Episode 29: The Torah is Your Business (Live at NewCAJE)
9:32PM Aug 23, 2022
Shalom y'all, Eliana here. Before we jump into this week's episode, I just want to share that it's another one of our live episodes this one was recorded this past summer at NewCAJE. NewCAJE's mission is to connect, inspire and affirm all Jewish educators to build a stronger Jewish community. It's a pluralistic organization for Jewish educators of any age from anywhere doing any sort of education. Its flagship program is a conference over the summer, we've had it online the past few years, but I for one, I'm so excited to be back in person, but they also do learning throughout the year. If you're a Jewish educator, I highly, highly recommend that you check them out. I have also had the privilege of being the director of LEEP, The leadership for emerging education professionals fellowship program for the past few years, which is for educators in their first five years of doing this as their job. Happy to talk to you with my LEEP hat on if that is something that you're interested in, please let us know. It was such a delight to record this at NewCAJE, you'll hear us responding to people in the chat. The live episodes on Zoom are so fun because we get to really engage with people and bring their voices into the podcast. We're hoping to do more of these in the future both through the light lab and with partnering organizations. If you'd like to bring us in to do a live podcast recording either over zoom or in person, let us know - you can now email us at podcast@light lab.co That's podcast@light lab.co And now we take you to this week's very special episode.
Shalom everyone! Welcome back to the Light Lab Podcast! My name is Eliana Light, and I'm so thrilled to be here with my dear friend, Cantor Ellen Dreskin.
A pleasure to be with you again Eliana.
So great to be with you our first two person captaining of the podcast, we send lots of love and joy to Josh at home. And we hope you do too as well, listeners. And as per usual, we like to start with a question. So Ellen, here's today's question. What's a piece of Torah that you've learned recently that you're still thinking about?
Oh, there's a piece of Torah actually, when I knew this was going to be the question that I've actually just started thinking about. Being a cantor by ordination and profession, my attention is already going toward the High Holy Days. And I've always loved this idea of Rosh Hashanah being the beginning of the year, Shanna. And I also like love the Hebrew idea that Shanna is the same Hebrew root, as the word for change. And rosh being head. So the New Year helps me to develop a head for change. And very recently, it's been called to my attention that don't we also know that Shanah also has to do with repetition. And repeating something like v'shinantam, or doing something probably from shnayim from, from doing things twice. But I love it, this whole idea that we make things new by trying them over and over and over again, and learning from them every single time and this is how change happens. And so it's all swirling about in my head as as we head into the season. Maybe I'm jumping ahead a little bit, we're heading into it.
Never, never. Friends, I'm not sure when this will air, but we're recording this in July, which is certainly an appropriate time to begin thinking about the High Holidays, as a Jewish professional, if not earlier. I love that. I'm going to be taking that Shana Torah with me as well. Of course, as often happens, I wrote the question down and then sat in the chair and was like - Wait a second. I don't have an answer. But here's the Torah that I looked into last night. There have been images coming out yesterday and today from the James Webb Space Telescope. I'm not sure if you've seen those pictures, but if you Google James Webb Space Telescope, they will probably come out and the picture that was unveiled yesterday. It's really incredible. It's a picture that takes us back 13 billion years to some of the earliest galaxies that were created that exist in the universe. And they were saying in the article, that if you imagine putting a grain of sand on your finger, and then stretching your arm out as far as it can go, that little grain of sand is the miniscule piece of the universe, that this photo captured. Even though there are galaxies upon galaxies in the photo, it was almost too much to stand. Really incredible. And then I wanted some sort of way to respond. Because we have just learned and seen something new about our universe. And so of course, I went to Safari, and searched stars, like, what do we have for stars, besides the stars of the sky and sands of the sea thing, so I found Psalm 8. I'm just going to read lines, four through six in the English. When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place. What are humankind that you have been mindful of them? Human beings that you have taken note of them, that you have made them little less than divine, and adorned them with glory and majesty? And those lines really spoke to me even though I think the true Torah was the picture itself. How human know-how has allowed us a glimpse in to the deepest and most wondrous universe that we have. That's kind of where my mind is today. We'll put those pictures in the show notes if you haven't been able to see them yet. And you can think for yourself, what journey do they take you on? We're thinking about Torah today. Because Ellen and I are not the only ones in the zoom room. In fact, we are live at the summer of NewCAJE, everybody wave. I love doing that. It's a podcast! No one could see you wave, but we can feel your energy with us. I've been involved in NewCAJE for the past 11 years, which shocks me honestly, that I could have been doing anything for 11 years. And yet, NewCAJE means so much to me. It's the place where I performed my Jewish music for an audience for the first time, a place where I taught other teachers for the first time. And I love getting to learn from all the folks at NewCAJE, including Ellen, who I've taken her sessions, at NewCAJE in person before, but in honor of being here at a place for education, we decided today to explore the blessing for studying Torah. And we're going to talk a little bit about what that means anyway, but Ellen, why don't you just help us dive in to the Hebrew of this bracha that we'll be exploring today?
