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Thanksgiving Giveaway

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Today is a day of triple celebration! Not only is it the eve of two holidays—Hanukkah and Thanksgiving—it’s also the final day of the Loyola Press Blog Tour celebrating the publication of Kyle Cupp’s Living by Faith, Dwelling in Doubt: A Story of Belief, Uncertainty, and Boundless Love. I’m sharing in today’s festivities with a book giveaway.

cupp book jacketCupp has filled this slim volume with two interwoven stories. One is the story of how he and his wife dealt with the birth and death of their daughter Vivian, who was diagnosed prenatally with anencephaly, a neural-tube defect that caused her death within hours of her birth. The other is his life story: a story of found, lost and regained faith.

Although Cupp writes from within the context of Catholicism, I found that many statements about his beliefs mirror my own. He writes, “I believe that anyone who has truly loved another has shown and seen the face of God.” Cupp’s faith is grounded in a deep and abiding love for his family and for God. “It helps me to remember that my religion is a means to an end: loving communion with God and neighbor.”

This book is both a treatise of personal faith and a tribute to the eternal nature of love.

Cupp’s descriptions of preparing for the birth, baptism and burial of his daughter were especially heart-rending, as he shares his story with emotional honesty. While I am grateful that I cannot imagine the pain of burying a child, I am reminded and inspired by his words to have empathy with those who have suffered this unimaginable loss.

Our generation has been accused of being self-indulgent and of oversharing, particularly on social media. But, for me, there is inherent value in sharing one’s story, to help others glimpse a new perspective of life.  Cupp encapsulates this sentiment early in his book: “Your unique place means that you will see the sun and what’s under it from a different perspective than others.” Only he can tell his story; only he can understand his experience from within it.  Yet, when I read Cupp’s words, both his and my experiences are illuminated, and I feel that I understand life in a new light.

Perhaps this is what Cupp means by showing another and seeing in another the face of God.

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What aspect of Cupp’s book most intrigues you?

Leave a comment below and you might be the lucky winner to receive a free copy of Living by Faith, Dwelling in Doubt.

Winner of the Thanksgiving Giveaway will be randomly selected and announced on Tuesday, December 3rd.

 

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Taking My Torah Off-Road

Off-road_tireI’m taking my Torah off-road and parking it in the wet Georgia clay for a few weeks.

My season of intense travel has ended.

Six weeks ago, when I posted about how fun it was to travel to New Jersey, I was in a state of ignorant bliss. Now I am in a state of grateful exhaustion. I am also in the state of Georgia, where I will continue to teach Torah through an Artist-Rabbi’s Lens for the next four weeks.

Scrolling through the calendar in my bossy phone, I realize that my teaching schedule in Metro Atlanta will be as intense as my travel schedule has been since we began reading the Book of Genesis in the weekly Torah-reading cycle.

My career as an itinerant teacher of Torah did not begin six weeks ago. It had as many beginnings as the Book of Genesis has origin stories. You could say that it began more than 25 years ago, when, as a student in the rabbinical school of the Jewish Theological Seminary, I left NYC to lead Seminary Shabbat programs in communities as far flung as Stony Brook, NY and Youngstown, OH.  Or you could say that it began more than five years ago, when I left my full-time job as a classroom teacher in a Jewish day school to finish a manuscript that I had begun writing, while also teaching adult learners part-time and reaching my goal of creating 100 pieces of pottery in one year.

“When did this begin?” is not the correct question. The questions of “how” and “why” yield more interesting answers and lead to a richer narrative; one that contains multiple truths, like the Torah that I’ve been teaching on the road for as long as I can remember. More recently, I have learned to embrace this Torah as my own.

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As I put the finishing touches on a text-sheet for tonight’s class and hit the print button, I am grateful for my colleagues in Clal’s Rabbis Without Borders, who have encouraged me to be an Artist-Rabbi and who have hosted me in their communities. With their support, I remain grounded—in my Torah and in my home state of Georgia—at least until our RWB Alumni Retreat in February.

 

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iDOMA

Earlier this week, PopChassid wrote “A Tribute to Mothers” on his blog. I suppressed the urge to post the link to my daughters’ Facebook walls.

It’s not that my children take my love for granted. It’s just that the love often gets overshadowed by discipline–both of which are necessary–and they fail to recognize that the latter is an aspect of Mother-love.

This post serves as my personal Defense of Mothers Act. I write not in my own defense, but in defense of and tribute to my mother. Now, decades later, I appreciate her insistence on proper elocution and daily efforts to make me speak clearly. Although I remember her refrain–I can hear it reverberating in my head–I can no longer recall what my four year old self felt when she said: “SMILE when you say I.” I’m sure that I was exasperated by her ongoing attempt to erase any trace of Staten Island accent. Last Shabbat, when the subject of regional accents came up at lunch, I did a pitch perfect “imitation” until I was laughing too hard to speak.  I caught my breath and acknowledged my mother’s discipline that I now realize was an expression of her love.

By the time I spoke to my mom, a few days later, I had forgotten to tell her about that conversation on Shabbat. I forgot to thank her. I hope that she reads this iDOMA and smiles knowingly: Mom, I SMILED every time while I read this piece aloud to check for typos.

And here’s a little something–in my own defense–just in case my daughters are reading:

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