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Poetry and Liturgy

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"Heartbreak" by David Whyte

Heartbreak is unpreventable; the natural outcome of caring for people and things over which we have no control, of holding in our affections those who inevitably move beyond our line of sight.

Heartbreak begins the moment we are asked to let go but cannot, in other words, it colors and inhabits and magnifies each and every day; heartbreak is not a visitation, but a path that human beings follow through even the most average life. Heartbreak is an indication of our sincerity: in a love relationship, in a life's work, in trying to learn a musical instrument, in the attempt to shape a better more generous self. Heartbreak is the beautifully helpless side of love and affection and is just as much an essence and emblem of care as the spiritual athlete's quick but abstract ability to let go. Heartbreak has its own way of inhabiting time and its own beautiful and trying patience in coming and going.

Heartbreak is how we mature; yet we use the word heartbreak as if it only occurs when things have gone wrong: an unrequited love, a shattered dream, a child lost before their time. Heartbreak, we hope, is something we hope we can avoid; something to guard against, a chasm to be carefully looked for and then walked around; the hope is to find a way to place our feet where the elemental forces of life will keep us in the manner to which we want to be accustomed and which will keep us from the losses that all other human beings have experienced without exception since the beginning of conscious time. But heartbreak may be the very essence of being human, of being on the journey from here to there, and of coming to care deeply for what we find along the way.

Our hope to circumvent heartbreak in adulthood is beautifully and ironically child-like; heartbreak is as inescapable and inevitable as breathing, a part and a parcel of every path, asking for its due in every sincere course an individual takes, it may be that there may be not only no real life without the raw revelation of heartbreak, but no single path we can take within a life that will allow us to escape without having that imaginative organ we call the heart broken by what it holds and then has to let go.

In a sobering physical sense, every heart does eventually break, as the precipitating reason for death or because the rest of the body has given up before it and can no longer sustain its steady beat, but hearts also break in an imaginative and psychological sense: there is almost no path a human being can follow that does not lead to heartbreak. A marriage, a committed vow to another, even in the most settled, loving relationship, will always break our hearts at one time or another; a successful marriage has often had its heart broken many times just in order for the couple to stay together; parenthood, no matter the sincerity of our love for a child, will always break the mold of our motherly or fatherly hopes, a good work seriously taken will often take everything we have and still leave us wanting; and finally even the most self compassionate, self examination should, if we are sincere, lead eventually to existential disappointment.

Realizing its inescapable nature, we can see heartbreak not as the end of the road or the cessation of hope but as the close embrace of the essence of what we have wanted or are about to lose. It is the hidden DNA of our relationship with life, outlining outer forms even when we do not feel it by the intimate physical experience generated by its absence; it can also ground us truly in whatever grief we are experiencing, set us to planting a seed with what we have left or appreciate what we have built even as we stand in its ruins.

If heartbreak is inevitable and inescapable, it might be asking us to look for it and make friends with it, to see it as our constant and instructive companion, and perhaps, in the depth of its impact as well as in its hindsight, and even, its own reward. Heartbreak asks us not to look for an alternative path, because there is no alternative path. It is an introduction to what we love and have loved, an inescapable and often beautiful question, something and someone that has been with us all along, asking us to be ready for the ultimate letting go.

David Whyte, Consolations


Rabbi Pauline Tamari's Amidah for DLTI

Reb Pauline wrote this personal translation of the AMIDAH as a student in the Davvenen Leadership Training Institute (DLTI)

Avot and Emot

Song of my soul truth,
As we stand here, in this magnificent moment of timeless time.
Feet planted firmly on this sacred ground
Spirits uplifted in prayer to you source of all being, igniting our lives
Let the flow of our ancestors' energy,
Nourished in the rivers of faith, courage, and wisdom,
Flow freely into our beings amid the ever rushing turbulent river of life
Let their love infuse us so that we will remain a steadfast link of love and faith as were our forbearers,
And live our lives in connection to you, our soul truth.
And so we pray Adonai, fountain of blessings, my soul song
מלך עוזר ומושיע ומגין
ברוך אתה יהוה
מגן אברהם ופוקד שרה