Happy to do so. I'll read it first slowly in Hebrew and and then present one of many, many translations out there for the prayer. Begins like this. Baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech haolam asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu la’asok b’divrei Torah. The translation that I have is from Kol Haneshama, the Reconstructionist - this happens to be the daily Siddur - and it's translated like this. Blessed are You, the One of Sinai, our God, the Sovereign of all worlds, who made us holy with your mitzvot, and commanded us to occupy ourselves with words of Torah.
Wow! I want to just jump in about two things I noticed and that English before I forget. I love how the Kol Haneshama Siddur puts a different name for the Holy One, a nickname for yud hey vav hey and the place where yud hey vav hey appears - say can you say it again? Something something Sinai.
Yes, in this in this instance, it's Blessed are You the One - with a capital O - of Sinai. That idea that it gives you the little hint of here's where here's the face or the facet of yud hey vav hey, that we think this blessing is pointing towards somehow.
Absolutely beautiful. It brings us back to a place of revelation not only having happened, we might say on Shavuot, but a constant revelation that is happening all the time. I also because I was thinking about these galaxies in these photos from the telescope, Lord of all worlds or God of all worlds, was that the phrasing for Melech Ha Olam there?
Yes this is Sovereign of all worlds and I - we don't often hear I grew up with, you know, Ruler of the universe, or of the world. And I like when I look into Siddur and I see that worlds is plural. That Olam is beyond one dimension in some way. And whether its source or sovereign, it's great.
It really is. Olam being both infinity in space and in time. So it could be that saying all worlds is the world of space and the world of time. Or of course now that I'm thinking about all the billions of galaxies that are out there in the universe, that yud hey vav hey is part of all of those as well, not just the one that we're on. Let's talk about those last three words: la'asok b'divrei Torah. And then maybe that can give us a clue into what the blessing formula is helping us to hear. So Torah - what what what is it Ellen? You made a face.
I just I guess I realized that even though we're on video, I always forget that the podcast is not on video and and the sound that went with my face I just made this like, like woah, Torah, we really are, we really are diving in here. I know that we all think of Torah as the scroll in the aron. And I am intrigued with the fact that Hebrew doesn't normally have capital letters, uppercase letters, and lowercase letters. And that there is Torah with the capital T which I think of as the scroll in the aron. And there is torah with a small t. That really I understand as meeting general instruction and learning. Hebraically, it shares a root with Moreh or Morah, the words that we certainly know what new cage is, these are the words for for teachers, morim. And, and that reminds us also of the word for parents, which is horim, and they all come from that root of Torah. So I love this idea that it's broader even than the scroll in the ark when we say Torah.
