As I begin to add more content to newsletters, it'll be archived and available here on the blog, separately from the podcast/tarot-specific content. We love a good system.
It's Rosh Hashanah; the Jewish new year; the beginning of ten "Days of Awe" between now and Yom Kippur.
Ten days to reflect and prepare. Ten days to recover and resolve. Not a ten second countdown to midnight. Ten whole days.
Works for me.
I’ve never not identified as Jewish, whether by default or by choice. Even through a period of experimentation with language, ideas, systems, traditions, that identity never dropped away.
My witchcraft exploration began with my non-Jewish roots, for what I think are obvious reasons. European craft is easier to research, and as I dipped my toe into different practices, I found new ways to cherish that lineage.
Then one day, a bay leaf captured my entire imagination. It was and is my go-to. That fiery, sparkly, oily combustion still makes me nervous as hell, and that's part of their magic: I never shrug and burn one casually. I am always on my toes.
As I researched bay leaves, I landed in Jewish folk "magic," "cunning," "spells," whatever you want to call it. Language is never quite enough. This simmered in me for years until this summer, when boom, smash, Judaism flew back in.
Often, when a new idea comes to my table, I dive into research, practice, and yes, Etsy (I'm looking at you, raven charm necklace and cherry-infused tea).
But Judaism is not new. This is the faith of my childhood. This is the faith of my ancestors, and this faith is the ancestor of myriad others. This is the faith into which my father was born and into which my mother chose to step. This is the most deeply human faith I know.
So I get to take my time. I have had over 27 years to get here and I can take 27 more to keep going.
I make it up as I go along, dancing in my tallis, adding a besamim to my altar, reading about Shekhinah under dappled September light. My latest experiment has brought snippets of prayer back to my lips, and this brings me to a critical point. Religion can be, perhaps is, an extremely harmful institution, in any forms. As I weave traditions back into my practice, I slowly, deliberately examine each one, trying to understand its context with diligence.
Some of my favorite prayers are ones I love for their tunes, melodies bringing with them memories of five-year-old Sarah leaning into my father’s arm, the mustiness of his sport coat and tallis mingling with the mustiness of most synagogues I’ve ever entered, as he quietly harmonizes to the rest of the congregation. Not all these prayers quite align with my values today. But their memory is. How do I incorporate it all? What do I leave behind? How can I reinterpret? Is my reinterpretation legit if I don't even speak Hebrew? And is reinterpretation simply making excuses, or actually making it my own?
Judaism at its core is about asking.
About wrestling; with questions, with God, with Self.
So on I ask.
A final note I must acknowledge: it’s been challenging but not altogether surprising that I’ve turned towards these traditions during a summer when many have lumped Judaism in with political fuckery, a time when so many Jews are begging the world to untangle their faith from the politics of a nation. If anything, my exploration of Judaism has allowed me to further extricate myself and my upbringing from association with the government of the State of Israel.
from New Moon Newsletter No. 7