I’ve had a few days to begin processing the first Kohenet training intensive. I want to start by giving my heart-felt gratitude to all of my fellow Kohenot and our teachers. What I’ve realized is that more than any practical skills that I will learn in the next two years is that these women are going to help provide me with the experience that I believe will make me an effective priestess. Let me start by telling what we did, then I’ll follow up in other posts with my personal experiences and feelings.
The program is structured around 13 archetypes of the Shekhinah . These are what we will be studying over the two years through a variety of techniques – both scholarly and experiential. This first week, we explored three of the archetypes beginning with the Fool. It was quite a choice to begin with the Fool because it threw everyone off. That off-kilter energy that the Fool can bring permitted the day. One of the experiential exercises we did was to enact our “tormentors.” I had a very hard time with this one, but then realized that my tormentor in so many ways is silence (more on that realization later). We played, we danced, we laughed, and the pushing of boundaries began! We also studied some of the few bibilical/talmudic sources that relate to the Fool. I’ll be curious to see what others I can find, as there is limited source material on this archetype. My biggest takeaway from the day of the Fool was a realization that there is a big difference between the Fool and the Idiot (my term). The Fool is intentional. The Fool is the clown who knows exactly what she is doing and shakes things up because its the right thing to do at that moment. The Idiot stumbles through life causing chaos without ever knowing if it was the right thing to do or not.
The next archetype we explored was the Maiden. Again, this seemed like a very appropriate choice. Unlike the Fool there is ample amounts of scholarly texts about the Maiden. Jews love Maidens! Sweet, fresh young women — always a fine choice for biblical stories and midrash. We began by studying and discussing several readings and then moved on to the experiential portion. We had to create a ritual for Tu b’Av, a holiday for the Maiden in us all. We split into three groups, and each took a segment of the ritual. There was a bit of confusion (intentional?) about when this ritual was going to take place and we did a last minute scramble when we realized that we would be doing the ritual, well, now! With less than an hour of planning we managed to create a ritual, and given the fact that the three groups worked separately, it was remarkably cohesive. It was far from a perfect ritual — but for me it was a tipping point in the week (more on this later).
The final archetype we explored was the Priestess. Certainly this was an appropriate choice for the final archetype of our first week. I like that we waited until the end to discover the Priestess. We discussed the models of priestesses in the Tanach such as Hulda, Devorah, and Miriam. I’m sure we all walked in with ideas that changed during the week, and so I like that it was towards the end of the week that we were asked, “What is a Priestess?” Most people wrote a sentence or two that described their thoughts. I found that my mind did not want to create a structured definition. I had a stream of words that came into my mind. Here they are in the order that they came to me:
service space bridge connection storytelling myth-making truth-finding dream-embracing tradtion creation expansion life-affirming death-acknowledging paradox
In addition to Kohenet classes, each afternoon we joined the Women’s Week attendees for class. There were two to choose from, and I spent my week with R’Lynn Gotlieb in A Pagent of Biblical Women. This class was also a combination of study and experience. We took a guided journey to meet a biblical mother and receive a message. Then we made life-masks and turned them into the faces of the woman we met. At the end of the week we perfomed a pagent with each of us wearing our masks and telling the story/message of the woman we met.
Along with our classes was plenty of prayer. There was morning davenning and the most amazing Shabbat services I’ve ever attended. All this, and the food was pretty good too! Although, with that many Jews they really needed more “everything” bagels for breakfast. 😉
Finally, there are our projects. Each of us must develop a project that we will work on over the two years (in addition to other class work and reading). I thought I knew what mine was, and it was approved — althought with the caveat that it might not take me two years, and I’d have to come up with something else. I started thinking that I needed something more comprehensive that would truly take the two years to complete. I’ve come up with some ideas, and R’Jill gave me a few things to think about. I think I’m just about ready to finalize my project and then I’ll get to work!