Transcript for the Piece Audio version of The Healing Blessing
To all of you relatives who have written to share your condolences on the loss of my mother, I say thank you. Your loving expressions have touched me, and I want to share this follow-up story.
One week after my mother’s burial I was in Germany to conduct a three-day workshop for mental health professionals entitled “The Science and Spirit of Healing.” This was my third trip to Germany and each time I go it gets easier to be there. My second-generation, survivor-son certainties and resentments have slowly undergone modifications. Most Germans are younger than me, and do not share any responsibility for the sins of their fathers. Anti-Semitism may be a transmittable disease, but it is not a national character.
My workshop was designed to teach psychotherapists how to magnify their healing power by incorporating rituals, ceremonies, even ordeals into their therapeutic repertoire. It began early on Friday afternoon with an opening lecture and then moved into an exercise in which participants found themselves in a ceremonial circle. The task was for each person to speak directly from the heart. I asked them not to prepare a speech but to speak from the heart when their turn came. To trust whatever the spirit moved them to say in the moment. When it came my turn to speak it was getting dark, which ushered in the Sabbath. I spoke about what it was like to be in Germany at this moment, on this holy night one week after my mother’s death. The Sabbath (Shabbos) was her favorite holiday. She welcomed Shabbos with joyful anticipation, because everyone ushered in the possibility that tonight was the night the Messiah would come. When she lit the Sabbath candles, she covered her eyes so she wouldn’t be blinded by the light of His arrival. Afterwards, she would place her hands on my head and bestow the traditional mother’s blessing upon her son. My mother blessed me this way every Shabbos we were together, until the day she died.
As I told this story in the circle, I could feel my tears welling and was moved to stand up and recite the Kaddish, the traditional mourner’s prayer. This may have been the first time it was recited in Rottweil since the synagogue here closed in 1938. In that moment I felt enveloped by the presence of my mother.
Two days later the workshop ended, culminating in the creation of healing ceremonies. The 50 participants broke into five groups, each charged with creating a ceremony for a volunteer among them — somebody in the group, who was looking to heal a problem, disease, or create a new ending to an old painful story. The volunteers then left to contemplate what they hoped this ceremony might achieve. The rest of the group planned and later conducted a five-minute ceremony.
The ceremonies were astoundingly creative and passionate, each one touched me. When they were completed, I was moved to ask for a healing ceremony for myself. I told the group I had come to Germany at this extraordinary time. At first, I thought it was to teach, then I thought it was to honor my mother, and recite the traditional blessings in her beloved homeland. Now, as I was preparing to leave, I believed it was to ask for their blessing. I wanted them to help me move beyond my acute pain but also beyond that pain which I had carried for a long time. I pulled a chair into the middle of the circle and invited anyone who wanted to come forward and place his or her hands on my head to give me a blessing.
I sat with my eyes closed, hands opened on my lap, and, one by one, I felt dozens come forward to place their hands on my head and bless me. Some, offered scriptural blessings, others poems, spoken words and songs. When I felt no more hands, I looked up and found myself surrounded by the group. Fifty people had joined hands in a circle, and began dancing while singing Hava Nagila, in Hebrew. I wondered how they all knew the words, but their passion moved me to stand up and begin dancing in the middle. Slowly, the circle spiraled in and I was hugged in a communal embrace; then they moved out and danced around me. In that moment I saw my mother smile, and felt my spirit lifted by the blessing that heals all wounds.Back