Absolutely. Our friends in the My People's Prayer Book series, which I am holding up the yellow one for birkot hashachar, the morning blessings. We'll get into a little later why this blessing over Torah is in the book for the morning blessings, birkot hashachar, reminded us that the Torah, besides for the last book, volume, Deuteronomy, the Torah doesn't really have a concept of itself. It doesn't talk about learning Torah or studying Torah. And yet by the time we get to Deuteronomy, there's a sense of keep these words on your heart. These words are yours these words are not in heaven, they are yours. There's an idea that what is happening, the words of Torah are something for each of us to have. The idea that Torah is instruction at its root, and can balloon it to encompass all of these different facets is really powerful. Where the blessing comes from in the Talmud, Brachot 11b, the rabbi's are having a back and forth over when it's appropriate to say a blessing like this. Is it just over Torah? What if you're learning Midrash? What if you're learning Mishnah? If we say asher kidshanu b'mitzvtav v'tzivanu, if we use that phrase that we'll get to at the end we'll see if this going backwards thing works at all, then that is a commandment or an imperative that comes from the Torah itself. Deoraita. So how can there be a de'orita commandment from the Torah to study Torah? If we take Torah in this broader sense?
I think of Torah as so much of our stories like you say, while it does say these particular words and these particular things you're supposed to do that it it's the stories of of our lives. And I love this idea that you're opening up for me that just by engaging with the stories of these people's lives, there's such wisdom there for us life experience, enormous challenges, enormous celebration, etc. And it is learning for us over and over and over again.
Absolutely, and since we're working backwards to notice that it doesn't just say Torah it says Divrei Torah - from this word Davar - diber is to speak something about spoken, something about words. And also Divrei Torah could just be things of Torah, the stuff of Torah. Wondering if you have any thoughts about that, Ellen?
Well, it's the matter that it's not - it goes back a little bit to what you said, if it's not in heaven. It's not that these big lofty concepts and ideas that are so far away, it's the matter, the atoms, the light from 13 billion years ago of, of everyday stuff. So that amazes me that I find that fascinating. And the idea that words make things real Jewishly. And in life, words form a lot of reality. And I think that we're reminded of that in this prayer as well. And this blessing.
Words create worlds, 100%. And I'm also again, taking those words out of context. If you're at a service or a meeting or something, a Tisch maybe where people gather and sing around a table, if you give a little teaching, that's a D'var Torah. That's a Torah thing, or a word of Torah. And those can happen in all sorts of different places and spaces. But it's not just the Torah itself as words on the page. It is the interplay between you and the Torah. And it is also whoever is giving the D'var Torah is then injecting themselves into it as well. Because if you're listening to someone give it to our Torah, you're not just receiving the Torah, you're receiving this teacher's Torah, you're learning from them from their own interpretation from the parts they decided to talk about, and the parts they left out. From their speaking style from everything that happened to them in their life. And I don't know if I've ever thought about a D'var Torah, like that before. I think reading this bracha has allowed me to go a little deeper into that.
And the fact that it doesn't have to be just the scholars and the teachers, the words that that we speak to each othe, these are also words of Torah. And the idea that our interpretation and the way we bring these words into our heart is that we've all got our own Torah. Each of us writes our own Torah as we go, and ain't there a lot of learning in that.
Amen, Amen. So why la'asok as the active verb here? I have to say that of course, when I hear la'asok, I think of the English word soak, and what it means to soak up words of Torah or be soaked in words of Torah. Ellen, you're our our grammar queen, what do you think of la'asok?
