Sunday, July 25, 2021

A Blessing For Buster on Rosh Hodesh Elul


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.

  

Buster was an athlete in his youth. 

He’s named for Buster Keaton because

He was always leaping and levitating

And doing triple axels on the ceiling

And he never smiled.

 

Buster was also kind of a jerk. 

Standoffish and emotionally withholding,

He ruined two sets of venetian blinds and

Every screen in every window.

He broke all my small breakables

And

Sometimes I would catch him

Staring at his brother,

Sweet fuzzy cuddly Sammy,

With this look in his eyes

That said,

“I have no choice, I have to bite Sammy on his ass.”

And then he would.

Intervention only delayed the inevitable.

 

Have you heard of family systems theory?

When Sammy died, Buster took his place:

He got cuddly and loving and slept on my face.

 

And now Buster is very old, 

He’s 22!

He misses the litter box more often than not

(I spend a fortune on pee pads).

He howls very loudly when he’s hungry

And howls very loudly after he has eaten.

He falls over when he sneezes!

Sometimes Buster walks down the hallway and then stops halfway

And you can see him thinking,

What was I doing?

Sometimes he remembers and continues on,

Sometimes he doesn’t and goes back to bed.

Man, I can so so so relate to this.

 

Buster is an inside apartment cat, 

My captive all his life.

He never got to serenade the neighborhood,

He never got to have sex,

He never got to fight for territory,

He never got to crouch in the tall grass stalking his prey.

Buster only murdered three mice, that I know of,

When the neighbors moved,

And it’s a shame because he was born to kill.

How do I dare to offer him a blessing 

When I have been at best a benevolent tyrant

Thwarting his every natural desire?

 

For fifteen months during COVID

Buster was the only living being

I could touch.  


Bless you, Buster. 

I love you. 

I’m sorry. 

Thank you, 

My old domesticated beast.

Please don’t die and

Happy New Year.

Amen. 


Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Story of Shabbat


 Every Shabbat

We wake up and bless, 
Loving the return to our physical bodies.
Then we sing together in praise,
 Loving our community. 
Then we contemplate God and glory,
Loving our covenant  with wholeness. 
Then we stand and pray,
Loving our divine one-on-One. 
Then we read our holy books,
Loving our histories and our stories. 
Then we bend our knees,
Loving our commitments to justice and righteousness.
Then we daven the Kaddish,
Loving the memories of the dead. 

Then we drink wine,
Go home,
And if we’re lucky,
Have lots of good sex
With someone we love
And then a nice Shabbat nap. 

Shabbat Shalom,
Amen

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

KRIA 2021

 

When my mother died,

I was 3000 miles away

On a teen study trip in England. 

I’d said goodbye to her at the airport and never saw her again. 


They woke me up in the dorm

And told me my mother was sick and I had to go home to New York. 

Part of me knew that this meant she was dead

But as my friends gathered to say goodbye

I complained, to their horror, 

about my mother’s hypochondria and 

how she always was interrupting 

whenever I was having fun. 


The only book I had with me on the plane home was

The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus,

and this was kind of funny even then. 

I mean, really?


My father told me she was dead as I walked in the door and

All I could think about was what I had left behind:

My first boyfriend,

Nigel, 

Who had eyes like a young Martin Landau. 


The house was filled with relatives and people from the Temple. 

I made jokes and refused to cry. 

My mother was 48. 

I was 16. 


When my father announced he was sick

I was 3000 miles away living in the Pacific Northwest. 

It took about a year for him to die. 


I came East for a visit,

We talked about everything except his coming death

Or that I loved him.

I said a normal goodbye as I got into a cab to the airport to go back to Seattle. 

He looked very sad

And I never saw him again. 


I had been planning to move back home in a few months

In time for his last days

But he died in an emergency room a few weeks later. 

I returned for the funeral and cried during the service

And cried at the cemetery 

And I cried when, for the first time in 12 years, I saw my mother’s headstone. 

My father was 61. 

I was 28. 


I remember the sound of the black ribbon 

Ripped apart in shock and grief, each time

By the rabbi

When I think of all the families who watched

As their parents went into the hospital with COVID 

And who never saw them again. 


Yahrzeit 2021


Glorious and holy are the possibilities of God. 


We’re getting used to the losses

But that’s not the same

As being okay.   



Things are different now.  

We want to go back to normal 

But normal is gone. 


Many died,

We sat shiva  

And now it’s time for yahrzeit. 


So pour a shot of whiskey 

For each member of the minyan. 

L’chaim!


And let us say, amen. 


It’s almost simple:

Democracy is threatened,

The planet is in danger. 


Mourning must end,

We can’t stay in grief

We must act now. 


We are afraid that

There is not enough goodness,

There is not enough hope. 


Blessed One-ness. 


Now is the time for teshuvah, 

returning 

to our true and brave selves.


Now is the time for  tefillah,

imagining 

the future through holy conversations.


Now is the time for tzedukah, 

fighting 

for the survival of all our communities.


Holy Wholeness,

For all the living and in memory of the dead,

For all the possibilities of God,

Let us say Amen

Monday, June 28, 2021

Elul , Rosh Hodesh And High Holyday Writing Workshops

Holy Wholeness
Breath of the universe, 
In holy conversation.  
And every breath is a prayer.
 
