Friday, April 20, 2007

Trip to Petra - Part 2

Friday we settled in to our interfaith "talks" - with each person or team describing their circle of interfaith/intercultural activities. The head of our organization in Israel became too ill to attend this conference and asked me to take care of the Jewish presentation while I was ALREADY ON THE WAY. Thank God for good intuition - as right before I left, I grabbed ahold of Jewish Soul music Rabbi, Shlomo Carlebach CD, my daughter's wedding cd, some leftover matzah from Passover and a havdalah candle, and threw them all in my suitcase. So I was prepared for any emergency such as this surprise!

The Moslem presentation was on food - what is Halal and what is Haram. I knew most of the Islamic laws on food and the similarities to kashrut for Jews and I would guess that the 90% of Moslems there could have been bored at hearing the same stuff over and over except for a lively exchange between the Bedouin Sheikh and the person doing the presentation who were arguing about the prohibition of eating animals that weren't slaughtered in the Halal way. The Sheikh claimed it wasn't an actual "prohibition" but rather, one should "avoid" this meat. I laughed at how similar Jews argue about such seemingly trivial (at least to outsiders) laws, and there are so many of them to argue about - I guess that's why we're always arguing. But it was amusing for me to know that Moslems argue in the same fashion.

After their presentation - it was my turn. I turned over my daughter's wedding CD to the part of the wedding ceremony, which was a shortened version of the 1/2 hour ceremony. Many people were interrupting me for interpretations of the strange goings-on under the Chuppah (marriage canopy) - "were they drinking wine?" "why did they break the glass" (that was the most popular question); "what was that long scroll?" "why did the bride put her ring on her middle finger to show everyone?" "What does the marriage contract say?" - I answered their questions as best I could and went into dating rituals (ultra-orthodox have the most interesting ones) and family purity where the couple cannot have sex when the wife is menstruating and a week after that - after which she dunks herself in a mikvah (ritual bath).

After, I and another Jewish woman made a short presentation on the recent Passover holiday and I gave out matzah for everyone to taste, explaining the seder rituals, the final prayer of "Next Year in Jerusalem", etc. except that I joked that many Israelis now rush back into Egypt during the Passover holidays to vacation in Sinai. But the other presenter explained that this holiday was kept to some extent even by the hidden Jews of Spain, the Marranos/Anusim, who were forced to convert to Christianity and kept some semblance of tradition, such as not eating bread during a certain time during the Spring season and others.

Later that afternoon, right before the Sabbath, we played a CD by Jewish soul music Rabbi, Shlomo Carlebach, the one who went to Berkley and San Francisco in the late 1960s and founded the synagogue which was called the House of Love and Prayer to bring the Jewish hippies from acid tripping to tripping on Judaism. He has worked tirelessly for the rest of his life and has since passed on, but his teachings are still thriving and his unique soul-soaring music still touches everyone's soul. So much so that after we did our Sabbath presentation - lighting candles with a blessing to bring in the Sabbath, a song for the Sabbath (lecha dodi, greeting the Sabbath Queen) and blessings over grape juice and challah, which we distributed - an Iranian woman came over to me and asked where she could get such a CD.

"Well to tell you the truth, I don't think the CD stores in Tehran stock this item.
Tell you what, I'll just give this to you."

Which I did and she happily accepted the gift. So now "A Taste of Shabbes" by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach has been imported into Iran. I laughed at the thought of Rabbi Carlebach doing this on purpose - somewhere in the heavens - plotting to get his music over to the Iranians and touch their souls too.

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