Great Miracles Happen Here: Liturgy, Poetry, and Art for Chanukah

Illustration by Steve Silbert

This new collaborative offering from Bayit’s liturgical arts working group comes to bring light in dark times. Here you’ll find new liturgy (including an “Al HaNisim” looking back on the miracles we haven’t yet lived into being, and a “Hanerot Hallalu” for this pandemic year), evocative poetry (on finding light without a chanukiyah, on kindling lights alone, on the windows where we light our lights and the Zoom windows where the pandemic allows us to gather, and much more), and meditations on Chanukah through all five senses, all accompanied by heart-opening artwork. This collection was co-created by Trisha Arlin, R. Rachel Barenblat, R. Dara Lithwick, R. David Evan Markus, R. Sonja Keren Pilz, R. Jennifer Singer, Steve Silbert, and Devon Spier, and is intended for use by individuals and communities across and beyond the denominational spectrum.

Download the whole collection:

Great Miracles Happen Here: Liturgy, Poetry, and Art for Chanukah [pdf]

 

Above you can see a glimpse of one of the illustrations. Here are tastes of a few of the poems, prayers, and meditations contained in this collection:

From “Hanukkah Poem #1,” Devon Spier:

i figure the day before Hanukkah
is the right time to begin
a new time
in inhuman history…

From “Hanerot Hallalu for 2020,” by Rabbi Dara Lithwick:

This Chanukah we honour those whose light has shone throughout the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the helpers who despite the tohu and bohu, the chaos and confusion, trauma, fear and disinformation have served and continue to serve, illuminating our communities by their commitment and caring…

From “Al Hanisim: Future Miracles Unfolding Now, ” by Rabbi David Evan Markus:

In the days of Stacey Abrams, Jacinda Ardern, William Barber, Anthony Fauci, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, John Lewis, Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai, peoples of the Earth had forgotten Your teachings and transgressed Your ways of justice. Greed corroded truth. Ignorance mocked science. Fossil fuels burned without end, defiling Your temple of nature. Zealotry and corruption flourished, defiling Your temple of democracy…

From “Rededication,” Rabbi Rachel Barenblat:

It’s not like the Temple, sullied
by improper use and then washed clean
and restored to former glory.
This house is tarnished by familiarity…

From “My Maccabees,” by Trisha Arlin:

…This year
My Maccabees
Wore masks
Washed their hands
Kept their distance
Stayed home…

From “Chanukah of Stars,” Rabbi Jennifer Singer:

The year I had no hanukiah
No candles
Not even a match
Because I had let the last cigarettes crumble in a drawer…

From “Second Calendar,” Rabbi Sonja Keren Pilz:

There is a Jewish calendar for those who came late.

Until Tuesday afternoon,
One might prolong the shabbes
For all those still in need
Of a second soul…

 

Download the whole collection:

Great Miracles Happen Here: Liturgy, Poetry, and Art for Chanukah [pdf]

And find all of our liturgical collaborations here: Liturgical Arts for Our Time.

 

    

Liturgy and poetry by Trisha Arlin, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, Rabbi Dara Lithwick, Rabbi David Evan Markus, Rabbi Sonja Keren Pilz, Rabbi Jennifer Singer, and Devon Spier. Sketchnotes by Steve Silbert.

Palabras del Torá / a “vort” of Torah from R’ Rachel Barenblat

Each month Bayit offers regular video “vorts” (words of Torah / teachings from Jewish tradition) offered in or translated into Spanish, designed for Cuban Jewish communities and available to Spanish-speaking Jews everywhere. This month’s video offering features a teaching from Rabbi Rachel Barenblat. The text follows the video, in Spanish and then in English. Deepest thanks to Rabbi Juan Mejia for translation.

 

Palabras del Torá / a “vort” of Torah from R’ Rachel Barenblat from Bayit: Building Jewish on Vimeo.

 

Shalom javerim.  Espero que sus Altas Fiestas hayan sido dulces y significativas.

En este mes, llega la fiesta de Simjat Torá, cuyo nombre significa “la alegría de la Torá.”  Cuando leemos la Torá todos los sábados, leemos todas las porciones de la Torá salvo la última, la cual se llama “Vezot Haberajá”, “ésta es la bendición.”  Esta porción final de la Torá contiene la última bendición que Moisés da a los Hijos de Israel y la muerte de Moisés mismo.  Esta porción no es leída en Shabbat, sino en Simjat Torá.

Y al leerla hacemos algo inesperado: pasamos inmediatamente del final de la Torá al comienzo.  Pasamos de la muerte de Moises a final de Deuteronomio directamente a la creación del Cosmos al comienzo del Génesis.  ¿Tal vez se pregunten por qué?

Una respuesta es que la muerte de Moisés es una historia triste.  La Torá nos dice: “Nunca más se alzó un profeta como Moisés.” Moisés fue nuestro más grande profeta, y ahora se ha ido.  Los sabios de nuestra tradición no querían dejarnos en la tristeza de esa pérdida.  Así que nos instruyeron a seguir inmediatamente con el comienzo del Génesis. Esto nos recuerda que esa pérdida no es el final de la historia– de ninguna historia. Todo final ofrece un nuevo comienzo. 

Otra respuesta es que al conectar el final de nuestra historia con el comienzo de nuestra historia aprendemos algo profundo sobre la tradición judía y sobre la Toŕa misma.

