Saturday, June 25, 2011

My summer of R&R&R - Day 1

Welcome to My Summer of R (Rest) & R (Relaxation) & R (Reflection)

Day 1 – Wednesday June 22, 2011  London Town Musings

    There is something so uniquely British feeling about a rainy day – especially a cold, grey rainy day in summer.  People should be shivering and staying indoors, instead there is a riot of colour out on the street as people go about their business under a canopy of umbrellas – solid colored, striped, patchwork, polka dotted, plaid, paneled, bannered, with or without words or medallions, with decorative edging, extremely large or so small one cannot figure out why they are being used at all. It’s totally cool!

I spent a period of time in a pub off Tottenham Court Road as I finished up a strange lunch that included minty mushy peas. As much as I enjoy peas, I deeply regret that I cannot recommend minty mushy peas to anyone. Even to people that I do not like. Enough said.  The waiter at the restaurant was very nice to me, noticed how exhausted I was from traveling so many hours (nearly 20 at that point), brought me countless refills of Coke and encouraged me to stay for as long as I wanted. So I did. I stared out the window, sipped my Coke, stared at the rain, and watched the parade of umbrellas pass by.

I also occupied myself with interesting reading – articles on the concept of devekut in Hassidut.
The readings don’t necessarily match the surroundings except that devekut (clinging or cleaving to Gd) is all about determination  and if going about in this chilly, icky, wet weather in not all about determination, then I do not know what is!

 Of course, I’m hard put to find a parallel between the plethora of umbrellas and ecstatic elevation of spirituality and devotion to the Kudsha Brich Hu – unless one really wants to stretch and reference Mary Poppins and her flights into the air of the Supernal Realm with her umbrella. I am in England, after all!
Interfaith Experience #1
    I did manage to daven (pray) Ma’ariv as we waited to take off last night and Shacharit this morning. Davened in the back of the plane (British Air) after having a chat with the 2 Irish flight attendants and explained what tefillin were. One of them had seen tefillin before, one hadn’t - both knew they were not bombs, B"H. They both had many questions including what are they for, what is in the boxes, what do the straps represent, why do you wear them, and of course the biggie – (no, not are they used for S&M but) we didn’t  know women could be rabbis.  Both were Irish Catholic and didn’t know of any female Catholic priests, so a woman clergy figure was outside of their experience. They were quite pleased.  I got out my handy dandy Tanach, showed them where in Deuteronomy the Shma can be found, showed the passages from Hosea 2:20-21 that we say as we wrap the straps around the middle finger and what that symbolizes. Discussed the marriage metaphor of Gd/Israel and man/woman and all in-between. Was fascinating. Only got a few strange looks from other passengers on their way to the bathroom (asher yatzar…).  Interesting way to pass the time before breakfast.


Interfaith Experience #2
    At British Museum, while waiting to meet my wonderful friends Sara Bucciarelli and her adorable son Dov (3 yrs, 4 mos old), I was asked to take the picture of a couple that was sitting on the steps of the museum. As we began to talk (because of course we had to begin to talk) I learned that the woman had just been ordained from the Fuller Theological Seminary in California and was about to being a Hospital Chaplaincy Program (yea CPE).  We seminarians are all over the place. She and I exchanged stories and email addresses and plan to keep in touch. Mazal tov to Karen Bolte! I wish you blessings and much luck as you find your way through your calling and do Gd’s work in the world. 

The day ended with a wonderful conversation with Sara about head versus hair coverings for liberal Jewish women – how we make these decisions and how other people view the decisions we make. 
    We also talked about how people with different religious practices interface. Life is different for those of us who live in the grey spaces as opposed to those who are able to see things quite concretely or are comfortable with black and white. I am very happy to have Sara back in my life
    I land in Israel at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow (Thursday) morning. Zari will pick me up and take me to Marissa and Barbara’s apartment. Where would be without friends in our lives?

Wall in Tube station at Tottingham Court Road Station. Cool, huh?

Look! They still have phone booths. And ones with style!

Okay, so maybe there not too much style or class on the inside but the outside looks good.

The British Museum. It was pouring!

Don't think I'll get to Afghanistan in real life so....

Jennie, this shoe is for you!

Soho - Gotta love it!

I love London! 

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