What is Prayer

Adam Cleaveland, a progressive Chrisitan blogger who I’ve been reading lately, posted a question about “What is Prayer.” The initial definitions were very standard Christian definitions. It defined a religionous world-view that is more passive and sits back and just waits for God to do something. As a follower of a more embodied religious world-view, needless to say that doesn’t work for me really well.

At the end of his post, he defined prayer as:

Prayer is any activity that allows humanity to enter into a sacred space; a space where Spirit can speak, Christ can heal and God can transform.

This is a definition that I could use. I’d remove the name Christ, because that’s not part of my theology, but other than that – it’s spot on. The form of prayer I often practice is often challenged by people and they ask me why I use the word magick, if it’s prayer. But this is what it’s all about. It’s a form of prayer that allows me to create a space where things can be transformed by the Divine. The difference is that it’s an intentionally co-creative act, where I am acting as a channel for the Divine energy that infuses everything towards a particular end. I use the word magick to differentiate it from the more passive form of prayer. Magick isn’t just about opening your heart – it’s about showing that you are not only willing to ask for what you want, but also willing to work for it. That’s a big difference in world-view from many people.

I don’t believe it’s enough to pray. I don’t believe it’s enough to open your heart. What are you willing to do? The Divine works through human hands so often. That’s what our sacred scriptures teach us. The story of Exodus shows that the Divine worked through the hands of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to free the Hebrews from Slavery. It shows that the Divine worked through Bezalel to build the tabernacle. It shows that the Divine worked through all the people to gather supplies.

Belief isn’t enough. Love isn’t enough. Action is required. Magick is prayer in action, but even it isn’t enough. Magick is a beginning, which needs to be followed up by more action.


The Parallels of Faith

As I’ve briefly mentioned before, I’m co-officiating a wedding next October for a couple of friends who are getting married. While this may not seem like a very odd thing to you — the fact that neither are Jewish or Pagan may start the wheels turning. Actually, the groom is Hindu and the bride is a spiritual person — but very private and non-religious or dogmatic in her beliefs.

What I’ve been finding fascinating is how misunderstood Hinduism is by most of the West. Ask five people on the street and they will probably all say that Hindus are polytheistic. This actually isn’t the case at the heart of it. Hindus have the same concept of “Ein Sof” that Jews have. They practice a very old form of aspected monotheism. Now the rituals and practices are so old that many people focus more on the aspects than the monotheism portion. But at its heart, Hinduism seems to be a monotheistic religion.

After many births the wise seek refuge in me, seeing me everywhere and in everything. Such great souls are very rare. There are others whose discrimination is misled by many desires. Following their own nature, they worship lower gods, practicing various rites.

-Bhagavad Gita 7:19-20

The “idol worship” has been an interesting thing to explore as well. On my recent trip to a Hindu temple with my friends, I experienced a variety of emotions. The first is that I saw why Jews don’t allow this. I get the same feeling walking into many Catholic churches. Such reverence is paid to statues. I understand that for many the statue is just a tool to help them focus, but for so many the statue just is. It is a manifestation of the Divine for them — which for me in incomprehensible. But — Catholics do the same thing. Every time my husband genuflects in front of a crucifix at a church, I’m startled by it.

All that being said, many synagogues and Jewish practices seem to idolize the Torah — that parallel was what struck me at the Hindu temple. We dance with them. We kiss them. We decorate them. We give them beautiful homes. You can tell me all you want about the symbolism — but most people just go through the motions and have no real idea what the point is other than reaching out with a prayer book to kiss the Torah.

The experience of exploring Hinduism has given me new insight into the practices of my own people. Learning and discussing the practices of Hinduism with my friend has opened my eyes. Reading passages from the Hindu texts expands my horizons daily.

As a man in the arms of his beloved is not aware of what is without and what is within, so a person in union with the Self is not aware of what is without and what is within, for in that unitive state all desires find their perfect fulfillment. There is no other desire that needs to be fulfilled, and one goes beyond sorrow.

-Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

I am so grateful that my friends have entrusted me with this task. Working with them to create their ceremony is a wonderful spiritual adventure for me. On so many levels I am growing spiritually because of this adventure. I am learning about the connections between two old faiths. I am challenging my own perseptions and misperseptions. I am seeing the ways of my people through new light. I am seeing my own actions in new ways. I am growing closer to two good friends and learning more and more about them.

Be happy!
For you are joy, unbounded joy.

You are awareness itself.

Just as a coil of rope
Is mistaken for a snake,
So you are mistaken for the world.

-Ashtavakra Gita 1:10

[tags]hinduism, comparative religion, judaism, interfaith weddings, religion[/tags]

Yartzeit Rachel Imeinu

A ritual for honoring Rachel Imeinu and other ancestors.

May the blessings of our mother be carried through to each generation.

1 Pomegranate
1 Tea Light
Small stones to represent specific ancestors
Small dish (big enough to hold all items listed above)

How to Peel a Pomegranate
Take the pomegranate and cut of the crown, being careful to not cut into seeds. Score the rind from crown to base into 6 sections. Place pomegranate in large bowl filled with cold water. The pomegranate should float upright. If you like, spin the pomegranate in the water and focus on it while meditating. Leave the pomegranate in the water for 5-10 minutes. Then peel of the rind and let the seed drop to the bottom. You can then skim the rind off the top and drain the water, leaving just the

Place your tealight in the dish and pour the pomegranate seeds around it. I often use only half of the seeds. Place your stones either along the edge of the dish or inside it against the tealight, whatever works for you. Place the dish on the altar and light your candle. The seeds are for the generations of ancestors, the stones for those you wish to specifically honor.

When the ritual is over be sure to dispose of the pomegranate seed properly. Burn them in the fire or throw them to the earth. Do not eat them casually. If you choose to dispose of them by ingesting them, it should be a deliberate act by which you share yourself with the generations.

Visions of the Divine

I’ve always struggled with the apparent conflict between my monotheism and the pantheons of other paths. The main struggle was how these entities fit into the structure. Are they just eminations of Ein Sof? Are they distinct and unrelated? Are they hallucinations or “false gods?”

The “false gods” model never really worked at all.

I’m definitely a panentheist at heart — I believe everything is connected. A wise woman once explained it to me using a metaphor relating it to the ocean and drops of water.

I’ve never experienced Ein Sof/Elohim/Insert Name Here as anything more than the great connecting force. I don’t see it as anything that can be even remotely understood on a human level.

Pretty much every form of Judaism and the Torah recognizes a variety of “heavenly hosts” — generally seen as Angels.

That’s how I’ve begun to steadily view the other pantheons. As akin to the highest level of Angels. It’s not meant to diminish them in any way. The direct contact between the Jews and God has been primarily through angelic intervention — much like the gods and other tribes. They are all connected to Ein Sof — but function freely and independently. This is how a self-described monotheist can still have a relationship with a Lithuanian Bee Goddess. I don’t worship her — just have a healthy respect.

I tie all of this back to the story of the Tower of Babel. Just giving us all unique languages would not keep humanity from trying that again. Giving us all a different understand of the Divine and different messengers and contacts — well — I think history shows us how effective that has been in keeping humanity from coming completely together.

Spiritual Math

1 = The Source of Life
2 = The Tablets
3 = The Patriarchs
4 = The Matriarchs

The lives of the 3 and the 4 = The 5 books

The lives of the 3 times the 4 = The 12 tribes


I know this has been said by others, but it bears repeating.