Glory and the Swallow

Ps. 30:13, discussed in several post here, appears in Perek Shira, a long, ancient hymn to creation in which the earth, ocean, lightening bolts, dew, and many creatures each speak a verse from Tanakh. Many of the quotations are from Psalms, but also Job, Song of Songs, the Prophets, and other texts. Ps. 30:13 is attributed to the swallow:

The Swallow is saying, “So that my soul shall praise You, and shall not be silent, God my Lord, I shall give thanks to You forever.” [30:13]
— Chapter 4, Perek Shira

Links to the full text in Hebrew and English and a few more details below.

In “Glory versus Silence,” the most recent post in this series, I asked if we can find our own glory if others are silenced, given that our liberation and joy is bound up together. I confess that I had in mind human “others.” Perek Shira reminds me that my liberation and joy is also bound up with with the rest of Creation….And this image reminds me that praise and prayer come in many formats and languages.

Golondrina


Psalm 30, because of its language about healing and rescue, is often linked with prayers related to these concerns, as is Perek Shira. “El Sabor del Rimon,” the blog offering the beautiful series of images linked to Perek Shira, also shares reflections on many related topics. Among those are thoughts on prayers for healing when they do not appear to be answered in the way that was hoped. One teaching suggests that such prayers might be helping someone else in the community — which brings us back to the concept that we are all connected and no one’s liberation, joy, or healing happens in a vacuum.


18 of 30 on Psalm 30
As a National Novel Writing Month Rebel, I write each day of November while not aiming to produce a novel. This year I focus on Psalm 30 (“Thirty on Psalm 30”) in the hope that its powerful language will help us through these days of turmoil and toward something new, stronger and more joyful, as individuals and as community. Whole series (so far)…. Look for this not-necessarily-novel writing project to extend into Chanukah, which begins just as NaNoWriMo ends, and apologies to anyone who is bothered by the strange posting schedule.


NOTE
The entire “Chapter of Song,” translated by Aharon N. Varady and R. Natan Slifkin, as well as some introductory material from a 1967 facsimile edition, appears at Open Siddur. The text and similar translation is also on Sefaria, without the introduction, in another format. (The psalms citation to the Swallow’s verse is wrong there — if anyone knows how to correct it, please advise or just contact Sefaria.)
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Perek Shira Saved
There is also a custom, among some Jews, to recite Perek Shira for 40 days in hopes of an engagement, or help with business problems, as well as for healing. Some include in their intentions a promise to publish positive results….

…Seems to me I recall Catholics did something similar with prayers to St. Anthony, maybe, with praise published in the classifieds. (Anyone know about this?) Photo above came from Judaism StackExchange.
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More on Monsters and Storytelling

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Exploring Babylon Chapter 20.1

A Monster Chronology
On March 15, I watched author Junot Díaz interact with a room full of youngsters, introducing his new book, Islandborn (Dial Books for Young Readers), discussing the writing process, and exploring the concept of “monsters.” I subsequently told everyone who would listen about how much I’d enjoyed seeing the students and the author respond to one another and how exciting it was to hear their conversation.

In our brief interview after the book event, I was really struck with the way Díaz answered my question about addressing monsters with young readers: “I don’t think they need to hear anything from me about the monsters they face….If their lives are anything like mine, they know.” It seemed clear he was including very personal monsters as well as the kind that took over “the Island” in his book and in real life. For better or worse, though, I left this topic right there and shifted focus to public libraries, which was the issue I’d been sent to cover.

I filed my story, “Junot Díaz, Monsters, and Ward 7,” in late March, and it appears in the April edition of East of the River magazine. I shared related thoughts in a post here, “Monsters, Exile, and Storytelling.” And then, a week ago (4/9/18), The New Yorker published a piece of personal history from Díaz: “The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma” — a heart-breaking, powerful, brave, healing story of abuse and returning to self (April 16 print issue).

Monsters’ Defeat

In the week since Díaz’s personal history piece was posted on-line, I have found myself returning again and again to the way I saw Díaz address young readers who wanted details about the specific monster in Islandborn or answers about monsters more generally. Look, he told them several times, returning their attention again and again to one spread in the book: Look at the way the monster was defeated, through people joining together.

Islandborn

(c) Diaz & Espinosa.Islandborn. Dial 2018.

