R. Dara Lithwick in From Narrow Places

Follow R. Dara Lithwick on Twitter

Buy the book: yourbayit.org/narrow-places/

Rabbi Dara Lithwick, a member of Bayit’s Liturgical Arts Working Group, is passionate about building bridges between people and communities and promoting inclusion as a fundamental Jewish practice. She is an advocate for LGBTQ2+ inclusion within diverse Jewish spaces, as well as for Jewish inclusion in LGBTQ2+ spaces. When not at work as a constitutional and parliamentary affairs lawyer, Rabbi Dara is active as an outreach rabbi at Temple Israel Ottawa, where she helps lead services and lifecycle events, teach adult and youth programs, and engage in outreach and social action initiatives, and led High Holiday services at Congregation Shir Libeynu in Toronto, the longest standing LGBTQ-inclusive shul in the city. Rabbi Dara is also chairing a Canadian Council for Reform Judaism group to develop a Tikkun Olam strategy for Canada and is the Canadian representative to the Union for Reform Judaism’s Commission on Social Action. She also serves on the JSpace Canada Advisory Board, and on the LGBTQ2+ Advisory Council at CIJA, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. Rabbi Dara and her partner love chasing their two children around Ottawa.

Here are some glimpses of her work from inside the book:

 

On Masks and Revelation

Torah begins בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים
In the beginning Elohim created
God was the first to use they/them pronouns
And Elohim said, let us make people, in our own image
וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אָדָ֛ם בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ
And the first people, created in the Divine image
Shone divine light
And didn’t have to hide or mask or conceal their rainbow selves.
Prisms refracting holy hues across the spectrum of diversity.

But once we had skin and sex and then gender and clothes
We organized into roles
That became rigid and unforgiving
All of us, divine light, now hidden, concealed
Under the burden of the masks we wear
To live in our world
Labels covering us
To conceal and protect
And I’m not talking COVID

And the Divine was used
To justify the rules
For the labels and roles
To keep us in our places

But that isn’t the whole story
At the full moon of Adar
We read a tale
Of hiding in plain sight,
About Esther אסתר, the concealed
In a מגילה megillah of revealing.

It opens at a huge party thrown by a joke of a king
Merriment all around
The king sends for his wife,
who was entertaining her own delegation
Vashti was her name, another word play
She turned him down
That woman didn’t mess around
Enter Esther, a replacement queen.
Her Jewishness hidden under her concealer
Until she had to come out
Throw off her mask
Reveal!
To save her people

Tradition teaches
“It is permitted [for a man] to dress as a woman on Purim.”
Moses Isserles got it,
‘dressing up in masks on Purim,’ he said,
‘a man wearing the attire of a woman,
and a woman wearing the accessories of a man—
there is no prohibition of this,
since what they are intending is merely joy.’

Though I wouldn’t say merely.
We take it to the next level.

On Purim our masks reveal
That masks are just that, masks.
That we are more than our masks.
That we are all Divine light.
Divine image.
Divine.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהו”ה אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעוֹלָם חֲכַם הָרָזִים.

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, chacham harazeem.

Blessed are You, Yah, our Elohim, Sovereign of all, knower of secrets.

Dara Lithwick

Shiva

Stop.
I need to stop. To sit. To feel.
I am not ready to go to a hockey game, or a movie, or a concert.

Not after this. A churban, a destruction.
Four million souls, officially, lost to COVID. Likely many times more.
A break in the order of things.
Parents and children, grandparents, lovers.
Colleagues and neighbours and classmates.
Memories and smiles and special recipes and stories and love affairs and hair styles and struggles and petty annoyances and languages and sideways glances.

I want to remember them. Life.
Pray for the aliyahs of their neshamas.
Pray for the health of those left here in this world.
Light candles, sit low, cover mirrors. Mourn.
Tell stories with friends and family and coworkers and partners and teachers and students.
Let grief wash over like the ocean’s waves.
In between servings of egg salad sandwiches and rugelach and instant coffee.
And hugs.
And healing.

We couldn’t do that this year either, couldn’t sit shiva together.
Our tradition innovated as it could, zooming through little screen boxes.
Enabling connection, though not the same.
Need to mourn that too.

As doors open
Before going out
Let’s sit together, shiva
Seven days, the days of creation
In memory, in healing

A liminal space to hold the churban
To process
And then to stand up, walk around the block
Re-emerge. Rebuild.

