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Gratitude Reflections
Source : https://rivshapiro.com/

Inspired by nomadic years, the wisdom of the body and nervous system, change, Somatic Reality: Bodily Experience and Emotional Truth by Stanley Kelemen, the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess community, and the Judaism of my ancestors. Received to the tune of Avinu Malkeinu, a traditional Jewish High Holidays prayer.


Released September 15, 2017
Vocals, percussion, and production by Kohenet Riv Shapiro (FKA Cedar Ranney) 
all rights reserved 

 

Gratitude Reflections
Source : https://jewcology.org/2013/08/earth-etude-for-elul-10-ready-for-withering-flowers/

I'm familiar with your story

This gratitude you cultivate helps ground you

And yet, do you really deserve to ask for more?

The answer to this question will give you the balance you seek

Sometimes you need a reminder that we already said farewell to the month of Av

As it is written in Job: "Man born of woman is short of days, and fed with trouble. He blossoms like a flower and withers, and vanishes, like a shadow." (Job 14:1–2)

In Elul, you are instructed to enjoy the ephemeral beauty of the flowers without worry of their withering

Since  t'shuva /repentance is the name of the game, instead of fearing change we welcome it in

Every morning the shofar calls you to  t'shuva /repentance

Are you listening?

How might you be more awake in order to hear its sound?

Allow the August blossoms a chance to bring you to the presence you desire.

Sarah+chandler+photo.JPG

Step 1 – gather flower petals into a large bowl- ideally four colors and four different species. Bowl is ideally wood but can also be glass or metal.

In New England this is a great time of year to find a diversity of lilies, Queen Anne's lace, chicory and aster.

Step 2 – fill your bowl with water covering the petals – ideally spring water but tap water is also fine. The chance to visit a river, lake or small spring will only add to the ritual

Step 3 – ASK FOR SOMETHING. This is for real. If you're going to open up enough to do real  t'shuvah /repentance this year, you have to acknowledge that you are not yet whole – that there is something about yourself you want to change, or at least cultivate. A useful formula is "May I be…" or "Let me be…"

Step 4 – Pour the entire bowl of petals and water over your head and proclaim: " Horeini Ya Darkecha  – הוֹרֵנִי יְהוָה, דַּרְכֶּךָ – reveal to me your path" – Ps. 27:11. This is both the sealing of our request and also a letting go of wanting only one thing.

Based on the teachings of the Eish Kodesh, Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira

Written by Sarah Chandler for "Earth Etudes for Elul" https://jewcology.org/blogs/

Gratitude Reflections
Source : Rachel Kann: https://realizeparadise.com/

Fruit By Rachel Kann

Know this:
you are wonderful-wild.
Do not deny it, contort
akimbo,
reach your glorious limbs skyward. 
No more mourning
your exclusion from the orchard—
you were never meant to be regimented,
thank heaven.

The predatory parasites
who hijacked the canopy,
clawing toward your inner sugar,
have all been evicted. 
They could never truly penetrate;
never rip to the center of you. 
They tried to prune your shine,
you bloomed through it.
Their attempts to graft you
proved fruitless, 
they carved their tags into your trunk,
underestimated your fortitude. 
How could they predict
you’d claim your scars as splendor? 
Your roots go deeper
than you ever imagined.
You are steadfast
and untamable. 
Your leaves unfurl face-up
toward the
massive gentleness
and outrageous abundance
emanating in waves of electric radiance. 
Your existence bridges
earthly with celestial. 
Today, it begins.
Awaken, under cover of cold snap.
Be your sweetness, revealed.
Your glow is a holy permission slip. 
Beneath the harsh winter—
hidden growth. Humble/pliant,
you are safer than you realize.

Here is a secret worth knowing:
To dance, you must let the wind
whip your branches.

To sing, permit the breeze
to whistle through you. 
Your very being is a map of eternity.
You are inviolable,
fairly spilling with potential. 
Come to blossom;
Come to fruit. 

Gratitude Reflections
Source : Annie Cohen: www.pullingatthreads.com
Feldmestn & Keyvermestn

Feldmestn & Keyvermestn Ritual from Annie Cohen

In the early 18th Century, Jewish women in Lithuania, Belarus and elsewhere in Eastern Europe would perform the rituals of feldmestn and keyvermestn. Often done during Elul, the women would measure the perimeter of cemeteries and graves with candle wicks. These wicks would then be used to make memorial candles to be lit during Yom Kippur. This was a special time of year where the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead seemed to be thinning and the ancestors were called for support in prayer. 

As the women wove the threads through the cemetary, they would recite a tkhine, or personal prayer, generally said in Yiddish. You can adapt the traditional tkhnie by making specific requests for protection in the coming year, bringing in the names and special characteristics of your ancestors.

Here's how you can do feldmestn and keyvermestn.

