Gathering Sources: Terumah

This is the first of what I hope will be a post per week “gathering sources” from previous material on the weekly Torah portion. This is is response to one reader’s confusion about navigating what is now more than a decade of posts and pages and project and portfolios (depending on WordPress organizational flavor of the season), and to my own realization that I rely on “A Song Every Day,” more and more, to find — and remember — things I cannot.

As it happens, this is the anniversary of my first dvar torah, so it seems a good place to start. In addition, beginning here gives me the opportunity to honor Esther Ticktin (z”l, 1925-2017), who provided moral support for that first presentation, Max Ticktin (z”l, 1922-2016), who spoke while others were “gathering their thoughts,” so I wouldn’t be too freaked out by the silence that followed my remarks; and the Fabrangen community for listening on Shabbat Terumah 5758 (2/28/98) and responding after Max gave folks a moment.

Here is the first drash, “I will meet with you there.” And a follow-up missive in response to a request for my materials.

Here are four posts in an old Weekly Torah series: Great Sources, Great Sources-2, Language and Translation, and A Path to Follow.

And, just for the sake of organization, ultimately, I am including a link to “The wingCatz of Terumah” so it will be with other Terumah resources later on.

Graphic: 1728 illustration of the Ark at the erection of the Tabernacle and the sacred vessels, as in Exodus 40:17-19. By illustrators of the 1728 Figures de la Bible, Gerard Hoet (1648–1733) and others, published by P. de Hondt in The Hague in 1728 –

Police Brutality Memorial Prayers

1

The following prayer, prepared by Virginia Spatz and Rabbi Gerry Serotta, was offered for use during the Yizkor (Memorial) service Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, 5777 at Fabrangen Havurah. It is based on the yizkor prayers of several different Jewish traditions, relying strongly on the notion that acts of tzedakah [righteousness, sometimes translated as “charity”] perpetuate the names — “bind up in the bonds of life” — of the deceased. (jump to PDF version)

For Yizkor:

Consider this reflection for those in our neighborhoods lost to state violence in 5776

yizkorpolicebrutality As we endeavor to return to the Eternal One in these Days of Awe — and into the new year — we carry with us connections to those killed by violence perpetrated in our name in our own country. Among iniquities for which we beg forgiveness is failure to stop police killings, disproportionately affecting the black- and brown-skinned among us, or to address the underlying systemic racism. In this season of return, we ask God to accept our pledges of renewed examination of state power, including militarization of police, and of renewed commitment to human rights for all.

In this Memorial Service, we recall three unarmed black men killed by police in the District last year, along with six other black citizens, and no one of another skin color, killed by police in DC during 5776:

  • James McBride, 74, Sep 29, 2015.
    Unarmed, leaving hospital without signing out. Killed by MedStar Special Police. Death ruled homicide.
  • Alonzo Smith, 27, Nov 1, 2015.
    Unarmed, unexplained circumstances. Killed by Blackout Special Police. Death ruled homicide.
  • Terrence Sterling, 31, Sep 11, 2016.
    Unarmed, shot contrary to protocol/orders. Killed by Metropolitan Police Dept. Death ruled homicide.
  • Marquesha McMillan, 21, Oct 26, 2015.
    Armed with a gun. Killed by Metropolitan Police Department.
  • James Covington, 62, Nov 2, 2015.
    Armed with a gun. Killed by Metropolitan Police Department.
  • Darick Napper, 34, Nov 19, 2015.
    Armed with a knife. Killed by Metropolitan Police Department.
  • Peter John, 36, Feb 1, 2016.
    Armed with a toy gun. Killed by Metropolitan Police Department.
  • Sherman Evans, 63, June 27, 2016.
    Armed with a toy gun. Killed by Metropolitan Police Department.
  • Sidney Washington, Jr., 21, July 4, 2016.
    Part of a July Fourth crowd shooting off fireworks and firearms. Killed by Metro Transit (Special) Police.

O God, full of mercy, Justice of the bereaved and Parent of orphans , take special notice of those lost to state killings in our own country. Master of compassion, shelter under the shadow of Your wings those whose lives ended in violence, often fueled by racial injustice. Grant proper rest for the souls of all who went to their eternal rest through such killings.

May these moments of meditation strengthen the ties linking this community with our most vulnerable and troubled members. I pledge tzedakah/charity to address racial injustices contributing to these deaths. Through such deeds, and through prayer and remembrance, may the souls of the departed be bound up in the bond of life. May they rest in peace forever.