La última letra de la Torá es lamed, la cual termina la palabra Yisrael, nuestro nombre como comunidad y como pueblo.  La primera letra de la Torá es la letra bet, la cual comienza la palabra Bereshit.  “En el comienzo”, o “en un comienzo” o “al comenzar Dios a crear el cielo y la tierra…”

Cuando viajamos del final de la Torá al comienzo de la Torá, la última lamed y la primera bet, forman la palabra “lev”, “corazón”. El corazón de la Torá encontramos el amor.

Esta es una metáfora. ¡Y también es la simple y llana verdad! El verso que aparece en la mitad del libro medio del rollo es “amarás a tu prójimo como a ti mismo.”  Esta es llamada a veces “la mitzvá del Creador”.  Todas las 613 mitzvot vienen de Dios, pero esta ocupa un lugar especial en la tradición porque es, literalmente, el corazón de la Torá.  Esta mitzvá evoca el acto original de creación de DIos – un acto motivado, dicen nuestros místicos, por el amor y el deseo de estar en relación con nosotros.

En Simjat Torá conectamos el final con el comienzo y encontramos “lev”: el corazón amante de la Torá.

Hay amor en nuestros finales y hay amor en nuestros comienzos.  Hay amor que nos conecta con la Torá y amor que nos conecta los unos con los otros.  Hay amor en nuestro ocuparnos los unos de los otros y ocuparnos de nuestras tradiciones.  Como Rebekah Langus nos enseñó cuando visitamos Cienfuegos el otoño pasado, la labor de mantener una comunidad judía es una labor de amor.  Si nos ocupamos de nuestros semejantes y de nuestras tradiciones en soledad, corremos el riesgo de caer en el resentimiento y el cansancio.  Pero cuando nos ocupamos los unos de los otros y de nuestras tradiciones con amor, entonces este cuidado nos eleva colectivamente. 

En Simjat Torá, nos alegramos por el amor por nuestra historia compartida. Nos alegramos por el amor que llena nuestra historia compartida. Nos alegramos en nuestra habilidad de comenzar nuestra historia de nuevo al comenzar un nuevo año.  Y nos alegramos en la habilidad de superar el dolor para poder comenzar de nuevo, del ir del caos a crear algo nuevo con nuestros corazones y nuestras manos.  Esta es la tarea de la vida espiritual, y es la labor que ustedes conocen muy bien. 

Aun cuando comenzamos con ruptura, pérdida o caos, podemos construir algo mucho mejor con amor.  Tal vez ésta sea la bendición a la cual hace referencia el nombre de la última porción de la Torá: Vezot Haberajá.  No importa cuántas peŕdidas tengamos en nuestra historia, no importa cuáles sean nuestros desafíos, siempre podemos comenzar de nuevo, juntos, con amor. 

Que así sea en este nuevo año, para ustedes y para todos nosotros. 

 

 

Shalom chaverim! I hope your High Holidays were meaningful and sweet.

This month we reach the festival of Simchat Torah, whose name means “Rejoicing in the Torah.” When we read the Torah week by week, we read every Torah portion except for the final one, which is called V’Zot Ha-Brakha, “This Is The Blessing.” That final Torah portion contains the final blessing that Moses gives to the children of Israel, and it contains the death of Moses. We do not read this Torah portion on Shabbat. We only read it at Simchat Torah. 

And we do something strange when we read it: we move immediately from the end of Torah to the beginning. We go from Moses’ death at the end of Deuteronomy directly to the creation of the cosmos at the start of Genesis. Maybe some of you are wondering: why? 

One answer is that the death of Moses is a sad story. Torah tells us “Never again did there arise a prophet like Moses.” Moses was our greatest prophet, and now he is gone. The sages of our tradition didn’t want to leave us in the sadness of that loss. So they instructed us to move directly from there to the start of Genesis. This reminds us that loss is not the end of the story — any story. Every ending can also be a new beginning.

Another answer is that in linking the end of our story with the beginning of our story, we learn something deep about Jewish tradition and about Torah itself. 

The final letter in the Torah is the letter lamed, which ends the word Yisrael, our name as a community and a people. The first letter in the Torah is the letter bet, which begins the word B’reishit, “In the beginning,” or “in a beginning,” or “as God was beginning to create heavens and earth…” 

When we move from Torah’s end to Torah’s beginning, the closing lamed and opening bet form the word lev, “heart.” The heart of Torah is love. 

This is a metaphor. And it is also plain truth! The verse that appears in the very middle of the middle book of the scroll is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This is sometimes called The Mitzvah Of The Creator. All 613 mitzvot come from God, but this one occupies a special place in the tradition because it is literally at Torah’s heart. This mitzvah evokes God’s initial act of creation — motivated, our mystics say, by love, and by the desire to be in relationship with us.

At Simchat Torah we link ending with beginning and find lev, Torah’s loving heart. 

There is love in our endings and love in our beginnings. There is love in what connects us with Torah, and love in what connects us with each other. There is love in our care for each other and our care for our traditions. As Rebekah Langus taught us when we visited Cienfuegos last autumn, the work of sustaining Jewish community is the work of love. If we tend to each other and our traditions out of duty alone, we may become resentful and depleted. But when we care for each other and for our traditions with love, then that care lifts us up together. 

At Simchat Torah, we rejoice in our love of our shared story. We rejoice in the love that fills our shared story. We rejoice in our ability to begin our story again as we begin a new year. And we rejoice in our ability to move from loss to starting over, from chaos to creating something new with our own hearts and hands. This is the work of spiritual life, and it is work that you know well. 

