The first training week for Kohenet Bet began with far less drama for me than the first round of training. I was a complete mess of nerves and stress my first week, and even broke into tears when my husband dropped me at Elat Chayyim that time. Now it was more like returning to school for your senior year. You know that there is still a lot of work to do, but you’ve got some history and experience under your belt and it’s all much more comfortable.
I really was looking forward to the second half of the training program and its focus on Life Spiral events. Actually, just working with the idea of the Life Spiral instead of Life Cycle was very exciting. I loved looking at the concept that not only do our own lives build on our experiences, but also that we build on all the experiences of all our ancestors. A circle seems so limited with a finite beginning and end, but the spiral keeps growing and building all that comes before it and puts more focus on the journey than the destination.
We focused this week on rituals concerning fertility, pregnancy, and birth. The assigned reading before the session covered a lot of the depth of ritual specifics and history, and I definitely found a few favorites that I’ll start with if people ask me for good earth-based baby namings and such. Our session on the mikvah, ritual bath, was one of my favorites. Mikvah has yet to become a part of my practice, although conceptually I really like it. I was shocked to learn how negative an experience it has become for many woman. My only true Mikvah experiences have been with Kohenet and those have been very satisfying experiences. I have had experience with ritual bathing elsewhere, and those too have been very good experiences for me. R’Jill mentioned the The Mikvah Project, which is a really extraordinary book of images of women at the mikvah.
Our guest teachers this week were Rabbis Raquel S. Kosovske and David Seidenberg. Rabbi Raquel lead a session on the Placental Tree of Life, which was fascinating and bizarre. Frankly it was bizarre to me to spend that much time talking about placentas, but at the same time why not? It’s something every single person deals with in their life and yet it’s one of those birth mysteries we just don’t discuss. I’d never actually seen a picture of one before. Thankfully, it was in black and white, which reduced the general ickiness factor for me, but what was amazing is that one side seriously looks like a tree. Placentas do seem to truly be a tree of life. One of the books R’Raquel passed around was Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin. Not something I’d casually read, but possibly one I’d add to my library.
Rabbi David lead a session on Jewish Ecology that completed changed my poorly formed opinions of Rambam – Moses Maimonides. Turns out that good ole Rambam was more progressive than I ever gave him credit for, finding his 13 Principles to be very limited and annoying. In his writings he seems to a proponent of the Gaia Theory and very ecologically focused in the Guide fof the Perplexed. Truthfully, I’d never realy explored his teachings before and R’David’s discussion prompted me to pick up a copy of The Guide of the Perplexed and start reading a few pages a day. The conversation veered off into quantum physics for a bit, and overall was very engaging and exciting.
I got the chance to lead morning Davvening, prayers, on Wednesday morning. I really enjoy the chance to lead a semi-traditional Jewish service because it’s such a rarity for me. The Kohenet siddur is just amazing and I love Holly, Jill and Bat Shemesh‘s songs, poetry, and translations. Last time I lead morning Davvening I went over by about 15-20 minutes, which I felt really bad about. This time I think I was a little too obsessed with the timing, but overall I was really happy with how it went. My ritual intent for the service was to ground everyone in the reality of Kohenet, especially the new Kohenet Aleph class. For them it was only their second day, and I wanted to give them a nice anchor for the morning. Very exciting for me was also the chance to honor my sister, with what I now call “Amy’s moment” — the traditional Oseh Shalom after a silent meditation. It’s something waits for in every service and I knew it was a nice traditional thing that would help ground people after singing new versions of everything and different versions of all the traditional prayers. A Rabbi from the Oraita program that was also at Elat Chayyim with us came and shared her own Mah To Vu chant. It was lovely and I loved that she came to join us!
As usual, Bat Shemesh’s talmud class was one of my favorites. I was so inspired this time that I specifically requested Advance Priestess Training weeks that are entirely talmud focused! There’s never enough time to dig into anything, and I could spend a week (or a lifetime) just exploring and reconstructing the talmud from a Kohenet perspective.
I guess the last thing to share is about the new Kohenet class. They are really wonderful. It was such a crazy experience with two classes there and plenty of growing pains organizationally, but nothing that can’t be cured with time and patience all around! I didn’t have a chance to get to know all of the new women well, but I didn’t get to know all of my own cohort well the first week either. There were a few in particular that I really got to know (*Waves, Hello!*) and just really enjoyed being around and learning from during our combined classes.
That’s honestly just a taste of the week. The days are so full and fulfilling that it’s just incredible.