Maintaining Self and Struggle

A meditation linking God’s four-letter name – YHVH (yud-hey-vav-hey) – with the human body/soul can help focus on God’s presence and power in our lives. I have relied on this meditation since Rabbi David Shneyer taught it to me some years ago. The variation presented here, incorporates a teaching from the prophet Micah on what […]

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Map Your Heart Out: A Few Sources

Here, as promised a few days back, are some of the sources that I included in my prayer “heart map”…. Overall structure is formed by two lines from this kavanah [intention] for the Amidah: Create a pure heart within me let my soul wake up in Your light. Open me to Your Presence; flood me […]

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Life, Liberty, and the Promise of Peace

Readers may have noticed a long silence on this blog. But I have not been entirely silent. At start of June 2015, I began an additional blog, #SayThisName, to mark those lost to homicide and police action in the District of Columbia. Since then, I have personally typed out and said aloud the names of […]

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Broken-Heartedness and the Days of Awe

One common, powerful theme of the high holidays is the idea of the broken heart. This is encapsulated prominently in the blowing of the shofar, with its shevarim [shattered] call. (See, e.g., The Shofar as Prayer at My Jewish Learning.) All who hear the ram’s horn — during the preparatory month of Elul and the […]

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“If a corpse be found…”

Chapter 21 of Deuteronomy (Shoftim: Deut 16:18-21:9) tells the Israelites what to do, upon entering the land, “if a corpse be found..the identity of the slayer not being known.” This is the elaborate ritual involving the Red Heifer in which the elders of the nearest town must be prepared to declare, “Our hands did not […]

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Morning: Blessing, with Echo of Gunshots

How lovely are these tents! not far from housing that has seen better days and housing that has seen too many awful ones. I love the place of Your house, reached through streets collecting cigarette butts, the odd chicken wing, echoes of homicide. Through Your abundant love, I enter Your house, where these peaceful walls […]

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Prayer Warm-up: From Self to Community

Part of the early morning warm-up for prayers — along with awareness of our blessings and awakening body, soul, and mind — is moving from what Mishkan T’filah [Reform prayerbook] calls “self-fulfillment” to “social imperatives of community.” And that means beginning to move through the individual joys and concerns that we brought with us to […]

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Prayer in the Midst of Bullets and Bombs

Decades ago, Yehuda Amichai wrote about the diameter of a bomb — thirty centimeters, with circles of pain outward from its center. (English here). Similarly, every bullet leaves pain in circles rippling outward. We also know that kindness has a ripple effect, and many people think prayer works this way, too. The 20th Century rabbi […]

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Praying with Voices of Grief and Struggle

Jewish memorial prayers ask that souls of the departed be bound up among the living. The living help in this process by doing acts of tzedakah – translated as charity, righteousness, or justice – in the name of their departed loved ones. In that spirit, and inspired by my “die-in” experience on December 8, I […]

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