Friday, January 22, 2021

Second Cup Of Wine

 We are about to drink the second cup of wine, the beginning of the Maggid section of the Seder, where we tell the story of how we left the narrow place.

In the Talmud, Rabbi Hanina says that
Human versions of God’s vast intent are as unripened fruit,
Filled with potential,
Perceived completely only by God.  
Hanina says that the unripened fruit of prophecy is a dream.
Which is kind of cool. 
So I speculate,
The unripened fruit of truth is the story.
We tell tales with beginnings middles and ends around our seder table, 
And our mythology tells us who we were
Which helps a lot,
Almost as much as that second cup of wine.
So
Blessed Holy Wholeness
We give thanks 
For the fruits of the earth
And our imaginations.
Amen

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

This Day


Blessed Yah, Creator, Created, Creating...

We pray for change and hope,

For ourselves and the world:


Instead of anger, we choose kindness.

Instead of revenge, we choose justice.

Instead of resentment, we choose empathy.

Instead of work, we choose rest.

Instead of ideology, we choose compromise.

Instead of destruction, we choose community.

Instead of fear, we choose endurance.

Instead of acquiescence, we choose resistance. 

Instead of invective, we choose prayer.

Instead of violence, we choose peace.


Blessed Yah, Creator, Created, Creating...

We give thanks for this day of change and hope.

And let us say, Amen.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Tree: A Guided Meditation

If every breath
Is a conversation 
With ​Ruach HaOlam,​ 
Then is every breath A prayer?

Close your eyes. 
Breathe In 
Breathe out. 
See yourself
In a forest,
A dark and deeply green
Rain forest.
The air is moist,
The leaves drip pleasantly. 
There are ferns everywhere, 
Fungi attached to fallen trees 
Dead but alive with bugs
And small animals,
And home for the seedlings,
Nurseries of new lives.

The ground in the forest is covered with natural mulch,
Squishy under your feet.
Look around and select your tree. 
You know your tree
And it knows you.
Examine your tree
From top to bottom.
Is it taller than you?
Old or a sapling?

Stand next to your tree and 
Breathe it in:
The smell is a gift of photosynthesis,
Respiration,
Creativity and oxygen,
Every breath is a prayer.

Sit down and lean against your tree.
The forest floor is moist and your ass gets wet
As you reach back to touch the tree with your hands,
Gently.
Feel the rough bark.

Now listen to your tree: 
Shema. 
Can you hear the birds in the branches?
Can you hear the drizzling rain 
As it passes through the leaves 
And lands on your face, your lap, your hiking boots?
Taste the wet air that gives your tree its being.

Ruach HaOlam,
We see and smell and touch and taste and listen and feel
And pray.
Breathe in.
Breathe out. 
Amen.

Blessing For A Tree In The City

Illustration by Steve Silbert


In front of my window on the first floor 

Lives a tree

I think of as mine

Though of course it belongs to the City.


My favorite event of the year is that warm day in April 

When the dark red buds of my tree

And most of the trees on the block

Break open in small lime green leaves.  Whoosh!


Last fall the City put a fence around

My tree’s tiny plot of land

So maybe the dogs would stop pissing on it. 

I don’t think it worked.


Remember that summer

When a flock of green parrots

Flew over from Greenwood Cemetery 

And hung out in my green tree for days?


A couple of years ago some of the branches broke off in a storm. 

The City left them in the street

To rot for weeks

And then they came and sawed off more branches.


I’m worried about my tree.

I’m worried that my tree is too successful,

That the roots will start to break up the sidewalk 

And then the City will cut it down.


Holy Wholeness,

I give thanks for the way my tree cleans our air.

I give thanks for the way my tree shades my apartment.

I give thanks for the home my tree provides to the block’s squirrels and birds. 

I give thanks for my tree’s undressed beauty in the winter.


May my tenacious tree live its fullest life! 

May it never be lonely,

All the city trees reaching out with their roots, 

Chatting with friends.


And I bless the City for its imperfect caretaking. 

Amen​.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

We Will Remember: An Indictment

 

For the sins against  One-ness,

Prepare yourself to be weighed and found wanting.

You reveled in how you broke our connection to the Whole,

You are appalling!

You attacked our hearts and

You used our fear against us.

These are sins against God,

The ones that break true connection,

And it is known who and what you are.

