When my children were growing up, I thought that it would be smart to ban television from our home. I thought that instead of watching a lot of mindless tv, they would use their imaginations and play creatively. I thought it would encourage reading. It did both those things, but it made my creative children oddballs on the playground. So much of the imaginative play on school playgrounds was based on tv characters and shows my children did not know. My children already stood out at Country Day because their mother was a teacher at the school and we were not wealthy. Being ignorant about much of pop culture alienated them even more.
Similarly when I was growing up my parents were committed atheists and thought they were saving us from what they saw as the mindless mumbo jumbo of religion by forbidding any participation in any kind of spiritual practice. We never talked about religion and did not celebrate any holidays. The result was that I had nothing in common spiritually with any of the other kids in my class. I yearned for any kind of festive practice, but was left looking on with envy at my friends who had beautiful Christmas Trees, got dressed up in a spring outfit for Easter, or lit candles on a Hanukah menorah. I would sneak out with friends to go with them to the Catholic Church where I was awed by the smells and chants. I would go to the Presbyterian Church and hear inspirational sermons. And I attended synagogue with others to hear the beautiful singing in Hebrew. I felt like an alien in all of them.
We were Jewish, but were not ever educated about Judaism, so that when I married my Jewish first husband his aunts and uncles were appalled during my first Seder when I didn’t know what to do. “It’s too bad Alec couldn’t find a Jewish girl to marry,” they told Alec’s mother.
So my religious education has unfolded slowly as I bump into terms and practices that I have heard about but do not understand. Aside from a rabbi in Charlotte who was upset when I explained that I thought we used lamb shank on the seder plate because Jesus was the Lamb of God, people have been patient with me. Yesterday Dan Snyder brought copies of his new book, Praying in the Dark, to Chifferobe, where they are available for sale. I am reading this book now and learning so much about ways to deepen spirituality.
Dan and I were talking about the many people we know who are experiencing hard times right now: people sick, losing loved ones, feeling depressed. Dan explained that it is not surprising because we are in Advent. I sell Advent calendars but I didn’t really know what Advent was! He explained that Advent precedes Christianity and marks the time of year when we descend into physical darkness. We are searching for Light more at this time of year. Thus Christmas lights and Hanukah candles to light the way.
I hope that you all, my friends, are allowing the darkness to wash over you as you wait in silence and prayer for Light. I wish you Light.