledgement of an ancient Ohlone (name given to indigenous people of the SF Bay Area by Europeans) and Lisjan site (and taught my “soulmate” kid friend who I homeschooled about it and she created the most awesome zine about it ever!). I’ve been rejected by grants and artist residencies that I put my heart into. I’ve felt a depth of gratitude for friends, family, my resilience, liberation movements and community. And, I am committed to loving myself as I am, with more dedication than ever before.

This year I commit to and continue to commit to:

Being authentic in all aspects of my life.

Being vocal about injustice and taking action in my community, nationally, and internationally.

Having more fun and letting my freak flag fly!

Standing beside Palestinians in their self-determination.

Uplifting, listening to and supporting Indigenous people of Turtle Island to receive reparations.

Loving my earth body and our Gaia body. Listening to our lullabies and tantrums.

Expressing my gifts and sharing them with the world.

Reading more books by black feminists and following their lead.

Supporting and aligning with those on the inside in the fight to abolish prisons.

Keeping a budget.

Writing more and making more art.

Learning more about Jewish rituals around death.

Teaching.

Finishing my second deck (which I have begun!)

Watching more T.V. and movies (I really need to do this!)

Spending time with people I love.

What do you commit to?

How can I support you in your commitments?

Anything you want to brag to me about?

Sivan 2017: We All Wanna Get High

Damn. This is my one year anniversary.

It might seem insignificant to some of you. But for me it’s huge. In my world, I’m killin it. It’s important to celebrate these victories. In a world where Tr**p kisses the wailing wall and makes billion dollar deals on the backs of billions of people, we need to celebrate ourselves and each other. What did you do today, this week, this past year that you’re proud of? I'm proud of you for lots of things, big things. But it could have been something simple like saying thank you or smiling at someone who needed some brightness in their day, when you were completely not in the fucking mood. Well, you did it anyway. And that’s awesome. You are awesome. You are. My accomplishment of the moment, I did this newsletter (translated here into my blog) for one whole year. (I bet you weren’t expecting that to be my anniversary brag. Welp, it is.)

WOOOOOOHOOOOOOOO!

The year has flown by. It’s literally like this hawk I saw last week at Baker Beach while scoping out the next Queer Mikveh location. She was flying and flying in place. She seemed like she wasn’t moving, but she was. She was just catching the wind, to keep herself steady in place while she very strategically eyed her prey and then dove down and attempted to catch a mouse or a hamster or a nutria* whatever it was, it was something delicious. I feel like in many ways I’ve been staying in place, relying on the natural elements, the natural course of life, the natural human desire to live, to carry me. But, I AM READY. GIVE IT TO ME WORLD. And just so you know, that hawk didn’t catch that animal but she was ready! So the point isn’t to get it. It’s to fly and enjoy the ride!

One of many things carrying me right now, is my deck. I still enjoy the journey it’s taking me on. I use it every day. I hear from many of you, it is serving you as well. I love hearing about your revelations and simple moments with the Moon Angels. I still care about sharing it as much as the first day it was born. You give it new life every time you find inspiration, comfort and joy. Every time it’s with you when you shed a tear, every time you lol**. Thank you for that. Thank you for sharing your vulnerability. That intimacy is what’s going to save this world.

I love all of you! Thank you for reading! Thank you for fighting the patriarchy! Thank you for being you, exactly as you are! Thank you for noticing flowers! Thank you for making art! Thank you for remembering the ancestors of this land! Thank you for living, for breathing, for blinking your eyes. All miracles in the face of the bullshit we are facing. We are facing it together.

*For anyone who’s never lived in Olympia Washington or Argentina, I hope you googled nutria.

**My mom signs every single text she sends me, lol. Which cracks me up, of course. Recently she told me, it doesn’t mean, “laugh out loud,” it means “lots of love.” Oye. Even more hilarious. I cannot even describe my level endearment for this woman.

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We are coming to the close of this thing in Judaism we call, counting the Omer. To be honest, I planned on writing about this every week. But you know what?! I had to move out of a moldy apartment and look for a new (mold free, affordable) place in the San Francisco Bay Area, no small feat. On top of that, my chosen family are in crisis which involves a four year old. So, this whole counting the Omer thing has taken on a new meaning this year and goddess knows, I didn’t have the time to write about it. But I got a few last morsels of wisdom for ya. Read on comrades, read on…

The day to day challenges of staying hopeful and alive in a country on the verge of collapse are significant. Yes, I still think in 50 years we will have fully entered the turning, the “Age of Aquarius” but it’s a rough ass road to get there and people are dying and suffering with intensity at the moment. This pain has probably brought a lot of you to your knees. This is what I learned from counting the Omer (so far) this year…

Chill the fuck out.

