Monday, July 10, 2006

The Mechitza, the Mikvah and Me

I'm listening to Koby Israelite's "The dance of the Idiots," and I'm enchanged. A song that makes me want to travel roots I'm growing now, but feel so deeply seeded. And now I write.

I've been doing a lot of online reading lately, trying to broaden my Web experience. Up on my web site I've put a lot of new links to news outlets, blogs and other sites, which I suggest you check out. A simple click'll do ya. Then I suggest you create a page, too.

An interesting article I came across on the mechitza has me thinking. When I went to the Chabad house in Omaha, I felt completely uncomfortable with the mechitza (curtain or other item that sets the women and men apart during services), mostly because I couldn't see the rabbi or anything else that was going on. We (the womanfolk) largely sat there and attempted to keep up with the haste of the reading. The article talks about prayer, and needing complete focus during prayer -- for men AND women. She talks about a couple that holds tight to one another while praying, and how she worries that their prayers won't be answered because of the distraction of each other's closeness. For a while while reading I found myself agreeing with the writer, which has me wondering about a lot of things. Most logical of all, in some weird way, to me was this quote:
But all mechitzas hold us back from one another and group our prayers by gender rising heavenward. Perhaps this helps G-d hear us, too; perhaps we sound clearer, are more ourselves, unmediated by our opposites. Judaism loves categories and celebrates them every way – night and day, milk and meat, Sabbath versus holidays and ordinary days – and gender's no exception.
It is interesting the focus on the seperation of things and days. But this is something I cherish in my Judaism, and something I want to enliven and observe. Now I'm all verklempt about it, and I'm not sure how to view the mechitza. I do, know, however, that I like seeing the rabbi during the service. It's almost unnatural, though, I'd say, but community prayer can be a mitzvah and the rabbi can offer to guide such prayer. When the rabbi is out of sight, I understand my personal prayer time, but I need the community prayer as well. Comprende?

Secondly, I think I may hit up the mikvah next week. I was reading this article, and while I understand rabbinical worry about the dilution (no pun intended) of the mikvah's purpose, I also know how I felt in the mikvah (both times, as via an accident by the rabbi). The mikvah is the ritual bath used in cleansing by both men and women, though largely for women, and has been built the same way for thousands of years (same number of steps, size, etc). There are many commandments that advise on when to visit the mikvah, and in my communities the mikvah is an incredibly busy place. Most mikvahs in the U.S. probably get a lot of converts coming to their mikvahs and little more. The article, however, talks about a resurgence and reclaiming of the mikvah by women who once saw it as demeaning (the most well-known commandment for mikvah-ing is after a menstral cycle). But it's really a calming experience, it's an experience that I can't put into words, and those of you who've read my past blogs, you probably read about my experience. Immersion is intense, quiet and still, like being rolled around in the water with the hands of G-d. Kind of powerful, really. I discovered that there is a mikvah in D.C., which has me psyched.

I find myself throughout the day reciting prayers. Sometimes I don't even notice that I'm singing or chanting them, it's so bizarre, yet calming. I wish I could describe how I feel sometimes, and it's so hard. My stress level is exceedingly high right now because of car problems, but I'm trying to stay focused and centered. First comes strength, then peace. And I think that applies to the self, as well. I have to be strong to find my peace.

In the meantime, check out this band: Oi va voi ... I guarentee you'll dig them.