Wednesday, August 13, 2014

When Friends Touch the Sacred

written by guest blogger, Lynnea Stuart

Some people think I’m Jewish.  I’m not.

Not only am I a goya (Gentile female), I’m a transsexual Gnostic goya who happens to study Hebrew.

But my best female friend is Jewish… and single.  Sometimes we get together to commiserate about men.  I told her one day, “Why don’t you get serious about your tradition?  Go to Shabbat services.  Light some candles.”

Then I moved away from my boyfriend.  She asked me to stay with her.  For the first week or so I never saw her doing anything more for Shabbat than macrobiotic cooking which isn’t quite the same thing as kosher cooking even if it’s consistent with kosher rules.  So I decided to prompt something to happen.

I went out and bought some candles designed to burn down in a couple of hours.  When it comes to Sabbath lights, one does not extinguish them once lit.  They are simply allowed to burn themselves out.

So we looked around for some candlesticks.  What we found that fit were some silver candlesticks so neglected they were heavily bearded in red wax.  I said, “Those should work.”  She was shaken.

As I learned later, these were her grandmother’s candlesticks she had used for Shabbat.

I continued my preparations:  shower, cooking, cleaning.  Then as sunset approached I prompted her to the Sabbath lights.  She lit them and melted them into their sockets.  She covered her eyes and said, “Will you recite the barakhah (blessing)?”


I  demurred because, after all, I’m not Jewish.  I was just trying to get her to exercise her own tradition.  But she assured me with, “Yes.”

I waved my hands over the candles in a circular pattern, crossed them to cover my eyes and recited, “Barukh Atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melekh Ha’olam, Asher kiddeshanu b’mitvotaiv vitzivanu l’hadliyk ner shel Shabbat.” (Blessed are You, Lord Our God, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us in His commands and commanded us to kindle a light of Sabbath)

My Jewish friend followed along with me in one of the few barakhot I actually know.  But no sooner than we recited it something remarkable happened.

Picture an explosion of a skyrocket like on the 4th of July.  At that moment Light burst from between those candles with energy we both felt, a Lumina that filled the dwelling in a vibrant hush.

My friend’s eyes widened.  “Wow!  This is a holy meal!”

I then understood something from what I had read in various Rabbinic articles.  What my Magian friends had called, “Light” must have been what the Rabbis called, “Chai” (Life).  It felt the same as I had felt many times in many traditions:  tingly, living, and wonderful.  It’s an energy one encounters when touching the sacred.  It alone has kept not a few from returning to the rites of their respective traditions again and again.

And that Shabbat I had the privilege of sharing it with a Jewish friend.

Did she light Sabbath lights on her own after that?  I never saw it happen.  But she did clean up those candlesticks and set them in an honored place on her table… with decorative Shabbat candles for another heralding of Shabbat as a sanctuary in time.  And I offered a prayer that the man she may find would lead her to light those candles again.

For even in something simple as lighting candles, there’s a profound Light ready to answer, regardless of whether a girl is of a given faith or not… and regardless of whether religionists accept her a woman.

Lynnea Urania Stuart was first published in Shabbat Shalom magazine (Review and Herald Publishers) as a contributing writer in 1990 and later wrote the San Francisco Scene column for TV Epic in 2000.  Her religious background is varied, though she today speaks of herself as “Melissite Gnostic” and may be found in most any religious group, whether Abrahamic, Dharmic, Shamanic, or Telestatic.  She does so openly as a post-operative transsexual woman while at the same time promoting spirituality within the transgender demographic within the wide diversity that transgender people hold spirituality.

1 comment:

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