Shavuot, the holiday of revelation, is the last day of counting the Omer, it’s coming up, May 30th. It’s also the holiday of wisdom (it’s the day the Jews received the torah, the bible, the story). So of course, as a Capricorn, I’m into it. But also as a Capricorn, it’s difficult for me to follow the prior advice I just dropped for you.

How can you chill when the world is as it is? When I say chill, I don’t mean, do nothing. I mean, stop trying to do it perfectly. Mess up. Sob. Fall apart. Reach out for help. Get high (whatever that means for you, a sober or reefer kind of high). Dance like there are banana peels all over the floor. Laugh until you pee yourself.

Maybe not the kind of revelation you (or I) was expecting to get from counting the Omer but it’s what I got.

My blessing for you: My blessing for you is the same as my blessing for me. May we try less, follow our hearts more, let go, let the knowledge of living fuel our bodies to expression. May we be forever more weird and wild, care less what others think and act more like our 75 year old selves would have us act. That’s it, amen.

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This time last year I was making videos of all the cards for Hebrew Priestess TV. The very first one I made was this one, Hugging Diamonds. This card is a call to make what you see into something you love. To intentionally notice who and what you love. I wrote you a poem in honor of you and everything you see, that is a reflection of you.

You.

You see the sky.
You smell the sky.
It’s grey and soft and beautiful. The rain may come, it may be haze or smog. But your eyes are seeing it.
Moisture enters your nose.
All this means something about you.

You.

You hear a song.
It sounds good.
You feel the vibration in your body. You move. You breath. You want to dance or you dance or you want to keep listening.
Sometimes you cry.
All this means something about you.

You.

You smell a flower.
It’s color enters through your nostril. You are now, in this moment learning about impermanence.
You may talk to it, find out if it wants to come home with you.
It might say no. You are ok with that. Or, you’re not.
All this means something about you.

Mirrors are everywhere. You gonna see a grey hair as a blessing? If you hate it, it’s your fear of death and a societal obsession with youth. It just means you are human if you hate it. It just means you are human if you love it. It just means we are all dying, a little more, everyday.

Week 2: The Week of Strength and Judgement

  Me blowing glass at the glory hole. That’s what it’s called, a glory hole.

Me blowing glass at the glory hole. That’s what it’s called, a glory hole.

This second week of counting the Omer (check my post from a few posts ago about what the Omer even is) week I get out my anger at the bible for being so mean to women. I reflect on their stories and giving them the due respect they’ve been crying out through my cells for.

What does it mean to be strong? (Besides blowing molten glass through an iron rod. Yes, that used to be my job.) What does it mean to make wise judgements? (like besides eating breakfast. Although that can be very major sometimes.)

This second week of counting the Omer I’m inspired by the strength and discernment of the biblical women who took it in the ass for many of us who were to come. I assume before the time taking it in the ass was a positive since the bible set the tone for the antithesis of sex positivity.

This week I’m also feeling my body move, literally. I moved out of my mold stricken apartment and am still feeling the affects of it. Neurological and physical effects. I can’t believe I lived in that friggin apartment for three years. Yesterday a friend asked me if living in brain mold fuzz might have been beneficial. Maybe. Only in the way that ignorance can be bliss. That shit always catches up to you. But it ain’t nothing compared to the what the female’s in the bible went through.

4/18 - Day 8: Chesed she'begevurah, Love within Strength

Eve. First woman ever to disobey god, setting the tone for the rest of humanity! But she gets punished and has to live a regular life setting the tone for the rest of us. She has a pretty rough life too, her second son is murdered by her first son and she’s in hella pain during childbirth. But this woman keeps on keepin on. She keeps loving and living. That’s why she is our matriarch for today, to continue with a heart of gold even though you’ve basically been the first person to live a regular life takes strength.

4/19 - Day 9: Gevurah she'beGevurah, Strength within Strength

My favorite, Vashti: labeled a hoe (which, what the hell is wrong with that? It's actually a compliment people.) for saying no to the king epitomizing strength within strength.

4/20 - Day 10: Tiferet she'beGevurah, Compassion within Strength

Deborah: sits under a palm tree and claims her glory by going into battle with her counterpart Yael and basically kicks ass killing the enemy and then sings a glory song about it where she has a huge amount of empathy for the mother of the man they killed (even though it had to be done) She shows compassion within strength. Then she smokes a bowl.

4/21 - Day 11: Netzach she'beGevurah, Endurance within Strength

Today the counting of the Omer is about Dinah, Who's never given a voice even though she's raped and has to give up the child of the rape. We show our own endurance within strength when we have a voice and tell our own stories of survival.