That’s what he told me, afterward, too:

The key is to help [young readers] confront and work through their experiences [with monsters], forge friendships and solidarities.

And a version of that is what he tells us in “The Silence”:

I was fortunate. I had friends around me ready to step in. I had good university insurance. I stumbled upon a great therapist….

He also explains in “The Silence” a little of how his children’s book and his decision to share his personal story relate:

Over the last weeks, that gnawing sense of something undone has only grown, along with the old fear—the fear that someone might find out I’d been raped as a child. It’s no coincidence that I recently began a tour for a children’s book I’ve published and suddenly I’m surrounded by kids all the time and I’ve had to discuss my childhood more than I ever have in my life. I’ve found myself telling lies, talking about a kid that never was. He never checks the locks on the bedroom doors four times a night, doesn’t bite clean through his tongue. The cover stories are returning. There are even mornings when my face feels stiff.

There will undoubtedly be more to say — from the perspectives of literature, sociology, or other fields — on Islandborn and “The Silence.” There is definitely more to say about trauma and storytelling, in- and beyond #ExploringBabylon. There is much more to discuss, for example, around the popular academic theory that trauma affects so much of the telling, and omissions, around the Babylonian exile. In addition, the period of the Omer — between Passover and the Revelation-focused holiday of Shavuot — has related undertones.

For now: Immense gratitude to Junot Díaz for his writing and his in-person teaching, for his bravery and his compassion; and wishes for continued healing to him and to all in need.

— On this 16th day of the omer, making two weeks and two days

Diaz_Book1

Junot Díaz shares Islandborn at Capitol View Library in Northeast DC. 3/15/18. (Photo: V. Spatz)

Diaz_Students

Junot Díaz discusses “monsters” and other topics with students from Ward 7 in Washington, DC. 3/15/18. (Photo: V. Spatz)

MiShebeirach for Circles of Pain

bullet_hole

photo: Treona Kelty

Introduction: Every bullet leaves pain in circles rippling outward, like the diameter of the bomb the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai once described. Amichai’s bomb extends from 30 centimeters to the immediate range of dead and wounded, out to a solitary mourner “far across the sea,” finally encompassing “the entire world in the circle.” (Chana Bloch’s translation.)

Monday’s shooting on Benning Road killed Ayana McAllister, 18, home from college on spring break, and injured her roommate, Aqueelah Brown, 19, who was visiting. It traumatized Ayana’s sister, N’Daja, 19, who was also present. Friends and acquaintances suffer in ripples outward from two family circles that will never be the same, from school communities forever changed, and from Fort Chaplin Apartments, where such shootings are too commonplace. And somewhere in that web of sorrow and confusion are neighboring toddlers who experience, without knowing in any conscious way, the calculations their caregivers make every time they leave the house.

Note: In Jewish tradition, “Mi Shebeirach” [“May the one who blessed…”] prayers use a formula that calls on memory and relationship, a personal-divine history of sorts, to make a request of God. Traditions vary today and have varied throughout history regarding timing and content of such prayers, but requests for healing are a common use in most traditions. There are many articles on the topic. Here’s one interesting piece from Sh’ma written not long after the death of Debbie Friedman (February 23, 1951 – January 9, 2011). Friedman, singer/song-writer and faculty member of the Hebrew Union College, created a musical “Mi Shebeirach” that was extremely popular in the late 20th Century and had a strong influence on how the prayer is perceived and used.

See also related prayers and meditations

Mi Shebeirach for Circles of Pain

May the one who blessed our ancestors,
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah,
and our extended family,
Lot and his kin, Hagar, Ishmael, Esau, Bilhah and Zilpah
– a clan that knew its share of trauma and grief –
bless and heal those recovering from violence, loss, and terror.
May the Blessed Holy One be filled with compassion
for all those experiencing ripples of violence.
May God swiftly send all who need it a renewal of body and spirit.
May our community health be restored
and our collective strength revived.
And let us say, Amen.

Prayers, Advocacy, and #RippleEffect

Continuing the discussion, at “If a corpse be found…”, about the need for new approaches to meeting our communal responsibilities.

