Saturday, January 26, 2008

Conversion Class

I went to class again today.  It had been cancelled last week due to a Shabbaton celebration.  I was the only one who attended today.
We talked a bit about Havdallah, which is the ceremony that ends Shabbat and begins the regular week.  It's celebrated with wine, spices, and a braided candle.  The wine is just a standard Jewish thing, according to my Rabbi.  He says that any time there's a celebration, there's wine, and there's no special significance to it in this case.  The spices are because Jewish tradition holds that we are granted a special extra bit of soul to help us celebrate Shabbat, and at Havdallah, it departs from us.  Usually, when your soul departs, if you don't die, you feel faint.  When you faint, you get smelling salts to bring you this case, the spices are meant to stand in place of the smelling salts.  The braided candle is symbolic for a number of reasons.  The two that my Rabbi pointed out to me (that were significant to me) were that Shabbat begins and ends with lighting candles, and that this candle is braided, or woven, to represent paths we take in life, and how we're interdependent.

We also talked about Tu B'Shvat, which is new year for the trees.  I really like this holiday, because of its emphasis on nature and hope (but not cheesy hope).  It celebrates the cycle of dormancy and growth, because it marks when the sap starts flowing through the tree again, bringing the tree back to life.  That's hopeful. It also celebrates that Spring is coming, which is huge for me.  Living where I do, Spring seems so far away...
My Rabbi also told me about a Kabbalistic seder that's done on Tu B'Shvat.  He says it's really beautiful.  From his description, there's lots of wine, lots of fruit, and then a meal.  And some readings to go along with it all.  If I can talk some of my friends into participating, I just might try it this year.

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