IT IS UPON US: Writings From The Time Of The Pandemic

By Trisha Arlin

© 2020, 2021 Patricia Arlin

Except for a few pieces written since the election of 2016 (that fit in well here), everything was written in 2020 and 2021.

*All pieces noted with an asterick were written while participating in the Bayit Liturgical Artists project:  https://yourbayit.org/liturgical-arts/

 


A Blessing For Washing Hands During a Pandemic

As we wash our hands

We pray,

Blessed is the Soul of the Universe,

Breathing us in and breathing us out.

May our breaths continue

And our health and the health of all

Be preserved

In this time of sickness and fear of sickness.

Holy Wholeness,

We take as much responsibility for it as we can

By observing the obligation to wash our hands,

Thoroughly:

For as long as it takes to say this prayer.

Amen


Blessing For Wearing a Mask And Other Obligations

 Breath of Life

We welcome our obligations to the community 

To do our best 

To protect them

By keeping our distance and

By wearing our masks. 

It is an honor to be able to be of such service

With so little effort. 

And, Ruach HaOlam,

We welcome our obligations to ourselves

To do our best

To stay healthy 

By washing our hands and

By getting our flu shots. 

It is a relief to be able to help ourselves

With so little effort. 

We give thanks for these holy obligations.  

We are blessed by them. 

Amen


Fear, Despair (and Faith): The Lily Among The Thorns

…And God said, “In every place where I cause my name to be mentioned, I will come to you and bless you.”
Exodus 20:21


We are all called to hear the Torah read out loud:

To listen to our stories,

Our laws,

Our history,

And Torah.

And sometimes, if we’re want it and we’re lucky,

To God,

However we understand God. 

We ask God to listen to us,

Listen to our Fear.

Today I am called up to look to God for company

In my fear.

I am afraid of our leaders

And I am afraid for the people looking to replace our leaders.

I am afraid of violence.

I am afraid of hate.

I fear the hate I hear towards immigrants, people of color, Jews, the poor,

Towards people who are too old or young,

Towards people of good intent with whom we mildly disagree,

Anyone who is not us.

I am afraid for myself, I am afraid for you, I am afraid for everybody.

I don’t want to deny the fear

That only makes it stronger.

So today I touch the Torah,

I acknowledge the fear.

We acknowledge the fear.


Blessed Holy One-ness,

We are afraid.

And we ask God to listen to us.

To listen to our Despair.

Today I am called up to look to God for company

In my despair.

The enemy is so strong

And we are divided.

We keep losing

And this is no game.

Lives are ruined,

Animals are going extinct,

The planet is on fire,

I miss snow.

Cruelty goes unpunished

And I can’t get away from it.

There’s no point in pretending I don’t feel it.

We all feel it.

No distractions work for long.

It feels hopeless.

Solidarity helps

But the grief won’t go away
And the more I deny it
The worse it gets.

So I touch the Torah

I acknowledge my despair

We acknowledge the despair.

Blessed Holy One-ness,

We are sad.

There is a parable in the Sefer Ha-Aggadah,**

The Book of Legends,

About a king who had a beautiful orchard

Which, when he had to leave for a year,

He left in the hands of a keeper. 

And when the king returned,

The orchard had been terribly neglected,

Overgrown with thorns and thistles.

He was going to tear the orchard down

But looking down at the thorns

He noticed among them

A rose-colored lily.

And the king said

“Because of this lily, let the entire orchard be spared.”

And the rabbis say,

“Likewise the whole world is spared, for the sake of Torah. “

So

Hineni

Here I am

Standing at the foot of Mount Sinai

Looking to God for company

Both metaphorical and real,

Whether I believe in it or not.

And let me tell you something I do.

Once a month

I choose a name to represent what God is for me that day.

And today the name I choose for God is Emunah,

Faith.

I have no faith

Faith is for suckers

But still

We ask God to listen to us,

To listen to our Faith.

Because today I choose Torah.

Today I choose the rule of law.

Today I choose history and science.

Today I choose to resist the pharoah.

Today I choose holy conversations.

Today I choose to heal the world.

Today I choose acts of loving kindness.

