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:

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Create a pure heart within me
let my soul wake up in Your light.
Open me to Your Presence;
flood me with Your holy spirit.
Then I will stand and sing out
— Stephen Mitchell, based on Psalm 51
Mishkan T’filah, p.75

Orientation

Orienting the map is the phrase, “From eternity to eternity, You are God [מן העולם ו’עד העולם אתה אל],” from the “Nishmat” prayer, in the Shabbat/Festival morning service. Also near the top of the map, to highlight its influence — like minerals in the hills, carried by rivers and run-off to parts below — is this brief commentary:

Why fixed prayers?
To learn what we should value,
what we should pray for…
— Chaim Stern, p. 437 Mishkan T’filah

This note comes from the prominent liturgist Rabbi Chaim Stern (1930-2001); it was also found in Gates of Prayer (1975) and other Reform prayerbooks.

Connection and Points Beyond

Two rivers, running the length of the heart territory and connecting various regions, begin with “We will rejoice in the words of Your Torah…” and “Bless us, Creator, all of us…” (The first is from the Evening service, before the Shema; the second, from the Morning service, at the close of the Amidah).

The prayers themselves remind us over and over again of connections between prayer, study, and acting for justice in the world. See also, to take just two examples, Max Kadushin’s Worship and Ethics (1963, republished 2001 by Global Publications) and Marcia Prager’s Path of Blessing (NY: Belltower, 1998).

At one edge of the map, the injunction, “Do not stand idly by (Leviticus 19:16), hugs “Hope Harbor.” Farther beyond, outside the heart and its surrounding waters, the terrain is less certain.

 

NOTE

Here’s a link to some background on this project and my whole map. Also linked is information about cordiform maps more generally and about the book suggesting “Personal Geographies.”

The graphic aspect was very helpful to me, but I don’t think it’s necessary to draw or color in order to consider what prayers or texts would play a prominent roll in your own “heart map.”
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Prayer in the Midst of Bullets and Bombs

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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 Max Kadushin asks us to notice that the Amidah (“Standing prayer,” the central prayer of a Jewish service) begins with one opening blessing formula and then proceeds with a series of prayers that use only a closing formula.

…Jewish blessings are frequently structured with an opening and closing formula book-ending the content. The unusual structure of the Amidah, he says, creates a “cascade of blessing,” growing from the first blessing outward….

If everyone on the outer edges of pain ripples
sends blessings inward,
a lot of healing energy
will wend its way toward those most in need…
with most of us in a position
to both send and receive.

Max Kadushin. Worship and Ethics: A Study in Rabbinic Judaism. (NY: Bloch, 1963)


Treona Kelty is founder of Beautiful U Yes U, see also Facebook.
This photo is from their office this summer.

Consequences, part 2 (beyond 26)

We passed the mid-point in the omer journey away from oppression, this week, at the same time that Freddie Gray’s death at the hands of Baltimore police evoked response all across the U.S., inspiring the message: #BlackSpring has begun.

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There is still much for privileged and oppressed people to learn about how the system works to keep some people down and what it will take to undo that system. And we are still weeks away from Revelation at the holiday of Shavuot. But this seems a moment of turnaround. And I think perhaps we can find a pivot point in considering language — as both a potential stumbling block before (all of us) blind and as a tool for finding a new path.

One of my favorite teachers on Jewish prayer, Max Kadushin, offers some hints for a way forward.

Larger Self, Collapsed Time

Kadushin describes Jewish prayer, particularly recitation of a blessing, as “an element in a moral experience,” one that engages an individual’s “larger self.” He notes that many Jewish prayers are in the first person plural, even though the pray-er may not, depending on time and circumstances, have the need expressed in the prayer:

How is it that the individual can regard common needs as “his needs,” even when they are not at the same time his own needs at all?

[In recitation of a blessing] not an actual experience, but the sheer knowledge of a common need of man is now the occasion for an individual’s petition and he regards the common need as his need.

The larger self allows an individual to be aware, poignantly aware, that there are others [for example] who are sick; the awareness is so strong that he associates himself with them, though at the same time retaining his self-identity….Self-identity is retained and material circumstances of the individual have not changed; nevertheless, the self has become larger, more inclusive: large enough to include indefinite others and a consciousness of their needs.
— Max Kadushin, Worship and Ethics: A Study in Rabbinic Judaism. (NY: Bloch, 1963), p.108-109

Kadushin also speaks of prayer collapsing time, so that the travails and delights of the past and a future of blessings we have not yet experienced coalesce in the present. It is in this prayer experience, heavily influenced by language, that the seeds of change are nourished.

We counted 26 on the evening of April 29. Tonight, we count…. Continue Reading