May the memories of those lost inspire us to build a better world.

Dara Lithwick

 

On the First of Elul

We will blow the shofar,
And I’ll read Psalm 27
And if we’re lucky we’ll go for a swim together on Lac St-Pierre
Kilometres of soft water filled with life
And say hi to the family of ducks that we’ve gotten to know (they have developed a fondness for 3 day old challah)
And put on our goggles and spot the beautiful sunfish and wee minnows, perch and trout, maybe even the prehistoric-looking snapping turtle that I mistook for a rock until it swam away
And then come back to the surface and watch
the great blue heron circle us overhead
And dry off and take our dog Zoe for a walk
Eat some lunch
And then drive past rolling fields spotted with cattle
or glowing with corn
Up a steep hill past the Gatineau River
To Écurie Knight Stables
And we’ll go inside to the standing stalls
Where Joey, Sam and Niagara will be nibbling on hay
And Rebecca always uses the pink brushes for Joey –
hard and then soft
And Jake makes sure that Sam’s hooves are clean
And as I brush down Niagara I smile
at how the kiddos are so focused, so calm,
So connected to these beautiful beasts that tower over them
And I help them saddle up
And then we ride
Together in the ring with our instructor
Rebecca a natural trick rider, hands free
Jake in perfect jumping position
I just love being there, connected
Working on trotting with my feet out of my stirrups
Remembering how once as a young girl about Rebecca’s age
I rode bareback on a horse named Prince
In a field, where my great grandfather once had a cottage
Holding on to Prince’s mane
Laughing in delight

That’s what I pray I’ll be doing
The First of Elul אֱלוּל
The New Year of Animals
The month whose letters stand for Ani L’Dodi V’Dodi Li
אני לדודי ודודי לי
I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine
Connecting, and, hopefully
Connected.

Dara Lithwick

 

Follow R. Dara Lithwick on Twitter

Buy the book: yourbayit.org/narrow-places/

 

From Narrow Places: Liturgy, Poetry, and Art of the Pandemic Era was published this month by Bayit and features the collaborative work of our pluralist Liturgical Arts Working Group over the first eighteen months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tu BiShvat: the Winter of our Redemption

Justice is rarely calm. As the Egyptians retrench themselves in iniquity and race forward to recapture their Israelite slaves, God sweeps them into the raging waters of the sea. Rashi on Exodus 14:27 explains:

כאדם שמנער את הקדרה, הופך העליון למטה והתחתונים למעלה, כך היו עולים ויורדים ונשברים בים,

Like a person stirring a pot, moving the top to the bottom and the bottom to the top, so were the Egyptians rising, falling, and breaking in the sea.

This image is a potent symbol of social justice. Raising the oppressed frequently involves lowering the oppressors. Fixing society requires shattering norms that reify injustice. We always read the story of this final showdown with the Egyptians close to the holiday of Tu B’shvat. 

Tu B’Shvat is described as Chag Hailanot, the Festival of the Trees. However, the word “אילנות” doesn’t appear anywhere in the Torah, Prophets, or Writings. Although the Torah speaks a lot about trees, the word generally used is עץ. The Rabbis observe that the constellation of letters in ”אילנות” only appears in one place in the Bible, in our verse from above, Exodus 14:27. Once the sea splits and the Israelites are on dry land the verse says: וַיָּ֨שׁב הַיָּ֜ם לִפְנ֥וֹת בֹּ֙קֶר֙ לְאֵ֣יתָנ֔וֹ – the sea returned to its normal state/power. For trees as well, this is a time of coming back to themselves. According to Rashi, this is the day where the sap of a tree starts to rise up inside of itself. 

This corrective resurgence is emblematic of the month Shevat, whose Mazel, or astrological sign,  is the bucket (d’li). It must first be lowered down in order to be able to draw up the water from the well. Life is filled with downs and ups as part of the meaningful struggle to be a healer in a broken world. Finding the balance of productive effort, as opposed to the avodos perech/the work of enslavement in Egypt, is alluded to in the role of the Tzadik, the righteous whose light is invested in the future, represented in the letter צ which corresponds to the month according to Sefer Yetzera. 

