Posts

Approaching Our Second COVID Seder

New from Bayit’s Liturgical Arts Working Group comes this offering of poetry, liturgy, and artwork for this second pandemic Pesach. This collaborative collection is available in two formats: as a downloadable PDF (suitable for printing to accompany a printed haggadah), and as a set of google slides (suitable for screenshare for Zoom or other online / streamed sedarim.) Here too are a handful of pieces to mark the seventh day of the festival, when tradition says we took the plunge and crossed the sea.

All of the material for the first night can be a standalone “module” that could lead directly into and through the first three steps of the seder (Kadesh, Urchatz, Karpas.) Or, some of the first night material could be interwoven into Maggid / the storytelling component of the seder. Or, use these materials however they best speak to you and your needs!

What does it mean to approach the season of our liberation when so many of us feel we are still in Mitzrayim / in the Narrow Place of pandemic, economic uncertainty, and global grieving? What do we carry with us on the journey? How will this seder be different from all other seders, even the first pandemic seder we celebrated a year ago? What words, images, practices, and prayers can help us connect with liberation in this season? May these offerings help us reach liberation this year, in whatever ways we can.

Download the PDF: Bayit Offerings for Pesach

Access the google slides: Bayit Offerings for Pesach – Slides

 

Here’s a listing of what you’ll find inside:

Approaching Our Second COVID Seder

Opening: The Passover of this Pandemic Year, R. David Markus
A Prayer to Release Trauma, Joanne Fink
Kindling Lights: Remembrance, Commitment and Hope, R. David Markus
A COVID Seder Plate for This Pandemic Season, ensemble;
illustration by R. Allie Fischman
My Seder Plate 2021, Trisha Arlin; image by R. Rachel Barenblat
A Seder Plate for Covid Times, R. Dara Lithwick
Four Names of Passover: A Liberating Journey, R. Dara Lithwick
Urchatz: Immersing in Sweetness, R. David Markus
Karpas, R. Sonja K. Pilz, PhD; illustration by Steve Silbert
bodies of water, Devon Spier
From Bitter to Sweet, R. Rachel Barenblat

 

The slide deck also includes additional artwork and slides containing the words of kiddush (and, for first night, havdalah).

For the Seventh Day: Entering the Sea

Believe in miracles, Joanne Fink
In the Sea, R. Rachel Barenblat
Fish, illustration by Steve Silbert
7th Day: Water, R. Sonja K. Pilz, PhD
Before and After, Trisha Arlin
The Way, illustration by Steve Silbert

 

Download the PDF: Bayit Offerings for Pesach

Access the google slides: Bayit Offerings for Pesach – Slides

 

   Allie Fischman     

Liturgy and poetry by Trisha Arlin, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, Joanne Fink, Rabbi Allie Fischman, Rabbi Dara Lithwick, Rabbi David Evan Markus, Rabbi Sonja Keren Pilz, and Devon Spier. Artwork by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, Rabbi Allie Fischman, Joanne Fink, and Steve Silbert. Find all of our bios on the Builder Biographies page.

 

The Lot of One Year: Liturgy, Poetry, and Art for Purim 2021

New from Bayit’s Liturgical Arts Working Group comes a collection of poems, prayers, and artwork for this pandemic Purim. Here are meditations on (the) last Purim, and on our many-layered losses; poems on our world turning upside-down, on what our masks reveal, on grief and playfulness, on Esther and on Zeresh, on vengeance and its limitations; another new Al Hanisim looking back on Purim miracles that haven’t yet arrived; illustrations (including a printable coloring page that can be turned into a gragger); and more.

Download the whole collection here:

The Lot of One Year – Purim 2021 [pdf]

 

 

Here are tastes of what you’ll find within. From the introduction:

One year ago, our lives changed.
Purim,
holiday of abundant joy, enjoyment, silliness, and care,
marks the watershed moment between what was once—normal—
and what has become our new life…

From “Last Purim 4,” R. David Markus:

…We didn’t know that weeks later, our area would be a covid epicenter with the nation’s highest death rate. We didn’t know that a year later, the building still would be locked – laughter and Esther trope faintly echoing, an empty Corona bottle on the piano, Purim decorations on the walls, frozen in time like a Twilight Zone episode, sackcloth and ashes for millions dead.

From “Hilchot Purim,” R. Sonja K. Pilz, PhD:

Anoint yourself
Take baths and showers
Let no one you love come close
For twelve months
Or more…

From “When Esther Went In,” R. Rachel Barenblat:

…When she went in, she didn’t know
how she would miss the coffee shop
with its all-day backgammon players
and hum of conversation…

From “Purim Poem #2,” Devon Spier:

…My breath smells of wine
My pockets are filled with
Bad long sentences and
Some ancestor I don’t know’s old crumbs…

From “The 9th Chapter: We Won and They Lost,” Trisha Arlin:

So what happens when we win?
Not by much
And in the nick of time
It so easily could have gone the other way
And though there’s more of us
There’s plenty of them
And they are cruel.
What to do?…

From “On Masks and Revelation,” R. Dara Lithwick:

…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…

Download the whole collection here:

The Lot of One Year – Purim 2021 [pdf]

 

  Allie Fischman     

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

 

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.

