Episode One: Prayer Vs Prayers (T'fillah)
1:47PM Oct 13, 2021
Hi, everybody, welcome to the first ever episode of the light lab podcast. My name is Eliana Light. I'm super excited to be here with Rabbi Josh Warshawsky.
Hello, so great to be here with you.
And Cantor Ellen Dreskin.
Shehecheyanu moment. Thanks for having me.
Ah, if there ever was one absolutely amazing. Amen Amen. Interestingly enough, this is not the first time that we have gathered together to have conversations about prayer and liturgy. The three of us happen to do this a lot, both individually and as a group. And it's always so delightful. And that's why I kind of lovingly roped these two wonderful folks in all three of us do prayer education, t'fillah education, in some form or another. And if you're thinking, what do you even mean by prayer? What do you even mean by T'fillah? Then this is the episode for you because we are going to get right into it. You can expect conversations, explorations, lots of questions, hoping that this can be a space for you to learn a little bit, ask some questions of yourself and feel like you're hanging out in the Zoom Room with the three of us having a grand old time. So let's start by getting to know the three of us that are here. I have a question for all of you. Which is if you if you were a Hebrew letter, which Hebrew letter would you be-Rabbi, Josh want to kick us off?
I do. But I want to say that I have a hard time with this question because I really like letters and the Hebrew letters and also I was just thinking about the fact that so many of the Hebrew letters also are words in and of themselves. Like Aleph is a word that means something and Bet is a word that means something and, and so I'm like, I'm really struggling with what letter that I want to pick, but I think I'm going to pick Lamed both because you both have a Lamed in your name, and I don't have a Lamed and so I'm feeling like I really want a Lamed. And it's so funky to look at and I'm thinking of Noah Aronson, a friend of ours who who does these like big Aleph Bet letters with his body, and I'm always thinking how silly the Lamed is when he does it. And so I would desire to be ulimate just a freestanding Lamed.
I love that. I mean, the lamed was the best part Lamed! I still do that with It's so fun. Cantor, Ellen, what letter would you be?
Gosh, well, we have the advantage of knowing the questions in advance. So I actually like kind of went down a rabbit hole, thinking about what kind of what letter I was going to be, and keeping the name thing alive. Here, I chose Aleph. In addition to it being the first letter in both my name and Eliana in your name, I like the idea that it's silent, but it's there, but it needs something it needs to be in relationship with a vowel or other letters in order to actually make a sound. So I like that. And also like physically to that it an Aleph seems to be stretching in all directions. And so for me, that's kind of aspirational, I really hope to, to be expansive in in learning and growing and all that good stuff.
Well, we must have exactly the same brain waves because I also chose Aleph. So it's up to the two of you whether I can keep Aleph or whether I should pick a different letter.
I think it's, there's plenty of Aleph to go around.
I was also gonna pick Aleph but then I decided at the last minute to not choose Aleph, but that we can have a whole podcast just on why we should just like all the letters,
that's Episode Two, right?
We definitely should I mean, right, this, this podcast episode is brought to you by Aleph. Why did you choose Aleph? I chose Aleph, because Aleph is everything thing because it's silent in its shape. It's open on all the sides, like you said, it's infinity, and also the gematria for Aleph being one which is really meaningful for me the idea of oneness and all of us being one. I also believe that when I was in first grade, I played the Aleph in like a Hebrew school production of like, all of the Hebrew letters go up and have to argue their case for why they should start the Aleph Bet. Yeah, you both know that story. So I was I was double cast as Reish because it was the first letter of Rabbi and my dad was a Rabbi and everyone laughed at that. And then I was like, little Aleph who didn't have a sound and, and because I was so humble, I got to be the first letter.
Know It's cute. Um, Josh, what question do you have for us?
Alright, I got another good to know. Get to know you question. If you were a Jewish holiday food. What would you be? Ellen?
Wow. Well, I really thought a lot about this one, but my answer is probably very short and sweet. I think it's challah. I love the variations on challah. I love that in this time of year when we were all in quarantine that, that that challah became very homemade, but everybody was like putting their own spin on it. So I liked the idea, oddly enough that it's just a loaf of bread. And it's a little bit twisted. So that's my final answer.
I love that.
What about you Eliana?
