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:

heart_corner

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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Heart Map Background

Jill K. Berry says the heart map project in her Personal Geographies: Explorations in Mixed-Media Mapmaking was inspired by cordiform maps of the 16th Century and later. (See “Covenant and Liturgy” as well as subsequent posts.)

a tiny bit of background —
In most common maps meridians, lines of longitude, are straight. When meridians are curved, instead, the result is a “cordiform,” or heart-shaped, map. (Read more on pseudoconic projections here.)

Geo Lounge notes that such maps were used in the Renaissance era, and that this was “closely tied to the concept of inner emotions affecting the physical world.” (Citation: Jerry Brotton. A history of the world in twelve maps. New York: Viking, 2013)

Here’s a lovely contemporary example, shared with Creative Commons license:

512px-werner_projection_sw

World Werner Projection. Daniel R. Strebe     CC BY-SA 3.0

“The world on Werner projection. 15° graticule. Imagery is a derivative of NASA’s Blue Marble summer month composite with oceans lightened to enhance legibility and contrast. Image created with the Geocart map projection software.”

Look for more on heart maps as “type your heart out” month continues.

NaBloPoMo NOTE: “A Song Every Day” signed up for National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to daily posting for the month of November. Circumstances intervened on some dates. This post is hereby declared, by way of catching up, the official post of November 6.

Wise Traits

Ancient Jewish thought recognized seven traits of a wise person:

A sage

  1. does not speak before one who is wiser* than he;
  2. does not interrupt the words of his fellow;
  3. does not answer impetuously;
  4. asks relevant questions and gives appropriate answers;
  5. deals with first things first, and last things last;
  6. about something he has not heard he says, “I have not heard”;**
  7. acknowledges the truth.

Pirkei Avot [Verses, or Ethics, of the Fathers] 5:9
This translation is borrowed from the Koren Mesorat HaRav Siddur

This means, Rabbi Adam Scheier said in an essay a few years back:

In other words, a wise person is not only defined by acquired knowledge. A wise person is one with whom it is easy to have a productive conversation; a wise person is thoughtful, responds on topic, is sufficiently open-minded to entertain new ideas; a wise person might even consider the possibility that he or she is wrong.

NOTES

*Many translations say “older and wiser” — Hebrew is “מי שגדל ממנו בחכמה” — with some adding that the “superior one” should speak first.
**Another translation: “admit their ignorance.”

NaBloPoMo NOTE: “A Song Every Day” signed up for National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to daily posting for the month of November. Circumstances intervened on some dates. This post is hereby declared, by way of catching up, the official post of November 5.
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Map Your Heart Out, part 1

“Pursuing Racial Justice: The Jewish Underpinnings of Anti-Racism Work,” held recently at Adas Israel (DC) and featuring Yavilah McCoy of Visions-Inc and Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block of Bend the Arc, offered many insights and challenges. I plan to share some of what I gained in readable portions over the course of the next few days. I begin — as Pirkei Avot (5:9) tells us sages should do — with “first things first [al rishon rishon].”

Asked how to avoid burnout in social justice work, especially in these trying times, McCoy said “first, you need a practice.” She stressed the importance of a daily practice for centering the self and for awareness. Failing to take time each day to check in with ourselves and understand where we are usually results in whatever we haven’t paused to address spilling out into the work. In addition, both McCoy and Kimelman-Block said, a daily pause/practice offers an opportunity to notice signs of burnout and arrange rest and healing measures.

heart Some of us rely on the Jewish liturgy for daily practice. Earlier this month, I shared a “heart map” focusing on some of the Jewish prayers most central to me and to my understanding of how prayer helps Judaism to work in the world. (See “Covenant and Liturgy.”)

My map was created in adaptation of one of the projects in Personal Geographies: Explorations in Mixed-Media Mapmaking by Jill K. Berry. Some readers may be interested in creating their own prayer maps, in some kind of graphic form, in outline, or in prose.

I found the exploration behind my map helpful in understanding which prayers I find essential and why. I recommend the process.

A bit more on cordiform maps here.

More on the texts I chose for my own map coming soon.

Facing Race. We’ve Seen This

The “Facing Race” conference concludes on November 12. For those reading early in the day, there’s still time to participate via LiveStream. For those checking in later, there’s useful information at this conference link.

Calls for Jewish Signatures

“To the millions of immigrants, Muslims, people of color, LGBT people, women, people with disabilities, and everyone who is threatened by the President-Elect and his administration, we want you to know: we are with you…”

“We’ve Seen This Before” — open letter; Jews are encouraged to sign.

