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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.

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.

New prayers, artwork, and poetry for Rosh Hodesh Elul / the New Year of the Animals

Judaism’s ancient New Year for the Animals — Rosh Hodesh Elul — can remind us that we’re all stewards of the Earth and all her life.  It can remind us that we too are animals, part of the web of life.  It can remind us of the special love we feel for companion animals – a heart-opening love we need as we prepare for the heart journey of Rosh Hashanah. Here are poems, prayers, and artwork for Rosh Hodesh Elul / the New Year of the Animals. May these offerings help us to draw near to our animals, our traditions, ourselves, each other, and our Source.

Available both as a downloadable PDF and as google slides suitable for screenshare.

Elul – New Year of the Animals – Bayit 2021 [PDF]

Rosh Hodesh Elul: New Year of the Animals [google slides]

 

Here are a few tastes of what’s collected here:

 

…I lay a blanket down on the grass.
We lose ourselves eye to eye,
Reflecting face to face like still waters

Restoring just a bit of something that
Sometimes I forget that I’d forgotten…

— “All Life,” R. David Evan Markus

This is a blessing for my old orange cat, Buster,
On the occasion of Rosh Hodesh Elul,
Rosh Hashanah La Beheimot,
The New Year of the Domesticated Beasts…

— “Blessing for Buster,” Trisha Arlin

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…

— “On the first of Elul,” R. Dara Lithwick

…I don’t believe in these separations anymore
whatever we do
we do it to you, too
we live on the same planet
we share the same earth…

— “Where We Walk,” R. Sonja K. Pilz, PhD

God is as close now
as blood pulsing in our veins,
that animal rhythm…

— “We are animals too,” R. Rachel Barenblat

…This Elul may our animal friends teach us to live in balance, honouring the Divine
At home with you, Yah…

— “Closing Blessing,” R. Dara Lithwick

Read the full collection:

Elul – New Year of the Animals – Bayit 2021 [PDF]

Rosh Hodesh Elul: New Year of the Animals [google slides]

 

      

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

Together, Becoming: Liturgy, Poetry, and Art for Shavuot 5781

 

New from Bayit’s Liturgical Arts Working Group comes this collaborative compilation of liturgy, poetry and art for this second pandemic Shavuot. Exploring themes of standing together at Sinai (even when we’re apart), the harvest of first fruits, the mountain where we journey and the mountain over our heads, being “ownerless” in the wilderness, and more, these poems and prayers and illustrations are meant for personal and communal use. We hope they speak to you and open you more wholly to this year’s revelation.

(You can find all of the Liturgical Arts Working Group’s offerings on our webpage here.)

The image at the top of this post is by Joanne Fink.

Download the collection:

Together, Becoming – Shavuot 2021 from Bayit [pdf]

 

Here are tastes of what’s here:

APPLES
I will hold you again.
I will see you play guitar.
I will sing next to you.
I will not be afraid to laugh…

— from “Yom Ha-Bikkurim, Day of First Fruits– A Ritual of Renewal,” R. Sonja Keren Pilz

In every generation, we’re told to see
ourselves rising from Egyptian bondage,

gathered at the mountain wholly asmoke
as one spirit, one heart: for just an instant

murmured infighting would quiet
for the whispered whoosh of eagles’ wings.

What wouldn’t we do to ride that updraft,
soaring skyward, weightless and free?…

— from “What Wouldn’t We Do,” R. David Evan Markus

…This year
I go nowhere
except Zoom rooms.
I want to soak in presence
like a hot bath, but
digital is what there is.
This is wilderness…

— from “Hefker,” R. Rachel Barenblat

HaShleimut, Blessed Holy Wholeness
Bless those who got us to Sinai
The ones who fed us
The ones who kept us safe
The ones who healed us…

— from “A Shavuot Blessing For Essential and Sacred Workers,” Trisha Arlin

There’s always some mountain held over our heads.
Here ragged granite thrusts skyward from desert sands,
There petrochemicals punch holes in the ozone layer…

— from “Overhead,” R. David Markus (accompanied by an illustration by Steve Silbert)

This year, did we really need to count the Omer?
Between the election numbers
The popularity polls
The voting
And the dead millions
Haven’t we had enough counting?…

— from “Chag Ha-Atzeret (Day of Stopping),” Trisha Arlin

…suddenly
I am redeemed
like the booklets
of green stamps
my mother gave me
to tend…

— from “Weeks,” R. Jennifer Singer

We have journeyed together;
A journey with no ending;
And yet, after months turning into a year,
We see the mountain top
At the horizon.
Holding our breaths…

— from “An Ending,” R. Sonja Keren Pilz

The collection also features artwork by Steve Silbert and Joanne Fink.

 

Download the collection:

Together, Becoming – Shavuot 2021 from Bayit [pdf]

 

        

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

Digital Afikomen: Building the “Seek and Find” Online

Here’s a stellar example of adapting the physical to the digital, right in time for home Passover rituals online.

From R. Lex Rofeberg (Bayit’s newest Sounding Board member, of Judaism Unbound fame) and his mom, Ruth Lebed, comes this digital Afikoman hunt. Of particular note is its inherent interactivity and easy use in collective contexts. Not only does it invite folks to “find” things, but it also asks them to use what they found to create a weblink to a hidden website – multiple layers of seek and find.

Notice the “meta” feel of this digital “fractal.” This spiritual technology asks seder-goers to seek something without assurance that we’ll find it.  From what we find (perhaps together, just like a physical afikoman hunt), we must seek a second time by making order (in Hebrew, literally seder) of what we found.  Then we must use what we found to seek a third time by going online.

Here too, we see a terrific example of not suffering the digital medium but instead using its potential.  One might imagine putting young (at heart) folks on Candid web-Camera as they search for a physical afikoman, but that’s not necessarily interactive and doesn’t map cleanly to the digital medium.  Rather than use the digital medium as a second-best way to depict the more familiar physical ritual, Judaism Unbound re-creates the ritual in a digital context, not only translating but also deepening the essential feel of a search.

Kudos to Lex, Ruth and the Judaism Unbound team. Chag sameach!

For JU’s afikoman search, visit its webpage for Passover 2021.

By Rabbi David Markus.

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.

 

Esther 2021: From Darkness to Light

Purim retold, weaving tradition’s Book of Esther with actual transcripts from modern politics and news events ripped from the headlines. Join Rabbi David Markus and Bayit for this audiovisual remix of Purim’s timeless journey of empowerment and transformation from hate to joy and darkness to light. Trope / text mashup by R. David Markus; video editing by R. Rachel Barenblat.

Esther 2021: From Darkness to Light from Bayit: Building Jewish on Vimeo.

Sources: Megillat Esther, interviews with President Trump, the Vice Presidential Debate, Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem, Vice President Harris’ inaugural speech.

 

Trope mashup and recording by R. David Markus. Video editing by R. Rachel Barenblat.

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:

Introduction

Birthday of the Trees, illustration by Steve Silbert

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

A Blessing: OF BIRTHDAYS, BREATH, AND BLESSINGS, R. Dara Lithwick

Fruit of the Tree, illustration by R. Allie Fischman

INSTRUCTION, R. Rachel Barenblat

A BLESSING FOR A TREE IN THE CITY, Trisha Arlin

A Tree in the City, illustration by Steve Silbert

FOUR TREES, R. Rachel Barenblat

Tree of Life, illustration by Steve Silbert

BREATHING OUT, BREATHING IN, R. David Evan Markus

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.

 

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.