Okay, so I am latke. And not just because of the song, which if you know me, I actually have a really big problem with that song. I love you Debbie's zichrona livracha. But the idea of latke gaining sentience, while it's still in the blender freaks me out a little bit, especially as a vegan. I'm like not sure what to do with that thought. But we can talk about it later, Ellen, it's actually like, existentially bonkers. But the reason I thought of a latke. First is that I have been as many of us are on a journey to like, accept and appreciate my body for where it is. and a latke is just unapologetically fat, and it's delicious. And it can be sweet or it can be savory, but the holiday of Hanukkah is actually all about fat. And the idea to just be like, unapologetically there and sizzling a little bit. I really I really love that. What about you Josh,
you know, it's interesting. I feel like we should have discussed all of our answers before because I was also gonna say challah because I My dad always made challah when I was growing up, and I learned how to make challah from him and I would bring this challah as the same recipe all over the place, and I would send it to all of our friends. So challah has been like near and dear to my heart for a very long time. And it's been something really special to get to see people send me pictures of them making my father's challah recipe all the time. And so that always is really powerful for me connecting with colleagues all over the world.
I love that. All right,
Ellen, you got another question for us?
Oh, I do. I do. I'm a big aficionado of Broadway and musical theater. So my question absolutely has to be if you were a show tune what showtune would you be Eliana you're gonna lead us off?
Oh, my goodness. I love this question. I also love that when we talked about this before you said Well, my first question was about showtunes. But neither of you are big Broadway people right? Are you kidding? closet Broadway? I know that so closet especially not anymore, I suppose. Okay, there's like the obvious answer and the non obvious answer. gonna say both but only explain one The obvious answer is prayer from Come From Away. Come From Away is one of my absolute favorite shows. And prayer is the song where people of different faiths and backgrounds their prayers all intermix and intermingle and it's beautiful. But today I was listening to In the Heights, which is one of my favorite Broadway musicals of all time. And the song sunrise, I was first of all, it made me cry. That's always a wonderful thing. But the way that it builds the way that it's it's got sadness, but also joy and excitement in it. And there's education in it because one of the characters is teaching the other character Spanish and so like, there is learning that is happening and the ending chord is just melty. So I would I would hope I would aspire to be sunrise from in the heights. How about you, Josh?
This podcast also sponsored by in the heights. I was also an in the heights song, but I'm not going to because I know
which one? I got to know which one you would have said,
Oh, yeah, "oye que paso" I think it's called blackout, right? Yes. There's so much happening and like we are powerless, but also the powers. There's just like so much like, it's a it's a lot, but Well, I have in addition to that one, the ones that I was gonna say was, I was once in a production of Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway. It was at the Columbia University theatre, which is on Broadway. So and I was much of the well done to sing miracle of miracles, which is my all time, just like I love I mean, that's, you know, in some ways, a cliche choice for me, but I love that song. And but if I had to choose a song that wasn't miracle of miracles, or from In the Heights, I would pick alone in the universe from seussical the musical. It's just, it's really gorgeous and beautiful, and hopeful and sad at the same time, and I love it. Ellen.
Oh no, I'm thinking of a million musicals. If I had gone within the heights, it would have been Paciencia y Fey. love that song. Amongst all the others, and I will stretched way back to two for all the senior citizens who might be listening to the podcast, I went all the way back to the King and I, and this silly little song called getting to know you. And I just when I was thinking about it yesterday, and today, I just started to think about what, you know, what do I want to feel like what I, you know, I just want to get to know people and things better. And, and the ending is about feeling free and easy. Because of all the beautiful and new things I'm learning about you day by day. And I thought, well, it would be nice if I could wake up every morning with that attitude. So today anyway, I'm into the worldview of getting to know you.
I love that that's exactly what we're doing. What an incredible meta answer. This is turning into a Broadway podcast, I'm not mad about it. Let's say that so much about our Jewish practice revolves around these big words that we think we know what they mean. And today, we are going to look at the word prayer, a word that we use, all the time, least in institutional Jewish life, and a word that we hear all around us in the world. So what do you mean? Today? I'll put that caveat, because I bet it changes. What do we mean when we say prayer? Ellen? Huh?
It's so for me, it's prayer is sometimes one of those things that it's hard to articulate. But when I'm in it, I know it or when I see it, I recognize it. But for me today, it connected to a melody, a melody by Judith Silver. And the words are open my eyes to truth, open my hands to give freely open my lips, to good words to pure words, open my heart to love. For me, prayer is a time when I can be honest with myself, and when I can let things flow. And also I you know, to be something of beauty, it's almost like placing something on the altar, even if it's challenging thing. And I like the idea of hiddur mitzvah, beautification of the mitzvah of prayer. And the one thing that I would say is occurring to me more and more, that while we think of prayer as a vocal exercise, or an extra a practice of expression, which I certainly think it is, more and more, its meaning a lot more Shema for me a lot more listening. Even its to the words that I'm expressing but trying to hear something more in them than just reciting them.