A Psalm for Zoom

Here’s another resource for sanctifying the placeless place and sacred space of a Zoom room or other digital gathering space. This could be used as part of communal prayer over Zoom, or as a personal meditation before a Zoom meeting or class. 

 

A Psalm for Zoom

Zoom
Normally, that means karooming
From one thing to another.
Now it means the opportunity to stop;
To connect with community
From distant rooms
To be here and Jerusalem and Sacramento
All at once.
To be still in meditation
And active in thought and creation
Singing with others while alone on my couch.
I am grateful that even in separation we can be together.
You who rule all time and space
Join together with us in this moment.
Help us to feel joined in You
And to know with You
We are never alone.

 

 

By Rabbi Susan Gulack.

Contemporary shiviti by Steve Silbert

A shiviti is a visual tool designed to aid Jewish meditation, either as a prelude to liturgical prayer or as a contemplative practice all its own. (Learn more at this shiviti page at OpenSiddur.) The name shiviti comes from Psalm 16:8, שִׁוִּיתִי יְהוָ”ה לְנֶגְדִּי תָמִי / shiviti YHVH l’negdi tamid, “I place God before me always.” Steve Silbert has created a contemporary shiviti inviting the person who is praying to look inward.

 

By Steve Silbert.

How does Gratitude Change the World? A Prayer for Anger by Trisha Arlin

 

This prayer comes from liturgist Trisha Arlin, who writes, “I wrote this incantation because I found myself feeling furious at all the seemingly contradictory feelings of gratitude, anger, love, hope and despair that I’ve been feeling for months, and especially since the murder of George Floyd. I think this can be read to yourself. Or, if you wish to present it at a service, you may want to assign the more personal lines to one reader and the incantatory lines of murder and awfulness to a chorus of individual or group voices. And thank you for listening. Amen.”

 

How does Gratitude Change the World? A Prayer for Anger

 

Baruch Atah Adonai,
Brucha At Shechinah,
Ruach Ha Olam,
Holy Wholeness,

Every Shabbat
I attend services on Zoom
And almost every single time we are asked by the rabbi,
What are you grateful for?
(A reasonable question)
Write it down in the chat room, she says
And a long list from the congregation rolls out
Of family members
And pets
And clergy
And social justice leaders
And victories
And sour dough bread recipes.

I am also grateful
For the usual stuff
But
The thing is
I hate this question.
I really hate this question.
I am annoyed not grateful.
I am annoyed and not grateful on a daily basis,
I am annoyed and not grateful when I wake up in the morning
and annoyed and not grateful when I go to sleep at night.
I am angry!
Modeh Ani? Hell no.
Bedtime Shma? I forgive no one!
I am angry
and annoyed
and disputatious
and frustrated
but the people who deserve my anger and resistance
do not know or care that I exist.
So I take it out on people who I know mean well
like my rabbi.

Because damn it
This country was founded on genocide and slavery and murder
And it continues:
Rayshard Brooks was murdered
George Floyd was murdered
Breonna Taylor was murdered
Atatiana Jefferson was murdered
Philandro Castile was murdered
Freddie Gray was murdered
Eric Garner was murdered
Sandra Bland was murdered
Michael Brown was murdered
Tamir Rice was murdered
Trayvon Martin was murdered
Emmet Till was murdered

The disproportionate numbers of black COVID deaths;
The mortgages that were turned down;
The jobs that weren’t offered;
The food deserts that led to malnutrition;
The schools with no budgets;
Being afraid to drive or walk or leave the house or breathe.
Murders of opportunity and hope,
Murders of body and soul.
Yeah, I’m angry!

And I’m ashamed of all my white privilege that allows me to know about this
And do nothing
If I want
Except feel bad
And write the occasional check
And mostly not pay attention.
I’m so angry at myself.

So sorry, no gratitude in the chat room today from me.

And?
the things that I am grateful for that you are so curious about,
why do I have to announce them?
You want me to spread my gratitude all around like manure
In this garden of good vibes?
Why?
And please, don’t tell me yours,
I am neither interested nor moved by your gratitude!
Really.
Except of course I am,
I love you
I love you all,
I like it when people are happy.
I like it when people share their happiness,
But not on demand
Not in a chat
And not every week.
Not now
Not this week.
I am happy to share my happiness when it occurs.
When it occurs.

