Life in the Divine Presence!

Sefer Assiyah September 2019

In This Issue:

  • Teachings and link to photos from our summer event
  • Mazel tov to recent graduate Rabbi Dr. Rivka Glick!
  • Invitation to our Interfaith Thanksgiving Service

This summer our Hebrew Seminary community explored and reflected upon the Jewish practices of Mindfulness, Kavvanah, and Meditative Focus: the Three Roads to Prayer and Daily Living. Hebrew President, Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer began the program teaching us how these three techniques work together to bring us closer to God.

“Today we will discuss Meditation and Mindfulness and Kavvanah. Yes, I know when I meditate I strongly feel the Presence of God. Yet, meditation does not make me holy. I am already holy. You are already holy.  Meditation does not make you into someone else. Meditation allows you to be who you are.

The Torah, Leviticus 19, already says we are holy. There is no becoming. Meditation does not make you holy. You are already holy.  Psalm 46:11 teaches us “Be still and know that I am God.”  Meditation allows you to be who you are. If you are still, quieting your body, heart and mind, then you will know that the “I” or the Self that you are right now is a manifestation of God.

The English word “meditation” comes from the Latin word “medi,” which means “center” That’s why people talk about getting centered when discussing meditation. You touch your center. We also know it is also getting in touch with the center of all life.

Each practice takes time to create the space to experience and even hear at times the Infinite Alef or Hashem.  Jewish Meditation lifts each one of us to the One. And it brings us back to being one with one another.

Each meditative practice must be done with kavvanah.  Jewish prayer begins with kavvanah. To pray with kavvanah means to pray with focus, intention and meaning, because the root of kavvanah in Hebrew is kaven, which is from the verb kaf vav nun, meaning “to direct.” So kavvanah on the simplest level is “meaning” or “AIM.”

There are three ways to practice kavvanah in prayer.  The Hebrew word for prayer is tefilla. To do prayer with kavvanah, you need to internalize the words – which means, you need to know the meaning of the Hebrew words that you are praying. The second component of kavvanah in prayer is recognizing that one is praying to fulfill the mitzvah of prayer. A third element of kavvanah is recognizing that one is praying in the Presence of God – just like it says above us on our Ark , “Know before whom you stand.”  Mindfulness, Meditation, Kavvanah – three roads that lead to prayer. Each different and yet each the same.”   

Executive Director Alison Brown, our second presenter, shared Rabbi Goldhamer’s meditation, “Become a Channel of God’s Healing Energy Using the Name of God Yah.” This meditation, based on Ezekiel 36:26 and found in Rabbi’s book Healing with God’s Love and at hebrewseminary.org, is an example of a guided concentration meditation. Here attention is focused on the Holy Spirit, Ruach HaKodesh, “and a new ruach I will put in you.” Meditations such as this trigger a relaxation response in your body. Practiced over time this ability to relax changes your response to stress. Focusing on the kavvanah, the intention of becoming one with Ruach HaKodesh is a two-for-one meditation. You develop your relaxation response and experience an expansive, holy refuge in consciousness.

Most days we rush to and from meetings and projects, scurrying texts and emails in between hoping to get out the door at some elusive point for social gatherings and appointments. Still, in the present moment God awaits. In the Presence lies our cultural inheritance. Our forefathers tended flocks, pausing regularly to meditate in green pastures. This cultural inheritance is what scientists call gene-culture co-evolution. Language and social awareness prompted natural selection to guide the development of our brains and nervous systems.  Our inherited pastoral consciousness may be a gifted propensity that, with kavannah, with intention, we can experience, enjoy and wire to more reliably fire. This present moment consciousness can stride to the forefront and embrace you wherever you are.

Recently my grandson was under the weather. He was lying on the couch with my son when Jagger said, “You can cuddle with us Cocoa!” The present, the Presence of love embraced me. This was a Shehekheyanu, God helped me reach this moment, lazman hazeh, at this holy time. Pay particular attention to the rewarding aspects of these experiences, big and small. Be grateful for them, focus on the feelings surrounding them, and call them up when you need them to support your well-being in trying times. Shehekheyanu moments strengthen neural associations, they make memories, and they change our genes.

Another example of a concentration meditation, practiced by 16th century Jewish mystics in Safed, is gerushin. Practitioners read or recite from memory a single word, such as Shalom, or several verses of Jewish text for unstructured meditative explorations, or to connect with sages past, to help solve a problem or to guide daily life.