Bereishit Rabbah 66:4 teaches that the wicked are initially at peace and later experience suffering. This may be because if one is in a place of privilege not to need to struggle for oneself, one sins by not being proactive for others. The righteous, on the other hand, struggle at first and then are able to achieve and enjoy a better state of being. It is perhaps for this reason that Tu B’shvat is the only one of the four Rosh Hashanas that is halfway through the month and not at the beginning, modeling the work that first needs to be done in order to be worthy of celebration. 

According to the Ari Z”l, the 12 months of the year are reflected in the 12 possible permutations of the four letters of God’s name – ה,ה,ו,י. Each month has a corresponding verse that follows the same order of those four letters in that month’s permutation. The verse for the month of Shevat is הָמֵ֣ר יְמִירֶ֔נּוּ וְהָֽיָה־ה֧וּא (Leviticus 27:33), describing a sacrificial animal that has been improperly exchanged for another. The order of the letters in God’s name י-ה-ו-ה are at first presented out of order, with the ה and י switching positions. The final two letters, ו and ה are presented in the correct order of God’s name, alluding to the righting that happens in the middle of the month of Shevat.  

Indeed, the correcting that occurs in Shevat has been preordained since Creation. Yalkut Shimoni on B’shalach 225 offers a different understanding of the phrase, וַיָּ֨שׁב הַיָּ֜ם לִפְנ֥וֹת בֹּ֙קֶר֙ לְאֵ֣יתָנ֔וֹ – the sea returned to its original condition. The Hebrew word תנאי means a contingent condition. The midrash explains:

א”ר יונתן התנה הקדוש ברוך הוא תנאים עם הים שיהא נקרע לפני ישראל הדא הוא דכתיב וישב הים לפנות בקר לאיתנו [י”ד, כ”ז] לתנאו שהתנה הקדוש ברוך הוא עמו

Rabbi Yonatan said, the Holy Blessed One made a condition [at creation] with the sea, that it would split for Israel, as the verse says,  וַיָּ֨שׁב הַיָּ֜ם לִפְנ֥וֹת בֹּ֙קֶר֙ לְאֵ֣יתָנ֔וֹ – the sea returned to its condition that God had stipulated.

This midrash is curious. Why does God make a condition with the sea? God is all powerful and  could simply demand that the sea obey. The midrash asserts that God wants the salvation of Israel at the sea to be part of the natural order, not a sudden divine intervention.

As soon as Israel walks through on the dry land, they become truly free and the Egyptians lose their power over them. The sea naturally then returns to its original strength.  God programs this sequence of events into the natural order. Freedom will always lead to the disempowering of oppressors. 

Earlier, in Exodus 14:10, the Israelites looked up and saw the mighty Egyptian army, complete with horses, chariots and warriors, bearing down on them. They were trapped by the sea, with nowhere to run, and they were terrified. Their situation had never been more dire. As they explained to Moses, “it would have been better for us to be slaves in Egypt than to die here in the wilderness.” (Exodus 14:12). It was precisely at this dark moment, when they were too exhausted to visualize a path forward, that their ultimate salvation began.

Tu B’shvat is a yearly celebration of this kind of moment. It always falls in the dead of winter, when the trees appear lifeless and vulnerable. Tu B’shvat reminds us that even when we feel like we have nothing left in us, the process of regeneration and redemption may already have begun. When we reinvest in the fight for justice and equality, the disruption of systemic oppression will be as natural as the changing of the seasons.

 

R. Wendy Amsellem teaches at Yeshivat Maharat. R. Mike Moskowitz is a founding builder at Bayit.

 

 

 

R. Allie Fischman in From Narrow Places

Buy the book: yourbayit.org/narrow-places/

Rabbi Allie Fischman, a member of Bayit’s Liturgical Arts Working Group, has served the Reform Jewish overnight camp, URJ Camp Newman, in the San Francisco Bay Area as Associate Director and now Camp Director since 2014 after receiving a masters degree in Jewish education and rabbinic ordination from the Reform seminary, HUC-JIR. As an artist, musician, writer, and creative goofball, overnight camp offers the perfect stage for Allie to combine her loves of Jewish education, spirituality, and creativity to help instill a love of Judaism and Jewish life for campers and young adult staff alike. She plays with different media and art forms like graphic recording, sketchnoting, painting, inking, and drawing on an iPad Pro, and loves to bring the works of folks like Brenè Brown into her Jewish teaching. Allie lives with her husband, Lane, and young son, Jude, in the Bay Area where they enjoy hiking, cooking fantastic food, and playing with their eccentric pup, Maggie.