Today I choose the wisdom of Yitro, to share the burdens

And today I choose Emunah,
To act AS IF:

As if I am not afraid,

As if I do not despair.

This is not hope

Because hope acknowledges the possibility of failure

And today I choose optimism,

As if I have faith
That I am not alone.

Because God said, “In every place where I cause my name to be mentioned, I will come to you and bless you.”

Blessed One-ness,
Emunah,

Believing, Believer, Believed.


Today we choose to be blessed.

Today we choose the lily among the thorns.Amen



**Legend Of The Jews, page 78
Schocken Books 1992


Every Breath

Inhale. 

Holy Wholeness,

Breath of the universe, 

Ruach HaOlam,

Everywhere

In holy conversation.  

Exhale. 

If every breath is in relationship 

With everything, 

Then perhaps 

Every breath is a prayer.

Every breath is a new year. 

Amen

——————————–


Draw A Line: Creating Sacred Space During The Pandemic

(written for that first High Holy Days on Zoom)

Kadosh means holy but it also means separate. Conscious separation and mindfulness create holiness, so you may want to create a sacred space by drawing lines and deciding when to cross them.

Draw a line in space around yourself,

As you sit in front of your screen

Declare, “Here is where I have holy conversations.” 

Trace a line in time to separate Now from Before and After.

These are the hours for rest and joy, redemption and community.

Happy New Year!

Create a line around sound and sing at home with the Cantor.

Make the music holy with your breath.

Every breath is a prayer.

Drape a line around yourself!

Put on a tallis and a kippa,

Everything underneath them is holy and that means you. 

Decide that there are lines of privilege you won’t cross

And consider that there are lines you should join:

Picket lines, protest lines and lines to vote.

Blessed Holy Wholeness,

Though apart we are together

As we stand on Holy Ground.  

Shabbat Shalom, Shanah Tova and G’mar Khatima Tova!

Amen


Morning Dreams

And now I’ve started having morning dreams

Where I dream I’m waking up

And my throat hurts

And I get very upset

Because I’m sure I have contracted the virus

And I start calculating

Should I

call the doctor or

go to the hospital

and what about the cat

and why don’t I have a health proxy

But then I wake up

(usually lying in the same position I was in in the dream)

And my throat doesn’t hurt

And I’m fine.

I’m awake

But I’m just as anxious as I was

In the dream

anyway


Alas: A Lament for Tisha B’Av During The Pandemic*


1.
Alas, the city!

All the good things of a city,
These marvelous people,
And all that push and that pull!
All that effort and disputation,
Those meetings and glorious conversations,
And all those show offs and all the crowds that love to watch and listen to them!
All that science and knowledge,
The teaching and that learning,
All this glorious movement of air and breath!

Alas, the city,
Shut down.
The city cries.
We have lost our hearts.
Blessed Holy Wholeness,
Breathing us in and breathing us out,
We forgot to give thanks.

2. Alas, God’s anger!

Let’s assume that God,
However you understand or don’t understand God,
Is irked.

It’s only logical.
Yet it is unclear which irks God the most:
The lies, the greed and corruption,
Or is it a package deal?
But perhaps these are “only”
Sins against people, not sins agains God,
So as to be dealt with during Elul
While we work it out amongst ourselves.

Because we will have our say:
We have
Our lawyers, our judges, our prisons,
Our protests, our actions, our votes.
And everyone knows what you’ve done.

But for the sins against the One-ness,
Prepare yourself to be weighed and found wanting.
You reveled in how you broke our connection to the Whole,
You are appalling!
You attacked our hearts and
You used our fear against us.
These are sins against God,
The ones that break true connection,
And it is known who and what you are.

Alas, Gods anger,
Is fierce
And deserved.

3.
Alas, loneliness!

Eating, Sleeping, Walking
Alone

TV, Facebook, Prayer
Alone

Coughing, Crying, Dying
Alone

Alas, loneliness!
I am so frightened.
I weep and who will hear me?

