On Rosh Hashana we planted a tree, then went to temple:
Originally I wanted to go to San Diego for this service. We couldn’t do this because of the timing of our trip to Shanghai. And I pissed Haga off because I made her feel that I can only “feel Jewish” with my parents/siblings. So I decided that I have to practice Judaism wherever I am, and I need to include Haga in my faith.
We went to San Francisco to the Beyt Tikkun synagogue service on Rosh Hashanah. I selected this service because the rabbi, Michael Lerner, is a big voice in the anti-war movement and founder of the Jewish left-wing magazine “Tikkun“. Note that I was not really against the war and political events didn’t have anything to do with why I wanted to celebrate Rosh Hashanah at this congregation; I just like the idea that this rabbi tries to make a difference by publishing his (mostly) noble, articulate political and spiritual thoughts to people outside of his congregation.
The service was actually held on the University of San Francisco campus – a Christian school. I was stressed out when we arrived. Haga reminded me that we were late and I had not prepared well in advance. It was difficult to find the place. It didn’t look like a Rosh Hashanah service should look like. The “choir” played accustic instruments that made it sound like a hippie Jewish Lorena Mckennit. I know that appeals to some people
But I listened to the rabbi. He said on this day I need to leave all cynicism behind. He said that we try to improve ourselves and judge ourselves everyday, but on this day we do it as a group. He said we must reject the â€œimmorality of lesser evilismâ€ and the cycles of hate that is destroying the world. He said â€œHow do we know that God is the god of love and mercy? Because he created us, who can envision a world in which our society, our economy, our culture is governed by the principles of loveâ€. Now that I write this down, it may seem a little cheesy.
I realized that I have this problem; I get a little bit bitter and resentful when the world is not the way I think it should be. In the moments when I get over this problem, things work out better even if the things still are not the way they should be. This sums up my experience at this service.
Then we danced. The rabbi said we â€œshow our thanks to God through danceâ€, so we must go dance to outside. We all did this line dance, singing â€œlai lai lai laiâ€¦lai lai lai laiâ€¦la la la laiâ€. Past all the Christian sorority /fraternity students walking around. Haga saw my shuffle dance and said â€œJesseâ€¦are you really showing thanks to God?â€ A bunch of people chuckled at this. She also commented â€œThis is why people danced that Macarena at our wedding!â€
When we were outside, we sang some more, and did this visualization thingâ€¦close eyesâ€¦imagine you see yourself and the congregation hereâ€¦now imagine you see the city of San Francisco, but you can still see yourselfâ€¦now the USâ€¦.now the worldâ€¦and imagine that you see these 6 billion people in the worldâ€¦some are very happyâ€¦.many are going to workâ€¦many are sleepingâ€¦many are poor and hungryâ€¦many are full of hate and lured by the twisted dreams of hateâ€¦many are praying as we are nowâ€¦now imagine you see the Earth in relation to the sunâ€¦but you still see yourselfâ€¦.now imagine you see the galaxyâ€¦This is what we have to be thankful for.
Haga said she used here Yoga stance and her â€œQiâ€ to help her with this exercise. She also said the Science Fiction books/TV shows/movies she watches with me helped her visualize this.
We went back inside, sat down, and meditated. Close eyes again. Rabbi said to visualize you soul. See your soul is good. It is the way you want to be. Tell your soul that you can be more like it. Tell your soul you will be a generous and kind person. Tell your soul that you will make the world a better place. I didnâ€™t see my soul. I donâ€™t know what my soul looks like. So I told the nothingness that I saw that I will be more like you. I will be generous and kind and not selfish and prepare in advance. Haga later said she saw colors which represented her moods. I was supposed to have abandoned cynicism, so I didnâ€™t tell her those colors were an effect of stray electrical impulses on her optic nerves. She said its OK I didnâ€™t see my soulâ€¦but I will need to take taiji (tai-chi) classes in Shanghai to learn how to better meditate.
Osey Shalom started. It should have been the last prayer/song of the evening, but hey, Iâ€™m not going to be resentful about it. I was a little overcome with emotion as we sang it. I pray that my resolve to be a better person will last till next Rosh Hashanah. Then the tempo became up-beat. High-energy. Cool. And a bunch of people jumped up and started doing this hippie dance in the isle. Wow. I donâ€™t know what to do or say or think. This has gone beyond beyond. So I dance a little â€“ not, mind you, a hippie dance.
Haga watched this and said â€œI want my kids to grow up in Berkeley. I want them to be well educated and free-spirited. I just donâ€™t want them to dress like a hippieâ€¦thatâ€™s allâ€. The world turns in funny ways. On this day I have learned some new things about myself and what I would like to do. I have decided that Iâ€™m going to be more active in a congregation (probably not Beyt-Tikkunâ€¦to far away). And I have come to realize that Haga is going to help me become a better man and a better Jew.