As an example, at Hebrew Seminary’s event I shared Pirkei Avot, Chapter 1: Mishnah 15. I recite this text with kavvanah in hopes of becoming this person:

            שַׁמַּאי אוֹמֵר, עֲשֵׂה תוֹרָתְךָ קֶבַע. אֱמֹר מְעַט וַעֲשֵׂה הַרְבֵּה, וֶהֱוֵי מְקַבֵּל אֶת כָּל הָאָדָם בְּסֵבֶר פָּנִים יָפוֹת:

Shammai used to say: make your [study of the] Torah a fixed practice; speak little, but do much; and receive all men with a pleasant countenance.

G-d dwells in the shared place within and between us. It is known that turning up the corners of your mouth, a cheerful countenance, opens your heart to the moment, our shared space and the Presence.

Rabbi Dr. Roberta Glick, our third presenter, spoke of how she enters the world of prayer and blessing:

And just as we read the same Torah portion each year and   derive different meanings from it, because we are different. We see different things in the same words. Similarly, when I prayed daily with this mindful focused more poetic intention, kavvanah, of connection, oneness, love, it made me stop and pay attention to how I was at that moment, what I felt, what I needed. Like taking your temperature. When I took this mindful pause, I indeed found that I was different each day. The formal liturgy became my anchor. And the words, albeit the same, took me to different places, and evoked different feelings, each day. Commitment is also essential to spiritual practice; you have to do the work, the homework, even when you don’t feel like it.    This is what taking on the yoke of heaven means to me: commitment. Like in any love relationship. But is prayer these personal emotions, or the communal recitation of fixed words? It is both; and we need both. “Sometimes words lead us to feelings; sometimes feelings lead us to words” Heschel elegantly stated.

I enter prayer with this type of consciousness. The soul is always praying. Prayer is a love poem, an intimacy of the soul and G-d. It’s an opportunity to step outside our self, and to connect to the perfect. It’s a clarification of ourselves: who we are, our needs and desires, if we look deeply within our self.  It’s looking in the mirror and seeing who we really are. Tefillah as Self-examination. Self-Judgment. Again, Rav Kook: Prayer does not change G-d. Prayer changes us.

Roberta’s insight into prayer is an important reminder of prayer’s power and embracing space. She adds:

        In prayer, we create our image of G-d, our imagining G-d as we need, Lover, Mother, Father, Fountain of life, Healer, Judge, All Being, Ain Sof, Echad. Therefore, I suggest that the greatest creation of all is the human consciousness.  Judaism has to be one of the most imaginative creative religions. Our words create our consciousness; hopefully they are seeds of lovingkindness, generosity, justice and compassion. Torah and the siddur are our spiritual guides, our spiritual tools. Torah is G-d speaking to us;     Prayer is us speaking to G-d. And the connecting thread is love, as we try to sacredly attune to the Divine. Tune in.

Mazel tov to Rabbi Dr. Rivka Glick, awarded smicha by
Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer on Sunday, August 25, 2019!

In 1204, the greatest teacher of Jewish thought and law passed away in Egypt. His teachings, initially in Spain and then in the Middle East, became revered the world over. What makes his teachings super unique is that Maimonides, or Rambam as he was called, was also the greatest physician of his time. He was the greatest physician and the greatest Rabbi of the 12th century. He wrote and taught the world over on medicine and Jewish thought. Rabbi Dr. Rivka Glick continues in the tradition of being a physician/surgeon and a scholarly Rabbi. Her thesis discussing the presence of God in our life continues in the tradition of the great Maimonides. Mazel Tov and thank you. – Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer.

Mindfulness, Kavvanah, and Meditative Focus: the Three Roads to Prayer and Daily Living photos can be enjoyed on our website hebrewseminary.org!

Be nochahut, be present and enjoy this expansive moment.

Interfaith Thanksgiving Service

Congregation Bene Shalom and Hebrew Seminary

invite you to join us in an affirmation

of life and unity and gratitude.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Beginning at 2:30pm

Clergy leaders from the community will come together to guide us in prayer, song and meditation. We will gain inspiration and strength from one another, and also celebrate all that we are grateful for at this time of year.

Congregation Bene Shalom  & Hebrew Seminary
4435 Oakton Street, Skokie,IL
847 / 679-4113
 

Please bring small toiletries

(e.g., soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, tissue, wipes)

to donate for refugee support in partnership with HIAS


BECOME A CHANNEL OF GOD’S HEALING ENERGY USING THE NAME OF GOD YAH

By Hebrew Seminary President Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer

1. Go to your mi’at meekdash (small holy place) and sit on a comfortable chair with your back in the upright position, and your feet planted firmly on the floor. Wear comfortable clothing and loosen up your tie or belt.

