Return to Roots, Part I
Let's be real folks.
As much as we are raising our children, they are also raising us. Truly. We are holding a safe space for them to grow and unfold and they, in turn, are showing us what's real.
Last week I had one of those moments that affirmed my belief that my daughters are my greatest teachers.
You see, one of my major struggles during my depression was trying to keep up with the rat race that is our current human pace. For some really non-sensical reason, we expect mothers to just bounce back and return to life at the same pace that they were going pre-motherhood.
Of course, this is a set-up for failure.
Ask any mother who's tried to get out of her house with a baby, a toddler, a child, or a combination of all three!
And yet this pressure to keep up in our non-stop world is so insidious that even those of us with the awareness that it's a set up get caught up in its seductive allure of the promise of feeling accomplished, successful, or happy.
One of the practices I have set up in my family to counter this dizzying speed is a weekly digital detox day. No phones, no computers, no pads.
Aaahhh, just that phrase gives me a sense of peace.
Initially, it was on Tuesdays (I know, random). Then we switched to Sundays. But recently I decided that to be more in touch with our Sephardic Jewish ancestry we should do it on Saturdays in recognition of Shabbat.
Last week, as we were driving home from a friend's house who happens to also be Sephardic, Jade (my 6-year-old) asks me,
"Mom are we really Jewish?"
"Yes," I said proudly.
"But, how?" she asked.
So I explained to her that she is Jewish because I am Jewish and I am Jewish because my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother, and all of our female ancestry is Jewish.
Judaism is matrilineal, so per Jewish law, if your mother is Jewish so are you.
Her eyes grew wide as she processed the explanation.
"Well, then can we be real Jews?"
I knew she was thinking of my orthodox clients, so I asked her,
"You mean like my clients?"
"Yes! Can we wear Jewish clothes and light candles and do all the prayers?'
Nehama and Amaya were excited too,
"Yes! Can we? Can we???"
They chimed in until it was a chorus of all three of them chanting,
"Jew-ish! Jew-ish! Jew-ish!"
(Here is a picture of our humble beginnings, performing the Havdalah ceremony, which marks the symbolic end of Shabbat and the beginning of the new week)
It's not that I wasn't raised with the religion to some extent. Most of my Jewish upbringing was through my grandfather, Arieh. I learned to read Hebrew, had a Bat Mitzvah, we did Shabbat dinner, and went to temple weekly.
I have grown to really love many aspects of the religion, namely its connection to the natural cycles. Jews follow a lunar calendar which gives 13, rather than 12 months and most major Jewish holidays fall on either a new moon or a full moon. Being drawn to ceremony and ritual, I also love the seders, with their rich symbolism and reverence for our Mama Earth.
But I was never a big fan of organized religion due to the ways that it can be divisive. In my college years, I felt more called to many of the Eastern spiritual philosophies like Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism because of their belief that divinity is within.
After my grandparents passed, our weekly Shabbat dinners slowly faded away. Aside from an occasional Shabbat dinner at my mom's and celebrating select Jewish holidays--Channukah, Tu'BShvat, and Passover--I have not been a regularly practicing Jew.
And now here are my daughters, calling me to my own ancestry, where I find a built-in solution to my dilemma of how to interface with our face-paced, task-driven culture as a mother and stay sane!
Shabbat, the most basic of Jewish practices (and the most important) is a weekly way to slow down, disconnect, rest, and check-in with what's most essential--our families, ourselves, and our connection to a force that is greater than us, however we choose to name it.
It feels chillingly auspicious to return to the ways of my ancestors while I am working on unpacking my own internalized white supremacy. Growing up it was not popular to be Jewish. Most people in my school went to church and I found myself embarrassed to be openly Jewish, especially on top of being a freak who grew up on a hippie commune!
Part of unpacking white supremacy for white folks is uncovering our own roots, not only as oppressors but also as people who have been oppressed. Discovering the intersectionality of both privilege and oppression in my own body is a deep process.
I come from privilege as a white, middle class, cisgender person, but I also come from oppression as a woman, a midwife, and a Jew. I have relatives who were holocaust survivors, and many who did not survive. These traumas live in our bodies, in our very flesh and bones.
So finding a way to acknowledge both my privilege and my oppression is important in healing any trauma I have inadvertently participated in, either on the giving or the receiving end. My brown-skinned Jewish daughters will have even more currents to navigate in the river of intersectionality.
At a time plagued with uncertainty, when so many structures are crumbling around us, it feels good to go back to the ancient and honorable traditions of my ancestors.
Today Shabbat feels more timely than ever.
While we aren't doing it perfectly yet --we haven't completely cut out driving on Shabbat, nor do we have the traditional braided candle or kiddush cup that is used in this ceremony--we are practicing, and we are learning and this is already bringing us connection and joy.
P.S. Stay tuned for Part II of Return to Roots when I will share an even bigger shift we are making in our lives...