Here are some glimpses of her work from inside the book: one illustration for Tu BiShvat, one for Purim, and one for Pesach:

Buy the book: yourbayit.org/narrow-places/

From Narrow Places: Liturgy, Poetry, and Art of the Pandemic Era was published this month by Bayit and features the collaborative work of our pluralist Liturgical Arts Working Group over the first eighteen months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail – for MLK Tu B’Shevat 5782

This year Tu B’Shevat coincides with Martin Luther King weekend. From that spiritual confluence comes this setting of excerpts from Letter from a Birmingham Jail, set to haftarah trope by Bayit board chair R. David Evan Markus. Following the four-part structure of the traditional Tu B’Shevat seder in which we journey through the four seasons and the four worlds, these four excerpts are keyed to each of those four worlds. Here is a slide show of the four excerpts, a link to the four slides on google drive, and a downloadable PDF of the text marked-up for your own chanting.

 

Letter from a Birmingham Jail for MLK Tu BiShvat [Google Slides]

MLK – Birmingham Jail – in trope [PDF]

 

 

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

Joanne Fink in From Narrow Places

 

Find Joanne’s work: JoanneFinkJudaica.com, WhenYouLoseSomeone.com, www.zenspirations.com

Buy the book: yourbayit.org/narrow-places/

Zenspirations® founder Joanne Fink, a member of Bayit’s Liturgical Arts Working Group, is an artist, writer and spiritual seeker who loves helping people discover their innate creative gifts. An award-winning designer, inspirational workshop facilitator and artist-in-residence, Joanne expresses what’s in her heart through art and prayers, prose and poetry. With a background in product development and art licensing, today she develops products to help people connect and support one another, including collections of Zenspirations Emoji Stickers (available in the App Store- search Zenspirations). Joanne started her career designing greeting cards and Ketubot (Jewish Wedding Contracts) and in 1991 helped found the American Guild of Judaic Art. She is a best-selling author with more than one million books in print; two of her favorites are My Spiritual Journey, a guided journal designed to help you set and implement intentions to fulfill your personal purpose, and When You Lose Someone You Love, an illustrated memoir written the year after her husband died. Currently Joanne is working on her next book, a collection of illustrations and prayers based on the weekly parashot (Torah portion). For more information on Joanne and her work visit her websites: www.JoanneFinkJudaica.com, www.WhenYouLoseSomeone.com, www.zenspirations.com.

The cover art of From Narrow Places is by Joanne. Here are some glimpses of her work from inside the book:

Find Joanne’s work: JoanneFinkJudaica.com, WhenYouLoseSomeone.com, www.zenspirations.com

Buy the book: yourbayit.org/narrow-places/

 

From Narrow Places: Liturgy, Poetry, and Art of the Pandemic Era was published this month by Bayit and features the collaborative work of our pluralist Liturgical Arts Working Group over the first eighteen months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rachel Barenblat in From Narrow Places

 

Find Rachel’s work: velveteenrabbi.com, Velveteen Rabbi blog

Buy the book: yourbayit.org/narrow-places/

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, the convener of Bayit’s Liturgical Arts Working Group and a fellow of Rabbis Without Borders, was named in 2016 by the Forward as one of America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis . She holds dual ordination as rabbi and mashpi’ah (spiritual director). Since 2011 Rachel has served as spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel (North Adams, MA). She also served as past co-chair of ALEPH and interim Jewish chaplain to Williams College.  She holds an MFA in Writing and Literature from the Bennington Writing Seminars, and is author of six volumes of poetry, among them 70 faces: Torah poems (Phoenicia Publishing, 2011), Texts to the Holy (Ben Yehuda, 2018), and Crossing the Sea (Phoenicia, 2020.) Since 2003 she has blogged as The Velveteen Rabbi, and in 2008 TIME named her blog one of the top 25 sites on the internet. Her work has appeared in Reform Judaism, The Wisdom Daily, The Forward, and anthologies ranging from The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry (Bloomsbury) to The Women’s Seder Sourcebook (Jewish Lights). Her downloadable Velveteen Rabbi’s Haggadah for Pesach has been used around the world. She is visiting faculty at the Academy for Spiritual Formation (teaching both at two-year and at five-day retreats) and has also taught (among other places) at Beyond Walls, a writing program for clergy of many faiths at the Kenyon Institute.

