Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
When I moved to Seattle in 2003 one of the first people I met was Rabbi Zari Weiss through a mutual friend who introduced us. Zari quickly became a dear friend, especially when my mother died soon after moving, and she was one of the few people I knew at the time who had also lost both parents. She shared with me the tremendous wisdom of the Jewish mourning process where the person who loses someone significant goes into special status for a year and nothing additional is asked of them during this time to allow for the demanding work of grief.
I had already loved Jewish spirituality, while in graduate school for my PhD in Christian spirituality, we had to study one outside tradition and I chose Judaism with a focus on feminist midrash which are stories that are told about the gaps and cracks in scripture. It is a beautiful and creative way to reclaim women’s voices in particular, which are often absent.
Zari often invited John and me over for various Jewish celebrations including an interfaith Shabbat service where Buddhists, Christians, and Jews gathered together to recite the Hebrew prayers together, light the candles, break the Challah bread, and share about what Sabbath calls us to.
She also hosted wonderful Passover Seders where we came dressed up as a character in the Exodus story and retold the stories from our perspective and reflect on inner and outer liberation. For Sukkot, the festival of booths, we’d gather in her backyard in a tent to share a meal together and reflect on the vulnerability and transitoriness of our lives. My life and spirituality have been deeply enriched by my friendship with her and one of the things I miss most in the west of Ireland is not having a Jewish community where I can join some of these practices.
Sabbath is one of the practices I write about in my book Sacred Time: Embracing an Intentional Way of Life. I consider it to be one of the most essential contemplative practices in my life, perhaps because it is also one of the most challenging. To make time every week to pause, to stop the continual demands of work, and to prioritize the pleasure and delight of rest that the divine calls so very good in the first creation story of Genesis is an act of resistance in a world that values perpetual productivity. The gift of refreshment from Sabbath is profound. It is a practice that continues to teach me new things about releasing my striving and yielding to the powerful invitation to simply be for a while.
When we had our last Wisdom Council meeting in the spring, the topic came up of hosting some mini-retreats in interspirituality since our community tends to be a diverse and eclectic group open to conversation and being enriched by the wisdom of other traditions. Zari was the first person I thought of and how I’d love to share her presence with all of you. Please join us next Saturday, October 2nd for a mini-retreat on Sabbath/Shabbat as a contemplative practice led by Rabbi Zari Weiss on Zoom. The retreat will be recorded for later viewing if you aren’t able to join us during the live session.
From the retreat description: “Shabbat is a day to find within ourselves once again the life-energy that makes us human. It is not simply a day to refrain from doing work; rather, it is a time to remember our place in Creation and to honor the Source of that creation. In this retreat, we will learn more about the tradition of Shabbat, and explore what it might mean to build into our own lives Sabbath time, in ways that are nurturing and renewing.”
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With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Image © Christine Valters Paintner