2. Breathe in deeply and gently through your nostrils and as you breath in count silently 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. (This is the numerical equivalent of Yod) Without holding your breath between inhaling and exhaling, exhale through your nostrils silently, counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. (The exhaling should take half as long as the inhaling.)

3. When you inhale, or exhale, you must maintain the internal dynamic that you are breathing in the Life Force of God, and that your breath and His breath are becoming One. You must recognize within the depths of your soul that you are becoming one with the Holy Spirit, Ruach HaKodesh.

4. As you breath in through your nostrils, your vision should not be God‘s breath coming in through your nostrils, but you should visualize with your koach dimyon (imagination) that God‘s Breath or Energy is filling your head area. And, as you breathe out, through your nostrils, your vision should not be God‘s Breath leaving your nostrils, but God‘s Breath or Energy flowing from your head into your heart and through your heart into the world.

5. Repeat this cycle five times.

When we breathe in God‘s Ruach, with kavvanah, we create Ruach HaKodesh; that is, we become One with the Holy Spirit.

Copyright © 2015 by Douglas Goldhamer and Peggy Bagley

Shiviti Adonai L’negdi Tamid Meditation

שִׁוִּ֬יתִי יְהוָ֣ה לְנֶגְדִּ֣י תָמִ֑יד

Shiviti Yod Hey Vav Hey L’negdi Tamid

“I place  יהוה  Y H V H before me always.”   (Psalms 16:8)

שִׁוִּ֬יתִי אֲדֹנָי לְנֶגְדִּ֣י תָמִ֑יד

Shiviti Adonai L’negdi Tamid

“I place Adonai before me always.”

1. Close your eyes and focus your attention on your breathing, concentrating as you breathe in and out for a minute or two.

2. Recite the verse¸ “Shiviti Adonai L’negdi Tamid, I place Aleph, Dalet, Nun, Yud before me always.”

Feel, say and know, “I activate the Shekhinah (the feminine presence of God) within me always.”

3.  First, you focus on the crown of your head. Try to feel a slight vibration and light pressure.  Then you say, “Shiviti Adonai….(“I activate Adonai (Feminine Presence) within me always.”) Then see the light increase greatly on your crown and feel increased vibration on the crown of your head.  Visualize Adonai in green on the crown of your head.

4.  Feel your right forehead vibrating slightly and visualize a pale light over the right forehead.  Repeat “Shiviti Adonai….”(“I activate Adonai…)” and see your forehead and the right side of your face now covered with a strong light .  Feel the whole right side of the face and forehead vibrating strongly.  See Adonai written in green characters on your right forehead.

5.  Repeat the same for the left forehead….

6.  Now look at your right shoulder. Feel it vibrating slowly; see it covered in pale light. Put your arms straight out. Recite “Shiviti Adonai…” Feel your right arm vibrating noticeably. See your whole right arm covered in light.  See Adonai written in green characters on your right shoulder.

7. Repeat the same for the left shoulder/arm.

8.  Now feel your solar plexus vibrating slowly, see it covered in pale light.  Recite “Shiviti Adonai….”  Feel your whole chest area now filled with a strong light, and vibrating strongly.  See Adonai written in green characters on your solar plexus.

9.  Now feel your right hip vibrating slowly and visualize a pale light over the right hip. Repeat “Shiviti Adonai….” See your right hip and right leg now covered with a strong light and vibrating strongly. See Adonai written in green characters on your right hip.

10.  Do the same for the left hip/leg.

11.  Focus on your lower abdomen.  Feel your lower abdomen vibrating slowly and visualize a pale light over the lower abdomen.  Repeat “Shiviti Adonai…” See your lower abdomen now covered with a strong light and vibrating strongly. See Adonai written in green characters on your lower abdomen.

12.  Now feel your feet vibrating slowly, and covered in a pale light.  Repeat “Shiviti Adonai…” See your feet now covered with a strong light and vibrating strongly.  See Adonai written in green characters across your feet.

13. Feel and know that the purpose of this meditation is to liberate Adonai/Shekhinah from Her exile and one way in which we do this is to visualize Her on our different energy centers, the Sefirot. When we do this each sefirah vibrates communicating to the sefirot above, below and next to it.

14. Recite and visualize the verse in the two permutations below¸

Shiviti אדני L’negdi Tamid, I place Adonai, אדני [in green letters] before me always.”