Feldmestn:  Begin at the entrance of the cemetery. One person holds a large ball of cotton thread in one hand. The other person stands to the right of them, gathers some grass or any other suitable object from the cemetery floor and hold it in their left hand, taking the end of the ball of thread in their right hand. Turn left and move together slowly around the cemetery in a clockwise direction, keeping close to the fence or wall. While you walk, the first person slowly unrolls the ball of thread, which the second person lets fall on the on the object they hold in their left hand, winding up the thread in their right hand. 

The person who intends to make the candles (usually the person with the connection to that specific cemetery), walks behind those conducting the measurement, reciting prayers, poetry or songs that feel appropriate. 

Keyvermestn: Go to a specific grave and wrap the thread several times around the perimeter of the grave. The person with the connection to the grave, for whom the measurement is being done may stand to the side during this process. Some people wrap seven times, as with the Kabbalistic practice of wrapping colorful thread for protection against the evil eye. You may do this or another number that resonates for you.

As you wrap, you may say the following tkhine (personal prayer) on behalf of the person for whom the measurement is being done:   

Dearest parent/friend/sibling/ancestor (the deceased's name), your child/friend/grandchild/relationship to the deceased (your name) has taken the trouble to come to you and to measure your grave. Take the trouble to pray for her/him/them and their family. Muster in yourself earlier love, and help them. Add your own prayers here. 

The person with the connection to the deceased can also offer a personal prayer, and/or the Mourners Kaddish. The thread is used to make candlewicks by either party, or collaboratively.  The thread is used to make candlewicks by either party, or collaboratively - a process referred to idiomatically in Yiddish as kneytlekh leygn (laying wicks). 



Annie Cohen is a Kohenet in training and a PhD student in Jewish Studies. Learn more about her work at:  www.pullingatthreads.com

Gratitude Reflections
Source : Dori Midnight: https://dorimidnight.com

High Holy Days in Pandemic Times: Finding Awe in the Unravel (Excerpt)
By Kohenet Dori Midnight
, in collaboration with Elan/a June Margolis and Annie Rose London

5780 has been wrought with profound change, loss, upheaval, disorientation, hope, resistance, and resilience. Many of us find ourselves at sea, overwhelmed and longing for connection. In this time of social, racial, and economic uprising, of global pandemic, how do we engage with the beautiful, ancestrally-guided work we are called to do? This year, we are charged with reimagining how we do High Holy Days. This year we wade in unchartered waters. How might the Days of Awe serve this moment, and how might this moment serve the Days of Awe?  

As we spin into Elul, the month before the turning of the year, we begin our personal and collective process of deep reflection and accountability that shepherds us into the new year. Our new year begins with ten days of ritual and practices in which we mourn, we fast, we pray, we consent to facing and feeling the vulnerability and precarity of being human. We dress in a shroud, we prostrate ourselves, we practice our own death and pray to be written in the book of life for a good, sweet year. This year, we are already in the depths, we are already in precarity. For many of us, it feels as if it has been Yom Kippur for months.

What if this time around, we are being offered the extraordinary opportunity to dream up our own Days of Awe, to answer what this present moment asks of us? Perhaps this year, we draw upon Jewish traditions of centering our practices in our homes and connecting with the essence of these days in our own way, inviting us into a new kind of intimacy and depth. Perhaps the sacred work this year involves hearing the calls for reparations, the call to dismantle white supremacy, ableism, transphobia, classism, anti-Black racism in Jewish communities and beyond, the call to tend to our most vulnerable siblings, the call to invest in community care and mutual aid, the call to slow down, the call for indigenous land sovereignty and wise care of our earth


DAYENU: Remember We Already Have What We Need
Before we dive into this river of suggested practices, we invite you take a breath and approach these offerings with curiosity. Capitalism and systems of supremacy tell us we don’t have enough, we aren’t enough, and we’ll never know or do enough, so remembering that we have everything we need is a kind of resistance and magic. Isolation, uncertainty, and change may bring up old stories and fears:  Who are my people? Where do I belong? Do I belong? I’m doing it wrong. Everyone knows more than me. Everyone else is doing it wrong! You get the picture. Greet them, notice them, and do as our people do with demons: offer them some honey, burn some cloves, chase them away with garlic, psalms, and a bell. The demon slaying technique may be different depending on where your people are from, but the point is, recognize those demons and don’t let them ride you or throw you off. This year, we embrace curiosity:  what might emerge this year only because we are so far out of familiar frameworks?  

ELUL: Practice Waking Up
Honor the dead ~ It is customary to visit the graves of your beloved dead during the month of Elul. Since many of us cannot physically do that, find other ways to connect with those who have transitioned beyond. Perhaps you can create a space in your home to put up photos or special objects that remind you of your beloved dead, which you can keep up through Sukkot. You may also want to find an outdoor space you can visit and bring a stone each time, as if you were visiting a grave. Click here for details about an Ashkenazi ritual for making soul candles by Kohenet Annie Cohen. 