Gevurah

With boundless blessing, you sustain all life
you nourish the parched earth with germinating dew
you nourish our parched souls with your soaring spirit
awakening our hurting hearts
your revitalizing fire frees our tormented tangles
when your light shines upon us and we can hear your sweet song
your loving-kindness sustains us
your mercy revives us when we are sick in body or spirit
and
once again we are alive
ברוך אתה יהוה מחיה כל חי

Kedushat ha-shem

Oh boundless one my god
you of endless potential possibilities
infinite and eternal are you
beyond and within all time and space
hallowed are you in your divine sanctity
you free us at every moment from the straights of our constrictions
consecrating us in your image
so we may become a holy unto you
in those moments of breathing wonder and breathless awe
with stirring hearts and joyous voices
let us join the heavenly symphony and declare your name
קדוש קדוש קדוש
יהוה צבאות
מלא כל הארץ כבודו
boundless is gods presence a limitless source
ברוך אתה יהוה האל הקדוש

Prayer for peace

ֵternal wellspring of peace
may we be drenched with the longing for peace
that we may give ourselves over;
as the earth to the rain
to the dew
until peace overflows our lives
as living waters overflow the sea

עשה שלום במרומיו
הוא יעשה שלום עלינו
ועל כל ישראל
ועל כל יושבי תבל
ואמרו אמן


Come Into My Garden: Learning Reb Zalman's "Bati Legani"

Source sheet: https://www.sefaria.org/sheets/330043?lang=bi

Transcript

I want to begin with a niggun, with a wordless melody and right off the bat, I want to say it's a more elaborate one. It has three parts. So if you find yourself going to the mind of "I don't know this," or "this is too hard," I want you to see if you can catch even one note that you can join me. And we'll have a chance to layer on some words and understand more of the meaning, but let's start just with the direct experience of music together.

Yai Dai Dai...

So why that melody? Why that melody which is known as Bati LeGani? It was written by our teacher Reb Zalman of blessed memory. Today the fifth of Tammuz is also Reb Zalman's yahrzeit. And I know we are marking other passings, some of us coming from funerals this morning, remembering others at this time. And that this time [is] just to bring all of those beloved teachers and family and friends. They're welcome in this space.

The transcription on the sheet music as I received this of that particular melody says "in reverent memory of his Rebbe Yosef Yitzhak Schneerson", the sixth of the Chabad Lubavitch Rebbes. It's a complicated melody, and it also is a complicated text. So I wanted to take a look at these exceptional verses, share some soaking in the words of their Torah, to sing it again, and then to share some silence together.

So it's actually a series of three verses — three excerpts of three verses — all from the Song of Songs. So the first verse: domeh dodi letzvi oleofer ha'ayalim, my beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. There he stands behind our wall gazing through the window, peering through the lattice."

Hineh zeh omed achar kotleinu. "Here. Behold. Wow." I gave her another teaching, I'm just remembering now, on just this word hinei, behold. Sometimes translated in that old English, lo! Hinei. Hinei Zeh.

Here is the Lover standing just outside the wall, peering through the window, mashgiach min hachalonot. You may know the word mashgiach from the kosher supervisor, who is the mashgiach "looking over" the kitchen, supervising the kitchen. SHAGACH. Looking

Min Hachalonot. Looking through the windows. Meitzitz min hacharakim. Peering. And this word of tzitz is also like the sparkle, the shine in your eyes.

So right now is there something just right beyond the wall? So often we're armored or buttressed against the forces of life. Is there something peering through, flirting from the other side, awakening love?

I happen to live somewhere where I do see gazelles or young stags, probably they're more ayalot, deer. But they're always breathtaking. They're always so vital and graceful.

Can you soften to just this? Hinei Zeh. Right now, a sense of something lovingly looking or seeking your attention.

Or perhaps you're on the other side of the wall? There is a clear object of your desire and love whose attention you seek.

What does it feel like to peer through the lattice, through the network, through the meshwork? The desire to share your love.

I have come to my garden, my own, my bride. Reb Zalman now takes us a jump to another chapter of Song of Songs, the opening verse of chapter five. I've plucked my myhrr and spice.

