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Showing Up

A life cycle painting by Sheryl Intrator Urman

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the bris of Inbal and Avi Sadi's newborn baby boy. Mazel Tov and congratulations to the whole Sadi family!

After the bris, we got home and there was a flurry of pajamas and bedtime. I then headed out again to San Francisco to join Rabbi Shmulik and Tzippy Friedman, who run the Chabad center in Soma, celebrate their oldest son's Bar Mitzvah. Growing up in a religious community occasions like a Bris or Bar Mitzvah, though not every day, were fairly common occurrences. Living here, it's not as often that we participate in these joyful occasions.

I was struck by the beauty of this baby's entrance into the world and the covenant of the Jewish people. He was surrounded by loving family and friends. Through all the milestones for boys and girls; 3rd birthday, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, marriage etc. they are surrounded by an entire community who comes to witness their entrance into this next phase of life and to celebrate it with them. Gathering is woven into the fabric of Jewish life, from the more mundane like weekly Shabbat dinner, to the joyous and the times of grief.

For each of these occasions the only thing required of the participants is to show up with an open heart and be present to what the individual or family is experiencing. That can be joy or grief, laughter or tears.

Another common theme in Jewish life is a circle. The baby is passed from his mother to an escort and then to the sandek who holds the baby for the circumcision. The baby is then passed back to the escort and finally his mother. Chassidic dancing is circular, an endless sea of inner to outer circles joining hands in a physical representation of our interconnectedness and our continuity.

The meal that is brought to a mourners home is usually a hard boiled egg and a roll or a bagel. Two circular foods symbolizing the circle of life that started before an individual comes into the world and continues after their soul has left this world.

Earlier in the day I had been cooking for Shabbat. I listened to an interview about polyvagal theory. The main point that kept coming up over and over again was the tremendous power that there is in having a witness during times of pain. Huge damage is caused when we face our pain alone. This starts from a newborn, who when it cries needs to be held. Their brain becomes wired to understand that if they are picked up, witnessed and cared for in their times of need then this world is a safe place. A lack of this attunement can have devastating consequences for the future, a brain that has been wired to believe that the world is not a safe place.

Loneliness is an epidemic for our generation. Even when we are physically together it's not often that we truly see one another. Attending these two Smachot made me appreciate the gift that Torah has embedded into our lives which expands not only to these significant and momentous occasions but also the everyday ones. It is so important to reach out for help or show up for someone else and be there with them. This presence helps us heal, connect and feel that this world can indeed be a safe, beautiful and loving place.

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