4/22 - Day 12:  Hod she'beGevurah, Glory within Strength

The glory of beginning after tragedy. Yemima (Bright Day), Ketziah (Cassia Tree), and Keren-happuch (Horn of Eyeshadow) all inherit land in a time when only the boys got it. Through this strength they are given the glory of determining their own destinies. Plus, Keren-happuch is the coolest name ever (definitely naming my daughter Horn of Eyeshadow).

4/23 - Day 13: Yesod she'beGevurah, Connectivity Within Strength

She’ilah (questioner) is the most amazing woman in these stories. Her dad Jephthah get some convoluted message from God that he should kill her. He’s seriously fucked up. She does so many things to show him he shouldn’t kill her. Does he listen? No. But she rally’s her lady friends around her to celebrate her and her life. Then when her asshole of a father murders her, she

4/24 - Day 14: Malchut she'beGevurah, Majesty within Strength

I would love to know what the standards of beauty were in biblical times because Leah is always talked about as not as beautiful as Rachel. But dude, Leah gave birth at like 90 years old after birthing many more kids before that. Despite not being loved by her husband she’s resolute about being happy. She wants to be remembered for that. That’s majestic. I’d put a ring on it, Jacob was bananas.

The Jewish Month of Iyyar: Making a Home of Honey

Happy Rosh Chodesh Iyyar! Happy new moon! 

COMING OUT OF THE MOLD! It’s might be better than coming out of the closet. Although in this case the mold was literally coming out of my closet. So, there you have it folks, the irony of my existence.

Anyway! I got out of my moldy apartment and I got my email working (After 9 days! Blowing you a kiss on the wind to Mercury Retrograde). Bowing an apology to all the delayed responses! Eternally loving my dear mother for helping me do this move, love you forever mom!

I’m alive! I love each and everyone of you. Really, I do. I hold my newsletter readers near and dear. Yes, you! So thanks for bearing with me as my brain comes out of the mold cloud and my body gets up to speed from such an exhausting move.

It’s that time of year, the counting of the Omer time of year. And I’m writing about it. On Instagram @rebekaherevstudio and here, on my blog. Find out more and what it even is, here. In a nutshell: It’s a simple (yet extremely complicated!) guide to becoming a better human.

Bring on the month of HEALING! And GROWTH! It’s no mistake that Iyyar and the astrological sign of Taurus line up. In Judaism Iyyar is a time of healing and Taurus with her deep commitment to pleasure, security, good times, the earth, growth and good solid love, abundance, fertility and sensuality have the potential for a month of healing that’s lasting.

How are we going to heal? We’re following the bees lead and doing it with joy.

Imagine living with all your buddies sharing a common hum your whole life. Imagine going from flower to flower enjoying the beauty and sunshine, where your life is imperative to existence. Imagine going back home ingesting the pollen and TRANSMUTING it back into honey.

That’s what I say we do during Iyyar. Everything we see, everything we touch is a flower. And we make it into honey.

I’m staying with a friend who has a million flowers in his yard. There is a hive literally right outside my door. The native bees (these tiny adorable mysterious flying creatures) and the honey bees are drunk on pollen.

My inspiration.

My blessing for you: Onward to a love affair with bees. Give freely like the bees, being of service and being a pleasure to all you encounter. And may that come back to you tenfold.

Card for the Month:

Cali #7

This is the card for the month again, I guess it’s still all about California. And with me, it's always about joy. And going after dreams even if it pains your heart to do it. Because it pains your heart even more to not do it.

From the Moon Angels / Malakh Halevanah Oracle Deck:

Sun God. Open Wide. Rocks. Sand. Flowers. Desert. Comets. A new day. Drought. Ocean.

The joy an old dog feels running even though it hurts. What it must feel like inside that dog’s heart.

Week 1: The week of Love

Aaaaaahhhhhhh love. Who doesn’t love love? The first week of the Omer starts us off with love because love comes first, always. Love wins in the end, always. The truth of existence is love. By building our love. our love of the sky, our love of our hands, our love of the glow in each others eyes, our love of the movements for liberation. (see my Instagram posts for more details on each of this first week of Luuuvvv and flower essences for each of the days @rebekaherevstudio)

4/11 - Day 1 Chesed she'beChesed Love within Love

Pure love. Love inside love inside love. Like the petals of a rose, going deeper and deeper.

4/12 - Day 2 Gevurah she'beChesed Strength within Love

The rose bud is also very strong, holding the actual strength of potential.

4/13 - Day 3 Tiferet she'beChesed Compassion within Love

The generosity of love. Love for those who have hurt us the most. Love for ourselves, the one it is often the most difficult to have compassion for.

4/14 - Day 4  Netzach she'beChesed Endurance within Love

When apathy hits, how do you endure? What lifts you up? Keeping the faith, persistence. The essence of wild roses lifts up your body and soul.  