Alas, our anger,

Is fierce

And deserved.


You were willfully foolish.

You were cruel and used hate as a tool.

In your greed and stupidity,

You ignored the degradation of our planet

And the answers of science

And look where it has led us!

Species and forests disappear.

Old people and the poor are sacrificed.

Essential workers, disproportionately People of Color,

Are used and discarded

And die in disproportionate numbers.

Racism is celebrated,

Misogyny extolled.

Sexual and gender diversity denied.

Where is normal human empathy?


We grieve for the sick and the dead,

We grieve for the murdered and the neglected,

We grieve for all we have lost and will lose.


We remember

Those who died by virus

And those who died by police,

Those who died by gas

And those who died by suffocation,

Those who died by infection

And those who died from neglect.


We remember

Those who were shot in trenches

And those who died alone in the ICU,

Those who died by starvation

And those who were shot in the back,

Those who died with a knee on their neck

And those who died hanging from a tree.


And because we remember

We resist our privilege if we have it;

We resist racism when we see it;

We resist cruelty and stupidity when they beckon;

We resist lethargy and despair when it calls us.


We will remember you. 

We remember and you will not be allowed to flourish. 

We remember and promise to change

Ourselves and the world,

Honoring compassion and empathy;

Honoring the rule of law;

Honoring truth. 

Amen

Monday, December 28, 2020

Workshops to Write Prayers and Kavannot

I’m doing workshops (Individually or as a series) over the next few months where participants can to do a little bit of study of some of the liturgy for up coming holidays before writing their own versions of the prayers and their own new kavannot (intentions) using writing prompts, guided meditation, discussions, reading different translations:

Tu Bishvat:  write about the trees, nature, blessings for the earth, hopes for the fight against climate change and environmental degradation.  This will happen sometime in January, schedule to be determined by participants. One session.

Purim:  you can write your own versions of the story, or variations on the themes of oppression, women’s power, assimilation, court Jews, laughing at bad guys, gender roles, fighting back... This will happen in February, schedule TBD by participants. One session

Pesach:  we will pick out various parts of the Haggadah and you can write your own versions of these that you can use in your own seders!  Your own versions of the Four questions, the Plagues the four children, Dayeinu and blessings for the wine, matzo etc.  This will happen sometime in March schedule to be determined by participants.  I think this will take at least two sessions.

Counting The Omer:  How is counting a mindfulness practice?  Why do we count the Omer?  What does it lead up to?  We can schedule this any time within the seven weeks.  

I’m hoping to continue this to Shavuot Tisha B’Av, Elul, Selichot, Rosh Hashanah, Shabbat Shuva, Kol Nidre, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simkhat Torah.

I would also be happy to set up group workshops or individual sessions to work on subjects such as Healing, Gratitude, Grief & Mourning, Anger, Hope or prayers in the siddur, particularly the morning blessings, Amidah, the Sheba, the Yotzer, the Aleinu and the. Mourner’s Kaddish. Let me know your interest and we’ll make it happen.

Each group zoom session is $50 per person.  Half off for my Patreon patrons who contribute at least $18/month.  Sessions are for an hour and a half unless you’re really into it, then I am happy to go longer. 

I have been teaching these workshops for organizations and synagogue groups around the country since the start of the pandemic.  Many references available upon request.

Trisha Arlin

Trisha.arlin@gmail.com

Liturgist

http://www.trishaarlin.com/

Author of PLACE YOURSELF: Words of Prayer And Intention

Now available at https://dimus.parrhesia.press/

Patreon:

 https://www.patreon.com/trishaarlin

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

A Blessing For The Vaccine


Blessed Holy Wholeness:

As we roll up our sleeves
To receive this vaccine,
We take note
Of the inspiration and efficiency,
The hard work and creativity
And the accumulation of knowledge and science
That brings us to this moment. 
No miracles were wanted or needed
For this vaccine
And for that we are grateful. 
Amen



Saturday, December 19, 2020

How Awesome Is This Place



It is holy ground.

This is none other than the abode of God, 

And that is the gateway to heaven


Sleeping at this place

Stones for our pillows,

There is comfort here.

No matter what messes we have made

We can be angels

For other people

And as we go up and down

We can change and make change.

It gets better

It gets worse

Nevertheless

We survive.