Recite Psalm 27 ~ We are guided to recite Psalm 27 every day in Elul. This Psalm is an anchor and guiding light, a remedy for fear, and a daily practice as we train for the intense spiritual Olympics that are the Days of Awe. The Psalm begins, “God is my light and my life; whom shall I fear? God is the foundation of my life; whom shall I dread?” 

Sound the Shofar ~ As we are instructed to hear the call of the shofar daily, you can trust that there will be many daily shofar offerings online (including this daily morning Elul offering from our friends at Fringes), or perhaps there will be local opportunities for you to hear it in person. If you don’t have access to blow or hear the shofar, what sound can be your daily shofar? One year, I took on the practice of listening to Democracy Now! as a daily shofar blast. You can enlist any sound as your shofar call: birdsong, a kazoo or horn, a passing train or subway, your alarm clock, the sound of the spoon clinking your cup as you stir your morning beverage, your kids’ laughter. Take a moment to “listen” to something each day and ask yourself, “What is this calling me to awaken to?” 

Begin to Return / Return again ~ Elul is the month we dive into our Teshuvah work, our work of individual and collective reflection and accountability. The first step is to recognize your missteps with love and acknowledge them. You can do this in writing or in chevruta – talking to a friend.  Begin with the most intimate relationship, yourself, and move in ever widening circles, taking stock of your intimate relationships, work relationships, your relationship to communities you are connected to, ways in which you are complicit in oppression in both personal and more systemic ways, and in a kind of full circle, looking at your relationship to G-d/ess/exx/HaShem. Then, move from witnessing to actually allowing yourself to feel the impact. It’s not like “feel some feelings” is on your to do list. Create dedicated space for what some people might call “healthy shame”, like what is required for us to feel when we really f— up?  Don’t get stuck there, visit that land of rich soil that is made being burnt the ground for the time that is required and then know when it is time to act. You are ready. Air it out, own it, take responsibility with witnesses who can hold you in accountability.  And from this raw and tender place, you can begin to make steps towards repair.

Commit to Noticing ~ Elul invites us to turn our attention inward, not for the sake of self-improvement, but so that we can begin to see the unconscious patterns and behaviors that shape our lives and our resulting ripple in the ocean of life.  One way to do this work is to commit to a practice of noticing. This can be done either by choosing one area of our lives to focus on and take note of, for as our teacher Taya Ma says, “The way you do anything is the way you do everything.” The invitation is to take daily note of your relationship to walking your dog, or brushing your teeth, or putting your kids to bed, or making love, or making breakfast (etc.) and be available for what is revealed to you. Elul is a month about returning to the Beloved; now is the time to be our own Beloveds by seeing ourselves with eyes of curiosity and love.

For the full reflection and rituals visit Kohenet Dori Midnight at https://dorimidnight.com/writing/high-holy-days-in-pandemic-times-finding-awe-in-the-unravel/

Gratitude Reflections
Source : Dori Midnight: https://dorimidnight.com
Finding Awe in the Unravel: Part Two

High Holy Days in Pandemic Times: Finding Awe in the Unravel (Excerpt)
By Kohenet Dori Midnight, in collaboration with Elan/a June Margolis and Annie Rose London


MAKOM KADOSH: Create Sacred Space at Home, Wherever You Are

Home as a Heart of Jewish Practice ~  There are some who believe the center of Judaism has historically been the Temple and that the conception of the home as a center of Jewish tradition is a modern invention.  But, where were those of us who weren’t in the room when the books were written, who weren’t allowed in the Beit Midrash? Where were those of us who were exiled, fleeing, imprisoned, raising children, nourishing our communities, those of us who were healing the sick, those of us who were wandering? We have innovated so many home-based practices that have sustained us: from kissing the mezuzah at the doorway to epic Passover seders to whispering prayers into braids of challah to opening our doors to the Sabbath Queen/Quing on Friday evening. In these moments, we priest/ess/xx our own connection to holiness and our homes become sanctuary.  This year, in the absence of the physical temple, we are invited to conceive of a temple wherever we are. We are tasked with making our homes a Makom Kadosh – a holy space, and becoming temple keepers ourselves. We can ask: what is the essence of these holy days and how can I make this space and time a place to explore and honor that essence?  Where will you place yourself for meals, self-guided rituals, services? Where do you want to do your Teshuvah work? What space in your home is ready to be transformed into a sanctuary? Consider: Your bed! Your bathtub! A spot on your floor! Finding a place outside that you visit often! A couch fort! 

