A Prayer for a Dead Pet: Chloe didn’t Make it

So, it turned out that Chloe was too far gone, and after two days of improvements, she seemed to give up, and after two days of decline, it was time to let her go. We’re obviously sad, but as we only knew her six days, the grief is mild.

Nonetheless, it sparked thoughts in me, wondering what prayer one should say on the death of a pet. And working within the Jewish tradition, I’ve composed the following:

God, full of love, dwelling in the spirit of all life, may the spirit of ___________ be accepted into your love. By the merit of his/her love, may his/her spirit live on in the love of all life. And let us say, Amen.

Edited: I’ve managed to create a Hebrew version of the text below:

An Odd Shabbat Service

Tomorrow morning, I will be leading an odd (one might even say queer) shabbat service. It is for the Transforming Faith: Divining Gender conference, which deals with transgender issues from a positive faith perspective. Now, what makes this an odd experience for me is not any of the gender/transgender issues, that’s pretty comfortable for me. What makes it odd is that I’ll be leading a shabbat service for a congregation of about 100, of whom I may be the only Jew.

I’ve spent a lot of time studying how to lead Jewish prayer, thinking about how to lead Jewish prayer and actually leading Jewish prayer in a variety circumstances. However, it is only very rarely that I’ve been dealing with a primarily non-Jewish congregation. Even rarer, this is a circumstance where they have chosen to do “multi-faith” prayer rather than “inter-faith” prayer.

“Inter-faith” prayer is when you get a bunch of religions together, and they construct a service they can all live with, which isn’t really representative of any one religious tradition, but isn’t objectionable to any religious tradition (ideally). They tend to be a bit on the bland side, and often a little uncomfortable as some member of the clergy goes on autopilot and and invokes the blessing of Jesus Christ our savior (“well of course you’re Jewish, that doesn’t mean you don’t believe in Christ, does it?”). I can and do participate in these gatherings because they are important, but tend not to find them particularly satisfying.

“Multi-faith”, on the other hand, is where each faith takes one service, and lead a service which is deliberately particularistic to that faith. So I am leading the Saturday morning service as a Shabbat service (more or less). A Muslim leader is leading the Friday morning service. There are some Christian services, etc. My goal here is to present an authentic Jewish prayer experience which is accessible and meaningful to a non-Jewish congregation.

Often, much of Jewish prayer takes place in Hebrew. It’s hard to create a participatory prayer experience when only the leader has any famiarity with the language being used (note: the Catholic Church, when seeking to make the mass more accessible started using the vernacular instead of Latin). So, I’m mainly doing things that can be done in English. I think the extent of the Hebrew in the service will be 9 words: the Shema (6 words) and a chant for Ahavah Rabbah (3 words), and I’ve transliterated those 9 words.

Otherwise, I think we’ll sing a psalm in English, and do a guided meditation. Oh yes, and do some blessing of God for creation in English. All in all, it should be a nice service, give some taste of Jewish prayer, and, at the same time, come in at under 30 minutes (thereby rendering a completely inauthentic experience of shabbat morning services).

I’m looking forward to this, and think it should be fun. After the service, I go home, and plan to sleep for much of the day, and finally be rid of this cold.

Is this Shabbat?

I’m getting ready for my weekend, which includes shabbat. In this case, that includes a double bar mitzvah at services tonight and Saturday morning. You might think this would mean less work for the rabbi, since the bar mitzvah boys will be leading much of the service. Somehow, however, the anxiety of being the cheerleader for those leading the service outweighs the reduction in workload from actually leading the service.  I know they’ll do fine, but it always is a little bit stressy for everyone involved.

The preparation is largely done, though I am still polishing the two sections of Torah I’ll be reading tomorrow morning. I have my “sermons” (really more like speeches to the young men) ready for tonight.

For Sunday, I’m beginning an adult Hebrew class.  I’m putting together my own curriculum and materials for the class.  This will either work really well or really poorly (or something in between). The basic idea is that I’m going to be teaching vocabulary in a less systematic way than formal language instruction normally would, with the emphasis on words that come up frequently in prayers. This week will largely be about separating out the prefixes and suffixes from words, and a few very basic words.

Even on a shabbat when I’m working, I prefer to head into it with a feeling of mindfulness, that I feel like is missing this week. Somehow, this feels more like, “once more into the breach…” than focusing on each moment and aspect as it arrives. However, shabbat is still a good 6 hours off or so, and perhaps I’ll have transformed by then.

In the meantime, a photo from yesterday:  driving-dog.jpg