Shiva and Thanksgiving

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We went to sit shiva with my neighbor’s family last Sunday. Rick and I studied up in advance about paying a shiva call to make sure we did it right and didn’t commit a faux pas. We read that you wash your hands in a container that would be outside the door, enter the shiva house quietly without ringing the doorbell, seat yourself in front of the mourners, who would be sitting very low to the ground, and wait to be spoken to. And NOT to try to cheer the mourners up. They are to be grieving intensively to prepare for moving back into daily life when shiva is up (seven days).

As we drove to the daughter’s house where they were sitting shiva, I was trying not to be nervous—so many rules for us Gentiles to remember!

Well…there was no washing vessel outside the door, which was our first clue, and as I very gingerly opened the front door, I realized that my reading had not prepared us for this particular style of shiva! It was a party! A low-key party, but there was food—including herring, lochs and bagels and some kind of kugel-like dish, and all kinds of cookies, cakes, and muffins—and drink. We were offered Bloody Marys , Mimosas, or coffee with Bailey’s (the family owns a liquor store, so I’m still not sure if this is the tradition for shiva!)

There was no sitting low and weeping—while there were frequent teary eyes, it was more about celebrating Ricki’s life and just being together. There was, in fact, far more laughter than tears. I do get that intensive mourning is purposeful—heck, I’m an avid “grieve on purpose” promoter, so I really resonate with a dedicated mourn-till-you-can’t-mourn-anymore tradition, but I also know how challenging it is for people to do their grieving and releasing with people around. I’m sure every shiva is a little different, so I won’t go to my next one expecting to be fed and entertained, but I was happy to know that even when there is a tradition that is thousands of years old, there’s room for people to be themselves and do what feels right to them, in the moment.

Thanksgiving was quiet. Rick, who doesn’t like turkey or dressing, allowed me to indulge my inner child’s need for the traditional flavors, so I cooked a whole turkey breast and dressing and gravy and cranberry sauce—it was fabulous. Somehow, in my desire to reproduce the tastes of childhood, I managed to go beyond them! It was probably that I used fresh herbs from my garden to cook the turkey and wine-and-butter-soaked cheesecloth to cover it with while it roasted. Yum! Definitely not something my mom ever did. I also made a spectacular cross between a pecan pie and a chess pie (we couldn’t find the whole bag of frozen pecans I was sure we had) that was sugar free! Can you believe it? I used xylitol (a natural sweetener made from either birch trees or a number of other things like corn) and amber agave nectar. You absolutely cannot tell that there is no sugar in it—except that you don’t have to endure that sugar rush and crash syndrome. Both xylitol and agave syrup are very low glycemic.

My 85-year-old dad is coming to visit Thursday night through Tuesday early morning, so I’ll be pretty busy this coming week. But I’ll try to check in at some point. Meanwhile, this Tuesday, I’m doing a free teleseminar. Hope you can make it!

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This page contains a single entry by Julia published on November 26, 2006 8:38 PM.

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