&  “Shiviti Yod Hey Vav Hey, יהוה,  L’negdi Tamid”, שִׁוִּ֬יתִי יְהוָ֣ה לְנֶגְדִּ֣י תָמִ֑יד,  

“I place  יהוה  Y H V H [in purple letters] before me always.”

15. Recognize that Adonai, the feminine presence of God and Y-H-V-H, the masculine presence of God, are identical. Adonai, the Shekhinah resides within us. We visualized אדני Adonai written externally on our energy centers. She is waiting to be joined by יהוה  Y H V H.

When they are joined, the feminine presence of God is completely liberated. When Adonai (in green) and Y H V H (in purple) are joined together we help complete God, Hashem shleimut. This complete God, made up of feminine and masculine qualities, vibrates powerfully inspiring each of us to be more healthy, more strong, more happy and like God, more complete.

16. Move through the sefirotic energy centers as above (#3) and visualize יאהדונהי YAHDVNHY in Hebrew, alternating purple and green as appropriate, knowing that you are becoming more healthy, strong, happy and complete.

The Healing Power of Psalms


Reciting Psalms to aid in healing is an ancient Jewish tradition and echoes today in shuls, churches, hospitals and homes around the world.

The Psalms lyrically vibrate in communication with our soul.

Learn about the healing power of Psalms from Professor of Kabbalah Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer and Professor of Pastoral Counseling Rabbi Dr. Pinchas Eisenbach. Take home techniques to augment the medical care and love of family and friends as they move along the rough roads of illness, accident and disease.

LEARN WITH US

Sunday, March 31, 2019 @ 2:00 – 3:30pm

Hebrew Seminary

A RABBINICAL SCHOOL FOR DEAF & HEARING
4435 W. Oakton, Skokie, IL 60076

For more information 847-679-4113
info@hebrewseminary.org

ASL interpreted

Refreshments served

A Kavannah of Hanukkah

by Student Rabbi Roberta Glick

There are 2 themes: gratitude and tsheuvah that I want to talk about today with regards to Hanukkah. Hopefully something old and something new for everyone.

We sometimes think of Hanukkah as a “minor” holiday, maybe celebrated to balance against another big holiday in December. And we know Hanukkah is about a war that the Jews won against the Greeks, against assimilation. We rededicated the temple, and the oil for the menorah was only enough for 1 day but lasted 8 days. A miracle! That’s what the rabbis want to stress: the miracle of the light; not the fight.

Hanukkah is not discussed in the Torah. Rather, it’s in the Talmud, our oral law (tractate Shabbat) in a discussion about animal sacrifices. In ancient times, animal sacrifices were numerous and a great variety of types were offered each day but decreasing in number each day. This led to a discussion by the two famous Rabbis in the Talmud and their schools: How to light the Hanukkah candles.

Beit Shammai (who was stricter) said: Just like Sukkot sacrifices, we start with many and go down in number each night, from 8 to one. Good reasoning but Beit Hillel (who was a bit more humble and inclusive, but by no means pluralistic,) said NO. We do it differently. We start with one candle and we INCREASE the number of candles lit each night. And thus we do it as per Beit Hillel. Because Hanukkah is about increasing Light in the world, we increase holiness in the world, not decrease.  מעלין בקודש, ואין מורידין

Hanukkah comes at the darkest time of the year. There are holidays in other faiths in December that also point to bringing light into a dark world. For example, the Indian holiday Diwali, the Christian holidays of solstice and advent, the African holiday of Kawanza, the Muslim holiday of Mawlid un Nabi (birthday of Muhammed).  For Jews, “the light of the Lord is my soul.” The prophet Isaiah says that our job as Jews is to be a “light unto nations”, to bring the moral and ethical teachings of teachings of Torah to the entire world. Light is holiness.  Light is G-d. Light is Torah. Light is soul.

Another place where the Talmud talks about Hanukkah is in reference to the type of candles or oil we use on Hanukkah versus Shabbat, and how they are used on these days. Shabbat is about separation, distinction. We stop the work we do all week and rest.  Heschl describes it as a cathedral in time, not space. It’s a taste of the time of our future redemption, when all is perfect, and nothing needs to be fixed or created. Special preparations are required for Shabbat. Some people go to the mikveh for ritual purification. And only special candles designated just for Shabbat can be used. Once you light them, no other work can be done, and the light of the candles can be used for reading or studying; utilitarian value. Prepared and special for Shabbat.