I thought you were actually going to say you're our grandma queen. Oh, I? Well, I must say that, that I celebrated a significant senior birthday just last week. And so maybe I'm feeling the elderly role a little bit. Because when you say to someone of my generation, about soak, the first thing that comes up is a Palmolive dish liquid commercial, where Maj the manicurist is talking with our client about the new Pamala dishwasher and she then the old doesn't really keep your hands soft? She says yes, you're soaking in it. And that was the whole thing was to be soaking in this dishwashing liquid. So that's the so grab. But it's so funny because we were I think we both said, you know, today we're spending time talking about the blessing for studying Torah. And yet many of us might know that the word for study to study is lilmod. And the blessing doesn't say lilmod et divrei torah. It says la'asok. And I love the word asok because my esek is my business. If I'm asuka, I'm busy. And so to me, the translation that I read earlier says to occupy ourselves with words of Torah. I love to get busy with and I'd love to think about the idea. It's appearing in the chat box. Thank you for engaging with. And what does it mean when we make it our business? Say we're starting a business? You know, there's some sort of investment involved. Perhaps there's well hopefully there's some sort of vision involved. And even a product or a service which a business provides. I'm going to ask a question in the chat box while we continue to chat is what product or service - It is the business of Torah, engaging us in? I'm curious about the kinds of things that that we might be producing from our getting busy, or making Torah, our business. When we are in business with someone, there's the collaboration, there's the partnership, there's the hevruta, the sharing of ideas, that it this is so much more than study. And I just love that too, to soak in Torah, and to busy ourselves with others to invest ourselves in it, and to walk away with a service or product. We're producing something that will be of ultimate use to other people. So all of this in this one word, perhaps you didn't mean for me to go on that long about it, Eliana, but I just couldn't help myself.
Of course, of course, I meant for you to go on as long as you want about everything. That's why - That's why we're doing this as a podcast, I wanted to mention something I don't think I've thought of before, which is why I love doing this with you is that to make it your business is not just about creating something or having a business as what, as we might think about it today. It also means that it's yours to think about and engage with and question and wrestle with. If someone wants a piece of gossip for me, I might say that's not really our business, right? None of your business, I might say to someone. But to make Torah our business means that it's ours, too - it is our business. It's our responsibility, and it's ours to talk about, and it's ours to explore. No matter who you are, I would say, no matter how much experience you might have with traditional Torah study, or hevruta - partnered learning, or what how much Hebrew you know, none of that matters. The Torah is your business. Nobody is going to say none of your business when it comes to Torah. Or if they do, then those aren't the kinds of teachers that we want to be exploring with - what does it mean to make Torah your business?
There you go there in the in the chat window, minding your own business, takes on a whole new dimension here.
Right? This is my business.
Don't tell me this is none of my business.
I love being present making the space. That's what the business of Torah does for us.
Mm. And thank you, Jeri, Torah as a friend, something familiar and different every time we look at it every time.
That's beautiful. And yeah, thank you, Lily. If if Torah is, if Torah is your business, then it becomes something close to you that you're also involved in.
It has it requires relationship, right, it requires active relationship.
Which is why we keep coming back to it year after year. Torah itself in the Parsha cycle in the cycle of reading the same bits of Torah every year. And also Torah in a more broad sense, the stories is that we tell Midrash and Talmud and all of the pieces of the Jewish canon. Because we are actively a part of that conversation today, the conversation hasn't stopped. It's still going with us. It is certainly our business. I love that.
Do we want to talk a little bit about exactly when we say such a blessing? Are we ready to go there?
Because it occurs in Shacharit, it's right toward the very beginning of our morning blessings. So it seems like a wonderful way to start off the day. And I find that it has this activity to it to engage in deep re Torah. And yet each time if I were to study at 9am, and then I was going to study again at noon, and then we decided to do the blessing before do the blessing before we recorded a podcast in the afternoon which is also Divrei Torah that we don't say the blessing over and over again. I think it doesn't appear and manifest it doesn't appear in Ma’ariv just Shakur II just our morning service, as if to say, we've hardly been at this as a community for five minutes this morning and we're saying this blessing, and it's good until tomorrow morning when we'll get together and say it again. As if everything that I do or say or hear or digest for the rest of the day has the potential to be a D'var Torah. And can I keep this blessing with me throughout the day? Or can I keep the idea that I don't have to say it every time, but maybe I can still recognize so many moments during the day as Divrei Torah.