4/15 - Day 5 Hod she'beChesed Glory within Love

The glory of existence.

4/16 - Day 6 Yesod she'beChesed Connection within Love

Connection to the center of ourselves and therefore everything.

4/17 - Day 7 Malchut she'beChesed Majesty within Love

The royalty of love, the majesty is when we feel the fullness of there being enough. We are enough.

An Introduction to Counting the Omer

 Ancestral Knowledge: A painting I did 15 years ago representing three generations. The figure is my grandmother, the lilies are my mom's favorite flower and she planted them in the yard of the house I grew up in, the whale is me (even though I'm not a huge Orca whale fan) because I love whales and lived in the Northwest for 13 years. 

Ancestral Knowledge: A painting I did 15 years ago representing three generations. The figure is my grandmother, the lilies are my mom's favorite flower and she planted them in the yard of the house I grew up in, the whale is me (even though I'm not a huge Orca whale fan) because I love whales and lived in the Northwest for 13 years. 

First of all, what the hell * is counting the Omer? And why would you be interested in it as a Jew or as someone who isn’t Jewish? It’s a biblical tradition of setting aside one sheath of barley for each of the days between Passover and Shavuot (the holiday where the “revelation” aka torah is given). On Shavuot you’re supposed to sacrifice (aka not eat and instead, burn) the barely.

It’s a strange tradition and therefore I’m interested in it. I’m interested in things that don’t quite make sense. I’m interested in ritual, things we as a people keep doing. I’m interested in ritual that involves the earth and I’m interested in any ritual that helps me grow as a person. I’m also interested in ancestral knowledge and the mysterious ways we carry knowledge in our atoms.

So, I’m going to be making art, Instagram and blog posts about this Omer. (I’m also a Capricorn and love any and all things related to order and counting - insert monkey with hands over eyes emoji.)

The main sources for my reflections on counting the Omer are from:

1. My life, observations, experiences, influences.

2. The Kabbalistic teachings about the refining of moral character based on the tree of life and the sefirot. (it’s a Wikipedia link, super basic)

3. One of my teacher’s, Rabbi Jill Hammer’s book, Omer Calendar of Biblical Women. I’m not big on the bible but the basis for much of my spiritual work is about re-remembering history from a feminist lense (an intersectional feminist sense) and I like her focus on counting the Omer by interpreting stories of women from the bible, a wonderful way to re-remember.

So first of all, let’s remember that the people in the bible were people of color, modern Christianity and Ashkenazi Jewish culture tends to forget that and whitewash everything. Secondly, let’s remember that most of the stories of women and gender queers lives aren’t very explicitly mentioned. Let’s also remember that the bible is a long elaborate novel and not necessarily how people lived.

That all being said, my interest in the bible or the Tanakh is in archetypes. The Tanakh is a character in and of itself. The characters have become modern archetypes for the Abrahamic (Islam, Christianity, Judaism) religions. Because a colonialist, mostly misinterpreted (at least according to Jesus’s original teachings) Christianity has cut a deep penetrating wound into our society, the archetypes also have made an imprint on our understanding of life.

In re-remembering the archetypes we have the opportunity to make new imprints on our cells and collectively change our society. Like second wave feminism (a very limited but important part of the story of feminism) said: the personal is political. As we change ourselves and our cells, the world changes.

As the brilliant Octavia Butler said,

“All that you touch

You Change.

All that you Change

Changes you.

The only lasting truth

is Change.

God

is Change.”

 

*Jews don’t believe in hell, just using it colloquially. ;)

 

The Jewish Month of Nisan: Freedom, I Won't Let You Down 

There’s is scientific proof that that the story of the Red Sea parting in Exodus is actually, really true. It’s a tale of the earth and her peoples working together to create seismic shifts, the kind of changes that build epic stories, that we tell for generations.

If Nisan is the month of happiness (which, it is), then happiness is inherently linked to liberation (which is true happiness). Because one of the most important holidays in Judaism falls in Nisan, Passover (which is all about liberation ;).

Last month I went to Joshua Tree for the first time to see - super blooms. I was most taken with ocotillo, a plant I’ve been taking in tincture form for years but never met in the live real life. The essence of ocotillo helps us to feel secure in unconditional love and through that security, allow our actions to spring from love, not obligation. Action from love, not from the binds of what we think we should do. That is liberation.

When we work together with this spirit, collectively and individually we have the potential to weave together a story of miraculous proportions.

You know what magic is? It’s lifting up the good that exists and bringing it to higher consciousness. Magicians, witches, priestesses, brujas, bring attention to what already exists. We make what’s good, gooder (better-whatever, I’m lifting up lots of different ways of speaking English!). That’s why social justice work is magic, it transforms problems by bringing to light the truth of love. This journey is not for the faint of heart dear ones! It takes courage and perseverance to create these seismic shifts. As the beloved George Michael may his spirit be uplifted sang, “Freedom, I will not give you up!”

