|Life can be a drag. Especially for someone like Sarah who is standing in front of her class reciting the Gettysburg Address with a huge zit on her nose. Is it oozing?At home, there is no way Sarah can tell Mom that her child, destined for Dartmouth’s green, recited “Four scare and seven yares ago.”Hiding in her room, chatting with friends, Sarah waits for the invite. Everyone else got one. “Yes, Mom, doing homework.” Now on I-chat: Sarah, your pants were tight, eating tons?|
To Jewish kids, all who live some version of Sarah’s story, here is a promise:
Judaism can get you high. It can lift you up.
I know this to be true. Because I’m high as I’m writing this. I’m connected to something bigger than myself. I’ve also experienced, through Jewish practice, actually leaving my body and connecting to the light in the past, present and future. When life is a drag or joy I have the Jewish tools I need for being lifted higher and higher.
So I’m a pusher. Here is an idea to help kids by time they are 16 be addicted.
Four concepts for being lifted higher and higher:
Messaging to 13 year olds that they can ascend is our tradition’s brilliance. Their lives scream to be wholly elevated.
The traditional aliyah does not convey the intended message for everyone. So, let’s keep the message and experiment with another technology.
The technology, adapted in the last decades for Jewish adults from Christian monastic tradition, is Spiritual Direction. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xW1Bzz3Fd8c
I propose spiritual direction as a frame for learning and ritual for emerging teens. Imagine a five-year journey. It begins at the age of 11. Example:
Sarah, 11 years old, is shy and artistic. Melanie, a madricha/spiritual director, provides a safe caring space for Sarah’s story and questions. Melanie listens for Sarah’s glimpses of “going up.” Melanie supports spiritual practices to explore that experience. Learning, guided by Melanie, emphasizes personal relationships; Sarah’s narrative, Jewish practice and teaching that speaks to Sarah’s questions; and a practice for daily ascent-aliyah.
Judaism says don’t get high alone-aliyah is done with a minyan. Melanie works with Sarah to create a minyan to accompany her during her spiritual growth spurt. Children at this time go from seeing God on a throne to evoking a strong sense of justice to questioning and rebellion. Instead of spiritually shape shifting in solitude, as most children do, Sarah explores her changing beliefs with her minyan. Family, friends, specialists, and community members in the minyan commit to Sarah’s unfolding journey. This minyan can’t give Sarah what they don’t have. They too work on getting high.
Inherent in the technology of spiritual direction is the acceptance of different “spiritual types.” Sarah has not found her glimpses of being high by devotional, contemplative, intellectual or altruistic practices. Instead Melanie helps Sarah discern her greatest moments of transcendence while she is painting.
Mid-way through this leg of her five-year journey, Sarah’s minyan helps her explore, learn and share an expression of her experience with getting high with her larger community. What would that look like for Sarah? Grounded in Jewish teaching and practice and expressed through her painting? Could you imagine? The big family celebration still happens at age 13, but it looks different. Sarah has experienced aliyah, not once, but all along.
Bimah: Her minyan helps her get up “on the balcony” (bimah) to reflect on her acquired tools for searching Jewish tradition to speak to her real life questions. Her bimah view gives her the skills for being in relationship with and creating a minyan of support, making decisions, co-creating rituals, and discerning ways of getting higher. With the help of her minyan she charts the next leg of her journey. Sarah continues simply because of the “value added,” to her life. By time she is 16 she has the habit and the support to explore new paths just in time for a newly defined Confirmation.
Aliyah, minyan, parshiot and bimah can help this generation get higher and higher. Sarah has to recite the Bill of Rights next week, and the zit hasn’t popped, can Judaism be there for her?
WE can because every generation re-invents getting higher and higher.