But my gratitude is not for tourists.

The planet is on fire,
Sickness of all kinds surrounds us and
People are being killed by racists and idiots.
Cruelty goes unpunished
The greedy and stupid are in charge
And we can’t get away from it.
No distractions work for long.
Which is probably a good thing.
It feels hopeless
I suspect that’s a white privilege, too.

Protests and Solidarity help
And I see change happening.
But it is a fight that never ends
So screw gratitude.

Sorry.

There is a parable in the Sefer Ha-Aggadah,
The Book of Legends,
About a king who had a beautiful orchard
Which, when he had to leave for a year,
He left in the hands of a keeper.
And when the king returned,
The orchard had been terribly neglected,
Overgrown with thorns and thistles.
He was going to tear the orchard down
But looking down at the thorns
He noticed among them
A rose-colored lily.
And the king said
“Because of this lily, let the entire orchard be spared.”
And the rabbis say,
“Likewise the whole world is spared, for the sake of Torah. “

And if I acknowledge the beauty in my life, what will be spared?
If I have hope, will institutional racism disappear?
How does my gratitude change the world??

I’m asking because I really want to know.

Baruch Atah Adonai
Brucha At Shechinah,
Ruach Ha Olam,
Holy Wholeness,
Thank you for listening.
Amen.

 

 

Liturgist Trisha Arlin is author of Place Yourself: Words of Prayer and Intention, available at Dimus Parrhesa Press. Find her on Patreon, here

Mah Nora HaMakom Hazeh – a chant for (digital) sacred space

One of the challenges of convening a group for prayer over Zoom is shifting gears into sacred space.

How can we sanctify the space where each of us is planted, knowing that as we shelter-in-place during the pandemic, our desks or dining tables or coffee tables serve purposes both secular and sacred? The table from which I’m joining the Zoom call might be the same table where I paid bills an hour ago, or folded laundry, or homeschooled my kid. How can we skillfully make that space feel holy when it’s time for prayer?

And how can we sanctify the placeless place of the Zoom room itself? A Zoom room doesn’t have the comfort or majesty or familiarity of a synagogue. We may associate Zoom spaces with committee meetings and other secular activities, not the sacred purpose of prayer. And a Zoom room isn’t a “place,” exactly, any more than the internet is a “place.” How can we make that “place” holy and fitting to hold a community gathering in prayer?

At a recent digital Shabbaton convened to explore these questions, we used this chant by Rav Kohenet Taya Mâ Shere for both of these purposes. We sang it as a call-and-response. (Participants were muted, but the two of us sang the back-and-forth, inviting the community to sing along with the response half of the chant.) We sang it explicitly to sanctify the physical place from which each of us was calling in and to sanctify the Zoom space.

We used this chant as our melodic and thematic throughline. We sang it at the start of services, during the d’var Torah (The Mishkan’s Next Digital R/Evolution, on this very theme), and again to close the service and seal our time together. The call-and-response linked us together across nine different states and two different countries. And the words reminded us that where we are is holy — where we are in the world and in our homes and in our bodies, and where we are in the space of the internet and our hearts’ interconnection.

 

מה נורא המקום הזה/ Mah nora hamakom hazeh

How awesome is this body!

How awesome is this place!

How awesome is this journey

Through time and space.

 

(If you can’t see the embedded audio player, try going to this post directly at yourbayit.org/makom/.)

 

Chant by Rav Kohenet Taya Mâ Shere. Her albums include Wild Earth Shebrew, Halleluyah All Night, Torah Tantrika and This Bliss; find her music at her website.

 

 

Post by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat and Rabbi David Markus.

Psalm 27 – a new translation by Rabbi Jamie Arnold

Here’s a new translation of Psalm 27 by Rabbi Jamie Arnold. Psalm 27 is traditionally recited daily during Elul, the month leading up to the Days of Awe… though the introspection and teshuvah work that this psalm cues us to do can be a meaningful part of spiritual practice all year long.

 

PSALM 27 – For love’s sake

the courage to live as if… / Bitachon

 

My deepest fear?

The energy illuminating everything

            cannot be seen or named.

When all I see is reflection and refraction,

who am I to be afraid

            of dark or light?

            of seeing, being seen, or not?

 

Silence is the mother of all sounds,

            syllables, names.

When a wisp of breath and unspoken incantation

guards the fortress of my life

            Who shall I fear?

            Which ‘I’ is the one that worries?

 

Fear and worry come fast, consuming my flesh from within,

            thieving me of ease and joy.

If only they would stumble, topple like the walls of Jericho.

For now, they have set up camp, settling in,

            starving head of sense

            and heart of wonder.

If you force upon me this unwanted war,

I will trust in… this, this mystery

            of light and sight, hidden forces

            made visible through masks of refraction.