I love that I absolutely love that. It goes along with what I love about especially the morning service, but really all of the liturgy that we've been handed down, it's inviting us to move through life, with a particular set of glasses on or a particular mindset. And this is saying, what would your day be like if you walked through it with a Torah mindset, looking out for what you could learn, and how you can be an embodiment of Torah. I also think it's interesting that in the Siddur, right after this blessing, there is usually a piece from Torah, and a piece from the rest of Tanakh, from a different part of the Bible, the Jewish Bible, and a piece from the Mishnah, as to even say in the Siddur, and don't think that by Torah, we really just mean Torah. We mean all of these things, we mean all the Jewish canon, and more and more and more. It was really cool to look at the My People's Prayer Book on this, because there are kind of three versions of the Torah blessing that we find here. First, we find the blessing that we're talking about, which in Brachot 11B, it says, comes from Rav Yehuda, but then Rav Yohanan adds a bit that starts in the Hebrew - veha'arev na. And I want to read it in Hebrew in English for us. V’rabi yochanan mesayem bah hachi haarav na hashem eloheinu et divrei toratecha befinu uvifiyot amcha beit yisrael v’nihiye anachnu v’tzetzeinu vtzetzaei amcha beit yisrael kulanu yodel shmecha v’oskei toratecha baruch atah adonai hamelamed torah leamo yisrael. And this is it in English, So Adonai our God, make the words of your Torah sweet to us and to the house of Israel Your people, that we and our descendants, and the descendants of Your people, the house of Israel, that we all should know your name and study your Torah for its own sake. Lishma, which is a concept some of us might be familiar with, Torah Lishma - what does it mean to learn something for its own sake? Blessed are You Adonai who teaches Torah to Your people Israel. So in the first blessing, we are engaging with words of Torah, we're getting busy with it. Now, in this blessing from Rav Yochanan, we imagine the relationship with the Holy One as teacher to student which is still a relationship and then there's another one Rav Hamnuna adds these lines. Baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech haolam asher bachar banu mikol ha’amim v’natan lanu et torato baruch atah adonai notein hatorah. Which might sound familiar as the blessing that is said before reading an aliyah of Torah, when the Torah is read in a prayer service and this means, Blessed are You Adonai our God ruler of the world, who chose us from all peoples and gave us God's Torah. Blessed are You Adonai who gives the Torah. And this is another mode of reception this is almost like passive reception. So there's engaging with, there's a teacher student relationship, and then there's just the passive reception of Torah. I'm wondering if you have any thoughts on any of that that I just I just rolled out there?
I'm still looking in the reconstructionist Siddur and listening to the translation that that you shared. And we mentioned earlier about in terms of la'asok b'divrei torah that this Siddur called yud hey vav hey, the one of Sinai. Just to note that what what were the first words of your English of haraevna? Sweeten?
Yes. So adonai are God make the words of your Torah sweet to us.
Sweet to us. So this one says, transmit to us, Wise One, our God, and then the chatima, hamelamed torah leamo yisrael, who teaches Torah to your people Israel, says blessed are you the sage, who teaches Torah to your people Israel. So again, different facets of God, it I noticed that the missing word is divrei now. And so I wonder if our blend the and also for the prayer that is now associated with the aliyah to Torah is is seems to be specializing in the scroll in the arc in the five books, perhaps. And this idea that, you know, we, we, it starts with us, there's this Kabalistic idea that the shimmering starts from below and it awakens the shimmering on high. That first we open our hearts, we engage, we say we're going to get busy with Torah. And then we have the opportunity to learn, you know, a teacher can teach and teach and teach forever. It's the students open ears or heart or eyes that completes the connection, so that we can call it learning. And I like this idea of this transmission. That right here, it's a little bit of V’ahavta here, even also, from generation to generation of sharing these words, with our children, and then generations to come. So all these different ways of looking at it and sharing it.