Now, myrrh is an essential oil or a fragrance or an incense that's made harvested by scoring the trunk of a bark of the myrrh tree and gathering the sap as it weeps from the trunk. And Tammuz, this month is a time of tears in the tradition. And they're bittersweet.

So perhaps today has not been so fragrant, so lush or delightful as a garden, but what would it be to come into your own garden? What is a place of verdant support for your heart?

It may be in your own backyard. It may be a place you get to visit only once in a while. Maybe it's somewhere you've never been, but have a deep dream connection to.

What would it be to bati lagani, to come into your own garden and there find the beloved? To be intoxicated with the scents and the sense of love.

Ani yesheina velibi eir. I was asleep but my heart was wakeful. I know several other songs for this part. These words are not included in this chant, but I always read this as haleivai she'ani yesheina! "If only my sense of 'I' were to fall asleep, then I would realize that 'my heart is always awake'!" The "we" of the heart.

Kol dodi dofek pitchi li, the voice of the beloved knocks wakening me, open to me. My own, my darling, my friend.The word for pulse, as we can feel in our chest or at our wrist is knocking. Pulse. Knocking. The Beloved is quickening our hearts as we sing this together these three parts.

There's a little bit of repetition...

SINGING

Good. Appreciation for even trying.

Let's try doing parts A and B again.

...behind the wall...

SINGING

Let's sit together in our garden allowing ourselves to be loved.

SINGING

RABBI MARC MARGOLIUS: Thank you so much, my friend. Beautiful. Thanks for mentioning that today's Reb Zalman yahrzeit. For those who are not familiar Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi really set an outsized influence on worldwide Judaism and through the Jewish Renewal movement.

One of the things that for me is so attractive about Jewish mysticism as represented by Reb Zalman is the idea of Judaism as a path of love, which for many people, of course is not something that they necessarily had picked up, along the way earlier in life.

The idea of sitting in a garden of love and of peeking through the window and having the Beloved, like searching through and looking for you, which is a recurrent theme in a lot of Jewish mystical texts, of course, and in Shir Hashirim, Song of Songs biblically, really powerful the idea of these lovers in search of each other.

Maybe you can say a little bit about that because I know it's core to your rabbanate and the work that you do both musically and rabbinically.

The question form would put that in is, What do you say to people who say number one, never heard of that, a loving God, who's in search of me, who just wants to shower me with love? That's what that's question number one.

Question number two is I have for people, including myself is, once you come to believe that what, what makes it so hard to receive that love? You know, to take it in? Why do we push it away? Why do we run from it? Why do we avoid it? Two big questions there for you, my friend.

SHIR YAAKOV: Yeah, softball.

MM: Well, let's just start with the, first. The idea of, [and] maybe you could speak a little bit personally about this, if you would, about the God of love who is looking through the window.

SHIR YAAKOV: Yeah. There's a Yiddish phrase that I was almost allergic to, and I don't remember it in the original but it translates to, "it's hard to be a Jew." And I did not want to take that on as the bag I was carrying or the cart I was pulling.

Actually when Reb Zalman agreed, I was a good candidate for his ordination, for his semicha, he said "you have the strength to pull the cart." But I don't want to schlep this baggage of "it's hard, it's burdensome, it's painful." And of course, it's all of those things.

And it's only worth it worthwhile if there's also some precious cargo. And that is the love and the beauty that is often just overwhelmed and covered over with tremendous loss, the sense of disappearance, with personal and historical and transpersonal trauma, and then on the individual level with shame and fear.

Unfortunately, I don't really know any other way to find the God Who Wants to Love Us other than through direct experience.

And as the Psalmist says "taste and see God is good." That could be written a thousand times. You can plastered it on your forehead or tattoo it on your arm. And if you haven't seen or tasted that, it's just dogma. It's just words.

I've learned that by being near people like Reb Zalman and other great teachers, and other teachers of place, beautiful places, that have allowed me to release and let go of that fear and that shame and relax into the possibility that yeah, maybe it's okay.

And maybe we are loved.

And maybe the universe is conspiring to shower us with blessings.

