Monday, March 22, 2010


We are all part of many communities. I am part of many communities. I am about to leave one of my most sustaining communities: my synagogue. I will be moving away and I will be leaving my synagogue. The synagogue for me has been all about community, very little about religious practice. I have been a member since I was pregnant with my now 31 year old daughter. That’s a long time.

In the Jewish tradition separating yourself from community is seen as a major problem. The community is the very expression of G-D. Prayer is done in community, holiday celebrations are done in community, mourning and addressing one’s soul, all done in community.

I am just beginning to assess what this separation will mean to me. I have gotten a few posts from my unconscious. Thought I would share.

Post #1. I was looking at the facial profile of an acquaintance, a woman I have known for most of 30 years. I do not know her well, but I know that face. I was noticing that it is now the face of an older woman—a woman probably nearing 70. She looks all of those years, but I don’t really see that. I see a montage: a woman of 40, 45, 50. I see a very bright woman, a somewhat argumentative woman, an annoying woman. I see all those qualities accompanied by visual images superimposed on one another. I see her as she really is I think, a collection of all her younger selves. I don’t have an emotional history with her so there is really no affective content—but the visual alone is quite complex.

In this moment, sitting around a table with people who have no history with her, I had a flash as to how she looks to these new friends and acquaintances. I’m sure they look at her and see an older woman. All that that phrase means “older woman” is all that they see. Her current audience doesn’t see the kaleidoscope. They see her as she is now. There is no dynamic picture, the one that carries meaning, the one that has a past as well as a present. That face, that montage: I think of it as the “real” face.

Post #2. Recently I sat at a Purim party in the synagogue watching a smart and funny Purim play. I knew many of the participants. As I watched the “shpiel” I thought: I have known these people forever, and then surprisingly I heard a quiet voice in my head: “and I forgive them.” I wasn’t even sure what that thought meant, but it felt right. In that moment I had enough distance to feel my love for them, and their flaws, their errors, the injuries we have inflicted on one another, small and large. For a moment my ego, my involvement was suspended. For the moment none of that mattered. What mattered was history, shared affection, and forgiveness.

These are people with whom I have an affective history—the photo montage is not just visual, it is emotional, it is real. Over 30 year there has change, growth, maturity,and a lot of loss. All of it. To have something to forgive is meaningful and it comes only with the gift of time.

So in my new community I can only hope to be able to know people well enough to approximate their “real” faces, and have mine be known (approximately) by them. It is, however, unlikely that I will experience enough intimacy enough intensity to become truly, meaningfully forgiving and forgiven.


  1. Fortunate to have had solid community....some might even join you in your new digs, but knowing you you will create a new solid community.

  2. that's a great idea! closer to AL...