I love that. And Lily reminds us in the chat that there's, as you said, Elon, big T Torah and little t Torah. And how this prayer which if you read the the Talmud piece, it's really great. The Gemara concludes, let's say all of them, like each of these rabbis was like, well, here's how I might bless my engagement with Torah. And I was like, let's do it all. Because there are so many different ways and facets to engage. Where one of them, divrei torah does feel broader, and then this idea of making Torah sweet and learning Torah, lishma, making it personalized, making it something that each person can be - that each person can find meaning in, I would say, and then the third one, which is really drilling down into the relationship between the Jewish people and the Torah, which is unique among everyone. Even though of course, I would like to think that when we engage in these divrei Torah, with integrity, that it does allow us to be allied among the nations and help us lead our lives with more integrity. So no, Joe, you can't have too many blessings. Of course, we're gonna put them all in. It's great. But it's also interesting to note that it is la'asok b'divrei Torah that has become the blessing for studying Torah, even outside of a prayer context. I know many places who before they engage in chevruta or partnered study, or at the beginning of a lecture will say this blessing, so let's explore it as we kind of work our way backwards. As a bracha, what is this blessing inviting us to do? My own translation of the blessing formula here it would be: We experienced your blessing, Holy One of all time and space, in this opportunity to become aware of holiness. Asher kidshanu bmitzotav vtzivanu. It's that mitzvotav vtzivanu which traditionally might be translated as with Your commandments and Commanded us and that issue of commandedness that can get so sticky. Do you have any do you have any thoughts on command Agnes? Ellen or anybody else who would like to type them in the chat?
Nah, I don't really have any thoughts about it. Okay, this idea of commandness. I have to back up even one more word Eliana, if that's okay, too upset to upset the backwards applecart just a little bit, but to go one word earlier, and what is it about doing mitzvot and being commanded, that has to do with kidshanu? With this root of kadosh, of being sacred or holy, and that I knew that anu, that first person plural suffix, that we are somehow kadoshed by doing these mitzvot. And an interpreted translation of mitzvot, might not be commanded or commandments, but opportunities. Chances. And then the I also in Arabic, I believe the connotation of the same root of the word mitzvot has to do not so much with command adness but with connection. So the idea and of mitzvot, being something that we share as a people, and that feeling I know of when I light Shabbat candles or when I study Torah, the idea that people all over the world are doing this, and I feel a connection to them over time for generations of my own family. These acts have been done and these blessings have been said so so these mitzvot connect me in time and space, or to theolamim, to the different worlds, right. And there's also I realized when I say asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav, I always want to be curious about how can this action I'm about to perform awaken me, elevate me, make me more intentional, take me off autopilot. For me, these are all implications for me of that one word kidshanu. Because that's what I'm going for. Why did you command me to do this? Let's, let's talk about that.
I love it so much. I love the idea of mitzvot as a connecting point, we say this version of the blessing formula, really only for rituals that we are doing that can be traced in one form or another, sometimes with stretching, and sometimes without stretching, to Torah. And when we trace it all the way back, and when we envision not just those around us, but those before us and those after us, it invites us into that world. And that's really what I think blessings are, can be. And we get to talk about this every time a blessing comes up on the show. And there are plenty more where that came from. But that the bracha itself is inviting us to focus on something. Either to focus on a time period, like Shabbat or a holiday does, or to focus on an action like lighting candles does, or to focus on something we are about to learn or do, like this blessing does and to say, if you put a parenthesis if you put a bracket around it, and actually really only focus on this little piece, it has the power to be transformative, it has the power to be elevated. This moment, or this thing that you're doing has the power to become elevated and holy, but only if you choose to make it so. Right? Only if you actually as you said, Ellen, do the elevating. Because it's very easy to say a blessing with no intention. I mean, you know, when I was a kid, and I was learning the brachot over food, I really used to think like, these are just words that we have to say before we eat because God wants us to say these words. And if we don't say the magic words, then I don't know, bad stuff will happen. But it's not - it's an invitation into a particular way of being. Whereby we are noticing and naming what we are doing as having holy potential in us and in the world.
You use the magic word of magic, you know that this is this is not a magic formula, abracadabra, exide. But this is a an intention, what you just said it has the potential. And I'm the one who who flips that switch to awaken the potential of that moment, and the possible significance of, of my making a habit of performing this act, of looking at learning in this sacred way, and then trying to be awake to it. And this is one of the ways that you and I have talked about so many times Eliana that, that saying these prayers and being intentional about them with regularity, shapes, it forms it, it's part of our story. And we make it part of how we interact with the world, hopefully, in a positive way.
