When I converted to Judaism, one of the first Jewish books that I started carrying with me when I went camping was a siddur, a prayerbook. It's smallWhen I converted to Judaism, one of the first Jewish books that I started carrying with me when I went camping was a siddur, a prayerbook. It's small and blue and still has the page with the nature blessings bookmarked so I can find them easily when I'm inspired to pray. It lives in my backpack in the summertime. The table of contents listed the same traditional nature blessings in Appendix 4 of A Wild Faith. I knew I'd like this book, even before I started reading.
The main focus of this book is to strengthen one's kavanah, spiritual focus, while praying. Rabbi Comins is an outdoor enthusiast who noticed that his prayer life was more inspired in the wilderness and sought to create practices to bring that same mindfulness out of the wilderness and into his everyday Judaism. To do that, he's borrowed from Buddhist, Daoist, and Native American traditions. He is always careful to remain true to Jewish traditions and outline where the line is between the two faiths, so it does get a bit tricky sometimes. He's also borrowed from the very Jewish ideas of Heschel and Buber and Nachman, so it's not a completely radical take on Judaism.
Comins spends some time writing about the roots of Judaism: the wilderness. Four of the five books of the Torah take place wandering in the desert. G-d often appears on mountains or near trees, usually as fire, a cloud, or thunder. The Hebrew word for soul, nefesh, originally meant "breath". Ruach, the word for spirit, is also the word for wind. Many of the holidays have both an agricultural and a theological component. The Biblical figures were very connected to the land, and understanding that connection may help one understand their connection to G-d.
Comins writes a great deal about increasing mindfulness. It is so easy to go through life as if it were a tunnel, following the paved road ahead of you, two tall buildings on either side. In Comins's wilderness, there is no paved road and no buildings; it's just a trail through the woods. You have to pay attention to your surroundings. In learning to pay attention to something other than ourselves, we can learn to pay attention to G-d while we pray.
All in all, I liked the book. When I started reading I was very uninspired to pray, and I do try to pray every day with intention now. I've started reading Heschel. And I do plan to try some of the practices listed in the book this summer, when I can get into the wilderness. I think a little more mindfulness could do me some good. ...more
I have two enduring images of this book, both from midrash.
The first is from when Moses came down the mountain with the original tablets containing thI have two enduring images of this book, both from midrash.
The first is from when Moses came down the mountain with the original tablets containing the Ten Commandments, the ones he smashed. Legend has it that he kept the shards in the Ark of the Covenant alongside the second, intact, set because they symbolized his broken dream. A dream that his people would unite under G-d's covenants and enjoy their freedom after the Exodus. Instead, they betrayed G-d by fashioning the golden calf in Moses's absence.
We all have broken dreams. We have no choice but to carry them with us. We can let them weigh us down and prevent us from achieving new dreams, or we can put them into the revised mosaic of our lives.
The second image is after Miriam died and the Hebrews needed water. Moses was supposed to speak to a rock and create a spring. Instead, Moses hit the rock twice. There is a reading of the text that says Moses did this because he was frustrated and angry that the people were so rebellious and ungrateful for all his effort that he took it out on the rock. I can buy that. I can identify with that.
There is another reading, also dealing with frustration and anger. It is that Moses was frustrated with G-d for putting him in that position. Rabbi Kushner has an excellent line for anybody who identifies with that statement: "The G-d I believe in is not so fragile that your anger will hurt Him, nor is He so petty that He will strike you a second time for speaking up to Him." So often we are angry and we vent our frustrations on objects or other people instead of taking them up with G-d (or whomever is the actual source of said anger)....more
This book made me feel intensely lonely. I'm not 100% sure of all the reasons why.
It's a fairly short YA novel about two Jewish girls who are sent toThis book made me feel intensely lonely. I'm not 100% sure of all the reasons why.
It's a fairly short YA novel about two Jewish girls who are sent to foster families in Sweden during WWII. I chose the book because it was about Jews in Sweden - a very small population in a place where I have roots (and sometimes have fantasies of emigrating). Apparently, the author herself is a Jewish Swede.
I definitely identified with the protagonist. She's the older sister. She doesn't fit in easily. She appreciates the beauty of the fjords, in both positive and negative ways. She recognizes that the Jesus thing makes her different than almost everybody else in town, even in ways that have little to do with religion.
There wasn't really an ending to this story. It's the first in a series of four books. The effect is pretty interesting: it's a book about a Jewish child who's worried about her parents' safety during the Holocaust, but you have no way of knowing what happened to them. A bit odd, but it reinforces the idea that this is a normal girl in abnormal circumstances.
A note: I really wish I could award a half star. I more than liked it, but not quite to the 4 star level....more
I came across this eBook, I believe, by accident on bn.com. From what I could tell, the premise of this book reminded me of the stories my friends telI came across this eBook, I believe, by accident on bn.com. From what I could tell, the premise of this book reminded me of the stories my friends tell about their bubbies and zaydies at shul. I'm completely jealous of these stories because I just have grandmas and grandpa, having grown up with a slightly different background. We'll see what happens.
UPDATE: Part of the reason I bought the eBook was because it was pretty inexpensive. Now, having opened the file, I know why: it's a short story. I'm actually kind of cranky about this, because I do not recall seeing any indication that this was something other than a novel.
UPDATE II: This was nothing like the stories from shul. Nothing. It was a decent read, the characters were likeable and pretty well-developed for a short story. Still, it was unsatisfying; probably because I wanted bubbie and zaydie and those characters weren't in this story....more