Mikdash m’at ~ Choose a space in your home to be your mikdash m’at, a miniature sanctuary, a holy place, opening to the possibilities of the temple in your home. Make it beautiful. If you haven’t read the passage in the Torah where we are given instructions to build the Tabernacle, let these Femme queens share that it is magnificently decadent and lush: cedar and lapis and copper and crimson and shimmering unicorn skin. While that may not be your style, dedicate some time to making a space for G-d/dess/Holy One of Many Names to dwell in with you.

Suggestions for creating your tiny sanctuary: 
-Make an altar
-Gather books that are meaningful to you (a machzor, books about spirituality and the high holy days, poetry books, your journal, books and zines about transformative justice and healing) 
-Place a Shviti on your wall: A Shviti is a decorative piece of calligraphy found hanging in many synagogues.  “Shviti” is the first Hebrew word of the verse, “I always set ADONAI before me” (Psalm 16:8).  Typically, this sacred adornment included this verse written out in large letters along with other devotional verses in Hebrew or English including “Make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them."

Every Land is the Holy Land ~ Connecting to the land that we make home and ritual on is complicated, painful, and charged as Jewish people who are scattered like seeds across the earth. For those of us who are not indigenous to this land known as the United States,  many of our ancestors came to Turtle Island as refugees, as settlers, as people who were stolen from homelands and brought here by enslavers, as Jews of mixed heritage, Black Jews and Jews of Color, as Jews who organize around ending occupation everywhere. Some of us came here as immigrants ourselves.  We can honor the land we are on by learning about and naming the tribes whose land we are on, make tzedakah (donations/reparations) to Native Land Tax funds or BIPOC land projects, and acknowledge that for hundreds of years, Native peoples have suffered and survived forced assimilation, mass incarceration, and genocidal policies of conquest.

Your Body is a Living Temple~ If you want to dive into some mind blowing talmud/quantum physics this season, you can study Midrash Tanchuma, which has inspired some scholars to make the beautiful connection that our bodies are temples in a wondrous formula that equates the torah, the tabernacle, the temple, and our bodies.  Divrei Beit Hillel comments, “On another level, the Mishkan (temple) symbolizes the human body. The beams which comprise the sides of the Mishkan symbolize the ribs. The goat-skin curtains represent the skin. The menorah symbolizes the mind. The k’ruvim (cherubim) symbolize the lungs, which lie over the heart, and the aron hakodesh (the holy ark) represents the heart.”
In that spirit, how will you tend to your body in these days and what does your body want to do for the High Holy Days? 

Some suggested practices:
- Mikveh:  honor transitions and invoke transformation in a ritual immersion 
-Dip it in Honey: the traditional Hebrew greeting for the new year is: a good and sweet year! We don’t just want a good year, we want a year that is dripping with honey. We eat spiral challah, twisted with plump raisins, we pop pomegranate seeds into our mouth, and eat pastries doused in honey and rosewater. In Sephardi and Mizrahi tradition, we hold a seder on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, in which we eat symbolic foods for a delicious year, weaving a spell for a year full of pleasure and delight with each bite. We need to sweeten these hard times! It’s as if we are calling to the sweetness in ourselves, feeding our best selves with the golden nectar of the bees.  Consider incorporating more sweetness into your days of awe- a ritual lick of a spoonful of honey each morning? Taking on a daily pleasure practice? How you can bring more sweetness into this time, into your year?
-Wrap yourself: consider wrapping yourself in a tallit, a beautiful scarf or other special piece of fabric when you sit down at your altar or to write, pray, or attend services. Some teachers consider the tallit a symbol of the wings of the Shekhinah, the Indwelling Presence of the Divine, a cloak of protection and light.  (The new podcast, Fringes, is about trans and gender non-conforming Jews and our relationships to tallitot and tzitzit.)
-Dress yourself like you are an altar: choose colors and fabrics and accessories that connect you to your high holy day intentions, dress up or down for HaShem/G-d/dexx, clothe yourself as simple or as fancy as you are moved.  Dressing up even if you are staying home is an incredible vehicle for transporting yourself to the state of being you wish to occupy (#femmewisdom).  
-Anoint with oil: This practice is edge play for many people, but if you’re into it, you can learn more about anointing practices in temple times and create your own infused olive oil blend to use in ritual.  
-Music: sometimes just surrounding ourselves with the songs and liturgy of the season while cooking, working, hanging out with our kids can help us connect more deeply and create a sacred space. And dance if you feel like it! 

Make an Altar ~ Witchy queer Jews have basically been waiting all our lives for this moment: suddenly Rabbis across the country are suggesting people build altars in their homes. This is not new! Jewish people have been building altars for thousands of years! Before the Temple, the ancient Israelites made altars in their homes, often in the kitchen, as a place for burnt offerings and stones. Our Shabbat table and Seder plate can be seen as a kind of altar.  An altar is simply a table set to meet the Divine, a physical space that holds our intentions and prayers. As such, it can be sparse, or decadently full. An altar can sprout from virtually anywhere: a window sill, the center of your kitchen table, a crate in your bedroom, the top of your dresser, a moving box flipped over with a tablecloth on top. 