Even when we begin with brokenness, or loss, or chaos, we can build something better together with love. Maybe this is the blessing referenced in that final Torah portion’s name, V’Zot Ha-Bracha. No matter what losses are in our story, no matter what challenges are in our story, we always get to begin again, together, with love. 

May it be so in this new year, for you and for us all.

By Rabbi Rachel Barenblat. Translated by Rabbi Juan Mejia.

Martyrology slides for Yom Kippur from R’ Evan Krame

From founding builder R’ Evan Krame comes this set of slides for the martyrology service which in many synagogues is an integral part of Yom Kippur. He highlights twentieth century female martyr Marie Schmolka as a way of honoring  people who gave their all to build a better future.

These slides are suitable to use with your own adaptation of Holy at Home, or with whatever slide deck you’re using for Zoom high holidays this year.

Download the slides and teaching here:

 

 

By Rabbi Evan J. Krame.

Isaiah + Sounds of Silence: video

Last year we shared a Yom Kippur haftarah from founding builder R’ David Markus — Isaiah 58 + Sounds of Silence. (At that link you can find a recording of the haftarah plus a marked-up PDF of the text annotated with haftarah trope.)

In response to a request on the Dreaming Up High Holidays 2020 Facebook group, R’ Shafir Lobb combined the recording from Soundcloud, the image from the blog post, and the text of the haftarah into a video suitable for screenshare during this pandemic year:

The video can be downloaded from google drive here.

If you are leading Zoom (or other digital) services during this pandemic year, you are welcome to use the video in your services, and/or to chant the haftarah yourself if you’re comfortable with haftarah trope.

May we all be sealed for goodness in the year to come.

 

Shafir Lobb

Haftarah by R’ David Markus. Video by R’ Shafir Lobb, rabbi of Congregation Eitz Chayim in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Ushpizin: liturgy for Sukkot in time of covid

Sukkot this year will be unlike any other. Some of us won’t be able to safely build a sukkah; others will find in the sukkah the outdoor safety that indoor ventilation doesn’t provide. What does it mean to invite ancestors when we can’t invite guests in person? With what, or whom, (or Whom!) are we sitting when we dwell in our sukkot this year — whether our sukkot be literal or metaphorical? What structures can we build liturgically and spiritually to protect us in these vulnerable times? Four liturgists from within and beyond the denominations collaborated on this set of offerings from Bayit to accompany us through this year’s festival. Here are excerpts; you can download the whole collection at the end of the post.

 

0. This Year’s Sukkah – With Words, by Rachel Barenblat and David Evan Markus, with illustration by Steve Silbert:

We build this year’s sukkah with words. Our words keep us company.  We read the words of this Teaching: this Teaching gathers us in…

1. Invitation to the Builders / Invitation to my Virtual Sukkah by Trisha Arlin:

…You are invited,
Builders of our past sukkot
In the backyard, the park, the roof:
Every year
You put up the walls
You hung the decorations.
Where are you this week?…

2. Far Away So Close by Rachel Barenblat:

…How can I welcome Abraham
and Sarah, David and
Rachel, when I can’t welcome
my own neighbors?…

3. UnSukkah by David Evan Markus:

We don’t build our sukkah with nails
Sharply hammered into sturdy place.

We don’t build our sukkah with roof shingles
And sustainable solar panels for midnight light…

4. In the Open by Sonja Keren Pilz:

Vulnerable
Under the open sky.

The air gets thinner;
Canadian geese fly by…

5. Sitting in Emptiness by Trisha Arlin:

On Sukkot, we sit in the sukkah:
In an empty room
Porous walls
Holes in the ceiling
No door…

6. Sit With Me / Not Alone by Rachel Barenblat:

…The safest companion in times of covid:
Myself. Or you, Holy One:
dressed for the season in worn jeans
and flannel shirt, and maybe flip-flops
reluctant to let summer end…

7. Sitting neither Here nor There by Sonja Keren Pilz:

We used to sit, huddled together,
Sharing blankets, often too cold.
We used to drink,
Hot tea or cider,
Passing the water, the soda, the coke…

8. Tomorrow Again (for Shemini Atzeret) by David Evan Markus:

This is the breezy feeling I hope to remember
Starting tomorrow when beginning begins again

Pulsing reborn from the jumble of these many months
Left on pandemic ground to decay as pungent compost

For the first daring shoots of next year’s who-knows…

9. Simchat Torah, by the ensemble together:

We dance by ourselves.
We dance in our living rooms with Sefaria on our phones.
We dance in the falling rain.
We dance cradling toddlers, or dogs, or emptiness…

Download the whole collection here: Ushpizin [PDF]

 

Prayers by Trisha Arlin, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, Rabbi David Evan Markus, and Rabbi Sonja Keren Pilz. Sketchnote by Steve Silbert.

Palabras del Torá / a “vort” of Torah from R’ Rachel Barenblat

Each month Bayit offers regular video “vorts” (words of Torah / teachings from Jewish tradition) offered in or translated into Spanish, designed for Cuban Jewish communities and available to Spanish-speaking Jews everywhere. This month’s video offering features a teaching from Rabbi Rachel Barenblat. The text follows the video, in Spanish and then in English.

 

Shalom javerim, 

En nuestro calendario laico es septiembre. En el calendario judío, estamos en el mes de Elul, el mes que nos conduce a las altas fiestas. 

Algunos enseñan que durante este mes debemos reparar nuestra relación con Dios y con la tradición judía, para que en los diez días de teshuvá entre Rosh Hashaná y Yom Kippur podamos reparar las relaciones entre nosotros. 