 

My deepest desire?

One?  If granted one last wish,

this would be my re-quest:

 

To sample sabbath rest

            in the house of wonder

            every living day,

to see with eyes of equanimity and ease

            waking me to each new dawn

            in a palace of delight.

 

Point me north to find shelter from my worst fears

            under a blanket of stars-promising-progeny,

            winking at me through the leafy roof of a succah

Let me hide in the hidden folds of this makeshift shelter,

            tent turned tabernacle, sanctuary erected on

            and protected by a mountain of smooth, solid sandstone.

 

There now.

See my head rise above engulfing echoes of oys and veys

Releasing, sacrificing wants no longer suited for service

Fragmented breaths pressing through parsed lips into a horn

            transforming silent fears into jubilant song. Teruah.

I will sing. Zivchei teruah.

Atonement through attunement.

Shema qoli. Hear my voice

            turning silence to song

Choneini. Fill me with an easy grace

            in the face of my unfulfilled desires

Aneini. Gift me with a humble responsiveness

            to your unmet needs.

 

Your Deepest Desire?

Voice whispers through my heart and says,

            Seek my face.

I will seek your face, the hidden light,

             reflected in every face, revealing light.

Do not let anger distract me from seeing your majestic face

            tucked away in the creases of faces furrowed

            by anger in the face of injustice

            and a fear of being forgotten.

My father, my mother, yours, all beloved

            parental protectors will die.

            time will orphan me if I live that long.

And yet, magnetism prevails, a law of nature

            in-gathering, out-glowing

            showing all the wisdom of your ways

            paths paved by and for service and song

Don’t let worry distort these nefesh-soul, body-based truths

            with false testimonies, hyperboles, and half-truths

            blowhards fermenting fears to safeguard their power.

 

Our Declaration:

Lulei.  What if? What if it were not so?

Doubt. Division. Danger.  Death.  As if!

I choose to live as if I have the courage

            to act in the face of doubt

            to see the hidden connections and blessing

            to belong and be beholden to the living land, eretz chaim.

Together, let us draw new kinds of lines in the shifting sands.

I choose to trust you, to empower you, to re-see you,

            to celebrate your courageous heart, amatz lev

            to reshape this longing in your likeness.

 

Rabbi Jamie Arnold, who serves Congregation Beth Evergreen, is translating the psalms anew and posts his translations periodically at his blog. He participated in Bayit’s first online class for clergy, “Entering the Psalms.” (The next session of that class will begin in late October.)

Ashrei á la the Dalai Lama

This variation on the Ashrei uses quotations from His Holiness the Dalai Lama to articulate the themes of the Ashrei. Like the classical Ashrei, it is an alphabetical acrostic, and it’s singable to the same melodies as the Hebrew. When you reach the “R” line, pause and listen for a few moments during the ellipses. 

 

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.

If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

 

Account for the fact that great love /and great achievements involve great risk.

But when you lose at something you attempted / don’t lose the lesson.

Chart by the three R’s: / Respect for self, Respect for others and Responsibility.

Don’t forget that not getting what you want / is sometimes a stroke of luck.

Each time you realize you’ve made a mistake / take immediate steps to correct it.  

Friendships include differences / don’t let a dispute injure a relationship.

Genuine friends will stand by you / whether you are successful or unlucky. 

Happiness is not something ready made. / It comes from your own actions.

In disagreements deal only with the current situation. / Don’t bring up the past.

Judge success by what you gave up / in order to get what you wanted.

Keep an open heart / everyone needs to be loved.

Love and compassion are necessities. / Without them, humanity cannot survive.

Maintain a sincere attitude / be concerned that outcomes are fair

Nurture a loving atmosphere in your home / it is the foundation for your life.

Open your arms to change /  but don’t let go of your values.

Please be gentle with the earth / it’s the only planet we have.

Quit complaining about others / and spend more time making yourself better.

Remember that silence . . . / . . . is sometimes the best answer.

Share your knowledge wisely. / It is a way to achieve immortality.

Twice or even once a year / go someplace you’ve never been before.

Understanding for others / brings the tranquility and happiness we seek.

Verify your understanding /  but don’t forget to believe and have faith.

We all need some time alone / make room for you each and every day.

X-ray vision doesn’t exist / but seeking the truth is a good start.

You are not alone / God made all of us unique but not special.

Zero in on what matters / and start each day with loving yourself.

 

וַאֲנַֽחְנוּ נְבָרֵךְ יָהּ, מֵעַתָּה וְעַד עוֹלָם, הַלְלוּיָהּ. / Vaanachnu n’vareich Yah me’atah v’ad olam, hal’lu-Yah!

(And we will bless the Name of God now and forever, hallelujah!)

Edited / curated by Rabbi Evan Krame.