4. Alas, compassion!

You were willfully foolish.
You were cruel and used hate as a tool.
In your greed and stupidity,
You ignored the degradation of our planet
And the answers of science
And look where it has led us!
Species and forests disappear.
Old people and the poor are sacrificed.
Essential workers, disproportionately People of Color,
Are used and discarded
And die in disproportionate numbers.
Racism is celebrated,
Misogyny extolled.

Sexual and gender diversity denied.
Where is normal human empathy?
It’s so creepy.

We grieve for the sick and the dead,
We grieve for the murdered and the neglected,
We grieve for all we have lost and will lose.

Alas, compassion!
Pray for mercy.

5.​ Alas, memory!

We remember
Those who died by virus
And those who died by police,
Those who died by gas
And those who died by suffocation,
Those who died by infection
And those who died from neglect.

We remember
Those who were shot in trenches
And those who died alone in the ICU,
Those who died by starvation
And those who were shot in the back,
Those who died with a knee on their neck
And those who died hanging from a tree.

And because we remember
We resist our privilege if we have it;
We resist racism when we see it;
We resist cruelty and stupidity when they beckon;
We resist lethargy and despair when it calls us.

Alas, memory!
We remember and promise to change
Ourselves and the world,
Returning to our true selves
Via
Holy Conversation,
Sacred Disturbance
And Necessary Trouble.

Amen


Tashlich 2020*

This year for Tashlich,

I’m not going to the park or the river or the ocean. 

My life is constricted and crappy this year

And I don’t need poetic rituals or metaphors.

My sins 

(procrastination, laziness and lethargy with some despair sprinkled on top)

Are mostly against  myself more than anyone  else

And I forgive me. 

So

This year I’m going to write down my little sins

On toilet paper.

Then I’m going to flush them away. 

 2020?  

Feh. 


Invitation to the Builders to the Virtual Sukkah*

You are invited, please do come in,

Honored Guests, builders of this virtual sukkah.

You are invited,

Builders of our past sukkot

In the backyard, the park, the roof:

Every year

You put up the walls

You hung the decorations. 

Where are you this week?

You are invited,

Builders of our Torah and Midrash 

In the shul, in the ark,

In the books and the scrolls:

For thousands of years

You told the stories,

True even if not true.

We need good stories.

Builders of Halakha and Talmud

In the home, on the street, in the Beit Midrash:

All those many do’s and don’ts and questions.

This year we have too many challenges.

This year we are all questions.

All of us, trying to make sense 

Of the unexplained and incongruous.

Can you make meaning of this year?

You are invited,

Builders of Jewish culture,

All the creatives

Currently forced to sit on your hands.

Please, find a way to reach us.

We wish it was safe to sing.

Builders of ideas and rational thought,

Science and philosophy, change and experimentation

In universities and conferences and back rooms across the world,

Ask the questions, do the science, challenge us. 

Don’t be nice, make us listen.

You are invited,

Builders of social change,

Of unions and parties and social movements,

Of agitation and resistance,

In the streets and online,

Join us in the voting booth,

This year’s most important sukkah.

You are invited,

Builders of pandemic rituals and services,

Clergy and prayer leaders,

Inventing Judaism in 2020. 

Help us save ourselves,

And save yourselves, too, please.

Have a sip or two of wine, say a blessing. 

Rest for a second.  You okay?

And you are invited,

Builders of necessary services,

Food and sanitation and transportation,

Caregivers and medical workers,

On zoom and online and on our doorstep.

You are all essential workers

Essential to our souls and our bodies

And we pray for your health and well-being.

We pray you are paid a living fair wage,

We cannot survive without you.

How can we serve you?

You are each invited,

You are the builders of all our virtual sukkot.

Please do come in, Honored Guests.

Sit. Eat.  Have you shaken the lulav yet today?

Stay safe,

Amen


Sukkot: SITTING IN EMPTINESS*

On Sukkot, we sit in the sukkah:

In an empty room

Porous walls

Holes in the ceiling

No door

And we feel the same:

No hope

Unprotected

Everything bad gets in

And no way to get out

And we feel the same:

Possibilities for miles

Vulnerable to love

Safe in the community’s hut

Open to Holy Wholeness

We sit in this emptiness that is not empty

And in a week it will be gone.