Here are three selections from her work in From Narrow Places:

In the Sea

Here we are, in the sea. We can’t see the far shore.
Sand shifts beneath our feet. Who can trust it?
We don’t know how long this journey will be.
Will this next step drop us down into She’ol?

Sand shifts beneath our feet. We don’t trust it.
There are vaccines now, but not enough doses.
Will this next step drop us down into She’ol?
This much uncertainty clouds everyone’s vision.

There are vaccines now, but not enough doses.
So many deaths, and the earth just keeps turning.
This much uncertainty clouds everyone’s vision.
Sometimes it’s all we can do to keep going.

So many deaths, and the earth just keeps turning.
Remember restaurants, and singing, and theaters?
Sometimes it’s all we can do to keep going.
It’s easy to feel we’re alone in the journey.

Remember restaurants, and singing, and theaters?
Soon winter will be past, the snow over and gone.
It’s easy to feel we’re alone in the journey, but
look: we’re together, and God is here with us.

One day winter will be past, the virus over and gone.
We don’t know how long the journey will be, but
at least we’re together, and God is here with us.
Here we are, in the sea. We will reach the far shore.

Rachel Barenblat

How To

How to hold fear for so long
my shoulders learn a new shape.
How to watch numbers climb
higher, and then higher.
How to hold funerals
and kindergarten
over Zoom.

How to read subtle signals
via eyes alone.
How to re-grow scallions in water
because there might not be
more to buy.
How to feel our connections
though we’re apart.

How to sit
with unimaginable losses
even if they aren’t
our own, even if they are.
How to hold each other
when we can’t touch.
How to weep.

How to feel
everything that’s broken
—from mobile morgues
to the lies that fueled
shattered Capitol windows—
then ask the grief and fury
to drain away.

How to nurture
hope’s tiny tendrils
unfurling into flower
with every vaccination.
How to trust each other
take down our veils
and blink in unfamiliar sun.

Rachel Barenblat

The End of Day

The end of day.
That doesn’t mean
I’m leaving you.

After havdalah, when
the lights turn on
and today drains away

when this connection
feels like a mirage
that maybe you imagined

when the world begins
to fill every sacred silence
with noise

I’ll still be here
close as your heartbeat—
even if you forget.

Rachel Barenblat

 

Find Rachel’s work: velveteenrabbi.com, Velveteen Rabbi blog

Buy the book: yourbayit.org/narrow-places/

 

From Narrow Places: Liturgy, Poetry, and Art of the Pandemic Era was published this month by Bayit and features the collaborative work of our pluralist Liturgical Arts Working Group over the first eighteen months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A #1 New Release!

With deep thanks to everyone who’s shown an interest in this volume, and especially to the incredibly talented liturgists, poets, and artists whose work appears herein, we are delighted to be able to share that From Narrow Places: Poetry, Liturgy and Art of the Pandemic Era is Amazon’s #1 New Release in Inspirational and Religious Poetry this week!

Read more about the book on its own page, and also on that same page, if you’re so inclined you can click through to pick up a copy.

About this book, Rabbi Vanessa Ochs, PhD writes:

From Narrow Places gives language and imagery to the Jewish spiritual creativity that is still holding us up through the pandemic. I pray that speedily in our days we will look back at this volume as a testimony to how Jews of one era weathered a crisis and emerged even stronger. For now, it chronicles how the richness of Jewish living, full and fluid, is holding us up in these challenging days. I will confess: each page unlocked doors to my unexamined disappointments, sorrows and even deep joys. Many tears, but good ones.

We hope what’s in these pages will speak to you, too.

Sap Rising: Tu BiShvat 5782

New from Bayit’s Liturgical Arts Working Group comes this offering for Tu BiShvat 5782, available both as a printable PDF and as illuminated google slides suitable for screensharing. Here are four new variations on Tu BiShvat’s traditional four cups of wine or juice; prayers and meditations on Tu BiShvat in this time of climate crisis; an updated variation on Reb Nachman’s “Grant me the ability to be alone” prayer for our Zoom / pandemic moment; and more.

Featuring work by Trisha Arlin, R. Rachel Barenblat, R. Dara Lithwick, Joanne Fink, R. David Evan Markus, and R. David Zaslow.