My blessing for you: May you choose liberation over and over again and may it lead you to loving action, loving embraces and a deep trust in your commitment to truth.

 

Ok everybody. I predicted the card I’d pull for the month. I picked it earlier today and then I knew I’d pick it again for the card for the month. Boooooobs. I cannot get away from this topic!

Recently I’ve been witnessing some beautiful embodiment of friends getting breast reduction and augmentation surgery and I’ve witnessed similar experiences with friends getting top surgery in the past. Not everyone wants the chest they were born with, not everyone has the boobs they want and some people want a rack who weren’t physically born with one. Giving people options about this is one of the main beauties of modern science.

But it’s not an option for most trans people because as a country we are just barely beginning to recognize trans rights. Having accessible, safe healthcare that includes hormones and surgery if one desires that and practitioners who understand trans issues is just a basic right. Black trans women are the most affected by our lack of education and services. This year we see this in the murders of Mesha Caldwell, Keke Collier, Jaquarrius Holland, Chyna Gibson, Ciara McElveen, all murdered since the beginning of 2017. This is also reflected in the number of black trans women who end up in prison, an extremely skewed number compared to other groups and in a severely violent environment for them. Let’s commit to lift up the work of trans women of color and follow their lead in our work for liberation.

For Nisan half the funds from the Boobs Poster support TGIJP (Transgender, Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project). From their website: “The mission of TGIJP is to challenge and end the human rights abuses committed against TGI people in California prisons, jails, detention centers and beyond.” Buy a Boobs Poster or support TGIJP directly.

The Jewish Month of Adar: Make a Decision: Increase Joy! 

Sometimes we need bitter times for the real joy to emerge.

Adar, is basically the Jewish month to party hard. Purim, the holiday of blurred lines and getting down and dirty falls in Adar. There’s a teaching that you’re supposed to get so drunk you can’t tell the difference between right or wrong. Honestly, there’s something very bitter about this to me. As a Capricorn I have a tendency towards control (that’s putting it lightly) so it’s daunting (and often calculated) when I let go.

This year I will be in a prison on Purim. For the last nine months I’ve been participating in a restorative justice circle for survivors of sexual abuse/harm (another root to my control issues). The facilitators of our group are running a similar group in a prison with perpetrators and survivors of sexual abuse/harm. Mid-March we will be spending a couple days in the prison with them doing healing work.

It’s been a huge process for me to be a part of this group and enormously healing. It feels very in line with Purim. Purim is a story of restoring justice. The Jews are threatened to be killed and a new queen, Esther, comes out as Jewish and saves them (with the help of her uncle). That’s a very pared down version. But basically Esther turns a shitty-ass situation into something beautiful but listening to the deepest part of herself and taking an enormous risk (like she could have gotten killed too when she came out as Jewish). But Esther had to make a decision, she could have stayed in the closet as a goy. But then all the Jews would have died and I guess she decided that would, be horrible.

That decision can be the most difficult part. Lemon blossom flower essence is good for this. It can help you relax mentally leading to more clarity and balance.

So I ask you: What are you going to do with your lemons?

My blessing for you: Tall glasses of lemonade.

California has always been mythical in my imagination. I guess it is for many people. Growing up it was the place my grandparents had lived and it held a spark in my dad’s eye. If my father, the conjurer of all things magic in the world held a soft spot for California, then it must be made of dreams.

Now, I live on this land. I live on Ohlone territory in Berkeley, California. Down the street from where I live is a sacred Ohlone site, a shellmound that was a burial site (among many other things). Currently it is a parking lot but it’s been bought by a developer. If it’s built on the likelihood of it returning to what the Ohlone would like is very slim. A wonderful resistance has been building to interrupt the construction and honor the vision of what the Ohlone would have it be. (Find out more about how to support this movement and Indigenous women- led organizing.)

This local action is an example of aligning collective and individual dreams. They may look different from our childhood dreams but when we feel into our essence, the real dream that all humans are actually looking for, is liberation. We want to surpass the confines of illusion and experience a collective liberation. No body is free until every body is free. Real magic happens when we embrace this and work to make it happen.

The Jewish Month of Shvat: Fall in Love with a Tree (or be one)

We are fully into this Hebrew month of Shvat. The archetype for the month is the lover, the ahavat. It’s also the month that holds my favorite Jewish holiday, Tu B’Shvat, the new year of trees. (Great thing about Judaism is we have four new years within the year.) Falling in love with trees is a good thing to do amidst this mess we have shoveled ourselves into. A tree is flexible, grounded, stable, makes nice noises in the wind. A tree is the conduit between earth and sky, it likes gravity but contemplates the reality of the existence of infinity by reaching to the heavens.

