Connections: new liturgy, poetry, and art for Tu BiShvat

New from Bayit’s Liturgical Arts Working Group comes this interdisciplinary and pluralist collection of new work for Tu BiShvat, the New Year of the Trees.

Here are prayers and practices for solitary pandemic celebration, meditations on trees in urban settings, coloring pages for contemplative creativity, prayers looking ahead to the year 2030, and more:

“TU biShvat is an invitation to focus on the natural world surrounding us–and at the same time, it makes us aware of our connectedness to each other, to the flow of time and stories, to the flow of cyclical renewal, to the spiritual worlds. We remove the shells (literally) that protect, obscure, and incubate, step by step reaching toward inner sweetness. We use our sense to internalize those messages–maybe we plant things, too.

This year, connection also is digital–we use a digital ecosystem to supplement a natural one.  

This little machberet (this little “journal”) can be used simply as a reading resource, but it can also become, by means of a printer and a couple of crayons, a source of meditation, coloring, tapping into the flow, and celebrating the playful child in all of us that lies beneath the shells.

We play and draw and read and speak… about the very personal, the sensual, the broken, the sad, the budding, the blossoming, the growing, the changing… the healing. Together, may we root ourselves in connectedness.”

Download the whole collection:

Connections – Liturgy, Poetry, and Art for Tu BiShvat – Bayit [pdf]

Contents include:


Birthday of the Trees, illustration by Steve Silbert

A Blessing: FOR PLANTING THE FUTURE, R. David Evan Markus


Fruit of the Tree, illustration by R. Allie Fischman

INSTRUCTION, R. Rachel Barenblat


A Tree in the City, illustration by Steve Silbert

FOUR TREES, R. Rachel Barenblat

Tree of Life, illustration by Steve Silbert


TREE:  A GUIDED MEDITATION, Trisha Arlin; illustration by Steve Silbert

PREPARING, R. Sonja K. Pilz, PhD

TO 2030 / 5790, R. Dara Lithwick

Those Who Sow in Tears will Reap in Joy, illustration by R. Allie Fischman

ZOONOSIS, R. Sonja K. Pilz, PhD

Connected, illustration by R. Allie Fischman (also seen above)

ROOTING, R. David Evan Markus

MAPLE MY LOVE, R. Dara Lithwick

Maple, illustration by R. Allie Fischman


Download the whole collection:

Connections – Liturgy, Poetry, and Art for Tu BiShvat – Bayit [pdf]


  Allie Fischman      

Liturgy and poetry by Trisha Arlin, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, Rabbi Dara Lithwick, Rabbi David Evan Markus, Rabbi Sonja Keren Pilz. Artwork by Rabbi Allie Fischman and Steve Silbert.

“If you really hear…” – a new prayer-poem by R. David Markus

This new prayer/poem arises from the second paragraph of the Sh’ma and from the deep ecumenism that cherishes all paths to the Holy. Use it during Shabbat services on the Shabbat that begins as Christmas wanes, or whenever speaks to you.


If you really hear yourself into becoming a sacred act of connection
Each moment, that living connection I give from Myself to you this day,

Then You will love and serve all that is sacred, knowing all are sacred,
Each one a precious one of the One, each an ongoing rebirth of hope.

The hope born this day is Immanuel, God with us, a prophet’s good news
Beaming with stardust light, a gift more precious than gold and incense,

A burning bush for Moses, a Sinai covenant for freed slaves,
A midnight ride for Mohammad, an enlightenment for Buddha,

Each one refracting the One light through the prism of that moment,
Each one priming the holy flow of love among us, that freedom to see again

That on this day from the City of David, we are called to the Beloved anew,
So that we can make heavenly days right here on this Earth.

Written for Chag HaMolad 5781 (Christmas 2020)



By Rabbi David Evan Markus, a founding builder at Bayit.


Who Can Retell? a review of Great Miracles Happen Here

Thanks to Mark Frydenberg for this beautiful eJewishPhilanthropy review of Great Miracles Happen Here, the latest offering from Bayit’s Liturgical Arts Working Group. Here’s a taste of Mark’s review:

…They provide new prayers for “building Jewish with meaning and heart” that speak to us, regardless of our Jewish identity, denominational affiliation or practice; regardless of whether we live in North Adams, Massachusetts or Los Angeles, California, or somewhere in between. They share the contemporary experience of navigating a world of masks and social distance, isolation and illness, divisiveness and difference and the gratitude for the modern miracles and miracle workers that help us make it through this pandemic moment…Grounded in text and tradition, this uplifting collection offers new reflections, poems, and images to read, share, and contemplate before lighting the candles each night…

Read the whole review here: Who Can Retell? Great Miracles Happen Here.  (And download the collection from our website if you need it: Great Miracles Happen Here.)

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

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 offering features a teaching from Rabbi Sunny Schnitzer. The text follows the video link, in Spanish and then in English. Deepest thanks to Rabbi Juan Mejia for translation help.

Find this month’s video here. 

