I’ve finished the third Kohenet training intensive, and as always, I’m in a quandary about what to say about it. The training intensives are, frankly, life altering, which makes them difficult to explain in a succinct and understandable way. We’ve been calling them retreats, but as D’vorah Kelilah and I discussed — that’s the wrong word. It’s an intensive with days beginning at 7:00 for davvening and ending around 10:30-11:00pm. There were so many amazing moments in this latest intensive week, that I guess I should just start at the beginning.
Monday was just check in and get settled. Art dropped me off in the afternoon and then had to leave very quickly because he had a long drive home. I unpacked and spent the afternoon wondering who my roommate would be. I ran into Bat Shemesh early in the afternoon, and she gave me a sneak peak at the new Kohenet siddur — which would be handed out the next morning. I quickly met up with many of the other Kohenot and by dinner we were all hugging and chatting and getting re-acquainted with being in the same physical space with each other. We have monthly calls and frequent email communication, so it really didn’t feel like there had been much of a gap from seeing everyone. After dinner we had our opening ritual and an “herbal playshop.” We discussed herbs and women’s traditional role as a healer, and then made tinctures and oils. (oops, need to strain the herbs out of mine tonight!)
Tuesday morning I had the humbling honor of leading the first morning davvening. As if that weren’t enough, I got to lead the first service EVER with the Kohenet siddur. WOW! WOW! WOW! There were more than a couple of shechyantus said that morning. Davvening went well, I think, especially considering that I revamped my plan the night before — the moment that I got my hands on the siddur. After davvening we were all off to breakfast, and then back to the yurt, our home for the week, for the “Day of the Shamaness.” The Kohenet program is organized around 13 “netivot” or paths of Shechinah. Each intensive we explore Judaism through the lens of 2-3 netivah. We spent the morning in a mixture of text study and experiential work and then in the afternoon we had a guest teacher, Reb Rayzel Raphael! The session was entitled “Amulets, Angels, and Spirits.” It was a great session and now I have a lovely new amulet bag. Rounding out the day was a great Ma’ariv service lead by Reb Rayzel and then she put on a concert for everyone at Elat Chayyim. Phew! What a first day.
Wednesday morning, Yocheved lead morning davvening and did a great job. This was the day of the Doreshset — the seeker. Our morning session focused on the idea of pilgrimage with text study being lead by Rabbi Jill and the experiential work lead by Holly. The highlight of this day was Mei Mei’s “transformation” ceremony. After 30 years of living a Jewish life, Mei Mei literally took the plunge and stood before the Bet Din. It was so amazing. Presiding over her Bet Din and Mikvah were Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Rabbi Phyllis Bergman, and Rabbi Jill Hammer — with Holly Taya Shere and all the Kohenot too. Later in the afternoon we broke up into small groups to begin working together to plan other rituals for the week and then had a theology/prayer session.
Thursday morning Holly and R. Jill lead davvening, which was open to anyone at Elat Chayyim. We had a few guests join us for a lovely morning service. I’m never sure what people make of our very earth-based approach — but the guests seemed to enjoy the experience. Thursday was the day of the Mekonenet — the Mourning Woman. The difficult netivot that we studied during the week lent a strange energy to things, and many of us felt very ungrounded. Once many of us realized that others were feeling the same way, we all worked to help each other ground and focus. The day was spent in text and experiential study, before we moved into an intense evening ritual. Without disclosing more than I should, the evening ritual focused on healing for one of our sisters. It was an incredibly moving and powerful ritual. Because of this, R. Jill and Holly (thankfully) canceled our planned evening dance session with Rabbi Lynn. Not that I wouldn’t want to do that — but it was just not a good choice after the ritual. I ended the evening by running across the campus to hear Floxy Blu, a Kohenet sister, do a couple of songs at the open mike night.
Friday morning davvening was lead by Mei Mei Mriam and Ellie Lehota Mayan, and they did an excellent job. This day was that of the Matriarch. Part of our text study was exploring what the texts had to say about the role of Queen Mother. Amazingly, they have a great deal to say — if you look. After text study with R. Jill, Holly lead a great experiential class on “power and priestessing.” The rest of the afternoon was spent in class and then off to the Mikvah in the lake, which was MUCH warmer than many of us expected. I also discovered that trying to chant after treading water for five minutes is, well, hard! 😉 We had a private kabbalat shabbat service and then met up with all the other groups for dinner. During dinner each group did a 10 minute presentation on what their training intensive is all about. We embodied the netivot, with each woman taking one role and presenting it in the first person. I drew the Na’arah — the Maiden (more on that later). I think we surprised a few people, and confused some others, but the presentation seemed well received and I really can’t ask for more. After dinner there was drumming and dancing and fun!
Saturday morning I went to Torah Study with Arthur Waskow. There were a couple of options, and I decided that I would take advantage of the opportunity to study with someone outside the Kohenet program. After class we met outside the Yurt for morning services, and even read Torah by wrapping it around a tree. R. Jill had told us a story at the first training intensive about how the rabbis of old would do this if a suitable surface couldn’t be found. Other than people stepping in poison ivy — it was a great Shabbat service. After lunch we were back in the Yurt for Mishna study! Yes, I was excited about it. Bat Shemesh leads Mishnah study and she is a fantastic teacher. We also use Spring Levy to ask questions that we feel silly about asking, which makes the whole thing really enjoyable. Being Shabbat and all, their were more services and Havdalah and then dinner.
Sunday morning my ritual group lead a morning davvening/elemental ritual that I’m really proud of. I think we worked together to create a really nice ritual and that we worked hard to make sure that everyone was involved and participated. Go us! After breakfast, we had a session where R. Jill and Holly talked about the winter intensive/initiation and what the second half (2-3 years) of training will look like for those who decide to continue on. There’s no question in my mind that I’ll be continuing on and I’m excited about what the next few years will look like! After our closing ritual it was off to lunch and then onto the shuttle to the airport!
There were so many little amazing moments that week. I do want to call attention to one that I realized didn’t come up yet. I had the pleasure of meeting Rachel Barenblatt — the Velveteen Rabbi. She was there for DLTI training. She’s been much faster than I have about posting her thoughts on her DLTI training intensive! She was lovely and I’m a big fan of her blog and her “Chaplainbook” — so go check them out!
By the way — if you are considering joining the next class of Kohenet please feel free to contact me.