Create Rhythm in a Time Out of Rhythm ~ Jews have a blessing for practically everything. Rituals support us in transitions, whether they are the transition from the old year into the new, or daily transitions from day into evening, sleep into waking, Shabbat into the weekday. Think about how you want to hold the transition from daily home space into ritual space and if you are choosing to tune into virtual services online, how to transition your computer that you use for work and play into your virtual sanctuary for services and prayer.

Some suggested practices:
- Wash your hands (I like to have a little bowl of salt by my sink to rub into my hands for ritual cleansing and/or use a pitcher rather than the faucet). Consider saying a handwashing blessing or a handwashing poem.
- Burn some cedar. Ancient Israelite Priestexxes offered cedar smoke at the entrance to the Temple for cleansing. Cedar is a tall, coniferous tree, long held sacred for its medicinal, magical, and spiritual properties in Jewish tradition. Cedar is mentioned over 70 times in the Tanakh. Cedar is resinous and aromatic, it resists rots and insects, making it ideal for holding sacred space. Cedar helps build an energetic architecture of protection and clearing.
- Incorporate Havdalah rituals for transitional moments: light a candle, inhale the scent of spices, sprinkle some rosewater on yourself, and say the last line of the Havdalah blessing before opening or closing, entering or leaving your sacred space. 

For the full reflection and rituals visit Kohenet Dori Midnight at https://dorimidnight.com/writing/high-holy-days-in-pandemic-times-finding-awe-in-the-unravel/

Gratitude Reflections

שכינה מקור חיינו
חָנֵּנוּ וַעֲנֵנוּ כִּי אֵין בָּנוּ מַעֲשִׂים
עֲשֵׂה עִמָּנוּ צְדָקָה וָחֶסֶד וְהוֹשִׁיעֵנוּ.

Shekhinah, M’kor Chayeinu
chaneinu va'aneinu ki ein banu ma'asim
Asai imanu tzedakah va'chesed Ve'hoshi'einu.

Na’arah, Maiden, teach us to embrace the beauty of youth
Eimah, Mother, show us how to nourish another
Gevirah, Queen, help us to use our strength for the benefit of others
Meyaledet, Midwife, guide us as we are birthed into another year

Shekhinah, Source of Lives, hear our prayer (all)

Chachamah, Wise Woman, teach us how to use wisdom with mercy
Mekonenet, Mourning Woman, show us how to raise our voices for change
Neviah, Prophetess, help us to hear to the voice of the Holy One
Tzovah, Temple Keeper, guide us through the gateways to a new year

Shekhinah, Source of Lives, hear our prayer (all)

Ba’a lot Ov, Shamaness, teach us the forgotten ways
Doreshet, Seeker, show us how to follow the path
Ohevet, Lover, help us to love deeply, fully, and truly
Leitzanit, Sacred Fool, guide us to laugh as we speak truth to power

Shekhinah, Source of Lives, hear our prayer (all)

Oreget, Weaver, Teach us to respect of Houses of Holiness
Show us the connectedness of all things
Help us to weave lives full of meaning
Guide us as we wrap ourselves in the fabric of a new year

Shekhinah, Source of Lives, hear our prayer (all)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

By Kohenet Ketzirah haMa'agelet
Based on the 13 Sacred Pathways of Shekhinah, based on Kohenet teachings

Shekhinah, M’kor Chayeinu was created as an alternative phrase to Avinu Malkeinu by R’Yehoram Mazor

Gratitude Reflections
Source : https://www.bekahstarrart.com/
The Prophetess





The Prophetess
By Kohenet Bekah Starr


Speak truth to power, inside and beyond. Speak clearly from the depths of being, illuminate the darkest places 
so truth can be known.   What is your truth?

Gratitude Reflections

On Solo Prayer

By Kohenet Shamirah aka Sarah Chandler

The following essay was written in summer 2020 as an introduction to the Azazel Chapbook. It is meant to help the reader reflect on and be inspired to spend some or all of Yom Kippur in solo prayer. 

Concentric circles, familiar tunes, simple liturgy, candles, sitting on the floor. This is a snapshot of havdallah, the brief Saturday night ceremony to mark the end of shabbat. In my teens, it was always my favorite ritual. I felt close to those around me, knew what to expect, and could count on a feeling of closeness and connection. 

