Due to an accidental wrong click on our part, some people saw a previous / unfinished version of this post via email. Apologies! Here’s the version we meant to share!
Our slide deck for our 15 Adar 1 ritual.
In Jewish leap years, the extra month of Adar I comes to recalibrate our calendar with the solar year (in the northern hemisphere). This year as Adar I approached, many of us felt that time was out of synch. Tu BiShvat in January just feels wrong: that’s true every time we reach a leap year. But this year many of us also had the sense that time was scrambled for pandemic reasons. (What Day of March 2020 Is It Now?) This spiritual disconnect asks a spiritual “fix.” So three members of Bayit’s Liturgical Arts Working Group planned a ritual to realign time.
We brainstormed elements to include. Candle, fruit of the vine, shofar to declare the time and awaken us to here-and-now.
Because everyone would be on Zoom, we wanted to make the experience as tangible as possible. We invited participants to have on hand something with scent and a rock or shell to hold We also invited participants to have on hand implements from as many holidays as possible.
We wanted some familiar touchstones, so we wove in Ma’ariv Aravim and Hashkivenu. We wanted new words, so one of us adapted liturgy for Kiddush Levanah into a new offering, while two of us wrote prayer-poems. We wanted participants to hear harmony, so we invited singing along with Nava Tehila.
We wanted to imprint the experience in our bodies, so we planned a little dance party: The “Happy” Adon Olam by Listen Up! A Cappella, and Might Lead to Mixed Dancing and The Sequel, two fan-made videos by saguaronine featuring hundreds of clips of Jews dancing onscreen, set to music by Israeli artists Yakov Shwekey and Koolulam.
When full moon rolled around, a few things didn’t go according to plan. One of the three co-creators had to bow out because of Covid. The Zoom link didn’t work for everyone. And we’re not sure that everything we tried worked as intended. It’s not clear that having the assembled holiday items did much for us. An attempt to offer a new prayer-poem atop an audio recording of spring peeper frogs was aurally muddy.
Hearing the shofar while holding on to our shells or stones felt powerful, though. People made good use of the chat box when asked to share there. And the video dance party at the end definitely raised energy and joy. Do we now feel less stuck / more grounded in the flow of spiritual time? We don’t know yet if the ritual shook us out of pandemic languishing, but it did a good job of planting us on the runway toward spring.
When we asked for feedback, here’s some of what we received:
I very much enjoyed it, following along as a child might at a new event — fingering my shells, one of which I keep in a special bag.
I enjoyed…burning my not-Shabbos, not-Hanukkah candle and thinking that it was lovely; and smelling some really good lemongrass and ginger hand cream…
In a nutshell, I learned, I communed, I had fun.
Next time a leap year approaches, we’ll tinker with this ritual and try it again. Maybe without the global pandemic sense of time being scrambled or on-pause — which we hope and pray we will not still be experiencing in 2024! — this will become a simpler ritual of declaring sacred time with shofar, re-aligning ourselves as we re-align our festival calendar, and dancing to awaken the joy of Adar.
R. Rachel Barenblat, R. David Evan Markus, and R. Sonja Keren Pilz are members of Bayit’s Liturgical Arts Working Group. They serve synagogues in Massachusetts, New York, and Montana, respectively.