No Time for Neutrality — rabbinic/cantorial letter from Truah

A few bits background interest:

“CAIR Calls on President-Elect Trump to Repudiate Attacks on Muslim Women by His Supporters” —press release

The 74 — Make Schools Safe Again

Race Forward statement on the National Election

Teapots in Babylon

“This is what travelers discover: that when you sever the links of normality and its claims, when you break off from the quotidian, it is the teapots that truly shock. Nothing is so awesomely unfamiliar as the familiar that discloses itself at the end of a journey.” This week, I’ve been hearing Psalm 137 among these lines from Cynthia Osick’s “The Shock of Teapots” (Metaphor & Memory. NY: Knopf, 1989). The result sounds like this:

How is that we have a teapot,
symbol of normalcy, and even comfort,
amidst all this confusion and fear?
Are we to enjoy and share
cups of tea here
in this strange, oppressive land?

The opening lines of Psalm 137 are primarily about the challenge of expressing joy, and making music in particular, distant from Zion, mocked and alienated from oppressors. But I think we also hear something like the “shock of teapots” — normalcy, even comfort, or celebration here!?

By the rivers of Babylon,
there we sat down,
yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
There, upon the willows, we hung up our harps.
For there our captors asked of us words of song,
and our tormentors asked of us mirth:
‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’
How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a foreign land?
–Ps. 137:1-4, translation sort of a mishmash based on Old JPS
Complete Old JPS and Hebrew here

MicahNext12Of course, many people, in the US and elsewhere, have long been conscious of living in Babylon. So the puzzlement and shock expressed by so many in this past week is a little surreal to some.**

My personal connection to the language of “Babylon” has been growing for some time as the central liberation story of Judaism — being freed from Egypt — seems unsuited to circumstances where Jews, as individuals often profiting from White privilege, and as a people are too often Pharaoh. See, e.g., “April 22: 1968 and 2016” (Who can say we’ve actually left Egypt?). The “Trouble to See” series from which graphic at right is taken, was published over the summer. And a few years back, “A Mountain Called Zion,” offered thoughts on “Zion” and how close/distant it is, as well as a nice link to Jimmy Cliff’s “Waters of Babylon.”

Most importantly for further exploration, this blog welcomes comments and guest blogs from Jews and non-Jews.

Normalcy on Good Hope Road

Yesterday I posted the following on Facebook:

OK, so I’m walking down Good Hope Road in Southeast DC and there’s this guy standing on the sidewalk with his car doors open blaring that song “FDT” — the one which goes, “…I like white folks, but I don’t like you…” with a chorus of “[expletive deleted] [president elect].” Cheered me right up.
#AnacostiaUnmapped #LoveDC #NotmyPresident

One friend, not a DC resident, asked “why?” and it took me some time to come up with a response other than “maybe you had to be there.” What warmed my heart, I now think, was the normalcy of the scene for Good Hope Road, although the place is undergoing gentrification. Moreover, the song was not something written in a flurry on election night. Folks had been playing the piece, from the rapper/writer YG, for some time:

“You gave us your reason to be President, but we hate yours.”

They were playing it on November 7 and they were playing it on November 10.  The sentiments — which are to the point, if crude (“FDT“) — hadn’t changed with election results. It was a little like discovering a teapot at the end of a journey.

Time to Go!

In one common cycle of Torah readings, this is the week of Lekh Lekha [“Go!” or “Go (to/for yourself),” often transliterated Lech Lecha]. And so, whether this week was a shock to, or a confirmation of, your reality, events are calling us to embark on a new journey, toward better individual and collective selves…maybe even out of Babylon.

**NOTE

Many posts on this blog are “political” in plenty of ways, but direct attention to electoral politics is a rarity. There is no getting around it this week, though. And, here is a powerful and cogent exploration of what was meant by “surreal” above:

 For a lot of people of color, this election was really about trying to find the lesser of two evils. America asked us: “How do you prefer your racism — blatant or systemic?”

— “On ‘Woke’ White People advertising their shock that racism just won a presidency

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Foreign and Familiar

In this week’s Torah portion, two of the central characters receive new names: Abram becomes Abraham (Gen 17:4), and Sarai, Sarah (17:15). God announces this to Abraham as part of a statement of the covenant between them. Both Abraham אַבְרָהָם and Sarah שָׂרָה now have a “ה” (hey) in their names. Thus, each now carries a letter from God’s four-letter name yud-hey-vav-hey, which is fodder for much commentary.

Rabbi Michal Shekel notes, in addition, that Hagar’s name was always spelled with a hey: “There was no reason to change her name, because she already had a measure of the Divine presence.” Shekel adds:

One can read the tradition as saying that Hagar is an outsider, the other, alien to God, by interpreting her name as Hey gar, “Adonai is foreign.” Yet all her actions in chapter 16 prove that this is not so….Hagar is no stranger to God; she is comfortable with God’s presence in a way that is less formal than God’s relationship with Abraham or Sarah….Hagar fulfills the destiny of her name, hey gar, “Adonai dwells” with her.
— from “What’s in a Name?” Lech Lecha
The Women’s Torah Commentary. Jewish Lights, 2000

Might both — the foreignness and the familiarity of God — be true, for us if not for Hagar?