Some possible responses to the trauma and tragedy of multiple murders, particularly in Washington, DC —

Prayer

Residents in some of the most affected neighborhoods of the District are asking for prayers, calling on everyone in and around the city to #Pray4DC, as one united town. If you know others who engage in intercessory prayer, please pass along this prayer concern. And, however you approach such requests yourself, please keep the need for “one DC” in mind.

Also, if you know members or clergy in other congregations who might be willing to prayerfully acknowledge DC’s losses to homicide — as Temple Micah has begun to do — please ask them to sign up for #SayThisName.

Learn and Advocate

Learn a little about child trauma and how it affects learning and then advocate for trauma-sensitive schools – particularly in Washington, DC. The District also needs trauma-response units to help young people on the scene cope with the violence they too often face.

You will find more background and links to several pertinent resources in this recent feature report from the Education Town Hall.)

For DC residents, please note particularly, that the DC Council held a roundtable on this topic in June and should be poised to act.

Playing for Change

This one involves the Grateful Dead — some Temple Micah (DC) people know I hate to let a summer pass without somehow bringing in the Dead. And those who follow such things know this summer is the Dead’s 50th anniversary….

Ripple Effect Campaign

As we began the Standing Prayer, I mentioned the idea of ripples of pain moving outward from a bomb or a bullet and how kindness and prayer can also have a ripple effect. (See “Prayer in the Midst of Bullets and Bombs“)

The #RippleEffect Campaign — named for the Grateful Dead son, “Ripple” — simply involves engaging in acts of kindness or telling about a how an act of kindness affected you… and then encouraging others to do so as well, creating a kindness ripple.

Part of the effort involves social media, for those interested. But it’s certainly not required for the spreading of kindness, or for doing so with the intention of helping to heal all that is broken in DC and beyond.

Playing for Change Day

2015-bnr-PFC_squareA second goal of the Ripple Effect Campaign is to raise awareness and funds for a project called “Playing for Change” that teaches music and dance to young people around the world, including in the U.S. Playing for Change (PFC) helps youth use music for everything from improving education to resolving conflicts, preserving cultural heritage, and building community, locally, and connections worldwide.

PFC Day — with activities in 61 countries last year — is an annual effort, scheduled this year during the Days of Awe.

Organizers say

This day of music, peace, and change keeps instruments, music instruction, and inspiration flowing to children around the world, … and contributes to positive vibration that connects and inspires us all.

Justice, Justice you shall pursue

The related dvar Torah, “If a corpse be found…”, continues the discussion of ripples — ones of pain, outward from bullets and bombs, and ones of healing.

Is anyone else interested in pursuing a Playing for Change activity in DC and/or the Jewish world?

Exploring Psalm 27 — (1 of 4)

For a little over 200 years, Psalm 27 has been associated with the season of repentance: Some have the custom of reciting this psalm during Days of Awe (10 days), some for the whole month of Elul as well (40 days), and some beginning on Rosh Hodesh Elul and continuing through Hoshana Rabba (51 days). There are several explanations for this association. Most focus on the psalm’s themes; also noted: the expression “were it not” — לוּלֵא — in verse 13 spells Elul — אלול — backward.

Many siddurim include the full psalm somewhere in Psukei D’zimrah (verses of song, in the morning service). Mishkan T’filah includes the single verse, 27:4, for which there are a number of popular tunes (p.662 in “songs and hymns”).
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Blood, Justice, Grief and Healing: A Tale for Two Birthdays

from TransAfrica Forum

from TransAfrica Forum — http://transafrica.org/

This week, Jews begin to move beyond the lowest point of the calendar, a period known as “The Three Weeks,” toward the new year. The Three Weeks focus on prophetic admonishment for our ethical failings, while the seven weeks that follow call for a renewed focus on a “path of justice.”

Nelson Mandela’s birthday, July 18, comes this year just at this point of turning. “Mandela Day,” too, encourages us to move beyond grief into healing action.
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Honoring a Teacher: Hadiya Pendleton

Hadiya Z. Pendleton liked Fig Newtons and performed in a drill team that participated in Obama’s 2013 Inaugural parade. She lived in the Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago, not far from where I lived for several years and where friends still live, not far from the Obama family home. She never reached her 16th birthday, which would have been on June 2. She was gunned down on January 29 [2013], in a public park at 45th & Drexel, apparently caught in a gang-related shooting.
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