Counting the Omer: Day 20 (April 24, 2015)
Cantor Juval Porat
One glorious chain of love, of giving and receiving, unites all creatures. None has power, or means, for itself; it receives in order to give; gives in order to receive, and finds therein the accomplishment of the purpose of its existence. ~ Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch
On the eve of the 21st day of the Omer I found myself at a volunteer training meeting for JQ’s Warmline – the only resource and social service referral line specifically designed to serve LGBTQ Jews, their families, and allies in the United States.
We’re a small yet eclectic group of people and we’re still getting to know each other. We spoke about our Public Narrative tonight. A definition of Public Narrative from the Kennedy School of Harvard states the following (thanks to Rabbi Rachel Bat Or for the quote):
Public Narrative is how we turn values into action – an expansive and informal process by which individuals, communities, and nations construct identity, formulate choices and motivate action. Because we use narrative to engage the “head” and the “heart”, it both instructs and inspires, teaching us not only how we ought to act, but motivating us to act – thus engaging the “hands” as well. Public Narrative is a leadership art composed of three elements: a story of self, a story of us, and a story of now.”
To experience Public Narrative, a writing exercise provided us all with an opportunity to think about the narrative of self – who we are, our values, experiences and why we do what we do. We then looked for ways to carry that information into the story of us – our shared values, our shared experience and why we do what we do. From there we moved into the story of now, in which we were looking into an articulation of the present as a moment of challenge, choice and hope.
And so we shared our stories: we spoke about our identities, our struggles and values, our sufferings, our longings and whatever else came to our minds.
We uncovered our narrations and exposed them to each other in a way that tenderly allowed each of our vulnerabilities to be held safely in the room. And as our narratives of self miraculously melted into the narrative of us, a new sense of understanding and closeness with each other was created. It almost felt like a journey – kind of like starting from a narrow place and arriving at an expansive, open promised land.
Today, on the 21st day of the Omer, we’re invited to think about Malchut within Tif’eret. Malchut literally means “kingship”, yet it is often referred to as “the world of speech” as the spoken word allows one to not only reveal themselves to outer reality but to guide and influence that reality as well. Hence, speech allows one to exercise authority and “kingship. Tif’eret is often referred to as “beauty” and “balance”.
The spoken words shared tonight at the volunteer training for JQ’s Warmline contained stories of self-acceptance, suffering, pain and struggles to break out of varied metaphorical “closets”. I loved the feedback by one of the volunteers in training that pointed out that though to some, being vulnerable is a sign of weakness, we were actually able to draw strength and strengthen one another by one person’s vulnerability. Listening to- and speaking out our stories allowed us to get to develop an understanding for each other, the more vulnerable we became. It also allowed us to get a clearer idea of the things we have in common, the experiences we all share in one way or another.
That’s the world of speech I found tonight among the beauty of this little community that came together in this meeting. I hope we can all reach that comfort level within our beautiful selves to be able to guide and influence our reality positively by exercising an authority with our speech – an authority which instructs and inspires, one that will turn our values into actions and strengthen the interconnectedness we all share with each other.