¡Otros enseñan que durante este mes, debemos reparar las relaciones entre nosotros para que durante los diez días de Teshuvá podamos reparar nuestra relación con Dios!

En ambos casos, esta es una época para la introspección y para discernir cómo debemos cambiar en el año por venir. 

En Rosh Hashaná el mundo vuelve a comenzar.  El nuevo año trae nuevas oportunidades para escoger: ¿Qué persona queremos ser? ¿Cuál será nuestra relación con la tradición judía y con nuestra Fuente?  ¿Cómo serán nuestra relación con los demás?

Las terribles realidades del coronavirus nos recuerdan que las acciones y elecciones de cada persona pueden afectar a toda la comunidad.  Hemos aprendido cuán fácilmente este virus se esparce, aún por personas que no saben que son portadores. 

Mis elecciones y comportamientos no sólo ponen en riesgo mi salud y mi seguridad sino la de mi familia y mi comunidad y la de todos a mi alrededor.  Porque todos estamos interconectados. 

Esta interconexión es lo que me da esperanza al aproximarnos al nuevo año.

Si trabajamos juntos podemos usar esta interconexión para lograr grandes cosas.  Detener la expansión del virus.  Protegernos los unos a los otros.  Ayudarnos los unos a los otros. Compartir y elevarnos los unos a los otros. 

El Talmud enseña “kol Israel arevim ze bazé” “todo el pueblo de Israel es responsable el uno del otro.”  Es decir, nosotros.  Somos descendientes de Jacob, quien se volvió Israel cuando luchó toda la noche con el ángel y recibió un nuevo nombre al alba.  Somos responsables el uno del otro.  Es nuestro trabajo ocuparnos de los demás en cualquier forma que podamos, porque estamos interconectados.

En Cuba, el otoño pasado presencié la fuerza y conexión de sus comunidades. Ustedes no necesitan el Talmud para saber que son responsables el uno del otro: ustedes lo viven, por quiénes son y por cómo viven.

He aquí otra cosa que me da esperanza: la interconexión más fundamental es verdadera, estemos o no estemos juntos en persona. 

Por supuesto que quiero abrazar a mis seres amados distantes en este momento.  He estado extrañando esos abrazos por meses.  Pero el amor que nos tenemos dura aún cuando no nos podemos tocar.  Del mismo modo que mi cariño por ustedes perdura, aún cuando no puedo estar presente con ustedes. 

Todos los días de Elul, hay una costumbre de rezar el Salmo 27.  Al final de éste viene el siguiente versículo: “Confía en Dios, mantén tu fuerza, abre tu corazón y confía en Dios.”

Nuestra tarea en esta época de teshuvá es aferrarnos a la esperanza.  Fortalecernos, abrir nuestros corazones el uno al otro y aferrarnos a la esperanza.  Aún en tiempos de pandemia o dificultad, aún cuando el mundo a nuestro alrededor parece carecer de sentido. 

La palabra hebrea “teshuvá” es muchas veces traducida como “arrepentimiento” y a veces como “retorno”.  Esta temporada nos llama a retornar a nuestro más alto y mejor ser. Las torá nos recuerda que la teshuvá no se encuentra en el cielo o más allá del mar, donde no podemos alcanzarla.  La teshuvá está muy cerca, en nuestros corazones. 

Y nuestros corazones saben que nuestra tarea en estos tiempos de pandemia es cuidar los unos de los otros.  Porque lo que acaece a una persona impacta al resto.  Porque nuestra interconexión nos hace fuertes, nos transforma en una comunidad, aún cuando estamos lejos. 

Que este nuevo año traiga salud, prosperidad, seguridad y dulzura para todos. 

 

Shalom chaverim.

On the secular calendar it is September. On the Jewish calendar, we are in the month of Elul, the month that leads us to the Days of Awe. 

Some teach that during this month, we should repair our relationship with God and with Jewish tradition, so that during the Ten Days of Teshuvah between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we can repair our relationships with each other.

And others teach that during this month, we should repair our relationships with each other, so that during the Ten Days of Teshuvah we can repair our relationship with God!

Either way, this is a season for looking inward and discerning how we need to change in the year ahead.

At Rosh Hashanah, the whole world gets to begin again. A new year brings new opportunities to choose. Who do we want to be? What will be our relationship with our Jewish tradition and with out Source? What will be our relationship with each other?

The terrible realities of the coronavirus remind us that each person’s actions and choices can impact the whole community. We have learned how easily this virus can spread, even through people who do not know they are carriers.

My choices and behaviors risk not only my own health and safety, but that of my family, and my community, and everyone around me. Because we are interconnected.

That interconnectedness is what brings me hope as we approach the new year.

If we work together, we can use our interconnectedness to do great things. To stop the spread of the virus. To protect each other. To help each other. To care for each other. To share with each other and uplift each other.

Talmud teaches “kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh,” “all of Israel is responsible for one another.” That means us. We are the spiritual descendants of Jacob, who became Yisrael when he wrestled all night with an angel and at dawn received his new name. We are responsible for one another. It’s our job to take care of each other in whatever ways we can. Because we are interconnected.

In Cuba last fall I witnessed the strength and connectedness of your communities. You don’t need Talmud to tell you that we are responsible for one another: you live it, because of who you are and how you are.

Here is another thing that brings me hope: our most fundamental interconnectedness is true, whether or not we are together in person.