I think so. And by making it a habit, we're also to go back to what we said at the beginning of all this, we're also making it our business, right? This is my business, to learn and to explore, and to react and respond and engage and soak up whatever it might be Torah. That's my business. So what might it look like to not just to say, or to have this bracha at the beginning of the day, in the morning liturgy, to set us on a path but I'm thinking for myself, as someone who is not always the most focused and can be very easily distracted. What are the moments in my life, either when I'm talking to someone, or when I'm turning on an online class, or when I'm listening to someone give a lecture, whatever it might be, where I make the choice to say this bracha, and say I want to learn. I want to open myself to the opportunity that now is a moment where Torah is taking place. And because Torah is my business, I'm going to make it my business to be present and be here. Could that do something for me? What might that look like? Give that a try?
It's that it's a mindfulness technique. Certainly I think that in a previous podcast, I told the story that Noah benShea tells about knots in the string of pearls. That the blessings that we say are knots in between valuable pearls on a string, so they don't all just slosh together. But a blessing helps us set a moment aside and focus our intention to really shine a very specific light and draw our attention there.
100%, and I don't want to gloss over what Lily has put in the chat, which is the to say Torah is my business, as to women in this field can feel radical, I would say that I'm always inspired SVARA, the Queer Talmud Academy, anyone who is of a marginalized group, or really any individual person, that's what we said at the beginning, the Torah is your business. It doesn't matter how much Hebrew you know, it doesn't matter how much experience you have, it doesn't matter if you were born Jewish or came to it later in life, it doesn't matter what your relationship to Torah is, right now. The Torah is your business too. And, and that, really, Lily, thank you for calling out the power of that because it does feel really powerful. Listener, you can say that and see how it feels the Torah is my business. The Torah is my business, and it's also your business. And with that, we'll be right back.
Welcome back, everybody from this short break. As you know, from time to time, we love to look at the melodies that composers have chosen to interpret these words for the various prayers and blessings that we talked about on the podcast. And today is no different. I think that for this blessing this la'asok bdivrei torah, something that I find very powerful actually is the chanting of the trope, like an aliya trope, for this blessing. For me something about that touches my heart because it's ancient. And these words are ancient, so it does something for me. I think that one of the more well known melodies contemporary melodies for this prayer come to us from Jeff Klepper and Danny Freelander, also known as Kol Beseder. They have a beautiful melody for this, with guitar folks, it also probably served as many of the contemporary melodies do, to bring these words of blessing alive in the Jewish summer camps. And since we're recording this, as we mentioned earlier in July, here's a tribute to summer camp, and to Jeff and Danny's rendition of these words. What other melodies do we have? Eliana - What do you got?
I really love Dan Nichols' version of this blessing which is also called Sweet As Honey. As that is the English chorus sweet as honey sweet as honey, sweet as honey on our tongue, we can play a little bit of that here.
What I love now that we've looked a little closer at the liturgical context of this is the haarev nah. That idea that we are asking Torah to be sweet to us. I also remember though, of course, I don't know if I actually remember if I remember telling the story of my first day of first grade at Borblum Solomon Schechter Day School, which is now just Bornblum Community School, not Schechter, in Memphis, Tennessee, where we made letters and chocolate molds to show that the that Hebrew is sweet, that Torah is sweet. There's also a tradition that I remember seeing, maybe I can link to this too. I grew up with this VHS tape of the story of Rashi. Have I brought this up before? I might have. Rashi: A Light in the Dark Ages. And it's narrated by Leonard Nimoy, and it's one of those like really old cheap animations where it's just one thing and another thing and it goes back and forth for a while and it -
Must go in the program. You must put this in the program notes this link if you can find.
100% percent! And there's and there's a part of the movie where they put some honey on a scroll of Torah, and the little boy gets to taste some that it's sweet.
