Thursday, 24 January 2013

Haere Mai Ki Tauranga

It seems quite interesting to me that no matter how hard I try to move away from it, world religions and their connections to Judaism seem to follow me wherever I go. I suppose that it is an inbred experience that I simply cannot evade nor ignore. Case in point was our tour today of the Maori Marae (village) and the fascinating insights we were given into the Maori way of life. About 10% of the population of New Zealand is Maori and almost 15% of the city of Tauranga descends from its native people. A few Judaic/Maori similarities for you all to ponder.

Both peoples really like their stories. Here is a wonderful little midrash told to us today.

It seems that the mountain Mauao was in love with a nearby mountain that was also a high priestess. Because of her standing amongst the mountains, she was already promised to another mountain. Mauao was devastated, and asked Tangaroa, God of the Sea, to move him far away from his spurned love. The sea fairies came that night to drag Mauao out of the harbour of Tauranga so that he would not suffer any further, but the fairies could only work their magic under the darkness of night. When the sun rose at dawn, the fairies were turned to stone and Mauao was trapped in the harbour on his own, surrounded by the stone fairies. And that is what his name means....Mauao....caught by the dawn.

I think that I should start calling The Husband Mauao.

Both the Maori and us Jews love to sing and dance. We were treated to a cultural concert today by a group of young people who were determined to get us up and moving. It reminded me of Israeli dance night at synagogue where it is almost like pulling teeth to get anybody up and dancing. Watching these kids try and teach a bunch of old men all named Bill and Bob the Haka...the Maori fight dance, was comical indeed. We should try and teach them Hora Or.

We both believe that The Holy One breathed life into the first man. The traditional Maori greeting involves the touching of noses and foreheads. When you touch noses with your host, your breath mingles together and you become one. When you touch foreheads you exchange and share knowledge. I think that all that I was exchanging was my rhino virus.

We both believe that there is sacred space that requires the removal of shoes. Inside the Marae, they believe that nothing from the outside should touch the sacredness of the holy place. We Jews just like warm locations. I think that it did all start with Moses and the warmth of the burning bush.

Finally, as we entered into the sacred space, the women were forced to the back of the room. Our own little Maori mechitzah. They liked to explain that there is real equality amongst the people, but Jews have tried that one on me for years and until men and women sit side by side in houses of worship, I don't buy the equality argument. the Maori lost me on their polytheism and idolatry, but why quibble. The strength and backbone of their heritage revolves around teaching the next generation. Sounds like L'dor Vador to me, no?

Following the cultural tour, The Husband and I decided to walk Mauao. We were enticed by the magnificent day and the promise of dolphins and penguins on the far side of the mountain. Let's just say it was a lovely hike and not tease me any further with the promise of dolphins and penguins.

We dock in Auckland tomorrow and our cruise is at an end. It is weird to think that a month can go by so quickly. It was the best way to spend January that I could ever have imagined.

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