Last night I attended a special shabbat dinner event at one of our local synagogues, and I found it inspiring on many levels. First, it was comforting and affirming to gather with like-minded folks and sing about peace and the abiding presence of the Divine. The political climate in this country is really weighing me down, and it is encouraging to know that there are people and spiritual communities out there who share my values. Because I live in a different city than my own spiritual community, I miss some of that wonderful day-to-day connection, and the shabbat provided a welcome infusion.
Secondly, the audience was mostly Jewish, but the rabbi and congregation welcomed some Catholics and Presbyterians--and they also warmly welcomed me, a Pagan, into their home. I was also reminded of the spiritual values we have in common, such as a reverence for our ancestors. The rabbi told a moving story about the Kiddush cup that he and his family uses to bless special days, and it once belonged to his great-grandfather who was also a rabbi. I was moved to tears, so happy that he has this item from his family's history and for the spiritual significance of it. It reminded me of my devotion to my own ancestors, although I don't have any such items like this. It also reminded me of the distance we put between ourselves and our ancestors in this country. As a Pagan, restoring that connection is one of my goals.
Finally, the guest speaker was a Catholic priest from a predominantly Hispanic church in town, who spoke about the shared commitment to social justice between Jews and his congregation, many of whom are undocumented immigrants. He spoke about the Biblical commands to care for the stranger in our midst, one of the things I still cherish from my Christian upbringing. He also reminded me of just how much the Liberation Theology tradition shaped my own beliefs and values which I still carry with me today. And the rabbi reminded us all of how rare it is for a Catholic priest to speak from a Jewish bimah, traditionally the raised platform in a synagogue from which the Torah is read.
So as I reflect on the approach today of the Pagan holiday of Imbolc, it is clear that the light is returning once again to our part of the world, literally and figuratively. And I felt that light return last night in a Jewish synagogue through the words of a Catholic priest. Blessed be.