Download the PDF:

Sap Rising – Tu BiShvat 5782 from Bayit[pdf]

Preview the illuminated google slides:

The slides are also here on google drive:

Sap Rising – Tu BiShvat 5782 from Bayit

 

Here’s a taste of what’s inside:

In an era when we cannot easily congregate,
may we discover new ways to connect
with our communities, our friends and family,
and with our own hearts…

— “Four Cups: Awareness, Connection, Gratitude, and Hope,” Joanne Fink

רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם זַכֵּנוּ לְהִתְאוֹשֶׁשׁ בְּהִתְבּוֹדְדוּת,‏
יַחַד מוֹשִׁיטִים יָדָיִם מֵהַרִיק שֶׁל הַנִּפְרָדוּת,
מִתְחַבְּרִים בְּאֶמְצָעוּת זוּם כְּדֵי לְהִתְקַשֵּׁר בֵּין לֵב לַלֵּב.

Master of the Universe, may we merit resilience in solitude,
Together reaching out from the empty void of separateness,
Connecting by zoom, linking heart to heart…

— from ‘A Prayer for Renewing Connections,” R. David Evan Markus

We begin the seder by donning an extra hat, an extra scarf, and a mask. These additional outer garments symbolize apartness and disconnection. We remove our masks, bless grape juice or wine, and drink from the first cup…

— from “Four Cups, Four Worlds,” R. Rachel Barenblat

Of every Torah we say,
“She is a tree of life.”
There are some who say
“Every tree is a Torah too”
meant to be read…

— from “Tree of Life,” R. David Zaslow

First Cup – Live Small
You have to be rich to live small.
It ain’t cheap to shop local,
Do the poor eat organic?
But bravo to those of us who can manage it
And no shame to those of us who cannot.

— from “Four Cups, Four Ways to Action,” Trisha Arlin

We used to seek out tree fruits from afar:
pomegranate arils plentiful as mitzvot,
carob a reminder to plant for generations,
figs evoking Torah, juicy and sweet…

— from “Where We Are,” R. Rachel Barenblat

Assiyah: The first cup is that of Assiyah, the world of being and action, earth and body. Here we need protection, a hard shell. I stare out to the winter wonderland surrounding me. Spruce trees abound, the most common tree here in Canada. Sharp needles – protective, not too friendly at first – can hurt, but make a healing tea…

— from “Four Cups, Four Species, Four Worlds, Right in Front of Me,” R. Dara Lithwick

Our home shul in Brooklyn meets in a church.
We don’t have a yard or a roof or air conditioning
So for many years during the summer we have met in Prospect Park
Under two large trees that overlook the ball fields…

— from “Our Tallis Trees,” Trisha Arlin

The sap is rising, even if we can’t see it.
Is our hope rising? What if we can’t feel it? …

— from “Rising,” written by the ensemble

 

And if this speaks to you, you also might find meaning in our new book

From Narrow Places: Liturgy, Poetry and Art of the Pandemic Era, available now for $18.

 

 

        

This collection features work by Trisha Arlin, R. Rachel Barenblat, R. Dara Lithwick, Joanne Fink, R. David Evan Markus, and R. David Zaslow. Find all of our bios on the Builder Biographies page.

Trisha Arlin in From Narrow Places

 

 

Support Trisha: www.trishaarlin.com/support-my-work

Buy the book: yourbayit.org/narrow-places/

 

Trisha Arlin, a builder in Bayit’s Liturgical Arts Working Group, is a liturgist, writer, performer and student of prayer in Brooklyn, NY and was a part-time rabbinic student at the Academy of Jewish Religion (AJR), 2012-18. Trisha was the Liturgist-In-Residence during the National Havurah Committee’s 2014 Summer Institute, and has served as Scholar or Artist in Residence where she has read, led services, helped congregants create services and seders and taught her class, Writing Prayer. On Zoom, Trisha teaches prayer writing from her home to individuals and small groups and with Ritualwell, Haggadot.com and synagogues around the country. Trisha received a BA in Theater from Antioch College in 1975 and MFA in Film (Screenwriting) in 1997 from Columbia University.

