Creating New Jewish Ritual for a Big Birthday

I've never been one to hold birthday parties for myself, but turning sixty felt like the time had finally arrived. I needed a way to transition my soul's balking sense of terror. Where did all of the equanimity from my meditation and other spiritual practices go in the face of all that? How to push through towards hopefully, the gift of a new decade? [video coming soon]

Julie, a friend turning sixty around the same time agreed to have a joint party. She's a magnificent dancer. A few years ago we also created and held a Pomegranate Ritual together for moving from fertility to wisdom having concluded menopause. So dance would surely be a component. We keyword searched for Jewish sources on the number 60 for creative inspiration and amidst many cool options were reminded that 1/60th is a very important fraction in Jewish tradition.

     "Fire is one sixtieth of gehenna*, honey is one sixtieth of manna, Shabbat is one sixtieth of the World to Come, sleep is one sixtieth of death (in a good way), and dreams are one sixtieth of prophecy."--Talmud, Berachot 57b

     and "Dreams are the buds of prophecy."  adds Midrash Bereshit Rabbah in response to the 60ths.

     and "The earth is one-sixtieth of the garden, the garden one-sixtieth of Eden…" we learn in --Talmud Pesachim 94a.

     and, as little as 1/60th of contamination with something that is not kosher will render an otherwise kosher food trefe, i.e., not kosher.

     and, Maimonides wrote regarding  'the buds of prophecy are dreams' that "this is indeed a wonderful metaphor, for just as a bud is the actual fruit itself that has not yet developed fully, similarly, the power of the imagination at the time of sleep is exactly that which operates at the time of prophecy, in an incomplete and unperfected state."—Guide for the Perplexed 2:36

So Julie and I developed from this study the desire, perchance, to dream such that we might perceive something to inspire our way forward. We brought a set of "Dancing Colors" to the party—six-foot long silk scarves of many colors used most often by dancers and dance and movement therapists. We asked each person tie his/her scarf onto that of the person in front and behind and to form a colorful group spiral in the room. A spiral is the shape of a challah bread on the Jewish New Year and festivals, showing the spiral of our souls on their journey through time.

As a talented friend drummed for us, Julie and I danced all the way through the spiral to the center with an intention that came from another friend-- Carola de Vries Robles. She once taught me of the practice of seeking and taking an extra Jewish name for oneself each year. Doing so every decade seems like a reasonable variant. One meditates or prays for a name to come that will contain a quality to expand or refine one's character or quality of life or emunah, trusting equanimity going forward. So it came to me for us to make this the focus of our prayer as we trance dance our way towards the center of the spiral.

For both of us the perfect additional name arose during the dance. We only shared those names with fifty of our closest friends---well, of course you count too! Mine is MakomYah. Yah is a short Hebrew word for G*d/the divine in Hebrew, as in halleluYah. And Makom, "Place" is one of the 105 names for G*d in Judaism--a symbol of my need  to slow down and multitask less in order to better appreciate the gift of life, and to better honor the sacred space, "the garden" which we are given to tend, the sanctuary called earth where humanity presently lives.  

We concluded with a blessing circle, bufffet (with honey, the 1/60th of manna on the table), a roaring 60's music dance party, and request for tzedakah (donations) to be given within the week to a good cause in honor of the occasion.

I'm so curious to know what buds will yet open on my Tree of Life, but of course one can't know. So all I have to say is thank you to the Source, to all of my teachers, students and friends for adding so much of beauty and wonder to this gift of life!

Note: For the next level on 60ths in Jewish mystical tradition, see Zohar Pekudei 254a.