There is grief and

There can be happiness,

There is One-ness,

And we are always,

If we but have the eyes to see,

At the bottom of the staircase to the gateway to the entrance to heaven.

 

We want so much.

We want to be of help,

We want to do good,

We want to experience everything,

We want to be wanted.

We all make so much effort

Never really knowing where it will lead.

But if we unlock the gate

Or climb over stupid walls,

The entrance to heaven belongs to us.

 

And what if there is no heaven and all it leads to is oblivion?

What if there is no traveling up that ladder?

What if there is only nothing?
Oh well.

 

We are grateful for these stone pillows

For our hard, hard heads,

Trying to make us comfortable
In their own rocky ways.
We asked for a place to be and each rock pillow said,

Here I am

I am always here

Relax

At the bottom of the stairs to the gateway at the entrance to heaven.

 

And like Jacob,

We will return

To ourselves

To each other

To this awesome place

And this holy ground

Real or metaphoric or myth

It is ours

And we deserve it.

Thank you, rock

At the bottom of the stairway

That leads to an unlocked gate.


How awesome is this place. 

Amen




Sunday, November 29, 2020

Stone Pillow

  11/28/20


Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and set out for Haran. He came upon a certain place and stopped there for the night, for the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of that place, (God is ofter referred to as a rock or stone, and one name for God is HaMakom, The Place, which for me means god is wherever you are) he put it under his head and lay down in that place. He had a dream; a stairway was set on the ground and its top reached to the sky, and angels of God were going up and down on it. And the LORD was standing beside him and He said, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac: the ground on which you are lying I will assign to you and to your offspring. Your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you and your descendants. Remember, I am with you: I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is present in this place, and I did not know it!”   Shaken, he said, מַה־נּוֹרָ֖א הַמָּק֣וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה


“How awesome is this place! This is none other than the abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven.”


In 2015 I wrote a drash on this passage.  I was in a time of personal despair and fear and loss, and this is what I wrote, ostensibly in the voice of Jacob but really in mine:

 

Sleeping at this place

Or at least trying.

A stone for my pillow,

There is no comfort here.

I obsess and worry,

I have made such a mess.

I see steps that could take me away.

There could be happiness,

There could be One-ness,

But not yet.

Not at this gate at the entrance to heaven.

 

I want so much.

I want to be of help,

I want to do good,

I want to experience everything,

I want to be wanted.

I watch so many others make the effort

But I don't know what it leads to.

I stare through the bars of every unlocked gate,
But I don't go in to

This entrance to heaven.

 

What if all it leads to is oblivion?

What if there is no traveling up that ladder?

Only pain, then nothing?
No one will remember a thing.

I'm an idiot,

A fraud!

Overconfident and messy,

Brash and hurtful,

Selfish and false,

No one needs me.
Soon it will not matter.

 

Amidst all this self-pity

I have one thing to hold onto.

Yes,

It's that stone pillow

For my hardhard head.

It tried to make me comfortable,
In its own rocky way.
I asked for a place to sleep and it said,

Here I am

At the gate and the entrance to heaven.

 

In the morning I will be exhausted.

I probably will have slept but I won't remember having done so.

I will move on, because that's what I do.

I will leave behind the stone pillow
In this place

As my assertion

That I was here

That I saw what there was to see,

That I considered my options

And that maybe I will return,

And maybe not,

To this rock

At the bottom of the stairway

That led to the gateway to the entrance to heaven.

 

I was writing about trying to lean on God, or the idea of God, or on something bigger than myself, to grab a rock, find a place, that would give me something to hold onto while I started on a journey I didn’t want to be on and wasn’t sure I was going to survive.  All I saw was my fear of the future and I ignored the rest of this parsha, where Jacob goes on to work hard, fall in love, have many children and then go home to face the pain he caused his brother.

 

I used to use this depressing piece for Tachanun.  For those of us who only go to Shabbat services, which these days includes me, Tachanun is a series of prayers you say after the weekday Amidah, with your head in your hands, admitting to your recent horribleness and asking for mercy and forgiveness.  You only say this after the weekday Amidah and even then there are many exceptions, because you’re not supposed to say Tachanun on a festival or a joyous day, like Shabbat.  Something I didn’t notice when I first started to use this for Tachanun is that implicit in a prayer for forgiveness is hope. You don’t  pray for mercy if there’s no chance you might get some. And I forgot that.