A Prayer for Anger and Gratitude

 Baruch Atah Adonai,

Brucha At Shechinah,
Ruach Ha Olam,
Holy Wholeness,

Every Shabbat
I attend services on Zoom
And almost every single time we are asked by the rabbi,
What are you grateful for?
(A reasonable question)
Write it down in the chat room, she says
And a long list from the congregation rolls out
Of family members
And pets
And clergy
And social justice leaders
And victories
And sour dough bread recipes.

I am also grateful
For the usual stuff
But
The thing is
I hate this question.
I really hate this question.
I am annoyed not grateful.
I am annoyed and not grateful on a daily basis,
I am annoyed and not grateful when I wake up in the morning
and annoyed and not grateful when I go to sleep at night.
I am angry!
Modeh Ani? Hell no.
Bedtime Shma? I forgive no one!
I am angry
and annoyed
and disputatious
and frustrated
but the people who deserve my anger and resistance
do not know or care that I exist.
So I take it out on people who I know mean well
like my rabbi.

Because damn it
This country was founded on genocide and slavery and murder
And it continues.

The disproportionate numbers of black COVID deaths;
The mortgages that were turned down;
The jobs that weren’t offered;
The food deserts that led to malnutrition;
The schools with no budgets;
Being afraid to drive or walk or leave the house or breathe.

Murders of opportunity and hope,
Murders of body and soul.

And I’m ashamed of all my white privilege that allows me to know about this
And do nothing
If I want
Except feel bad
And write the occasional check
And mostly not pay attention.
I’m so angry at myself.

So sorry, no gratitude in the chat room today from me.

And? the things that I am grateful for that you are so curious about,
why do I have to announce them?
You want me to spread my gratitude all around like manure
In this garden of good vibes?
Why?
And please, don’t tell me yours,
I am neither interested nor moved by your gratitude!
Except of course I am,
I love you.
I love you all,
I like it when people are happy.
I like it when people share their happiness,
But not on demand
Not in a chat
And not every week.
Not now
Not this week.
I am happy to share my happiness when it occurs.
If it occurs.

But my gratitude is not for tourists.

The planet is on fire,
Sickness of all kinds surrounds us and
People are being killed by racists and idiots.
Cruelty goes unpunished
The greedy and stupid are in charge
And we can’t get away from it.
No distractions work for long.
Which is probably a good thing.
It feels hopeless and
I suspect that’s privilege, too.

Protests and Solidarity help
And I see change happening.
But it is a fight that never ends.  Never.
So screw gratitude.

Sorry.

And anyway, if I acknowledge the beauty in my life, what will be spared?
If I have hope, will institutional racism disappear?
How does my gratitude change the world??

I’m asking because I really want to know.

Baruch Atah Adonai
Brucha At Shechinah,
Ruach Ha Olam,
Holy Wholeness,
Thank you for listening.
Amen.


Prayer For When It’s Too Much

Holy Wholeness, 

Well the news sucks.  

No wonder we’re angry, 

No wonder we’re bewildered. 

Cruel idiots are running the world 

And it’s exhausting 

And weird.

If there’s a way to cope, 

I hope we’ll find it.   

If there’s a way to give ourselves a rest, 

I hope we’ll use it.
If there’s a way to not despair,
I hope we’ll feel it.
If there is a way to make things whole,
We better do it. 

Amen

========================

Count the Stars: A Blessing For Voting

Breath of the Universe,

This year the voting booth,

Is the most important sukkah.

We look out from that open space

And count the stars.  

Blessed be democracy,

However imperfect. 

We will speak

And we will be heard

And we will not be interrupted. 

Amen

========================

Blessings for The Night Before The Election

May the good people win and the bad people lose.

May we contribute all that we can contribute and not punish ourselves for what we couldn’t do. And may all of us who volunteered or donated be blessed with happy endings.

May we not eat or drink too much crap while we wait for results. However, may it be good crap.

May we be able to watch as many kitten and puppy videos as we need to so that we can stay calm.

May we have friends to celebrate and commiserate with on Zoom, by text, and maybe even in person.

May we get a good night’s sleep tonight and all this week, we will need it.