Yes, of course, I want to hug my far-away loved ones right now. I have been aching for those hugs for months. But the love between us endures even when we can’t touch. Just as the caring I feel for you endures, even when I am unable to be with you in person.

It is traditional to pray Psalm 27 every day during Elul. At the end of that psalm comes the verse, “Keep hope in God; keep strong, and open your heart wide, and keep hope in God!”

Our task in this season of teshuvah is to hold on to hope. To stay strong, to open our hearts to each other, and to hold on to hope. Even in times of pandemic or hardship, even when the world around us may seem hopeless.

The Hebrew word teshuvah is sometimes translated as repentance, and sometimes as returning. This season calls us to return to our highest and best selves. Torah reminds us: teshuvah is not in the heavens, or across the sea, where we cannot reach it. Teshuvah is as near as our own hearts. 

And our hearts know that our task in this pandemic time is to take care of each other. Because what happens to one person impacts the whole. Because our interconnectedness makes us strong, and makes us into a community, even when we are apart.

May the new year that is coming bring health and prosperity, safety and sweetness for us all.

 

By Rabbi Rachel Barenblat. Translated by Rabbi Juan Mejia.

Zooming In the New Year

Here’s a sketchnote from Steve Silbert illustrating Bayit’s tips and suggestions for how to make the most out of this year’s Zoom Days of Awe:

Sketchnote of tips for t

 

And here’s a short video from founding builder R’ Rachel Barenblat on the same theme:

If you’d rather read about creating sacred space at home, instead of watching it on YouTube, you can find the text here at Rachel’s congregational blog.

 

 

 

Sketchnote by Steve Silbert; YouTube video by R’ Rachel Barenblat.

Palabras del Torá / a “vort” of Torah from R’ Sunny Schnitzer

Palabras del Torá Agosto 2020 from Bayit: Building Jewish on Vimeo.

Each month Bayit offers regular video “vorts” (words of Torah / teachings from Jewish tradition) offered in or translated into Spanish, designed for Cuban Jewish communities and available to Spanish-speaking Jews everywhere. This month’s video offering features a teaching from Rabbi Sunny Schnitzer. The text follows the video, in Spanish and then in English.

 


Hola mis amigos

Primero, permítame enviarle nuestra admiración por el pueblo cubano que ha hecho lo que Estados Unidos no ha podido hacer: controlar la pandemia del coronavirus. Esto se debe a la disciplina y la dedicación de los cubanos entre sí, a la comunidad. Kol Hakavod.

Sé que estos son los momentos más difíciles en Cuba. La privación económica y la incertidumbre lo socava todo.

Parece que el centro se está derrumbando.

Los judíos sabemos mucho acerca de perder nuestro centro.

Acabamos de pasar por Tisha B’av, el día más negro del calendario hebreo tradicional. Lloramos la destrucción del centro de la vida judía, Jerusalén. Lloramos las cosas que hemos perdido.

En nuestro viaje al punto más bajo de la vida espiritual judía nos llevó a través de Shabat Hazon, el Shabat de la Visión.

Tristemente, la visión que recibimos en nuestra Haftarah, del Profeta Isaías, es una visión de destrucción, miseria y muerte.

“¿Qué golpe caerá después, a medida que se desate más y más violencia y corrupción en la tierra? Si la nación fuera un cuerpo, toda la cabeza estaría enferma y todo el corazón se desmayaría;

Desde la planta del pie, incluso hasta la cabeza, no hay solidez en él; pero heridas, contusiones y llagas supurantes: no han sido tratadas, ni vendadas ni calmadas con medicamentos.

Tu país está desolado; tus ciudades se queman con fuego; los extraños devoran tu tierra en tu presencia, y está desolada.”

Es inquietante escuchar estas palabras pronunciadas hace dos mil quinientos años y mirar a nuestro alrededor hoy.

Pero la visión de Isaías nos recuerda también que nuestra tarea es trabajar por la salud y la paz.

Ahora, después de Tisha B’av, nos reunimos no solo para llorar lo que fue, sino también para aprender de él: para preguntar cómo llegamos aquí y ¿qué haremos ahora con lo que sabemos?

Debido a que hemos sobrevivido a tantas destrucciones en nuestra historia, el pueblo judío sabe mejor que cualquier otro que la humanidad es una. Nosotros, el pueblo judío y nuestro Dios, somos uno. El eterno Ejad.

El coronavirus no conoce límites ni fronteras. Nos está sucediendo a todos.

No hay “ellos”, solo somos nosotros y ninguno de nosotros está solo en esta lucha.

No sabemos qué pasará después en nuestro viaje por el Valle de la Sombra de la Muerte del Coronavirus. No sabemos lo que hay del otro lado.

Pero sí sabemos esto.

Después de Tisha B’av estamos en una trayectoria ascendente a las alturas de la alegría. El momento en que somos más íntimos con HaShem, Rosh Hashaná y Iom Kipur. El viaje desde nuestro punto más bajo al más alto ocurre relativamente rápido, cuarenta nueve días desde abajo hacia arriba. Siete días por siete. Siete es el número de creación.

HaShem siempre está creando algo nuevo para nosotros. Tendremos fe en nuestra historia, fe en los demás y fe en que el cambio siempre llega.

Si bien el tiempo es diferente para los seres humanos que para Dios, y para nosotros, los mortales, puede parecer que el cambio es lento, para Dios, una vida humana no es más que un abrir y cerrar de ojos.

Que algún día miremos hacia atrás a este momento y descubramos que esta fue nuestra experiencia también.


Hola Mis Amigos.

