First most amazing thing was debuting the form of farbrengen I will be teaching at NewCaje this August. The amazing Maggidah Cassandra Morris here in Portland, OR, organized a Fathers' Day night gathering for this event, I figured a handful of folks would come.
The style of Farbrengen was a collection of approaches drawn from three experiences. The first was at The Academy for Jewish Religion, lead by Rabbi Lieba Hoffman for our course on Davenology. I was entranced, engaged, thrilled to witness her style of using a niggun to weave Torah till we were imbued with new-knowings.
Next was somewhere with Reb Zalman (Schachter-Shalomi), where, in full Hassidic regalia, he offered us one by one, l'chaims (in this case wine or grape juice), slices of orange, hard boiled eggs and probably more (symbolic for feeding us Torah) and held a fargrengen, rotating the "rebbe seat" for all who wished to share a story or relevant piece of Torah. A wonderful way to give honor to each evolving student of his, to give each a "seat at the table," to remove hierarchy as he aspires to do so strongly.
The next time was during the years I taught Jewish spirituality retreats at Kripalu. Kripalu was dealing with sexual betrayals of a guru and asked me to lead a Satsang, which turned out to mean a spiritual guidance evening program for all on-site that week. So I decided to focus on the mitzvah of Teshuvah, the honest processes of healing return to relationship. We hear of this in the High Holiday liturgy: "u'teshuvah, tefillah, u'tzedakah avert the severe decree."
The Kripalu program room filled. All of a sudden a fellow popped his head in and asked: "Would you like a fiddler?" I was one of Reb Shlomo (Carlebach)'s fiddlers. My mouth gaped open. Reb Shlomo, z"l had major Teshuvah to do with me. Could this be his shaliach? So I said yes. And closed my eyes as the program began and invited Reb Shlomo to guide me throughout the farbrengen. When the event ended, I couldn't remember a second of it. Several came over to ask how I'd lead one so much like those of Reb Shlomo! From that moment on, there was some healing about that prior history. Other times that I've written about in other places also helped a lot.
Next, due to the generous introduction of a friend, I was able to spend some one-on-one with Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz and to attend a farbrengen with him. As the only woman "fly on the wall," a full blown Hassidic farbrengen came into being before my hovering place in the doorway. What a magic carpet ride. The dancing of the men shoulder to shoulder, like at the Kotel and in yeshivot.
Back here at my present perch, as the generous host's home filled Father's Day night, to the brim and I entered the trance that comes when transducing Torah and mitzvot. My holy student, Baruch Morris's Reb Aryeh Hirshfield niggun brought everyone onboard and wove us steadily together all evening. I drew on the essence of a story by Rabbi Yisroel Bernath, in Mitzvah Stories Seeds for Inspiration and Learning. The Torah that came through everyone present was just amazing! I can't wait for NewCaje and the course I'm giving with Peninnah Schram, Arthur Strimling and some of our colleagues where Farbrengen will become a tool adjusted for Jewish classrooms to deepen learning, and community. So grateful for all who participated and made the evening possible. Much more Portland to come in future postings. yours, R'Goldie