May the line on Tuesday get long as soon as we have voted and may it be filled with first time voters.

And may democracy, however imperfect, survive and flourish.

And let us say,

Amen

============================

It Is Upon Us

It is upon us!

It is upon us to repair the broken places.

It is upon us to comfort the sick in body and heart.

It is upon us to bring sweetness to those around us.

It is upon us to face the truth.

It is upon us to know when we have choices.

It is upon us to see that justice is done.

It is upon us to be kind.

It is upon us to be mindful and compassionate.

It is upon us to forgive and be forgiven.

It is upon us to do teshuvah, returning to our true and decent selves.

It is upon us to do tefillah, understanding that our prayers are holy conversations.

It is upon us to do tzedukah, standing up for the survival of all our communities.

It is upon us to vote.

We bend our knees!

We bend our knees to acknowledge how small we are in the face of all this responsibility.

We bend our knees to warm up for all the hard work.

We bend our knees so that we may dance.

We are all one in the One-ness, there is no other.

And there is no one else to do the work.

It is upon us to save the world. Sorry.

Aleinu.


For Those Who Resist


Blessed Holy Wholeness

For those who plan and strategize
For those who gather at a moment’s notice
For those who serve as witnesses
For those who are civil and disobedient
For those who speak up at local meetings
For those who wear pink hats with millions
For those who  contribute in bursts
For those who  make it their life’s work
For those whose bodies keep them at home
For those who march
For those who refuse to budge
For those who organize
For those who hearts may be breaking
For those whose anger overwhelms
For those who gather with friends and allies
For those who stand alone

For those who zoom

For those who take chances

For those who say no

For those who build

For those who vote

For those who make art

For those who make music

For those who laugh

For those who comfort

For all those who resist,
I give thanks. 

Amen

=============================

No Hanukkah Party This Year, 2020*

So anyway, God,

Here I am. 

Alone

On Hanukkah. 

No party at shul,

No table covered in aluminum foil,

Adorned with menorahs

The families bring from home. 

No cantor leading the blessing,

No tedious contest between latkes and hamentaschen

(Fried potatoes vs. dry prune pastry?  

Don’t waste my time.)

Speaking of, no latkes in the social hall basement,

Or at the party at my neighbors’, no parties at all. 

No presents, from anyone, why should there be?

I’m too old for getting presents 

And there are no children to buy for. 

So why bother lighting the menorah?  

Who for, me?

All alone on a jewishly insignificant minor holiday?

Feh. 

Fire hazard. 

But in a year of lonely death and negligence,

In a year of right wing thugs and fascists,

In a year of proud racists and anti-semites,

I buy an electric hanukiah for the window. 

It has small tasteful blue LED bulbs 

That are hard to see before the fifth night,

Faint light in the winter darkness

But there they are. 

And I imagine all the Jews

All over the world,

Waiting for the sickness and the evil to pass,

Doing the same. 

Amen. 

==========================

The Month For Losing Hope and Finding It Again : Rosh Hodesh Kislev



Kislev is the month for despair.

The sun fades away

And we get depressed.

We forget that the light will return.

We dwell in darkness

We lose faith in change.

Kislev is the month for re-inventing courage.

At the worst possible moment, the day gets longer

And we have parties.

We imitate the sun with bright lights.

We eat a lot of sugar

And we make plans for the future.

Blessed holy One-ness,

Giving us the month of Kislev

In which to lose hope and find it again,
So clever.

Amen.

==================

My Maccabees*

 

This year

My Maccabees

Wrote postcards

Made phone calls

Texted

Knocked on doors (safely)

This year

My Maccabees

Taught their children at home

Channeled their anger

Watched a lot of TV

Learned to use Zoom

This year

My Maccabees

Reported to work at hospitals

Saw thousands die

Helped many people live

Counseled survivors 

This year

My Maccabees

Embraced their righteous anger

Held signs

Organized protests

Marched in the streets

This year

My Maccabees

Voted

Made sure everyone else could vote

Danced in the streets

Defended the outcome

This year

My Maccabees

Mourned

Lost their jobs

Stood on lines

Worried

This year

My Maccabees

Wore masks

Washed their hands

Kept their distance

Stayed home

Blessed Holy Wholeness — 

I give thanks for these Maccabees,

My heroes.