Raised in an active Reform congregation with a large youth group, all of my entryways to prayer were in groups. I thrived at Eisner, my Jewish overnight camp where we had daily prayers each night ‘by unit.’ I remember getting to college directly after camp and counting the days until shabbat, because then I could finally pray again. And yet, there were dozens of classmates in my dorm who prayed on weekdays. Sometimes they joined a minyan, sometimes they prayed on their own. Once one of them brought me along to the Orthodox minyan on campus - even though the words were familiar, the aesthetic of gender-segregated seating and rushed Hebrew turned me off. 

It wasn’t until after college that I tried out the practice of solo prayer. Active in my Reform Havurah in college and various independent minyanim in my 20s, we spent most of the week planning and organizing to produce a particular style and flavor of shabbat gatherings. It didn’t really occur to me that I would engage with prayer outside of a minyan - a quorum of 10 “adults” over the age of 13. 

My grandma once asked me if I wanted anything from a stack of books with Hebrew titles she had on her shelf. Most of them I already owned, except for one - it was titled “ tekhines ” and had “Mrs. Averbuch” in penciled script on the inside cover. Mrs. Averbuch was my namesake - my great grandmother after whom I was named; she passed away ten years before I was born. I knew her as “Bubbe Sarah.” I knew this book was special, not just because it was a women’s prayerbook in Yiddish, but because Bubbe Sarah had actually used it for her prayers. See this page for more about Yiddish tekhines & a series of sample prompts. 

Praying solo at home was the norm for women like Bubbe Sarah, because for centuries, public prayer has prioritized those who “count” in the minyan. Women were not encouraged to participate in communal life, as the rabbis of the Talmud say, to exempt them from the obligation. In other words, to enable them to focus on the obligations of the home and the family. I used to feel sorry for those women stuck at home and alienated from communal life. More recently, especially during quarantine times, I have been yearning to learn from them. 

My first deep encounter with solo prayer came on a night hike in the woods of Isabella Freedman, while teaching as an outdoor educator with Teva Learning Center. Our leader Nili Simhai wove together chant, midrash (storytelling of sacred text), and meditation instructions. I felt energized in my body and was able to relax in a way that enabled me to connect with spirit - with an ‘inner’ world. 

Since those Teva days, I have experimented with solo prayer in the basement of Yeshivat Hadar, my living room couch, a hotel room in the Irish countryside, the balcony of my Jerusalem apartment, and even a narrow alley behind a falafel restaurant in Ramallah. And yet, the settings that best enabled me to really connect with the divine, as opposed to just get through a certain number of pages or prayers, were almost always in nature. 

These past six months, March - August 2020, living alone in a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn during a pandemic, I have spent a great deal of time in solo prayer. It has not been easy. Even when leading or following along with a group on zoom, there are often extra layers that make it challenging to fully drop into the experience. The semblance of community, sometimes called “communality,” is simultaneously comforting and alienating. 

I think of my Bubble Sarah talking to her idea of G!d from her kitchen table. What was she grateful for? What did she request in her prayers? Who was on her list of people in need of healing? Were there kids trying to interrupt and distract her, or did she save her conversations with G!d for when they were asleep? Yes, she was alone, but she was praying on behalf of her family, her community, the whole world. 

When I go to the roof, to the park, to the river, to the woods, to the ocean - while I don’t have that same connected feeling of concentric circles of my youth - I feel whole. The air is coming through me and we are one. My skin absorbs the sun rays. My being is grounded with these rocks. Dew glistens around me as sweat beads appear and evaporate. The trees and the wind are my prayer partners. Even as I am yearning to sing with other humans, I am so grateful to sing surrounded by creation. The words and feelings and sounds - everything I put into the prayers, emanate out through these beings. The prayers go farther and I go deeper. 

Launching in September 2020, the Azazel Chapbook is a new resource for Yom Kippur Musaf (midday prayers).  It will include adaptations of the mahzor for individual prayer in nature, as well as how to gather a small “not-a-minyan” group for safe outdoor Yom Kippur rituals. Visit this page for a free download. 

Gratitude Reflections
Source : Kohenet Rev. Dr. Claudia Hall

Kol Nidre
By Kohenet Rev. Dr. Claudia Hall

 


Person says (individually or in unison)    
Every year. Every year I make so many promises. 
Promises to myself: to lose or gain weight, to eat better, sleep enough. The list is endless. 
Promises to others: to be kinder, to express love more, to get angry less. The list is endless. 
Promises to God: to be a better Jew, a better human being, that this is the year I will get my act together and stop doing things I know are hurtful, to only do the things I know     are helping to heal the world. The list is endless.
Every year. Every year I break so many promises, often breaking promises in the same     breath I make them.
I regret so many things. Every sweet moment spoiled by my temper. Every chance to say a     kind word, do a kind deed, be a good example that I failed at for so many reasons. 
I regret not doing more good. I regret causing so much harm.