A menudo  durante nuestra amistad, diecisiete años después de conocernos en mi primera visita a Cuba, hemos comentado cómo nuestro judaísmo nos une. No importa cuán lejos vivamos los unos de los otros, no importa las diferencias en nuestras culturas nacionales, hay mucho más cosas que nos unen que aquellas que nos separan. Compartimos una historia, una cultura, una forma de ver el mundo a través de los lentes de la Torá.

Ahora mismo, en medio de esta pandemia mundial, compartimos las máscaras, los dos metros de distancia al hacer cola, la escasez de papel higiénico (una novedad en Estados Unidos).

No comparo nuestras situaciones. En verdad, no hay comparación. Pero se necesitará la misma acción por parte de todos para sacarnos de esta oscuridad. Debemos trabajar más duro para compartir nuestra luz.

Es un principio espiritual que cuando compartimos nuestra luz espiritual con otros, nuestra luz no disminuye sino que aumenta. Cuanta más luz compartimos con los demás, más luz fluye a través de nosotros.

Janucá es algo realmente simple. A diferencia de Pesaj o Sucot, que requieren mucha preparación: limpiar la casa, hornear o ubicar la matzá, construir la sucá, Janucá requiere poca preparación. A diferencia de las festividades que también tienen restricciones, Janucá no tiene restricciones.

Uno simplemente enciende la Janukia durante ocho noches y uno se apega a la luz y bendición divinas. Es simple, pero profundo. En una época del año cuando los días son más cortos y las noches más largas; Janucá irradia esperanza, fe y amor incondicional, recordándonos que debemos soñar de nuevo, que nuestros sueños son hermosos e importantes. La capacidad de aferrarse a los sueños y la esperanza, incluso en medio de una crisis, es lo que ha sostenido a nuestra gente en sus días más oscuros.

Los macabeos lucharon por la supervivencia del espíritu en medio de una presión inimaginable para cambiar su forma de vida.

La suya fue una afirmación clara que suena a lo largo de la historia y llega a nuestra época.

No importa cuán atractiva sea la cultura del mundo en general, no importa cuán seductora sea, de alguna manera los judíos deben seguir siendo judíos. El milagro del aceite que usaron los Macabeos para encender la Menorah en el Templo es la declaración definitiva

La idea de un mundo sin judíos e ideales judíos fue rechazada. Y el rechazo de la oscuridad fue recompensado con una revelación de luz que ha mantenido vivo a nuestro pueblo durante más de dos mil años.

No importa lo que esté sucediendo en el mundo externo, Janucá nos enseña que podemos ser libres y que no debemos estar limitados por nuestros miedos. Podemos vivir nuestras vidas con mayor integridad, gratitud, amor y belleza, incluso en medio de nuestros desafíos.

Es un principio espiritual que cuando compartimos nuestra luz espiritual con otros, nuestra luz no disminuye sino que aumenta. Cuanta más luz compartimos con los demás, más luz fluye a través de nosotros “.

Que te inspire la luz en la oscuridad.

¡Feliz Janucá!

During our friendship, now going on 17 years since we met on my first visit to Cuba, we have remarked often on how our Judaism brings us together. No matter how far away we live from each other, no matter the differences in our national cultures, there is much more that keeps us together than apart. We share a history, a culture, a way of looking at the world through the lens of Torah.

Right now, in the midst of this worldwide pandemic we share the masks, the standing 6 meters apart in lines, a shortage of toilet paper (a first in the United States).

I do not compare our situations. In truth, there is no comparison. But it will take the same action by everyone to bring us through this darkness. We must work harder to share our light.

It is a spiritual principle that when we share our spiritual light with others, our light is not diminished but increased. The more light we share with others, the more light flows through us.

Hanukah is a simple thing really. Unlike Pesach or Sukkot which require much preparation – clean the house, bake or locate the matzah, build the sukkah, Chanukah requires little preparation. Unlike those holidays which also have restrictions, Chanukah as no restrictions.

One simply lights the Chanukiah for eight nights and one is attached to Divine light and blessing. It is simple, but profound. At a time of the year when the days are shortest and nights are the longest; Chanukah radiates hope, faith, and unconditional love, reminding us to dream again, that our dreams are beautiful and important. The ability to hold onto dreams and hope, even in the midst of crisis, is what has sustained our people in their darkest days.

The Maccabees fought for the survival of the spirit in the midst of unimaginable pressure to change their way of life.

Theirs was a clear statement that sounds throughout history and reaches us in our era.

No matter how attractive the culture of the larger world, no matter how seductive, somehow Jews must continue to be Jews. The miracle of the oil that the Maccabees used to light the Menorah in the Temple is the ultimate statement

The idea of a world without Jews and Jewish ideals was rejected. And the rejection of the darkness was rewarded with a revelation of light that has kept our people alive for over two thousand years.

No matter what is happening in the external world, Chanukah teaches us that we can be free and we need not be limited by our fears. We can live our lives with greater integrity, gratitude, love and beauty, even in the midst of our challenges.

It is a spiritual principle that when we share our spiritual light with others, our light is not diminished but increased. The more light we share with others, the more light flows through us”.

May you be inspired by the light in the darkness.

Happy Chanukah!



Rabbi Sunny Schnitzer

By Rabbi Sunny Schnitzer. Translation help from Rabbi Juan Mejia.

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:

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.