This month of the trees, may you have renewed growth and vigor! Jill Hammer says the teaching of the trees this time of year is  “shaking off their slumber and awakening to growth.” Awaken dreamers!

With our awakening from sleep we are going to need some support, it’s a rough transition. And that, is where my current plant obsession, pennyroyal comes in. (Plus we may need to rely heavily on it -without over harvesting- in this current administration because it can induce miscarriage -- only use with consultation from a trusted herbalist or midwife.)

The flower essence of Pennyroyal supports you to stay strong and ward off negative energies. We need you so badly right now pennyroyal! Because it isn’t just about standing strong in your center, it’s also about remaining calm, at ease and in peace. And what better way to be a lover than to be upright in your integrity, focused and calm.

Pennyroyal as an essence is a remedy for trauma, abuse and shock. Many of us are feeling that right now as we move into this second week of regime change.

When I talk about being a lover I mean both as a romantic partner and a lover of life, a warrior in the resistance. As a Capricorn integrity is very important to me. Being in our integrity we can stand upright using our bodies like the trees and plants. Any look upward can jog our memory to our celestial roots letting the grace of gravity hold us to this magnificent rock tumulting itself through what mostly exists in the universe: space.

My blessing for you: May you feel your feet on the earth rooting down to the hot center. May you awaken to the heat coursing through your body like liquid fire, reminding you of the sap rising in the trees. In this rising with arms open wide, may you dedicate yourself to a love affair with the stars, trusting in your unique path.

 Organize Card #20 from the Moon Angels/Malakh Halevanah Oracle Deck

Organize Card #20 from the Moon Angels/Malakh Halevanah Oracle Deck

One way to cast spells is to organize. Our ancestors have been doing that for millenia. A spell can be as simple as a calling one of your representatives. You can also make magic by attending a protest, working on a committee with an organization you feel passionate about, making art, sending a letter of appreciation and support to your local mosque or donating money.

Magic is in the framing and intention.

In this time we need all the organizing we can get. It’s about doing it. And doing it again. And going back and doing it again. If we frame our organizing as magic, it will hold that much more power.

Here’s to the magic of organizing with love, for the resistance.

The Jewish Month of Tevet: The Beginning of Our Golden Year

 
 

Aaaannnndddd...that’s a wrap people! Goodbye 2016. Later. Bye. Bye. Goodbye. Seriously, goodbye. 

From Aleppo to Ghostship to Carrie Fisher, this year has been. It's been. Sometimes you can process your feelings by crying or yelling or laughing and feel better. And sometimes it's 2016 and you just feel shitty, for a long time.

The thing is...we made it people. We're still here. We're alive. We made it through a collectively horrifying year. We've gone through the stages of grief (or at least some of them): denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Wherever you are, it's ok. You 100% deserve to be living. I've said it before and I'll say it again: We need you now, more than ever. We also super duper need each other. 

The thing about hard times is they bring us together, our movements are growing stronger and we have the opportunity to build with more depth and energy. How will you grow with the people you love in 2017? First being you. Then your friends, family, community, country, planet. 

Tevet: Our Golden Year

The Jewish month of Tevet begins at the end of Chanukah. I love this. I love that the beginning of a new year lines up with the end of a slew of golden lights representing miracles we would never expect. We all have the power to collectively create a reality that's filled with the glow of unexpected rising resistance and beauty.

As we all know, sometimes the love of power reveals itself in terrible ways. This pisses us off. This, is potentially very good. Tevet, is the month of anger. Anger can be a very motivating force to move us into action. Anger can transform us or, it can deplete us.

We need protection so the anger doesn't turn on us and instead fuels our power. Tumeric is a very good remedy for transforming anger. I've been taking my friend Lizanne Deliz's (Eye of Crow Herbs) Tumeric Oxymel to help with this. (You can see from the almost empty bottle it's very good!) Golden milk is also blessing my table these days. Tumeric helps to reduce inflammation and keep our digestion smooth and strong.

My blessing for you: May the qualities of grounding, protection and transformation be the root of moving with focused anger to bring about justice to make this a golden year of miracles. 

Miracles of 2016

Good people, let’s focus on some good things from 2016. Let’s feel good, for a moment about what went well.

  1. Fingers crossed emoji now exists.

Ok, I can end my list. That’s great. That’s enough to keep the fires burning for a long time. Thank you emoji programmers who just caught up with the most necessary hand emoji we have EVER needed. Fuckin, how did that take so long? But yay, for now.

Ok, now for all the other miracles!