I love I there's so many different things that that really resonated with me and what you and what you just said, and I first of all, I love the idea of of the openness, right of that of that whole kavanah that we're talking about from Judah Silver's poem, and the song being about opening ourselves up right to possibility to potential to just noticing what's going on in the world and inside of our own bodies. And, and a lot of that has to do with what you were saying about expression. I think, for me, prayer is a lot about expressing right, opening up understanding what's going on internally, right, understanding our own emotions, and feelings, and finding a way to bring them out into the world. And also looking around and acknowledging that the world is bigger than just me. Right? A prayer is prayer is looking around, and just noticing and observing, and being aware of the world around you, both yourself, your place in the world, and also what's happening in the world around you. It's a moment of humility, and a moment of expansion. And for sure, for me also a moment of connectedness.
I love that I love that the idea of openness is such a through line, because so often, we're under the illusion that we are separate beings that were separate from the world and what happens in it. And when we're able to kind of soften our edges and open our hearts just that little bit. We get back in the flow of the universe, and of all that is and of time and space, and even on a personal level in the flow of what's actually happening in a moment where between you and another person allowing you to be present. I think I read this in the power of ritual, Casper ter Kuile's book, but he was probably quoting someone else I think it was. He said that prayer is the practice of sustained attention. What does it mean when we bring our sustained attention to something? And I'm also really drawn to the words of the writer Anne Lamott, who says that prayer is a human response to life. It often boils down to thanks, gratitude, our gratitudes need to go somewhere. Wow, that moment that takes our breath away where you Maybe words even don't come out because there's so much awe in the moment, and help so many of us pray all the time. And it's a recognition for me that we're not totally in control of our lives for good. I can't believe I get to live in a world with so much beauty in it. And also for bad, I can't believe that they're suffering. And there's something I can do about it. But I can't end all of it. And it hurts.
Often, when we talk about praying, we talk, we think about reciting prayers, or we think about teaching prayer, and the difference between teaching prayer and teaching prayers. So what I mean when I say pray, you know, that's the verb, that's the action of, of immersing myself in this, as opposed to when I opened the siddur, I see prayers. But that doesn't mean every time I come in contact with them, it's I'm praying. Does that make
any sense? It does. And I think that's part of the reason that prayer is such a challenge, which is that we have the incredible honor and privilege of being handed down these words that people have been saying for hundreds or 1000s of years depending and that people wrote out of their own response to the universe. And we often get caught up when we think that that is the praying that just saying and reciting that is what the praying is, what if we don't 100% agree with the way that they depict g?d, for example, because g?d is also another big hang up when we've been given a theology of our ancestors. But there's so much that we can learn from the ancient liturgy that how can we hold both of those both what I am expressing as a human being in the flow of the world, and these amazing words that I have been gifted with?
Yeah, I love that idea that this might make more sense in my head that it makes when I say out loud, but I think in some ways, a simple explanation of it is that prayer is what a prayer does with prayers. Right? If you if you just take the prayers on their own, they're just the words that somebody else wrote. And if you're just the prayer by them by yourself, Well, you know, we sometimes need something else to open us up to inspiration to expression to emotion. And so when we engage with this, with this amazing source text that we have in our at our in our fingertips, it opens us up to allow ourselves to express our own prayer.
It goes back so many times what we're talking about to relationship to being in relationship with the words, in the same way that a piece of music is not the notes on the score that you open up until it is played and interpreted. It's, it doesn't exist.
So we all ended up in this Zoom Room together. Because we have all dedicated part of our professional lives and a lot of our personal lives to thinking about teaching about talking about prayer, whatever it might mean to us at a given moment. So I'd love to just hear from you. Why are you here? And you can take that question. How ever however you want, let's start with you, Josh.
Well, I would say the first reason is because you asked me to be here. And whenever I do something, I say yes. And then I say how high?
I appreciate you and
but in all seriousness, I mean I I love our tri-vruta are our three ways chevruta on our partnership and conversation on prayer. And in some ways, this feels like sort of a natural, a natural outside of that, in that I feel like our conversations are have been really meaningful for me. And this is a hope that these conversations and their continuations will be meaningful and helpful for other people to people that are listening and engaging in this in these same thoughts. We're thinking about this all the time. And whether or not this is a on the forefront of people's minds, this idea of finding time in our lives to focus, finding time in our lives for intention, find a time in our lives for meaning and for connection is something that I think everyone is looking for. And and I believe, you know, we've had this conversation, I believe that that Judaism and prayer holds a lot of the tools for us to be able to do that we don't need to look elsewhere there, we should be able to look at all these different wisdom traditions and meaning traditions and pathways. But I think this pathways for me has been has been so powerful and inspirational. And I hope that that we can find even if there's another one more door that we can open up for for somebody else to find it to be meaningful as well.
