Thirty years ago this month I celebrated my Bat Mitzvah. When I was eleven my father asked me what I wanted to do for my bat mitzvah and I said “everything my brothers did.” While I am sure my parents thought this was a typical sass answer from their daughter - and it was - I was also sincere. I had studied Hebrew for years and there was no way that my dad was going to stand up and read prayers that I was fully equipped to read. The answer stemmed from an inner knowing that how women were treated in synagogue with limitations and at times not even counted as a person was not just. My parents took my sass answer, and went about changing the institution. My bat mitzvah on that Saturday morning in October was a place divided. Those that did not want to witness a woman reading from the Torah held a separate service downstairs. And those that were ready for the change and those that were willing to grow - witnessed me leading much of the service, reading from the Torah, and unknowingly observed a powerful change of heart from a congregational Elder. This ceremony is a powerful reminder to me that social justice is at the very heart of my being and that we can be champions of that change, or uphold the institutions that seek to divide.
But lately, when I think of that weekend, another story emerges as significant as changing an institution. It is a story that I have told countless times, but this year has taken on new insights for me. It is a seed planted 30 years ago. During my bat mitzvah weekend, at our house, my great Aunt Henrietta sat me down at my father’s turned leg writing desk, took out a regular deck of cards, and read my fortune. This is the moment something in my soul was given the words for what it knew was possible - the moment when something I had known deep inside me sparked alive, sprouted and started pushing through the darkness of the fertile soil to reach daylight.
I loved everything about that experience with Aunt Henrietta - everything except it ending. She read my cards in the most elegant and fun way. I can’t recall details about the cards that emerged, but I do remember her talking to me about life and her mother reading cards. Here was my initiation into another part of my tradition.
During my reading, I remember being seen and connected, and feeling that I belonged. I also had hope - hope that good things were to come and that there was a tool out there to guide me when life got turbulent. This reading was a tremendous gift to me. It started me on a path that still unfolds today.
I think about that moment and I wish I could go back in time and sit with Aunt Henrietta again at that desk with a note pad and a tape recorder. And I would thank her for inviting me into her world, our world. I miss that naturalness and innocence of reading cards as ordinary and belonging – the seamlessness of it intertwined with my Jewish rite of passage.
Over the years I have had the great privilege to read for people. What started as fun and entertaining has become an offering of compassion and responsibility. The cards can be scary to people, the unknowing of what will turn up - the poignant truths that require actions of courage and grace as well as the signposts to joy and freedom. To me the table, the cards, the people sitting, are sacred space – sincerity and reverence with a hearty dose of laughter and meeting people where they are the foundation to an empowering outcome. This reflection of thirty years ago was met with a request from a friend to do readings in her shop. I couldn’t think of a better signpost to follow.
I love the divine timing of this invitation to read. In spiritual life, patience is certainly a virtue – and one that many of us have a difficult time cultivating. But have hope. Seeds planted 30 years ago may just be the answer to your deep longing. And as the moon is new and the season turns to Spirit, I invite you to examine your own stories for new meaning and seeds that are ready to harvest. With gratitude, Valerie
P.S. As I go to publish this, I got a flash remembering followed by a huge chuckle…I wrote my dissertation with Tarot cards framing my analysis. How could I forget that?! Why did I ever lose the thread of this powerful tool that has been with me since my childhood? ❤