2 The DAPL pipeline was stopped because of the leadership of youth and elder indigenous people.

3. Lots of hugs were given to people we love.

4. Lots of meals were eaten together.

5. Harriet Tubman is replacing a patriarchal asshole on our $20 bill (hey money is energy peeps).

6. Bernie almost became president. Yes, I believe this to be true.

7. After 2 years we finished up our version of DIY Art School (formally DIY MFA) -- listen to the podcast on Congratulations Pine Tree here (episode #106).     

8. Cultural icons like David Bowie lived and died and changed our lives. So did Prince and Carrie Fisher and Sharon Jones (just heard her Chanukah song, best Chanukah song ever.) and George Michael. It's a reminder of how close those who pass can still be to us. 

Card for the Month:
Go!
(Yiddish: Gay! Yes, go is gay in Yiddish.)

This is the first month of the beginning of the Gregorian year. It's time to move our asses and get up and go. In all regards. Begin your resolutions dear ones. Including a greater love for yourself. Isn't that the root of all resolutions?

I would assert that self love is not an isolated event. I think there's a cultural understanding of self love and self care as taking time for "yourself," with baths and spa days and nice meals. There is nothing wrong with that kind of self love. It's completely necessary to take care of yourself, everyone deserves and needs that.

The Jewish Month of Kislev: Darkness My Old Friend

IMG_1001.jpg

We need the help of our ancestors, the help of all the benevolent ancestors of this earth. Those who have faced the most adversity have the most to offer us about making resilience beautiful and in alignment with love. I think that is why many have really supported the efforts of Standing Rock. And in the tradition of Kislev, we remember the stories of resistance.

Cedar is a tree of many of our ancestors. The smell, texture, the smoke of cedar are grounding. The sight of a cedar tree eases our eyes with it’s beauty. Even in the cold, cold months it stays green to enliven and brighten our spirits. The energy of the tree is like an ancestor--deep, present, grounded, full of vitality if we chose to tap into it.

This is like the dark. The dark time of year is a gift because it’s so much easier to tap into our own depths in the darkness. Most of the universe is dark. Though our skin is exposed to light and we see an outside world of light - the inside of us is completely dark. Yet that is where most of our functioning exists. Our organs, our brain, our genitals are shrouded, protected by darkness. As soon as we close our eyes, we’re invited into this mysterious, exciting place of dark and imagination.  

My blessing for the collective: May there be a global turning to center Indigenous voices and leadership. May our love of clean water be greater than our love of convience, progress and cultural amnesia. May we wake up to the memory of our heart, which has neurons in it, to use it as our brain.

Card for the Month: Veils (Yiddish: SHLEY-ers)

As we move into the end of the gregorian year and into the darkest time of the year, we’re given the opportunity to face what may have been obscured or hidden below layers because it’s been too painful to look at. However, with the recent election the scab of our dwindling democracy was peeled away and the wound is infected, bleeding, throbbing. 

There’s emotional pain but there’s also the pain we feel in our bodies. This is often a veil to something deeper. The physical pain covers up and hides the spiritual and pain of the world we all hold on some level. This pain in our bodies can also hide from us the beauty and bliss of the world.

Beyond the veil of pain is beauty. For me, my pain gives me an opportunity to feel the beauty of life. (That’s in a good moment. Sometimes I’m like FML for several days of the month because of endometriosis.) We can’t experience joy without pain. There’s an acuteness, a vividness to life I experience after an episode of pain.
 
Veils are things that obscure something else. I’ve often heard, we are spiritual beings living in physical bodies. So, in this way our bodies are veils but they are also tools, an opportunity to stay tethered to the earth with our physical pain but also with our joy of earthly things. Ah, to have a body, to have sensation, to be alive.

The Jewish Month of Cheshvan: Welcoming the Darkness

horsetail.jpg

Horsetail’s magical properties: boundaries, staying firm to commitments. What a great herb to use to support new year’s resolutions. To affirm the habits we vowed to fulfill in the new year. Image source: Arrow Ami

The Hebrew month of Cheshvan is upon us as the moon’s darkness comes into the light. After a month of holidays and celebration, Cheshvan is often called the “bitter month.” It’s also the Libra time of the year (‘Moznayim’ in Hebrew), when we have the opportunity to balance ourselves and habits before the coming winter months.

Maintaining boundaries, staying firm in our commitments, and the endurance to do so are some of our biggest work living in a capitalist patriarchy. In Cheshvan, we make a descent into the darkness at the center of our beings. We are offered the structure of the darkening days to go inside and experience our depths. Our depth is our line of ancestors, the myriad ancestors we come from.

