...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Saturday, March 08, 2008

This week in God

It's been so long since I've been to a Torah service at P'nai Or (the last one I went to was around Hanukkah, probably, before I got sick) that I'd forgotten the feeling of it. It's so hard for me to force myself to get out of bed early on a Saturday and shlep over to the southwest suburbs, especially when I've been to a Friday night service at Havurah Shalom the night before (as I did last night)--and there's a kind of worship, too, in spending Shabbat morning in one's own bed with a good book, a cup of coffee, and an omelet, or listening to music and doing a deep-clean of one's apartment. But I was glad that I forced myself to get up and go to the service today.

My friend Helana was there and offered some interesting words about Rosh Chodesh, the celebration of the New Moon (today is the New Moon and the first day of the second month of Adar, the Jewish leap month***). She spoke about Rosh Chodesh being a traditional women's holiday, honoring women for not participating in the creation of the golden calf, and noted how as women were suppressed by Judaism the observance of Rosh Chodesh fell by the wayside. In the 1970s Jewish feminists began recuperating the tradition. Helana also talked about how the sliver of waxing crescent that one sees after the New Moon is representative of the Shekhina, the divine feminine presence of God; the Shekhina becomes more and more present as the moon waxes, and when the moon is full the Shekhina has reached its union with the Keter, the masculine crown of God. (The Shekhina and the Keter are two of the ten sefirot, or holy emanations of God according to Kabbalah.) It was an interesting interpretation (a little essentialist, but what are you going to do?) and she described it well.

I finished Eric Larson's book The Devil in the White City this past week, and I can't recommend it highly enough. It's a historical narrative that weaves together the story of the architect who conceptualized and built the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with the true story of a serial killer who operated in Chicago at the same time. I wish I had been able to take the Religious Studies seminar about the 1893 World's Fair--it sounds absolutely fascinating (Eric, I want to hear all about it). I also finished Under the Banner of Heaven recently, which I also recommend, although it should be read with a hermeneutic of suspicion. What's up next? The Walrus was Paul: The Great Beatle Death Clues by R. Gary Patterson, about the "Paul is Dead" rumors that swept the nation in the late 1960s. I love a good conspiracy theory.

Finally, Daniel and I have caught glimpses of at least two mice, and one possible rat (I know...I know), in my apartment, and I will not rest until those brazen little fuckers are dead. There will be blood.

***The Hebrew calendar is lunar instead of solar, so a year has fewer days than the Gregorian calendar (and each Hebrew month has fewer days than one of "our" months). As a result the festivals tend to "scoot up" on the calendar--that's why Hanukkah was so early this past year. But if this was allowed to continue unencumbered, after awhile you would be celebrating Hanukkah in the summertime and Pesach in the winter. A leap month of Adar II is added every so many years, so that the festivals still fall around their correct time of year.