Shekinah, Eternal One, Empress of Heaven and my heart, please forgive me for all the ways I have failed to radiate love and healing this year. Forgive me for the ways I have failed to grow into my own potential. Help me to forgive myself.
Congregation (or family, or individual, depending on the gathering) responds three times
You are seen. You are heard. You are known. You are forgiven. 

All respond together
Amen, and Amen.
 

Gratitude Reflections
Source : Emily Rose Antflick

Interpretation of Mourner's Kaddish 
By Emily Rose Antflick

יִתְגַּדַּל וְיִתְקַדַּשׁ שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא
Growing in holiness, we inhale and breathe tiny human words 
Into the immensity of sacred spacetime

אָמֵן
Amen

בְּעָלְמָא דִּי בְרָא כִרְעוּתֵהּ וְיַמְלִיךְ מַלְכוּתֵהּ בְּחַיֵּיכון וּבְיומֵיכון וּבְחַיֵּי דְכָל בֵּית יִשרָאֵל בַּעֲגָלָא וּבִזְמַן קָרִיב, וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן
In this breathing moment and all the sunsets to come
As trees broaden in ring and root, and raindrops carve boulders to sand
As human languages are born and changed and silenced
We say: Amen

אָמֵן
Amen

יְהֵא שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא מְבָרַךְ לְעָלַם וּלְעָלְמֵי עָלְמַיָּא
May the ripple of these blessings
Be felt for infinite lifetimes

יִתְבָּרַךְ וְיִשְׁתַּבַּח וְיִתְפָּאַר וְיִתְרומַם וְיִתְנַשּא וְיִתְהַדָּר וְיִתְעַלֶּה וְיִתְהַלָּל שְׁמֵהּ דְּקֻדְשָׁא. בְּרִיךְ הוּא 
May geodes and damselflies, 
Soft fur, dark berries, glowing plankton
Be marveled at, praised, adored
For their own sake
And we say: bless it all!

בריך הוא
Bless it all!

לְעֵלָּא לְעֵלָּא מִכָּל בִּרְכָתָא וְשִׁירָתָא תֻּשְׁבְּחָתָא וְנֶחֱמָתָא דַּאֲמִירָן בְּעָלְמָא. וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן
Every song, every blessing, every compassionate utterance
Rises high and sinks deep, expands and contracts
And reverberates beyond our time on this planet
And we say: Amen

אָמֵן
Amen

יְהֵא שְׁלָמָא רַבָּא מִן שְׁמַיָּא וְחַיִּים עָלֵינוּ וְעַל כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְעַל כָּל יוֺשְׁבֵי תֵבֶל. וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן
May the wonder of the night sky make space in my god-wrestling heart
And enfold all the restless hearts in a vast peace
And we say: Amen

אָמֵן
Amen

עושה שָׁלום שָּׁלום בִּמְרומָיו היא תעשה שָׁלום עָלֵינוּ וְעַל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְעַל כָּל יוֺשְׁבֵי תֵבֶל וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן
May all the cycles of my life and of all our human lives
Echo the easeful orbit of the celestial bodies
And we say: Amen

אָמֵן
Amen

Gratitude Reflections
Source : Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman: www.rabbishoshana.com
Coming Home


Coming Home by Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman

 

1. Tekia! (One long blast)
My toddler cuddles in my lap, shy in the backyard of new friends.
“Look Abraham!” I say. “Look, who is this tree?”
He peeks out and his face breaks into a smile.“Ah-buh-VI-tay!” 
“And who is this, with the sharp needles?”
“Spooce!” he says.
Shyness forgotten under the branches of old friends, 
Abraham squirms off my lap and explores the sandbox.


2. T’ru’ah! (Three wailing blasts)
When I commit myself fully to the personhood all around me -
the agency and the uniqueness of trees, especially -
a pervasive loneliness lifts, and I am folded back into Her
with a welcome as warm as sunlight in July.
So I encourage my son’s love of trees and we learn their names
like kids learn the names of trucks or dinosaurs
because I believe it will save his soul - and mine.
To crawl out of the loneliness of humans-are-the-only-people 
takes intention. 
It takes tolerating the heartbreak
of what is happening to other kinds of people.
It takes bearing the ecstatic joy of belonging again.

3. Sh’evarim! (nine staccato blasts)
I leave behind the pronoun it and never give the burden to my son,
instead massaging English into a new grammar that I hope will be his native tongue.
She has grown new buds. He is giving us shade. Who smells so good in the garden?
We leave it behind in the wreckage of the industrial age
And pick up she, he, they, someone, and who like smooth stones 
To hold in our pockets on the long hike towards a new paradigm.


4. Tekia G’dola! (One very long blast)
In Hebrew the word for God is used as a noun
But is really a verb that means is, was and will be all at once.
In Potawatomi there is a unique verb that means to be a tree
And another verb like it for every natural thing
Because we are not things but beings,
conjugations of a living God.