First, let me send to you our admiration for the Cuban people who have done what the United States has been unable to do – to control the pandemic of Coronavirus. It is because of the discipline, and dedication of Cubans to each other, to community, that you have achieved this. Kol Hakavod.

I know that these are the most difficult of times in Cuba. The economic deprivation and uncertainty undermines everything.

It seems that the center is collapsing.

We Jews know much about losing our center.

We have just come through Tisha B’av, the blackest day on the traditional Hebrew calendar. We mourn the destruction of the center of Jewish life, Jerusalem. We mourn the things we have lost.

On our journey to the bottom of Jewish spiritual life took us through Shabbat Hazon, the Shabbat of Vision. Sadly, the vision we receive in our Haftarah, from the Prophet Isaiah, is a vision of destruction, misery, and death.

“What blow will fall next, as more and more violence and corruption is unleashed in the land? If the nation were a body, the whole head would be sick, and the whole heart faint;

From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and festering sores: they have not been treated, not bandaged nor soothed with medication.

Your country is desolate; your cities are burned with fire; strangers devour your land in your presence, and it is desolate.”

It is haunting to listen to these words spoken twenty five hundred years ago and look around us today.

But the vision of Isaiah reminds us also that our task is to work for health and peace.

Now, after Tisha B’av, we gather not only to mourn what was, but also to learn from it: to ask how did we get here, and what shall we do now with what we know?

Because we have survived so many destructions in our history, the Jewish people know better than any other that humanity is one. We the Jewish people and our God are one. The eternal Ejad.

Coronavirus knows no boundaries and no borders. It is happening to all of us.

There is no “them” there is only us and none of us is alone in this struggle.

We don’t know what happens next in our journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death of Coronavirus. We do not know what is on the other side.

But we do know this.

After Tisha B’av we are on an upward trajectory to the heights of joy. The time when we are most intimate with HaShem, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The journey from our lowest point to the highest happens relatively quickly, 49 nine days from the bottom to the top. Seven days times seven. Seven is the number of creation.

HaShem is always creating something new for us. We will have faith in our history, faith in each other, and faith that change always comes.

While time is different for human beings than it is for God, and it may seem to we mortals that change is slow, to God, a human lifetime is but the blink of an eye.

May we someday look back to this moment and find that this was our experience too.

 


Rabbi Sunny Schnitzer

By Rabbi Sunny Schnitzer.

Megillat Covid: Five Offerings for Tisha b’Av

Here are five offerings for Tisha b’Av, each available as its own downloadable PDF. They are intended for both personal and communal use, and can be used singly or all together. Any of them could be read on their own, or as a prelude to Eicha / Lamentations. The final one has been set to Eicha trope.

 

Crying Out by R’ Rachel Barenblat draws on images from the pandemic and asks the question: who will we be when the pandemic is gone? Here is a brief excerpt (you can read the whole piece in the PDF file below):

Lonely sits the city once great with people —
her subways now empty, her classrooms closed.
Refrigerator trucks await the bodies of the dead
wrapped in sheets of plastic and stacked like logs.
Mourners keep a painful distance, unable to embrace…

Along the Lines of Lamentations by R’ Sonja K. Pilz is similar to a cento (a poem that repurposes lines from another poem), as it consists primarily of quotations from Eicha, re-contextualized by their juxtaposition and by this pandemic season. Here is a brief excerpt (the whole appears in the PDF below):

We were laid waste (2:5).
We were stripped like a garden;
Ended have Shabbat and festivals (2:6).
Our gates have sunk into the ground (2:9).
Elders sit silently;
Women bow their heads to the ground (2:10).
My eyes are spent;
My being melts away (2:11)….

Jeremiahs without a jeremiad by devon spier offers fragmented lines evoking our fragmented hearts in this time of pandemic. About her contribution, devon writes:

To be used to cultivate an embodied COVID megillah reading that honours the fall of Jerusalem and the ebb and flow of our bodies in the months of the Coronavirus and related social distancing. 

To honour that for those of us with pre-existing conditions (our own frail, flimsy, fabulous humanness, our addictions, chronic health issues, years of unfelt griefs suddenly flung to the surface…each of these), we can wrap our whole selves in the scroll of this weeping day. And we can arrive, just as we are.

I would frame this as a kavannah as lines of ketuvim (lines of poetical post-exilic writings) the speaker can read before beginning chanting to set an intention. Or, the lines of this work could also be read throughout the chanting, as the verses I cite appear throughout the first chapter of Eicha. 

‘V’ha-ikar…” and the essence: Pause for the moments you feel the most human. Feel. And insert the words of this piece exactly where you are. From the lines of this intention and a gentle remembrance on this solemn day where we still face ourselves, our ancestors, our communities and each other, in and beyond, always, with hope: “Jerusalem is me is you.”

Here is a brief excerpt (the whole appears in the PDF below):

lamentations
for those with pages
of unwritten loss
lamenting
Jerusalem
and everything else
they never had
but Are
somehow
we are…

Alas by Trisha Arlin evokes the full journey of Eicha, from weeping for the city in distress to remembrance and the promise of change. Here is a brief excerpt (the whole appears in the PDF below):

…Eating, Sleeping, Walking
Alone
TV, Facebook, Prayer
Alone
Coughing, Crying, Dying
Alone

Alas, loneliness!
I am so frightened.
I weep and who will hear me?…

Remember by Rabbi Evan Krame evokes the end of Lamentations, beseeching God to remember us and to let us return. Here is a brief excerpt (the whole appears in the PDF below):

God! Remember what we had? Consider and see our situation!
Our future went to strangers, our houses no refuge.
We are like orphans, without a leader, our mothers worry like widows…

Here also is a recording of R’ Krame’s words sung in Eicha trope, recorded by Rabbi Jennifer Singer.