In contrast, any oil or candles can be used for the Hanukkah menorah; clean dirty, broken, whole, special or not, and not much preparation is necessary.  It’s a “come as you are” party. And once you light them, the mitzvah of Hanukkah is to gaze upon their beauty, their holiness, their light, and not use them for anything else. The Hasidic masters describe the candles as a metaphor for us, for our lives.  Whether we are broken, common, rich, pure, impure; and whether you are prepared or not ready to be holy, you can come and participate and be included in the mitzvah. All types of people, all types of candles and oil. We enter from the place where you are, and each of us may enter from a different place in our lives. But we can all make the leap, or step. We can all participate in bringing holiness into the world, and light into the darkness.

The Hasidic masters were concerned that it is not enough to just do the mitzvah and just follow the law mindlessly. Rather, they were concerned with our internal experience, our religious consciousness, and even the mystical experience: being aware that you are in the Divine Presence when we participate in a mitzvah.  We may say this is Kavanah, the intention, also mean “arrow or direction” we are aiming, and many of us call this mindfulness.  And just as we bring the light into the darkness of the physical world, the Hasidic masters, and in particular Sfat Emet, taught that as we gaze at the candle, we should deeply “look” for a long time, 5 or even 30 minutes, and see how the flame changes, and is constantly moving. Again, like our lives. Perhaps some of you were like me and liked to look at fireplace fires or campfires for a long time like this. The Hasidic masters teach that as we gaze at the candles we need to look “deeply.” It is important to “see” what is not visible to the eye, as well. We need to look deep inside ourselves, and shed light on our own dark spaces, our shortcomings, our resentments, our neediness, our excessive wanting or grasping for materialism, our turning away from the beggar or homeless or sick or elderly, our lashon hora or yetzer hara.  We can shed light on these internal dark spaces, and do t’shuvah. Sfat Emet says that within each of us is an inner point, and inner spark, and we can infuse this point into the entire soul of a person by being joyous through Hallel (praise) and Hodaah (thanksgiving), meriting to be included in the community of Israel.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov says that choshek, darkness, is forgetting; turning away. Light is “seeing”, remembering, memory, the secret, the hidden good, and bringing it forth. Only with the “heart” can one see what is right. Think about how we “see”, how we “look”, for this determines how we “relate” to one another. So as we shed light on our own dark internal spaces, in our lives, in our hearts we can try to bring more light into ourselves, more loving kindness, more generosity, more shalom, more joy, more gratitude into our own hearts, into our own consciousness, and as we open our hearts we can bring these attributes, the attributes of G-d, into the world: “be a light unto nations”.

A final sharing about Hanukkah from my Zohar class.  The Zohar is a beautiful mystical book holding deep wisdom, secrets and meanings to the Torah and everything else.  I see it as a poetic look at life and Torah. For me, poetry is like an impressionistic painting; you get a few evocative words and images, and you fill in the rest, creating an experience. What I learned from my wonderful Zohar teacher, Rachmiel Drizin, is that Hanukkah is really a holiday of gratitude and t’shuvah. On each of the 8 days we are supposed to recite the complete Hallel, songs of praise and thankfulness. And each of the 8 days of Hanukkah are associated with a particular Sefirot, from Kabbalah. These are representations of the attributes of G-d superimposed on man. We are a microcosm of G-d in that we are made in G-d’s image. These Sefirot, middot, attributes include wisdom, loving kindness, truth, balance, beauty, etc. On each day of Hanukkah, we are supposed to instill a sense of gratitude through recitation of Hallel and focus on one of the attributes of G-d, and try to emulate it that day, to practice it in your life, and repair the brokenness. Hanukkah is considered the last chance to get in your “high holiday” T’shuvah, to renew the vows you made on Yom Kippur, about improving your life this year: physically, intellectually, spiritually, with yourself and others, with Chesed and generosity and compassion.  It’s like the “new year resolutions” some of us make.

Here is a really nice conversation piece from Orot. The theme is “The lights we need”. On this Hanukkah, which types of light do we need? Which light do YOU want to bring into your family or the world. Finish this sentence: “Tonight we will consider the light of…”Courage, stillness, comfort, joy, growth”. In closing, may you be blessed with the light of Chesed and compassion in your lives. May you be blessed with eight days of internal light and repair, fixing chaos in your life, and illuminating the dark days of winter and increase light in the world.

Meditation: From the priestly blessing: May G-d shine Divine Light upon you and be loving to you: A Prayer of luminous light and Love to you. Think of a time when you were luminous or you were loved.

