We received a call from a leader of the Jewish community in Napa, California. "Could you come by to lead an evening for us? Something for couples, many are intermarried and trying we're integrate Judaism into our lives." What follows is a version of the worksheet we had emailed to them in preparation for the workshop.
Would each partner please review this page to yourself. Then sit together and read the questions aloud, taking turns making notes about the result of your combined reflections. It’s fine if you don’t finish the whole thing before coming to the workshop, do take time to read all the questions. Bring this page to the workshop please. What you have written will remain private to yourselves.
1. Ritual is a way of providing structure within which intimacy can grow, it is part of the glue that keeps couples and generations connected. Reflect on your use of traditional and invented rituals in your home.
2. Having other people who care about what happens to you, to celebrate and mourn with you, to show up to support you as individuals and as a couple, to hold up a mirror to your lives and give guidance, this might be called the "minyan" of your life. List those people who really live up to this principle for you as a couple.
3. On Friday night it is customary to express and model admiration for one's partners' qualities and special actions during the week, to see him/her as a blessing in your life and express gratitude. Reflect upon your practice regarding this matter - regardless of the day of the week.
4. Judaism recognizes the importance of embracing our imperfections and emphasizes the importance of turning hurtful mistakes into opportunities to work through the matter with the person involved. We call this practice "teshuvah." How do you handle the issue of teshuvah with each other?
5. In the Torah we find the idea of timeshifting, moving out of work mode and not letting in the news, money issues, or any work related effort or contemplation intrude onto the sacred time we call Shabbat. How does this work out in your life as a couple?
6. Jewish tradition takes the express "Listen" - Sh'ma, so that "you will love" - v'ahavta as a central spiritual principle. Journal on the way you have refined your listening skills as a couple, does listening impact upon the sense of love in your relationship?
7. Judaism regards physical intimacy and love making in marriage as desirable, delectable and holy. Reflect together about times when you could almost feel God sigh in pleasure with you. If you were to write a blessing together to say before making love, what might that be?
8. Together you have the ability to fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah, expanding the amount of justice in the world by helping to make things happen via your money that couldn't fully if you didn't participate. Reflect upon your philanthropic efforts and values as a couple.
9. The Torah depicts the life of the Jewish people as a journey from slavery, to awareness, to dreams of a Promised Land, to rebirth, to wilderness time of learning to adjust to new circumstances, to arriving in the Promised Land. Like the Jewish people, relationships go through many such cycles. Reflect together on your relationship as a spiritual journey, the phases and cycles. Using this metaphor, where does each of you see the relationship right now?
10. The amidah is a silent prayer during services. Each of the blessings is a springboard to find the prayer of your heart. Reflect upon what you would most like to have emerge for you as a couple - is there something needed - desired - spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical? Journal on what comes up for each of you and agree on one item from each of your lists to pray for each night before the workshop, at bedtime. You pray for your partner's wish to come true and your partner prays for yours. After a month, check in and observation your relationship. Has this process helped anything to change?
Offered with much love from both of us. New!
Couples can study Judaism together with Rabbi Milgram via conference call classes.
(Many rabbis accept these classes towards conversion studies as well)