Together these five offerings make up this year’s “Megillat Covid,” the scroll of our mourning and our search for meaning during these pandemic times. Each is available for download as a PDF file here:

MegillatCovid-Barenblat-CryingOut (PDF)

MegillatCovid-Pilz-AlongTheLines (PDF)

MegillatCovid-Spier-Jeremiahs (PDF)

MegillatCovid-Arlin-Alas (PDF)

MegillatCovid-Krame-Remember (PDF) and audio recording by R’ Jennifer Singer:

 

And here’s a sketchnote of R’ Krame’s words, created by Steve Silbert:

 

Contributors:

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat is a founding builder at Bayit and author of several volumes of poetry who blogs as the Velveteen Rabbi.

Rabbi Sonja K. Pilz, PhD is the Editor of the CCAR Press. She taught Worship, Liturgy, and Ritual at HUC-JIR in New York and the School of Jewish Theology at Potsdam University, and authored one book, some articles, and many poems, midrashim, and prayers. Her work has been published in Liturgy, Worship, the CCAR Journal, a number of anthologies, and online.

Devon Spier is a rabbinic student, an author, and a visual poet theologian (proemologian), who both weaves and teaches others to weave their stories through poems, prose and theology of digital images.

Trisha Arlin is a liturgist, performer and student of prayer in Brooklyn, NY.  She is author of Place Yourself: Words of Prayer and Intention

Rabbi Evan Krame is a founding builder at Bayit and co-founder of The Jewish Studio.

Steve Silbert is the Bayit builder behind VisualTorah and Sketchnoting Jewishly.

 

Announcing Holy at Home

Many communities face Days of Awe this year that will be streamed / Zoom-based, rather than in person. This will be a High Holiday season like no other we’ve known.

Bayit: Building Jewish creates, refines, and uplifts meaningful tools for “building Jewish.” In this pandemic time, when so many are confined to home, we heard that many communities need a set of editable machzor slide decks, designed for meaningful and interactive Zoom services.

Enter Holy at Home, an editable set of machzor slide decks available in return for a donation to Bayit. (Information on that below — or you can jump directly to How To Receive The Editable Slides.) We titled the slide decks Holy at Home because that’s the work of this time: sanctifying the place where we are, wherever we are. They are adapted from Days of Awe, a curated machzor text designed for use across and beyond the denominational spectrum.

About Holy at Home

This is the first slide in the first slide deck.

Holy at Home is a set of six powerpoint slide decks:

  • Erev Rosh Hashanah (interweaving Ma’ariv / the evening service with the Sefardic custom of a seder for Rosh Hashanah),
  • Rosh Hashanah morning,
  • Kol Nidre,
  • Yom Kippur morning with Yizkor,
  • Yom Kippur afternoon (Avodah and Mincha), and
  • Ne’ilah.

All are editable, so each community can customize in ways that will meet their needs.

Much of what’s in these six slide decks comes from Days of Awe, the machzor that I curated and released some years ago via my blog Velveteen Rabbi. If you’ve been using Days of Awe, you’ll recognize a lot of what’s here — Hebrew and English, readings and prayers, tradition and creative riffs on tradition, poetry and artwork, translations and transliterations. That said, the original material from Days of Awe has also been adapted and improved for these slide decks in a variety of ways:

  • We’ve made many typo fixes;
  • Every word of Hebrew is now transliterated and translated;
  • There are full-color images adorning most slides, because that’s possible via slides in a way it was not possible in print;
  • I’ve steered away from prayer variations or settings that are rounds, or that work primarily because of harmony (given that it’s not possible to sing simultaneously over Zoom);
  • And there are also a lot of new things added to these slide decks — new liturgies, new poems, new illustrations, new approaches to Haftarah — that aren’t in the book.

Our team is continuing to proofread for misplaced nekudot, and if we find errors, we commit to fixing them by August 15 and will share updated slides as needed. We’re releasing the slide decks now to give you maximum time for dreaming and adapting. (We’ve also released a few “expansion packs” / updates  — for instance, version 1.0 didn’t include a a shofar service for second day Rosh Hashanah, but we added that among other things in version 1.2; we’re now up to version 1.5.)

The slide decks offer multiple choices to those who lead prayer. For some prayers, there are multiple options — e.g. three versions of Ahavat Olam, two variations on the Amidah, three versions of Aleinu. Once you donate and receive a download link for the slide decks, you can copy the slide decks, choose which option you want to use for any given prayer, and delete the other slides. And because every word of the Hebrew, English, and transliteration is editable, you can adapt or change the slides as needed.

How to Preview

Here’s a link to a folder on google drive that contains six PDF files of the slides. This is so you can page through them and see what’s in them. (Edited to add: we are aware that some of the slides in the PDF decks display lines of Hebrew as though they run over / appear on top of English words. This is a problem with the PDFs only and is not the case with the powerpoint decks, we promise!)

How to Receive the Editable Slides

If what’s here meets your needs, then we ask for a donation. Suggested donation is $360; if you serve a community of more than 200 families, we suggest $720; donations of up to $1000 are welcome; and if you truly can’t afford the $360, let us know.

Donations can be made here. (Please indicate that the donation is for the machzor.)

