GOD FINDS US WHERE WE ARE
“I was raised in a very, very orthodox family and from a lineage of rabbis…and I escaped as quickly as I could to just go on a journey around the world and study anything I could. Christian mysticism or going to an ashram. I studied different kinds of yoga.
I was married to a Christian minister for years and, paradoxically, it was through that marriage that I was deeply impelled to revisit my birth religion through other eyes, through a different lens. I was free. I had been disowned.
So paradoxically it was through this very devout Christian mystical friend who became my husband. And we parented a child together and it was through that marriage that I was reignited back to my birth religion.
I met Reb Zalman and he began to open all kinds of doors for me that had been certainly closed. I was intermarried and I had done everything wrong that could possibly be done wrong. But he wasn’t saying ‘Oh no.’ He was saying:
‘Shechinah [the feminine face of God] is stirring the pot of humanity and blending boundaries not keeping people apart. [It is] Shechinah as well to be intermarried. Don’t go away. Stay here. Study it.’ And he would just open door after door and I began to study with him. So it was a very powerful karmic journey that ensued. And I became ordained when I was still with Evan, my Christian husband. Our marriage lasted for several years and then our purpose had been fulfilled and we parted ways.
A very very big part of my journey is about retrieving and reclaiming the feminine soul. In Judaism and in life, that has been submerged and devalued. The deconstruction and cracking open of the old God forms has been a very powerful journey for me, and it has been part of my teaching of people. It’s giving them permission to deconstruct God images that are old and don’t carry holiness, that don’t carry the power, the mystical power, the luminous power that they need to.
It started long long ago when I had this tremendous body experience—that the Goddess was taking me over. I believe that many women have this but perhaps don’t understand it mystically, as I did. It was clear that the Shechinah or the Goddess, the feminine face of God, that was coming through in my life was powerful. It was telling me when I needed to get pregnant; telling me how to do this; guiding me through that path of motherhood, and far beyond that as well. Really talking to me. Revealing herself as different forms and through different dreams with different faces. Not necessarily Jewish faces or names but a powerful river of the feminine, and it has been a very, very big revelation for me—of God revealing herself and talking to me about the terrible imbalance that’s been perpetrated over centuries; and having the need for the Earth, the need for humanity to rebalance that. I would say my two biggest voices have been my dreams and my body. And neither one is terribly well institutionalized in any organized religion.”
I met Reb Tirzah Firestone in Boulder, Coloradowhere she led the Jewish Renewal synagogue and community for over two decades. Reb Tirzah’s writings have guided many of us, especially women, to a new understanding of God and our worthiness of spiritual awakening. When she started her studies—and when was ordained as a rabbi by her mentor, Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi—she was married to a Christian minister and far removed from the Orthodox Judaism of her youth. Reb Tirzah has written extensively about the feminine presence of God, what Jews call the Shechinah. She came to her deep understanding of God as the feminine through her dreams which were the subject of her first book, The Receiving: Reclaiming Jewish Women’s Wisdom. Having been a Jungian psychoanalyst, she understood the power of dreams.
What I learned from connecting with Reb Tirzah is that God finds us where we are. We don’t need to be leading the “perfect” life or a religious life. We don’t have to be a good Jew or a good Catholic or a good Muslim. We don’t need to have done anything. The Divine Spirit that is above all understanding is accessible to all regardless of circumstances and status.
The other lesson that meeting and researching Reb Tirzah’s teachings taught me is that God (however we understand God) speaks to us uniquely in a way we can hear. Or, as my teacher, Deborah A. Ooten, Ph.D. says, “She speaks to our listening.” For me it is quite significant that God showed up
for Reb Tirzah in her dreams as the Divine Feminine. In her life experience as a mother, wife, and female rabbi, she’s had a unique ability to bring women and men into an understanding of God that wasn’t about war, punishment, and laws, but of love, wisdom, of growth rooted in the body, and in the mystical powers of the feminine.
I am so grateful to be living in an age where we are leaving old understandings of God behind and embracing the fullness of what is and might be The Divine. I depend upon enlightened teachers like Reb Tirzah Firestone to give me glimpses into all of God’s loving faces.