Chevre!

Hello!  How are you?  I mean it, really, are you okay?  It has been a powerful and emotional year, with lots of feelings of grief, anger, craziness, relief and elation for all of us to sort through.  I sort through it by writing prayers and kavannot and I’m thinking you might want to do that, too.

For the last 15 months, I sat home and got a lot of writing done, (including a handwashing prayer that went, you should excuse the expression, viral). You can see a collection of that work here.  And I’ve been writing since last summer for every Jewish holiday as part of the ongoing Bayit Liturgical Artists Working Group.  

I did readings for Ritualwell and Haggadot.com, and taught via zoom at those sites and at synagogues in Brooklyn, New Jersey, upstate New York, Long Island, Vermont and Florida, worked with a Rosh Chodesh group in Cleveland to write and design their own Women’s Seder and ran workshops that included students from all over the world.

AND NOW I’m offering new workshops (see below) and hoping to interest you in those, or in workshops of your own design for your synagogues or organizations (email me!), as well as individual tutoring in the Kavannah of the Shabbat Liturgy. (DATES TBA, depending on participants).


Upcoming Writing Workshops - Prayers and Kavannot (Intentions)!

JULY - EARLY AUGUST, FOR THE MONTH OF ELUL
the month before the High Holydays, when you ask forgiveness for pain you have caused to people.
Using writing prompts, guided meditation and discussion, you’ll create your own holy conversations for Elul:
1) Prayers and kavannot about asking for forgiveness
2) Prayers and kavannot about forgiving
3) Rosh Hashana La Beheimot! Prayers and kavannot about pets, meat and domesticated animals for Rosh Chodesh Elul, which is the New Year for Domesticated Beasts. (If you are a member of Kolot Chayeinu, this session is free and if you want, your work will be shared by you during Shabbat services on the day.)
Take all three workshops for $100 (one class, $40, two workshops $75.)  
If you are are a Kolot member, you can take all three for $65.
All classes are half off if you are one of my Patreon patrons!


AUGUST - ROSH HASHANAH/YOM KIPPUR 
when you consider the pain and disruption you may have caused to God, whether you understand that as a Divine Being, as Holy Wholeness, as the divine within, as a nice intellectual construct or something you don’t understand at all.
  • What does it mean to sin against God?
  • Write your own versions of the prayers and prepare yourself for the days:
    • Hineni (here I am), 
    • Avinu Malkeinu (what is your name for God?), 
    • Unataneh Tokef (contemplate your mortality), 
    • Ashamnu (take responsibility for your actions)
    • the Shofar Service (make a loud noise to your community). 


DESIGN YOUR OWN PRAYER WRITING WORKSHOP

Organize a session around an upcoming holiday, or different kinds of personal prayer writing, or work with a sad or happy event in your community.  References available upon request.


THE KAVANNAH OF THE SHABBAT LITURGY - One on One 

You and I will meet on zoom or in person and work our way through the entire service together.   This is especially useful for students who enjoy the music and traditions of the Shabbat morning service but want to understand the meaning of the prayers, somewhat traditionally but more what it can mean for them personally.  There’s recommended reading if you want it.  Mostly, we talk. References available upon request.

For me, the Jewish prayer service, and each rubric and prayer within it, is a story, in that the protagonist (the individuals or congregation praying) is or should be somewhat transformed at the service or prayer.  The service, if done with understanding, intention and kavannah, is an exploration of one’s body, soul, relationship to the community, understanding of and relationship with God (however you understand or don’t understand God), relationship with the Divine, understanding of oneself as a Jew and as a person with obligations to the world, the Jewish community, the family and to oneself, and all this as experienced in a series of holy conversations with the Divine.  
 
READINGS, RESIDENCIES

Zoom is easy and fun, but if you want me there in person, let’s talk!





Tuesday, June 1, 2021

On Re-entering Our Sacred Space After the Quarantine

 

Berucha at HaShleimut

Blessed Wholeness,


Our eyes are open wide
As we walk into our familiar sacred space
For the first time in over a year. 
Colors are brighter,
The sanctuary is larger
And the sounds of our voices, together, are luscious.  
We swim in our profound appreciation for what we once took for granted 
And we can’t stop smiling at our friends  
And marveling at how good they look to us. 
We hug,
We breathe in their smells,
It’s so excitingl! 
And at last
We can pray and we will be heard
We can mourn and we will be seen.
We are not alone.

Blessed Holy Wholeness
We give thanks and pray that we will remember how this felt
Next week
And next year
When we are bored.
Look at us, 
Here we are.
It is good.
Amen

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Chag Ha-Atzeret (Day of Stopping)


 

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?

 

This year, do we need to remember the Covenant?

It’s always been here

Even when we couldn’t see it.

And it was hard to see this year,

Don’t care how hard you looked. 

And how many of us tried?

 

This year, do we really need to “receive” the Torah?

Haven’t we been passive for too long?

Yeah, it felt like it was enough just to survive, 

But shouldn’t we be doing more?

Do we really want to go back to normal,

Didn’t normal suck?

 

This year let’s make some Torah.

C’mon, let’s do something new.