May they have sustenance in place of anxiety,

Health in place of sickness,

Joy in place of grief,

Justice in place of evil.

Amen

===================

How Awesome Is This Place

It is holy ground.

This is none other than the abode of God, 

And that is the gateway to heaven. 

Sleeping at this place

Stones for our pillows,

There is comfort here.

No matter what messes we have made

We can be angels

For other people

And as we go up and down

We can change and make change.

It gets better

It gets worse

Nevertheless

We survive.

There is grief and

There can be happiness,

There is One-ness,

And we are always,

If we but have the eyes to see,

At the bottom of the staircase to the gateway to the entrance to heaven.

We want so much.

We want to be of help,

We want to do good,

We want to experience everything,

We want to be wanted.

We all make so much effort

Never really knowing where it will lead.

But if we unlock the gate

Or climb over stupid walls,

The entrance to heaven belongs to us.

And what if there is no heaven and all it leads to is oblivion?

What if there is no traveling up that ladder?

What if there is only nothing?
Oh well.

We are grateful for these stone pillows

For our hard, hard heads,

Trying to make us comfortable
In their own rocky ways.
We asked for a place to be and each rock pillow said,

Here I am

I am always here

Relax

At the bottom of the stairs to the gateway at the entrance to heaven.

And like Jacob,

We will return

To ourselves

To each other

To this awesome place

And this holy ground

Real or metaphoric or myth

It is ours

And we deserve it.

Thank you, rock

At the bottom of the stairway

That leads to an unlocked gate.

How awesome is this place. 

Amen


A Blessing For The Vaccine

Blessed Holy Wholeness:

As we roll up our sleeves

To receive this vaccine,

We take note

Of the inspiration and efficiency,

The hard work and creativity

And the accumulation of knowledge and science

That brings us to this moment. 

No miracles were wanted or needed

For this vaccine

And for that we are grateful. 

Amen

=========================

This Day

Blessed Yah, Creator, Created, Creating…

We pray for change and hope,

For ourselves and the world:

Instead of anger, we choose kindness.

Instead of revenge, we choose justice.

Instead of resentment, we choose empathy.

Instead of work, we choose rest.

Instead of ideology, we choose compromise.

Instead of destruction, we choose community.

Instead of fear, we choose endurance.

Instead of acquiescence, we choose resistance. 

Instead of invective, we choose prayer.

Instead of violence, we choose peace.

Blessed Yah, Creator, Created, Creating…

We give thanks for this day of change and hope.

And let us say, Amen.

=========================

Purim, The 9th Chapter: We Won And They Lost

And so, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, when the king’s command and decree were to be executed, the very day on which the enemies of the Jews had expected to get them in their power, the opposite happened, and the Jews got their enemies in their power.*

So what happens when we win?

Not by much

And in the nick of time

It so easily could have gone the other way

And though there’s more of us

There’s plenty of them

And they are cruel.

What to do?

For Mordecai was now powerful in the royal palace, and his fame was spreading through all the provinces; the man Mordecai was growing ever more powerful.

So the Jews struck at their enemies with the sword, slaying and destroying; they wreaked their will upon their enemies.

Do we forgive and forget?

Do we try to change hearts and minds?

Or do we strike at our enemies with the sword?

Do we slay and destroy

Just like they were going to slay and destroy us?

The king said to Queen Esther, “In the fortress Shushan alone the Jews have killed a total of five hundred men, as well as the ten sons of Haman. What then must they have done in the provinces of the realm! What is your wish now? It shall be granted you. And what else is your request? It shall be fulfilled.”

“If it please Your Majesty,” Esther replied, “let the Jews in Shushan be permitted to act tomorrow also as they did today; and let Haman’s ten sons be impaled on the stake.”

Shall we be cruel?

Shall we impale their children on the metaphorical stake?

It’s very tempting.

The same days on which the Jews enjoyed relief from their foes and the same month which had been transformed for them from one of grief and mourning to one of festive joy. They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another.

Weren’t they stupid?