Shalom.

Hanukkah and Our Highest Self

My Grandson recently said this about his twin Aunts:

“Whenever I see a tree it always feels deep inside me that I am earth.

And when I am with Beth and Ella it feels like they are earth with me.”

While this haunting call to Oneness comes from the heart of a six year-old, philosopher Ken Wilber also calls us to mindfully live in the light of our Highest Self.

“… you are a genuine co-creator of a reality that every human being henceforth will pass through. Make sure, therefore, that to the extent that you can, always act from the deepest, widest, highest source in you that you can find ; let every word out of you mouth come from the Highest Self you can discern; let every action spring from the deepest Source you can possibly summon. You are laying down Forms that will be stored in that great storage bin in the Kosmos, whence they will one day reach down and mold the future with their own special insistence. Make sure those Forms will be something you can be deeply proud of. You do realize that you are directly co-creating a future World, don’t you? Please, never, never, forget that….”

May you create a reality of light and love everywhere you go.

Chag sameach,

Alison Brown

 

We Return to Health When Our Body and Soul are Balanced

 

Well-being includes physical and spiritual health.

We return to health from sickness when our body and soul are balanced.

Join Hebrew Seminary for a panel discussion on

 

NEW DIMENSIONS IN MEDICINE:

Where Body and Soul Meet

 

Sunday, October 28, 2018 from 2:00-3:30 pm 

Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer is Senior Rabbi of Congregation Bene Shalom in Skokie, Hebrew Seminary President and Professor of Jewish Mysticism, and author of two books on Kabbalistic Healing Prayer.

Dr. Roberta P Glick is a Professor of Neurosurgery at Rush University and Rosalind Franklin Chicago Medical School. She worked for over 30 years at Cook County and Mount Sinai Hospitals where she was dedicated to improving care for low-income patients with malignant brain tumors and traumatic brain injury.

Dr. Gary Slutkin is founder and CEO of Cure Violence and Professor of Epidemiology and International Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. He initiated the first national programs for AIDS in Central and East Africa for the World Health Organization (WHO) and created and led WHO’s Intervention Development Office.

 

HEBREW SEMINARY

A RABBINICAL SCHOOL FOR DEAF & HEARING

4435 W. Oakton, Skokie, IL 60076

847-679-4113  info@hebrewseminary.org

ASL interpreted      Refreshments served

Where Body and Soul Meet

Well-being includes physical and spiritual health.

We return to health from sickness when

our body and soul are balanced.

 

Join Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer, Dr. Gary Slutkin

and Dr. Roberta Glick for a panel discussion on

 

NEW DIMENSIONS IN MEDICINE:

Where Body and Soul Meet

Sunday, October 28, 2018 from 2:00-3:30 pm

 

HEBREW SEMINARY
A RABBINICAL SCHOOL FOR DEAF & HEARING
4435 W. Oakton, Skokie, IL 60076
847-679-4113
info@hebrewseminary.org • hebrewseminary.org

 

ASL interpreted                                                     Refreshments served

An Absence of Color and Light

By Student Rabbi Stacey Robinson

We sat among the willows,
and we wept,
there by the river
that flowed
clear and cold and swift,
–branches dancing,
barely dancing–
as they swayed
and swept the ground.

We stood among the weeping trees,
Prayers mixed with
visions of ash.
and smoke
that rose and billowed,
Black against purple-stained blue
— the blue of periwinkles
and royalty–
and a sky smudged with soot and
an absence of color
and Light,
and the altars we had left behind.

How can we sing
with no stone walls
adorned with lapis and gold:
— the blue of royalty
and the blaze of the sun–
How,
before that pillar of fire,
that billowing smoke
that is empty of God
and absent of Light?
That raged in a fiery, metallic storm,
licking at loose rubble,
that once was strong walls,
that once was adorned with
the presence of God?

We wept,
and did not sing,
and found no music
in our unstrung lyres
and broken harps.
We wept,
for how could we sing?

And after the weeping
and the fire
and the absent,
Empty,
broken altars–
Pale morning.
and skies of purple-stained blue
shot through with scarlet and gold.
Mist tangled in those willows,
their branches dancing–
barely dancing–
barely skimming the swiftly flowing waters.

A moment–
A breathless,
silent
sacred moment.
that was a psalm,
A hymn of color,
and holiness
Made anew.
And there was no absence.
And there was light.

And there,
among the willows
by that swiftly flowing river,
We found a new prayer
And sang.

 

For Tisha B’Av