5. A Still, Small Voice
“Mama, what dis tree called?”
Abraham reaches for the beech’s branch on our walk.
“Mama, I wanna hold his hand.”


 

Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman is a mother, wife, daughter, sister and aunt. She serves as the Director of Professional Development at Hebrew College in Newton, MA. Find her blog, music and more at rabbishoshana.com.  Photo printed with permission of author.

Gratitude Reflections
Source : https://devotaj.com/kesharim-kdoshim/tishrei-mussar-achrayut/

Achrayut (אחריות) Spiritual Responsibility 
By Kohenet Ketzirah haMa’agelet (Devotaj Sacred Arts)


In my naming of the moons, Tishrei is the moon of gathering. We gather as a tribe and as families, and we gather our ancestors back to us. It is also the month of the High Holy Days, a time when we take responsibility for our souls as individuals as well as collectively as a community. Tishrei is also the month where we celebrate the critical autumn harvest that would have meant life or death, in ancient days (and still does in many places). While the simple definition of the soul-trait for Tishrei,  Achrayut (אחריות), is “responsibility,” it means more than just being accountable for success or failures of your own decisions. The deeper layer of Achrayut(אחריות) is knowing that we are called to address the needs of others. 


“Just as my ancestors planted trees for me, I too am planting trees for my descendants” 
Taanit 23a.15


Through the Netivah of the month, the G’virah (queen/matriarch/warrior), we can see that responsibility is more than just taking care of yourself. A queen must know how to take responsibility for those whose lives, health, safety with which she is entrusted. She must also know how to delegate and allow others to bear some of the responsibility of caring for the community. We can learn more about the lessons of achrayut (אחריות) through a true Jewish G’virah ancestor: Doña Gracia Nasi. She was one the most powerful women of Renaissance Europe and you’ve probably never heard anything about. She was a converso (forced to pretend she was Catholic), whose family was one of the wealthiest banking families in Europe. Her family was expelled from Spain, then Portugal and then landed in Italy before she eventually moved to Turkey. When her husband died very young, she took control of the family business and the task of caring for the other conversos around her – both in body and spirit. When you are looking for G’virah inspiration, and the layers of what it can mean to embody, building a relationship with this ancestress may be of great service.


“Embodied Presence: rooted in the earth while open and receiving from above. “
Kohenet Judith Idit Breier


The word G’virah is also closely connected to the word Gevurah, which is the soul-trait of strength/boundaries. This is how we learn that we should not give more than we can. “Being” responsible and “taking” responsibility are two ways to engage with Achrayut (אחריות). Both have a strong sense of boundaries, but different connotations.


I am reminded each day that I render decisions that affect people concretely and that I owe them constant and complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives.
Hon. Sonia Sotomayor


When we look at the Netivah and middah (soul-trait) that is connected across the wheel of the year from achrayut (אחריות) and the G’virah — we see the Na’arah (Maiden) and the soul-trait of joy. I find this such a good reminder that it’s easy when we are in a situation where we feel responsible that we lose our sense of joy. This is when a responsibility becomes a burden. This sacred connection across the wheel of the year can serve as a reminder and a tool, to continue to infuse our leadership with joy and to find joy in our leadership.
 
Tishrei and its soul-trait achrayut (אחריות), ask us to look at our spiritual commitments. What are our personal spiritual responsibilities and our collective responsibilities? Tzitzit are a visible reminder of our spiritual responsibilities. Tzitzit are the fringes that one sees on the corners of a Tallit, prayer shawl, or Canfot (Kohenet prayer shawl) and that some Jews also wear at all times on a special under-garment called a tallit-katan. I’ve had a practice for the past few years of cutting them off of my Canfot between Rosh Hashanah and re-tying them before Yom Kippur. It’s a way of actively acknowledging and re-committing to my spiritual practice and transforming the spiritual into something physical and embodied.
 
As you explore achrayut (אחריות) responsibility, find your ‘tzitzit’ – literally or figuratively. How can you take what is in your mind, soul, body and manifest it? What reminders will serve you well? What do you need reminding of? And regardless of your choice, let it be done with joy.
 

Gratitude Reflections
Source : https://devotaj.com/oracledeck/
Embrace Your Power

This card from the Netivot Wisdom Oracle is the first published oracle deck based directly on the teachings of Kohenet: The Hebrew Priestess Institute.  This card, the G’virah – Queen/Matriarch/Warrior is from the Vessel suit. The Vessels are manifestations of Divine in human form. This may be work we do on behalf of the Divine, or ways the Divine appears in our waking/sleeping dreams – and in those all around us. The card is an invitation to:  embrace the fullness of your power.


Learn more about the Netivot Wisdom Oracle at https://devotaj.com/oracledeck/

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