Aren’t our comedians clever?

So do we laugh in the face of their grief

And celebrate their deaths and their disgraces?

But what is the line

Between satire and derision?

Between defense and revenge?

How do we resist answering hate for hate, violence for violence?

Do we try to reconcile?

Do we try to be nice no matter how awful they’ve been?

What if they’re not interested in being nice, ever?

Can’t it be enough to laugh at them,

Do we have to also slay and destroy them?

Blessed One-ness

What are our obligations here?

We won and they lost and we are glad.

Help us to remember their humanity,

Even if they can’t remember ours,

While we party.

Hag Purim Sameakh

Amen.

*JPS translation

=============================

Benching Gomel After Receiving The Second Dose of the Vaccine

 

What is this feeling?

Three days ago

I received the second of two doses

Of the Moderna vaccine.

And this feeling, what is it?

I am so mindful of the privileges

Of skin, class, nationality, neighborhood

To access the vaccine

And I am not strong enough to turn it down.

And I am so mindful

Of the inspiration and efficiency,

The hard work and creativity

And the accumulation of knowledge

That brought me to this moment. 

No miracles were wanted or needed,

For this vaccine

Only science and money,

But still,

Isn’t it amazing?

What is this feeling?

Is this safety?

Do I feel…good?

Some of the fear 

Is over

For me.

May everyone everywhere receive their two doses

And may the side effects be mild and effective

And may we all feel good, and safe.

Blessed HaShleimut, the Holy Wholeness,

Creating Sanctuary

We give thanks.

Amen

=========================

My Seder Plate 2021*

This year I don’t need symbols on my Seder plate.

This year I am very literal.

An egg is just an egg,

A bone represents only bones.

This year I’m all pshat.

Hate, Lies, Anger, Fear, Pain, Isolation, 

Death

Only an empty Seder plate can hold all that truth.

==========================

What I Know About Lag B’Omer*

I don’t know anything about Lag B’Omer

Except what I read on Wikipedia

Which tells me a few different things it’s supposed to celebrate,

One of which is the end of a plague that killed 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students.

And I can’t write about that today, our plague isn’t yet over.

I like to think about Akiva though,

Because I had a crush on him when I was a kid. 

Still do, sort of.

If you’re old enough, you might remember in Hebrew School they used up class time with slide shows

That had pre-recorded narrations. 

You know, that went DING whenever you were supposed to go to the next slide?

The one about Rabbi Akiva made a real impression.

For one thing,

He was quite handsome in his working man robes,

And romantic, the way he loved his wife

And how he worked so hard to win her.

And I loved the way he studied with children when he decided he wanted to learn.

There was a slide of Akiva sitting in the classroom at a child’s desk.

I thought of Akiva when I went back to school in my fifties.

So anyway, I’m glad the plague stopped killing his students.

The last picture of the Rabbi Akiva slide show was of him, old, with a long beard,

No longer cute, tied to a stake, 

Wrapped in what I remember as barbed wire,

Bleeding and looking up, presumably to God,

Whom he could see because he was saying the Sh’ma.

Oh, also bonfires and haircuts. Happy Lag B’Omer!

========================

A Shavuot Blessing For Essential and Sacred Workers*

HaShleimut, Blessed Holy Wholeness

Bless those who got us to Sinai

The ones who fed us

The ones who kept us safe

The ones who healed us

The ones who sustained us

The ones who listened to us

The ones who prayed with us

The ones who did the dirty work

And the ones who put themselves in danger, whether out of choice or out of necessity.

Bless these workers:

May they be paid fairly for their labor

May they be appreciated for their sacrifices

May they have time to recover themselves

May they not be murdered

And may they all get enough Torah, whatever that looks like for each one of them.  

Amen.

===============================

Chag Ha-Atzeret (Day of Stopping)*

This year, did we really need to count the Omer?

Between the election numbers

The popularity polls

The voting

And the dead millions

Haven’t we had enough counting?

This year, do we need to remember the Covenant?

It’s always been here

Even when we couldn’t see it.

And it was hard to see this year,

Don’t care how hard you looked. 

And how many of us tried?