Here is a printable PDF with DC losses included [yizkorreflection5777]
TOP

Surrounded by Big Things: Jonah, Harvey, and Yom Kippur

One of the things we might notice about Jonah is that he’s a little hard to follow: one minute, minding his own business, in his own land, and next thing he’s on the way to Joppa, on the ship, in the hold, tossed out into the sea, in the fish’s belly; then in Nineveh; and finally sitting outside the city arguing with God about a gourd. In honor of Jonah and his varied travels, these remarks go a number of different places, and, in an even deeper homage to Jonah, I can’t really promise that we’ll understand the point in the end. But I do hope it will be an interesting ride.
Continue Reading

Tzipporah’s Eye View at the DC Sermon Slam

I have always lived among priests and prophets. I know that some divine encounters prove more terrifying than illuminating. And I believe there is much to be learned about Revelation by turning away from Sinai’s thunder and lightening.

Consider for a moment that time Miriam and Aaron complained about Moses and his black wife and God responded by covering Miriam with white scales. [Numbers 12:1ff. Tzipporah also appears in Exodus chapters 3, 4, and 18]…


…So, what does this incident tell you about Revelation?

Follow me for a moment on a “tzipporah-eye view,” looking two directions at once to see ahead. [“Tzipporah” = “bird”]

One bird’s eye focuses in on the siblings, without regard to gender. Here are three powerful individuals, all within spitting distance, shall we say, of divine Revelation. Genuine caring and concern between the siblings is evident, and each is deeply committed to community and the evolving Torah.

And yet, this story shows, understanding anyone else’s piece of Revelation – even the teaching of a prophet sibling, whom you love and respect – has always been hard. How much more so must non-siblings in your time work to understand each other’s perspectives!…

Recording from DC’s recent Sermon Slam, a project of Open Quorum. Background notes and sources.
Full text.


Continue Reading

Warp and Weft Sunset

1

This visual midrash combines the sentiment of Debbie Perlman’s new psalm, “Thirty Nine: For Consolidation,” and the text of the yizkor prayers, which ask that our departed loved ones be “bound up in the bonds of life.” It uses a design created by one member of Fabrangen Havurah to “bind up” the memorial threads of hundreds of participants in high holiday services.

YizkorEmbroidery

It began at Fabrangen’s yizkor service on Yom Kippur 5764 (October 2003). At that service, participants were offered an embroidery thread and asked to recall loves ones, calling to mind ways in which our lives already reflect — or might better reflect — what they taught us.

Using a common tune for the “Achat Sha’alti” verses of Psalm 27, we sang the final verse of Perlman’s poem:

You are the warp and the weft;
Braid in this slender thread upon Your loom.
You are the texture and the smooth cloth;
Form me in a running stitch to you.

Each person was asked to “choose at least one action you do or plan to do in memory of a loved one.” Memorial threads were gathered, with the promise that they would be woven into a “a memorial piece, thus weaving those precious, personal memories into a precious, public memorial, as we together seek a ‘pattern of holiness, bound tightly to God’s design’ for ourselves and our community.”

“Warp and Weft” Sunset

Following the service, Fabrangen member Dottie Weintraub drew a colorful sun reflecting on water as it sets as the model for the embroidery. Skilled and novice stitchers began weaving those threads to match the picture. Several of us gathered to recall loved ones while we took turns stitching. Many others took long solo hours working on the sunset.

For several years, the partially completed version graced Yom Kippur services. Finally, Dottie took the piece with her, when she moved to California, finished it, had it framed and shipped it back to DC. The “Warp and Weft” Sunset appeared at Yom Kippur services in 5770. It has since resided at the home where Fabrangen West meets and makes periodic trips to other Fabrangen service locations when yizkor is recited.

At the Yom Kippur service which first included the completed embroidery, Deb Kolodny led us in singing

I’m holding on
Got my eye on the road and my heart in a song
Whatever happened is already gone,
I won’t let go.
I won’t let go
— Sonia Ruttstein

With deep gratitude to Dottie for the final effort — she didn’t let go — and to Deb who helped launch the effort, co-leading the 5764 service, to every member of the community whose original promises of action went into those threads, to all who added their loving stitches and to all whose memories form the sunset and its reflection…

UPDATE: Deb Kolodny, now a rabbi living in Oregon, can be found here, and Dottie Weintraub and her artwork can be found in California, here, for example.

The less mobile Memorial Quilt continues to honor the memory of departed Fabrangeners and loved ones.



Debbie Perlman (1951-2002)
“Thirty Nine: For Consolidation,”
Flames to Heaven: New Psalms for Healing and Praise

Twine my life to life, O Eternal,
Plied strength on strength,
To nurture my heart and renew my soul.

Join me in a partnership with You.
Tightly wrap my days in duties for Your sake.

Spin around me the worlds of Yours sages,
The dreams of Your children,
Rub my face with the rough weave of women’s stories
To strengthen my faint pulse

Bind me to Your Torah,
Four bright blue corners
Knotted together for Your glory.

You are the warp and the weft;
Braid in this slender thread upon Your loom.
You are the texture and the smooth cloth;
Form me in a running stitch to you.

BACK