Once we receive your donation, we’ll send you a link to a different folder on google drive from which you can copy the six slide decks (in .pptx / PowerPoint format) and then adapt them as needed. Please bear with us; this process is not automated, and there may be delays if our bookkeeper is away from their desk or if I am away from mine. We will get the slides to you as quickly as we can.

The PowerPoint slide decks can be opened and edited in PowerPoint, in Keynote, or in Google Slides.

For those who want more information about what’s in the slide decks, read on!

More About What’s Inside

  • The erev Rosh Hashanah slide deck interweaves Ma’ariv with the Sefardic custom of a Rosh Hashanah seder. We’re doing a Ma’ariv + seder in my community because seder is an experience we’re accustomed to having at home, and that felt to us like a good doorway into this high holiday season which we’ll be celebrating from home. If that feature doesn’t suit you, you can delete those slides from your copy of the slides. 
  • The erev Rosh Hashanah slide deck also includes more of Kabbalat Shabbat than is in most machzorim. (Again, if this doesn’t meet your needs, you can delete those slides.)
  • There are creative versions of the Haftarah readings for each holiday. 
  • The Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur morning Torah readings are not there — there’s a slide that says “Torah TBD” — because we are all grappling with how best to manage Torah service from home. (Will we do a full Torah reading? Will we do a discussion? Will we engage with the text in some other way?) I trust each community top make their own choices about Torah.
  • I know that some communities may do an abbreviated Amidah, or something silent / contemplative. Others may want or need full-text. I’ve discovered that it’s impossible to page through silent Amidah prayers at the right pace for everyone. Therefore, for the silent evening Amidah on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, there’s a single slide that lists the themes of the prayer, as a guide to silent contemplation, and there is a downloadable file in google drive contains the full text so that those who wish can daven at their own pace silently.
  • For the morning Amidah, there is a one-slide meditative option (a list of the prayer’s themes, for silent contemplation) and also a 20-slide full-text Amidah option for davening aloud. If you prefer, you can delete the Amidah slides and just use the downloadable PDF — or do something entirely different that works for your kahal.
  • For the silent Yizkor memorial prayers there is also a downloadable google doc so that people can move through those silent prayers at their own pace. 
  • The slide decks include work from Yehuda Amchai z”l, R’ Rachel Barenblat, R’ Leila Gal Berner, Leah Goldberg z”l, R’ Jeff Goldwasser, Sandy Haight,  R’ Burt Jacobson, Rodger Kamenetz, Jane Kenyon z”l, R’ Riqi Kosovske adapting R’ Joseph Meszler, R’ Evan Krame, Anna Kronick, R’ David Markus, Stephen Mitchell, R’ David de Sola Pool z”l, Rick Recht,  Len Radin, R’ Jack Riemer, R’ Rami Shapiro, Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l, Rav Kohenet Taya Ma Shere, Steve Silbert, Herman Taube, and R’ Shohama Wiener.

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We hope these tools will be useful to you.

ADDENDUM: If there are things missing that you’d like to see in these slides, let us know. As of July 15, Rosh Hashanah morning has been updated (to version 1.2) as follows:

  • added a full shofar service for second day Rosh Hashanah
  • added an aleinu after shofar service
  • added a Hineni
  • added a short ashrei to psukei d’zimrah
  • added a long ashrei in English to psukei d’zimrah
  • added full Hebrew and transliteration to Yishtabach
  • added Yotzer Or in Hebrew, English, and transliteration
  • added full birchot hashachar

As of July 30, the slide decks have been updated again (to version 1.3) as follows:

  •  updated the Rosh Hashanah candle blessing
  • added HaYom Ta’amtzeinu to Yom Kippur morning
  • added We Are As Clay / Ki Hineh KaChomer to Kol Nidre
  • added Ahavah Rabbah in full to Rosh Hashanah morning (can also be used on Yom Kippur morning)
  • added a creative haftarah (Mary Oliver poem) to Rosh Hashanah morning for second day
  • added Janowski Avinu Malkeinu to Rosh Hashanah morning for second day

As of August 3, we are now sharing version 1.4. In this update:

Update 1.4:

  • added a full alphabetical acrostic Al Chet to Kol Nidre (slides can be copied and used in other YK services also)
  • added full Torah service on R”H morning (slides can be copied and used on YK also)
  • added Ps 148 to RH morning
  • added a verse of America the Beautiful as a Prayer For Our Country on RH morning
  • added Healer of the Broken Hearted as an alternate Mi Sheberach on RH morning
  • added Pure Heart / Psalm 51:12 to Psukei on R”H morning
  • added Lulei He’emanti to RH eve
  • added Vayechulu to RH eve
  • added Mikolot Mayim Rabim to R”H eve
  • added full text of El Adon to R”H morning
  • added V’hasheivota as an additional Aleinu option in R”H evening (can easily be used elsewhere also)
  • added Min HaMeitzar to Kol Nidre

As of August 9, we are now sharing version 1.5. In this update:

Update 1.5:

  • added Torah service materials to YK morning
  • added We Are Opening before Shema in KN
  • added Lemaancha / For Your Sake to YK morning
  • added prayer for Israel and prayer for our country to YK morning
  • added a new three-part Al Chet in English with Hebrew refrain (one slide each dedicated to inner work, pandemic, racism)
  • added a bit of Ps 27 after birchot ha-shachar
  • added If It Be Your Will to Y”K morning
  • added a new “Who will choose…” reading to Unetaneh Tokef for YK morning

 

 

By Rabbi Rachel Barenblat