I have read in many places that that is indeed a tradition. We're hearing in the chat box here. David Rothberg has a melody to this blessing called soak them up. But we're talking about Dan Nichols melody I think in the English, let us soak it up. Let it all sink in sweet words of Torah. So this idea of soaking is is is making it is expanding. And we also have notes in that we can put this in the program notes, we can find these links, Abbie Strauss has a melody to it, redirect to very possibly. Also want to add to that list and Rabbi educator in Florida Rabbi David Paskin has a melody to this blessing, you can find it at oysongs.com. And what I find interesting about David Paskin's melody is he adds a phrase in the blessing, pafoch ba v'pafoch ba, which is turn it and turn it. So that bringing back this idea in the blessing itself that each time we look at it, because it's a daily blessing each time we look at it. And each time we go into situations where we think we know what's going to happen already. And we've decided how something is going to be because we studied it before, we've been there before, we close the door on learning, because we think we already know. And so I love this idea of always trying and it's just makes things more fun and more interesting. If we're always trying to look at something from a different angle than we've always looked at it and fling out in those doors to just do discovery and new perspectives. Perhaps I'm feeling the lack of that in today's world who knows but yofi.
And with that, we'll be right back.
Welcome back everyone. So grateful to be with you. As we take a minute at the end of our episode to soak up a little Torah for ourselves. So I invite you if you are in a place where this is possible, sit up a little more engaged in your seat. Feel your connection to the ground through your feet or through your seat, I invite you to roll your shoulders back. Put your palms face down or face up on your lap. Imagine that your spine is a ladder reaching to heaven and earth. Invite you to soften your face, unclench your jaw, bring your shoulders down from your ears. I invite you to just take a few deep breaths in and out, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Breathing into lift and breathing out to ground. Breathing into lift and breathing out to ground. I invite you to imagine a golden and shimmering letter aleph. What does that look like? What does that feel like as you invite it into your psyche? A golden and shimmering letter aleph. It's dancing, it's playful. It's present. It sparks and it spins and it twirls, the sound before sound this potential, this language this Torah. I invite you to imagine that this Aleph, this golden shimmering aleph, is now playfully moving and dancing right off the top of your head. Right where your head meets the air. And all of a sudden you can feel as if some of this aleph is being poured into you. You feel that golden dancing shimmering light - on your scalp and you feel it start to fill up the top of your head, this golden, shimmering, playful light coming down the sides of your face, feeling it on your nose, on your eyelids, on your mouth and on your tongue. What does it taste like? Feeling this golden shimmery light on your ears, feeling it in and around your neck, down your shoulders. Dripping or spreading or sparkling however you imagine it down past your elbows into your hands around and into each finger glowing with this beautiful light. Up through your chest and your torso into your heart. Imagine your heart full of the sparkling playful light, down through your belly. Down through your back and through your front. Down each leg, each thigh, and knee, and calf, and toe. All of the light of this Torah, all of the golden light that is contained within this aleph - now within you as you breathe, can you feel yourself filled up with that light with that golden sparkle? Can you feel that aleph is still playfully dancing around the top of your head that has not lost any of its own light while it has poured into you. Take another deep breath and soak up all of that Torah. And plant a little bit of that golden light into your heart. You can imagine all of it kind of condensing into a little marble and going back into your heart. Torah is yours. That golden light is always there. No matter who you are. Take a deep breath in and I invite you to bring gratitude into your body, for this Torah, and for everyone, past, present and future that you get to share it with. And when you're ready, you can open your eyes and come back to join us knowing that the light of Torah is there for you whenever you want it. Wow. Thank you so much to our friends at NewCAJE for giving us the space to do this live taping and for joining us today. Listeners if you'd like to come to a live taping or organize one for your community, let us know. It really is the most fun. And of course thank you so much Ellen for being with me today.
Always a pleasure Eliana, can't wait to learn more.
Thank you. Thank you so much to Christy Dodge for editing. Our theme music is A New Light by me. You can find all of the things that we've talked about in our show notes please like us on Facebook and Instagram follow along share the podcast with anyone who would like some playful golden sparkly light of Torah in their life, and we will see you very soon!