Aloha And Shalom!

For the past decade (almost), it has been my pleasure to get together with a wonderful group of people, my hula ‘ohana (family), to learn the intricacies and delights of hula, and, mostly, to share the spirit of aloha.

The Hawai’ian language is very nuanced.  The word “aloha,” for example, encompasses many shades of meaning.  On the surface, the spirit of aloha conveys the feelings of welcoming, of love, of well-being.  It is all of these meanings, and it also means “charity,” “mercy,” “grace,” “regards,” “devotion,” “affection,” and the list goes on.  When you are embraced in the spirit of aloha, you are welcomed and held in the Oneness of Being, the “knowing” that we are all One, the “home” that we all long for.

Coconut bras and grass skirts stereotypes notwithstanding, hula is about worshiping and honoring the ‘aina, the land, which is synonymous with Self in the Hawai’ian culture.  The land, the sea, the sky, the winds, the trees, these are all part of the hula vocabulary and symbols of the inextricable connection between humans and nature.

Every month I get together with my hula sisters to dance hula, have a pu-pu (appetizers) at Chef Yu, catch up with one another and, in general, share our mana’o (ideas, thoughts, beliefs) and aloha.  Like any family we have our disagreements and our share of tempests in teacups.   Like any family, we always know we can count on one another in our moments of joy and celebration as well as in our times of sorrow.

Recently, we had the chance to celebrate our hula sister Ka’hea’s conversion to Judaism.  Ka’hea was so named by us because she is the one who is always reminding us which ka’hea (verse) we are dancing in a mele (chant). While I’m still trying not to stumble over my own feet, Ka’hea’s clear reminder of the ka’hea we’re dancing keeps me on track. So on the occasion of her conversion ceremony, her hula sisters came to embrace her in the spirit of aloha while Ka’hea embraced the spirit of shalom into her life. We all stood in a circle around her – her hula sisters, her choir sisters, her biological sisters, her Rabbi, her new congregation – and listened while Ka’hea stated clearly and movingly how much it means to her to be welcomed into the Jewish faith and community she has so lovingly chosen.  And her Rabbi spoke about how important it was for Ka’hea to see all the strands of her long and varied life represented at that life-changing ceremony.

It was a gift for me to witness the solidarity of all of Ka’hea’s friends and family standing together in shalom and aloha on the threshold of this new adventure she has embarked on.  I was once again reminded that no matter what our beliefs may be, we are all One.