 

Anyway, I did survive, with a lot of help, much of it from members of my shul and our clergy.  Five years later, and  read this five year old kavannah in preparation for today’s drash, thinking I’d already done most of the writing I’d need to do and could coast for most of this week. But when I read it I realized, alas, that it doesn’t fit me now, and it doesn’t even fit the Jacob I’m seeing in this portion but I couldn’t see then. Jacob works his ass off. He doesn’t give up. Jacob hopes and he hopes hard.  So who was I to give up?  Especially in light of what we’ve been going through the last four years, and the last nine months, all that shared fear and loss and despair, all that shared hard work to get us to a new place, all the gratitude I resented and, this week anyway, I adore and cling on to, who was I to stay stuck in anger and depressionThere’s a vaccine and Trump lost and I had a great meal on Thanksgiving.  How awesome is this place! 

 

Five years ago, in 2015, I didn’t notice in these verses that the angels were ascending and descending the stairway, all I experienced was that I was standing outside of heavenwrapped up in lonesomeness and yearning. But now, in the midst of Pandemic Time and at the end of Trump Time, I see those angels and they are going up and down, up and down. And the gateway to heaven isn’t shut, and God is not taunting Jacob with what he can’t have, God is talking to Jacob and showing him a future that ascends and descends and ascends and descends, in constant change, we are always changing, and it’s the rock that’s solid, where God, or God-ness, or Holy Wholeness or the community of good people or loved ones, whatever is holy and divine for you and for me, whenever and however, these people and things, This hope, they are rocks, they are my place, our placehaMakom

 

So I wrote a new version, for this Shabbat, and for us.  Maybe it’s the trytophan/sauvignon blanc/Thanksgiving version, could be, and maybe it will pass, but here it is anyway:

 

Sleeping at this place

Stones for our pillows,

There is comfort here.

No matter what messes we have made

We can be angels

For other people

And as we go up and down

We can change and make change.

It gets better

It gets worse

Nevertheless

We survive.

There is grief and

There can be happiness,

There is One-ness,

And we are always,

If we but have the eyes to see,

At the bottom of the staircase to this gateway to the entrance to heaven.

 

We want so much.

We want to be of help,

We want to do good,

We want to experience everything,

We want to be wanted.

We all make so much effort

Never really knowing where it will lead.

But if we unlock the gate

Or climb over stupid walls,

The entrance to heaven belongs to us.

 

And what if there is no heaven and all it leads to is oblivion?

What if there is no traveling up that ladder?

What if there is only nothing?
Oh well.

 

We are grateful for these stone pillows

For our hard, hard heads,

Trying to make us comfortable
In their own rocky ways.
We asked for a place to be and each rock pillow said,

Here I am

I am always here

Relax

At the bottom of the stairs to the gateway at the entrance to heaven.

 

And like Jacob,

We will return

To ourselves

To each other

To this awesome place

And this holy ground

Real or metaphoric or myth

It is ours

And we deserve it.

Thank you, rock

At the bottom of the stairway

That leads to an unlocked gate.

 

How awesome is this place! 

It is holy ground.

This is none other than the abode of God, 

And that is the gateway to heaven.

Thank you.

Amen

 

 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

My Maccabees

This year

My Maccabees

Wrote postcards

Made phone calls

Texted

Knocked on doors (safely)

 

This year

My Maccabees

Taught their children at home

Channeled their anger

Watched a lot of TV

Learned to use Zoom

 

This year

My Maccabees

Reported to work at hospitals

Saw thousands die

Helped many people live

Counseled survivors 

 

This year

My Maccabees

Embraced their righteous anger

Held signs

Organized protests

Marched in the streets

 

This year

My Maccabees

Voted

Made sure everyone else could vote

Danced in the streets

Defended the outcome


This year

My Maccabees

Mourned

Lost their jobs

Stood on lines

Worried


This year

My Maccabees

Wore masks

Washed their hands

Kept their distance

Stayed home

 

Blessed Holy Wholeness — 

I give thanks for these Maccabees,

My heroes.

May they have sustenance in place of anxiety,

Health in place of sickness,

Joy in place of grief,

Justice in place of evil.

Amen