Wednesday, March 14, 2012

2012.03.14 MIdrash as a Spiritual Practice

Midrash is a Jewish way of interpreting scripture. Put simply, midrash, meaning to seek or search, is a story about the biblical story, plummeting the text for deepening and multiple meanings over time.

Midrashic process means the ancient story continues to evolve because each generation tells its own stories about the biblical story and so its meaning expands and grows. Midrash also enable individuals to tie parts of their own stories into the biblical story.

You could say that writing or telling midrash is a way to access your connection with holy writ, find your spiritual voice, and discover your own holiness within.

At a writer’s workshop led by Madeleine L’Engle in the 90s she suggested to participants that we write a story about someone in scripture who might be angry. I wrote about the snake in the garden of Eden myth. Old and on her last skin, she grouses to her Creator about being cast in shame as the cosmic scapegoat for the wholly messy “apple” affair in the garden of Eden. The old snake at last hears a Word.

But of course I was writing my own story and listening for God in my own anger and womanly shame.

With that little story I began my practice of writing midrash stories about many biblical situations that seemed close to my own. I found my own ground, God’s compassion, and astounding spiritual insights through the process

My snake’s story “The Asp’s Lament” ended up in my first book Spiritual Lemons: Biblical Women, Irreverent Laughter and Righteous Rage. It’s a favorite of many women one of whom shed tears over the possibility of grace for the snake, and another of whom is translating it into Spanish. The little snake, grinning and beribboned, made the cover of the Italian translation of Lemons.

AND, to my delight, the Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori sought me out at a diocesan clergy gathering to tell me how much she loved the snake story.

Snakes may slither and hiss but they travel far and fast—gliding with grace.

On Sat. March 24 I’m leading a quiet day of prayer at Miramar Retreat Center in Duxbury, MA. from 10-3, includes lunch. Topic: “Spiritual Lemons: Writing Midrash as a Spiritual Practice”. If you’re free come join me for prayer and fun in a meditative setting. Call Ann at 781-585-2460 to register.