In 2009/2010, Trisha was an Arts Fellow at the Drisha Institute and is a graduate of the sixth cohort of the Davennen Leadership Training Institute (DLTI). Her work has been published in her book, Place Yourself: Words of Poetry and Intention (a collection of liturgy and kavannot. Foreword by Rabbi Jill Hammer, Artwork by Mike Cockrill. 2019 Dimus Parrhesia Press); the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion; Seder Tefillot: Prayers for the High Holydays, (Movement for Reform Judaism); B’chol Levavecha (CCAR Press); Beside Still Waters: A Journey of Comfort and Renewal, Bayit and Ben Yehuda Press; A Poet’s Siddur (Ain’t Got No Press); Studies in Judaism and Pluralism (Ben Yehuda Press) and can be found online at TrishaArlin.com, at Ritualwell.org, opensiddur.org and her blog, triganza.blogspot.com/.  If you wish to support her work as a liturgist, please go to www.trishaarlin.com/support-my-work/ where you can make onetime donations via PayPal or support her ongoing work via Patreon.

Here are three selections from her work in From Narrow Places:

 

Sitting In Emptiness

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

And we feel the same:
No hope
Unprotected
Everything bad gets in
And no way to get out

And we feel the same:
Possibilities for miles
Vulnerable to love
Safe in the community’s hut
Open to Holy Wholeness

We sit in this emptiness that is not empty
And in a week it will be gone.

Trisha Arlin

 

My Seder Plate

This year I don’t need symbols on my Seder plate.
This year I am very literal.
An egg is just an egg,
A bone represents only bones.
This year I’m all pshat.
Hate, Lies, Anger, Fear, Pain, Isolation,
Death
Only an empty Seder plate can hold all that truth.

Trisha Arlin

 

Kri’ah

When my mother died,
I was 3000 miles away
On a teen study trip in England.
I said goodbye to her at the airport
and never saw her again.

They woke me up in the dorm
And told me my mother was sick and I had to go home
to New York.
Part of me knew that this meant she was dead
But as my friends gathered to say goodbye
I complained, to their horror,
about my mother’s hypochondria and
how she was always interrupting
whenever I was having fun.

The only book I had with me on the plane home was
The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus,
and this was kind of funny even then.
I mean, really?

My father told me she was dead as I walked in the door and
All I could think about was what I had left behind:
My first boyfriend,
Nigel,
Who had eyes like a young Martin Landau.

The house was filled with relatives and people from the Temple.
I made jokes and refused to cry.
My mother was 48.
I was 16.

When my father announced he was sick
I was 3000 miles away living in the Pacific Northwest.
It took about a year for him to die.

I came East for a visit,
We talked about everything except his coming death
Or that I loved him.
I said a normal goodbye as I got into a cab to the airport to go back to Seattle.
He looked very sad
And I never saw him again.
I had been planning to move back home in a few months
In time for his last days
But he died in an emergency room a few weeks later.
I returned for the funeral and cried during the service
And cried at the cemetery
And I cried when, for the first time in 12 years, I saw my mother’s headstone.
My father was 61.
I was 28.

I remember the sound of the black ribbon
Ripped apart in shock and grief, each time
By the rabbi
When I think of all the families who watched
As their parents went into the hospital with COVID
And who never saw them again.

Trisha Arlin

From Narrow Places: Liturgy, Poetry, and Art of the Pandemic Era was published this month by Bayit and features the collaborative work of our pluralist Liturgical Arts Working Group over the first eighteen months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Support Trisha: www.trishaarlin.com/support-my-work

Buy the book: yourbayit.org/narrow-places/

More for Chanukah

Here are some selections from last year’s Chanukah offerings, now available as slides suitable for screensharing: “My Father’s Menorah” and “Chanukah of Stars” by Rabbi Jennifer Singer, “Second Calendar” by Rabbi Sonja Keren Pilz PhD, “Al HaNisim: Future Miracles Unfolding Now” by Rabbi David Evan Markus, “Hanukkah poem #2” by Devon Spier, and “Chanukah of Stars” by Steve Silbert.

 

These pieces were first shared last year as part of the collaboration Great Miracles Happen Here. (If you would like to read these pieces in print on a PDF, click through to last year’s offering.)

Also don’t miss this year’s brand-new collaborative offering from Bayit, Rolling Darkness Into Light / Chanukah 5782.

 

 

This collection features work by R. David Evan Markus, R. Sonja Keren Pilz, Steve Silbert, R. Jennifer Singer, and Devon Spier. Find all of our bios on the Builder Biographies page.