Rob Brezsny wrote a book called Pronoia, which is the antidote to paranoia.

MM: Pronoia?

SY: Which means the universe is conspiring to shower us with blessings.

MM: Oh. Okay.

SY: It's the opposite of paranoia, like everywhere the world is out to get me. The walls are caving.

MM: Isn't it the same thing?

SY: Yes.

MM: The world's out to get me out to get me with love. Yeah, save me. Yeah. Yeah. That's beautiful.

You name so many of the obstacles or the sources of resistance, kick in. And I'd say also, just to tack onto that beautiful answer, that simply being able to notice and name the resistance.

Without judging ourselves for right. The shame and the fear, whatever it is in any of us that feels unworthy of that love, whatever the source of that may be, like you said, you named all the different sources of trauma. To be able to notice that and even to love that too.

SY: And even if love doesn't come first to meet ourselves in that.

The compassion is so vast. The ways we meet ourselves with where we are.

For some people, the theistic the deistic language doesn't work, but that awareness or that consciousness that wants to meet us where we are is so present and clear and open that it is infinitely patient with us until we're ready to be honest with how we're experiencing our experience.

Of self or non-self or or other or all of that.

And also another piece of that is the direct experience through music. There's something that physiologically, it helps brings the hemisphere of the brain together. It also starts to not necessarily blur the boundaries, but to create a medium in which what's on one side of the wall and on the other is really not two.

MM: Moira has got a really good question here. The idea of HINEI ZEH powerfully brings me fully present to observing and absorbing what's before me. Would you please speak to the interaction and differences between hinei zeh and hineini. That's interesting. That's interesting question.

Didn't even notice until I saw the screen shining back at me that my one of my previous IJS offerings was two verses. One that started with hinei mah tov umah naim, how good it is when we dwell together and zeh hayom asah HAVAYAH this is the day.

And this verse brings those two beautiful. I mean, We could spend a day on hinei on a day on zeh

Off the cuff, I would just play with the apparent difference between place and time. Like "here" in the sense of now. What is happening now. And "this" in the world of form or of objects.

And when those two are not two, right? When we're just fully here, hineini. Here I am.

That was a little bit playful, but I think there's something there.

I also like the way we often encounter the word zeh as hazeh like mah nishtanah halailah hazeh or shehechiyanu vekiemanu vehigiyanu lazman HAZEH. I know I just threw a lot of Hebrew out there, but in the Four Questions at the Passover Seder or in the blessing that we say when we do something new or arrive in auspicious moment, HAZEH is a palindrome.

Hey Zayin Hey. Hinei is also a palindrome. Hei Nun Hei. So these senses of connection of presence, of deveikut [cleaving], of belonging, of feeling okay, fundamentally alright with our place in the universe, somehow reaches, like a palindrome, from where we're coming from to where we're going and we find our consonant right in the middle of that vowel space.

MM: I'm in Manhattan, looking across my air shaft at a brick wall, but you had me sitting in the garden while we were sitting there and the fragrance of the garden, in my mind's eye, in my heart-mind, I could actually have a sense of the pleasantness of sitting in my GAN or sitting in this collective GAN.

One of the dangers of this, post-game show here is getting analytical about it. And I want to, selfishly and otherwise, would like to extend it. So maybe one more round of the niggun and the words of Shir HaShirim, from Song of Songs.

SY: I want to say one more thing about scent and memory because the interpersonal neurobiology of this is so powerful.

The kabbalists point out that the sense of scent is never mentioned in the exile from the Garden [of Eden]

[Adam and Eve] see the fruit, they hear the snake, they taste [the fruit], and they touch the tree, but scent is never [mentioned] there.

So in a way, the way, our sense memory and even the rhinencephalon, it goes straight to the brain, the cranial nerve between the nose, it's a direct connection.

So even breathing in the memory of a favorite tree, a favorite flower, a gorgeous sunset, or a place of safety actually activates the same neural pathways and the physiological circuitry of returning home in that sense.