This year, do we really need to “receive” the Torah?

Haven’t we been passive for too long?

Yeah, it felt like it was enough just to survive, 

But shouldn’t we be doing more?

Do we really want to go back to normal,

Didn’t normal suck?

This year let’s make some Torah.

C’mon, let’s do something new.

================================

On Re-entering Our Sacred Space After the Quarantine

Berucha at HaShleimut

Blessed Wholeness,

Our eyes are open wide

As we walk into our familiar sacred space

For the first time in over a year. 

Colors are brighter,

The sanctuary is larger

And the sounds of our voices, together, are luscious.  

We swim in our profound appreciation for what we once took for granted 

And we can’t stop smiling at our friends  

And marveling at how good they look to us. 

We hug,

We breathe in their smells,

It’s so excitingl! 

And at last

We can pray and we will be heard

We can mourn and we will be seen.

We are not alone.

Blessed Holy Wholeness

We give thanks and pray that we will remember how this felt

Next week

And next year

When we are bored.

Look at us, 

Here we are.

It is good.

Amen.

=================

KRIA 2021

When my mother died,

I was 3000 miles away

On a teen study trip in England. 

I’d said goodbye to her at the airport and never saw her again. 

They woke me up in the dorm

And told me my mother was sick and I had to go home to New York. 

Part of me knew that this meant she was dead

But as my friends gathered to say goodbye

I complained, to their horror, 

about my mother’s hypochondria and 

how she always was interrupting 

whenever I was having fun. 

The only book I had with me on the plane home was

The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus,

and this was kind of funny even then. 

I mean, really?

My father told me she was dead as I walked in the door and

All I could think about was what I had left behind:

My first boyfriend,

Nigel, 

Who had eyes like a young Martin Landau. 

The house was filled with relatives and people from the Temple. 

I made jokes and refused to cry. 

My mother was 48. 

I was 16. 

When my father announced he was sick

I was 3000 miles away living in the Pacific Northwest. 

It took about a year for him to die. 

I came East for a visit,

We talked about everything except his coming death

Or that I loved him.

I said a normal goodbye as I got into a cab to the airport to go back to Seattle. 

He looked very sad

And I never saw him again. 

I had been planning to move back home in a few months

In time for his last days

But he died in an emergency room a few weeks later. 

I returned for the funeral and cried during the service

And cried at the cemetery 

And I cried when, for the first time in 12 years, I saw my mother’s headstone. 

My father was 61. 

I was 28. 

I remember the sound of the black ribbon 

Ripped apart in shock and grief, each time

By the rabbi

When I think of all the families who watched

As their parents went into the hospital with COVID 

And who never saw them again. 

==================

Yahrzeit 2021

Glorious and holy are the possibilities of God. 

We’re getting used to the losses

But that’s not the same

As being okay.   

Things are different now.  

We want to go back to normal 

But normal is gone. 

Many died,

We sat shiva on zoom.  

And now it’s time for yahrzeit. 

So pour a shot of whiskey 

For each member of the minyan. 

L’chaim!

And let us say, amen. 

It’s almost simple:

Democracy is threatened,

The planet is in danger. 

Mourning must end,

We can’t stay in grief

We must act now. 

We are afraid that

There is not enough goodness,

There is not enough hope. 

Blessed One-ness. 

Now is the time for teshuvah, 

returning 

to our true and brave selves.

Now is the time for  tefillah,

imagining 

the future through holy conversations.

Now is the time for tzedukah, 

fighting 

for the survival of all our communities.

Holy Wholeness,

For all the living and in memory of the dead,

For all the possibilities of God,

Let us say Amen

======

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If you used or enjoyed any of the work above, please consider helping me continue my work. All my liturgical writing is offered to you free with attribution, under the Creative Commons SA license for anyone to read and use and will continue to do so. My income is fixed and I have very limited resources, so if you used anything here for your services or newsletter or ritual, or for personal use, and if you can afford to do so please, please consider using the links below to help me out on a one time basis at the PayPal or Venmo links below, or the Patreon link below if you want to support my work on a regular basis. Please use the contact page to let me know if you want like to arrange a reading, workshop, class, residency.

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