Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tonight begins the holiday of Passover, a time for looking back and telling our collective story, again, so that we may inform the next generation of its history and, also, so that we will never forget our struggles. I have had mixed emotions about organized religion for a very long time, though I am spiritual, and each holiday brings with it a bundle of thoughts and feelings with which I must cope. I do have to say, though, that as a CSA survivor I know how important the "telling" of any story is and Passover is no exception. My good friend, Carrie, a therapist and the model for "Kisses From Dolce's" Miss Carrie, has said to me all along that "the healing is in the telling" and how right (and write) she has been.
Toward that end, I am including here an essay I wrote several years ago. It was the first time I had written for a larger audience about my abuse and it was published in a Jewish newspaper. Unfortunately, the publisher, acting as editor and without informing me, removed the very lines that had been hardest to say and write. When the essay appeared, I was inconsolable for 15 minutes. Then, I picked myself up and sought answers from him. He never responded to any of my inquiries. He did, however, inform my husband that he removed the lines because of "Loshon Hora," the Jewish concept of negative talk, gossip. He went on to say that he felt the piece was still powerful, even without the lines. As you will see, nowhere in my piece are names named, just me baring my soul. I felt disregarded and disrespected.
And so, I offer this to you, whether you observe Passover or Easter or nothing at all, the unedited version (lines he removed in bold), my feelings about religion, goodness and decency in humanity.

"O Lord,
Guard my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking guile,
And to those who slander me, let me give no heed.
May my soul be humble and forgiving unto all."

So begins the conclusion of the Amidah and some of my favorite words in the siddur.

Of late, they have been especially meaningful.

Almost forty years after the fact I have recovered memories, hideous and evil.
A beloved neighbor and dear friend to our family raped me, among other things, and finding my way out of a lifelong struggle with my own worthiness has meant needing to face the truth, head on, and surmount it.

Thankfully, I am doing that. Each day is a struggle, some better than others. And not just for me, but for my husband and child. I’ve found tremendous support, both professional and personal, in the form of my wonderful family and true, compassionate friends.

But mostly, I have found myself, always a deep believer in God, deeply grateful to Him for granting me strength and for guiding me from one source of illumination to the next. I am very aware that it is His gifts that have enabled me to see those things in front of me, the tools in my healing, as steps along the way, on a path I am carving with the stones He has provided. I believe that my ability to be open to seeing and hearing truths which for so many years I could not is one of His great gifts to me. And I am so grateful.

I am married to a rabbi, but I have never been a regular shul-goer. I always went when I felt the need or inspired, and indeed that hasn’t changed. What has changed, however, is my ability to embrace the Jew that I am, as good enough, for only me to judge. I’ve known traditional Jews who have maligned the reform traditions, and even-more traditional Jews who malign those not-enough-traditional for their tastes. Arrogance takes hold of those who would deem they are “better Jews” than others.

I have never subscribed to those ways of thinking and indeed I have resented them, especially when judgment came my way (never from my husband). For many years, though, I couldn’t embrace my own faith, the way God meant it for me, and look the other way when righteous indignation from others began.

Now, however, I take a deep breath, a sigh really, and understand that my truth belongs to me and others need not understand or approve for me to revel in my love and abiding faith in my God, my way.

And, ironically, having been able to let go of worry about what others think, has freed me to reread the liturgy and rethink text and halacha and see what has meaning for me, knowing all the time, that God will love me and share a personal relationship with me, no matter how that fits into Judaism. I have always believed that character, ethics, morality and the ability to respect others and treat them with kindness has been what the God of us all wants for us and from us all. That hasn’t changed for me one iota.

"May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable unto you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer."


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