Resources for Counting the Omer

The seven-week period between Passover and Shavuot is known as the Counting of the Omer, or Sefirat HaOmer, or "the Omer" for short. An omer is a measure of grain. This ancient agricultural holiday has transformed over the years to become a Kabbalistic practice and has gained traction throughout the progressive Jewish world and an inspirational contemplative time with myriad resources for renewed practice. Below are some of our favorite resources.

Sefirat HaOmer Niggun

by Shir Yaakov Feit, Zach Fredman, & Yosef Goldman

A melody to prepare to say the blessing.

Omer Calendar of Biblical Women

by Jill Hammer

Journey alongside 49 women from the Torah and Midrash. Read online at Ritual Well or download the Kindle edition.

The Outdoor Omer

by Sarah Gabriel

A 49-day practice designed to awaken new connections between you and the rest of the natural world.

Additional Resources

Read more

"One Place" by Shir Yaakov Feit


"After the Pandemic" by Beverly Pincus

When this is over
And it will be, someday
I will go to shul

I will listen to the ancestral Hebrew prayers
They will wash over me
Purifying me
Like waters of ablutions
For the sacrifices at the ancient Temple

I will pray myself
The words will fly out of me
In loud staccato drumbeats
Forceful, warlike
Proclaiming I came through the battle
And I am here
I am here, now
The words will flow out of me
In soft feathery wisps
Gentle, quiet
Like notes of a sweet lullaby
Rocking my soul to peace

I will gather with other congregants
Who are both celebrants and mourners
I will notice who among us
Is no longer here
And who among us is transformed by grief
And who among us stands in unadulterated joy

I will share hugs
And marvel at how human touch
Both excites and quiets my nervous system
The cells of my body
The follicles of my hair
My earlobes and my tastebuds

I will break bread which is challah
Thinking as I eat it how life is braided with death
Kindness with selfishness
Fear with security
Generosity with greed
Illness with health
Poverty with riches
War with peace
And how always, always this is true

And I will sit with you
And I will study with you
And I will ask you
What have you learned?
How have you changed?

And I will listen to your answer
Deeply, with my heart
And I will breathe with you
In fiery, life-affirming breaths
And we will hold each others’ hands
And we will hold each others’ gaze
And together we will say “Amen”


"Halleluyah After Psalms 148 and 150" by Jonathan Billig


"Rest", (an excerpt) by David Whyte

In the first state of rest is the sense of stopping, of giving up on what we have been doing or how we have been being. In the second, is the sense of slowly coming home, the physical journey into the body’s un-coerced and un-bullied self, as if trying to remember the way or even the destination itself. In the third state is a sense of healing and self-forgiveness and of arrival. In the fourth state, deep in the primal exchange of the breath, is the give and the take, the blessing and the being blessed and the ability to delight in both. The fifth stage is a sense of absolute readiness and presence, a delight in and in anticipation of the world and all its forms; a sense of being the meeting itself between inner and outer, and that receiving and responding occur in one spontaneous moment.


"After a Sleepless Night" by Elaine Sutton

After a sleepless night, worrying about the world
I stand in the whispering grass,
watching the mountains crouch
under their burden of sky.

The morning sun glides above the peaks
and the field is suddenly flooded
with turquoise light. A flock of redwings rise,

they turn together like a page of poetry.
I read between the lines
realize I am lonely, and afraid.

I worry about the wars, the weather,
the end of our beautiful, broken world.
I see the way we can harden our hearts

when fear is what moves us.
Now the marsh hawk cruises the yellow reeds, she dives swiftly
and some soft-furred creature's life is over.

For each of us, hauling our basket of dreams,
it is only one breath, one breath,
that divides this world, and the next.

What is there to do then but give thanks,
Offer praise and gratitude for the sweetness we're allotted,
Fling open our burning hearts, and help each other.


“Love Means to Look at Yourself..." by Czesław Miłosz

Love means to look at yourself/ The way one looks at distant things/ For you are only one thing among many/ And whoever sees that way heals his own heart,/ Without knowing it, from various ills./ A bird and a tree say to him: Friend./ Then he wants to use himself and things/ So that they stand in the glow of ripeness./ It doesn't matter whether he knows what he serves:/ Who serves best doesn't always understand.