Horsetail, the plant in the picture above, is one of our ancestors. It’s a plant that’s been around since the dinosaurs, when it grew to the size of large trees. It’s associated with Saturn, the planet of endurance, self-control, protection and overcoming challenges. Back when blacksmiths worked closely with alchemists, horsetail was used to give magical strength to swords and armour. So, use it this month to strengthen your own boundaries and cut through bullshit to get to the heart of the matter. It makes a delicious tea; make sure the plant is from a clean area, since it absorbs pollutants easily.  Though tasty, it can have the flavor of bitterness, but also gives us a sense of balance. I believe our ancestors want this for us and they are living in us as we grow on our path.

My blessing for you: In the darkening days may the beauty of fall lay on your skin and be a protective encasing for the glorious fight you do every day to be more and more of yourself.  

 

A friend recommended this video of Thich Nhat Hanh exploring the idea that even our thoughts are our ancestors and we have the ancestors of plants in us. Take a look...

Thanks to angelorum.co for the information about horsetail.

Card for the Month: Extinction

(Yiddish: OYS-shtarb)

The last couple weeks, as the moon has waned, I’ve had the urge to get rid of stuff. My grandmother’s pink chair, many of my most treasured items of clothing. I haven’t gotten rid of the chair yet (don’t worry mom, I’ll consult you first), but I am having a strong urge to let go. But I haven’t, yet.


This time of year the natural world is going through her biggest time of letting go. The leaves falling to the ground, dead, are in complete symbiosis with the cycle of life. Their death is necessary for the trees to grow again. We as humans watch the leaves fall in tons; we essentially watch the earth fall from the sky. In witnessing the heavens fall, the dying leaves become our archetype for the connection between heaven and earth. The leaves aren’t afraid to die because they know their death is a part of their life. What would it be like to have a faith like that? To believe that in the letting go of an object, a habit, an emotion, a person, there is power that gives us life.

The Jewish New Year: Under the Blanket of Tishrei

Image of a 1400 year old ginko bilboa tree in Xi'an, China c/o TheDailyMail.com

On Rosh Hashanah morning this year, I woke up to go to services. But something kept me from getting out of bed. I stayed under the blankets, pet my cat for awhile in the dull morning light, happy to be alive. I felt myself wanting to fall back asleep, which I never do, but that morning, I did. During that second slumber I had the most wonderful dream where I felt completely lucid and awake. In the dream, I looked out the window of my apartment to a soft pink hue and a huge ginkgo tree with huge bright orange leaves. The leaves were the color of California poppies and glowing. Their luminosity hung from the tree and the fallen leaves made a pattern on the ground. I awoke feeling I had been visited.
 
Of course ginkgo biloba trees don’t turn orange when they turn; it’s more of ayellow. I did a little research and found that some living ginkgo trees in China have been dated back 3000 years, making them the oldest living specimen in the world. They also bloom at night and shed their blossoms quickly as if they are celebrating the wonder of life in secret. And, they grow breast looking bumps on their trunks. (.)(.). So of course I became fascinated by this ancient tree. 
 
I take ginkgo everyday in my herbal tincture but had never before dreamt of the tree. It’s good for memory, and  it made me think about wisdom. What humans consider wise now and what we’ve considered wise at other times in history. I believe the plant came to me to remind me the wisdom of who we really are. That on the birthday of the world my brain, in collaboration with the ginkgo was reminding me of the ancient DNA that makes up who I am and all of creation. That the secret of life is not complicated, and is in the simplicity of a tree that stands steady, blossoming in secret, nurturing with it’s trunk and creating a blanket of leaves that will return to nourish the soil. It’s a truth the tree stands for, but also what we can stand for.

The theme for this month is coming back to your truth. I listened to my truth and went back to bed and dreamt about this healing remedy. By listening to my truth I received the medicine I needed. 

My blessing for this month:

May you listen to your waking and sleeping dreams and allow them to whisper to you the antidote you need.

Card for the Month:
The Impossibility of Conformity
(Yiddish: um-MEG-LEKH-keyt fun mit-halt-eray)

We are all striving for a sense of belonging, a sense that we are part of something greater.
 
Conformity and belonging are distinctly different. But capitalism banks on their similarities to conspire to make you and all your friends feel like shit. That’s why developing and nurturing a sense of belonging within ourselves is a revolutionary act and pairs well with self-love.

The reality is: it’s impossible to conform. As much as we try, we can’t. To face up to the reality of conformity is to admit our humanity. We are each a completely unique imprint on the universe. Yet, we all have the same DNA, so essentially we’re exactly the same.
 
In Judaism, now is the beginning of our lunar year. With the moon guiding us, we begin again. How might we counter capitalism’s grip? By looking to each other’s faces, feeling each other’s distinct hugs and seeing diversity, appreciating the quality we feel somatically with each individual in our lives, and then looking to the moon to remember: we all look at that moon, we all feel her rhythms inside of us.