I'm wondering, Josh, given what you just said, and given what you've said prayer is, can you tell us about a powerful experience with prayer that you that you've had in your life and how it interplays with these different ideas.
I've had a lot of different Moments of prayer that have been impactful in different ways. But some that have made me feel really connected within my own self, some that have made me feel really connected with the community around me with God, like a feeling of divinity, a feeling of like a tangible spirit hovering in a space. And so I'm trying to reflect on on which one of those I want to share. And for me, a lot of it happens I I sometimes struggle with personal prayer, when I'm alone, I'm okay, I'm actually able to do personal prayer very well, even when I'm in a group of people just to take a moment for myself and enter into personal prayer, but alone, sometimes I lack some of that motivation to create a consistent prayer practice when I'm not the one facilitating prayer. But when I'm together in a group of people, I find that to be really, really meaningful and elevating it and just the way the first one that always comes to the top of my head is at a place that's very near and dear to all of us, which is it and Hava Nashira, which is an songwriting conference at Camp OSRUI in Oconomowoc Wisconsin and at like 3:30 in the morning on like the last night of the conference with there's like an open mic and everybody is singing in and and I was the last one to get get the opportunity to. And so I sort of bucked some of the rules and just sat in the middle of the room and turn everybody around. And we just started singing, started singing a new melody that I had recently crafted about opening up our voices with song and elevation. And I thought that they were like 10 or 15 people in the room. And then suddenly I looked around and it was 3:30 in the morning . And they were the room was full, I don't know where people just came from and, and I looked at looked across the circle at everybody who was singing and so many dear friends coming together and I could feel these like the harmonies and also like these Phantom harmonies, they were I felt that there was an energy in the space, that that opened up the words for me in a way that I had never experienced before. And I try and get back to that feeling whenever I sing that sing those words and sing that prayer again. Now.
That's what comes to me. So beautiful. It was an incredible moment, maybe we can put some shaky camera footage in the show notes. Just something I can say now, about shownotes they will exist.
Check it out my bingo board.
Yeah, podcast bingo board
that that whole idea is really freeing To me, the idea that it's not going to work all the time, the one that's popping up for me right now, and it doesn't really appear as a prayer, but it certainly felt like it to me at the time is two or three years ago, I saw the Grand Canyon. And when I saw it for the first time, I literally and I mean literally literally could not breathe. Wow, I could not catch my breath. And when I could all I could do was cry. And I thought that response to the moment. I just can't describe it it. It had to have been prayer even though I read that nothing to do with liturgy. But it was such a feeling of awe and such a feeling of connection.
That's beautiful. A poet friend of mine said once that poetry is the art of putting into words that which cannot be put into words. And I think that so often that's what prayer is an attempt to do. And that's what g?d is an attempt to do. Anytime we're talking about the ineffable that which connects us we're attempting to put into words what cannot be put into words like you can't actually describe in words and have us understand and feel how you felt there. There's no way even if you talked about it for years and years on end, we wouldn't actually get close and yet that experience was was so real. Does that kind of play into the why you are here question at all.
I think that the the why I'm here question goes back to the idea of prayer as practice. I do believe and people are always seem to be astounded when I say this in front of a class or something that I believe that prayer can change the world. Because I think that we have this conception of wait a minute wait, you know, like if we all sing Shalom Rav long enough is that all it takes and which is not necessarily what I'm saying except that I know that prayer can change the world. If prayer could change the people who pray. And, and the why I'm here is because honestly in my own life, with the expansion of my prayer practice, I know how I think different and I feel different, and I engage with people and prayer and song and everything differently. And it feels good, it feels nourishing. So I guess the reason why I'm here is because I believe that enough that I want to expand the conversations that the three of us and many others are having, but let's keep expanding and let's Get the word out there that this spiritual practice is of great benefit to the world. I think,
a couple weeks ago, I did some webinars with Dr. Lisa Miller, who's the author of the spiritual child, which I had read a while ago and then promptly asked you all to buy, it's probably sitting around, yeah, sit at your, at your office somewhere. It was incredible. And maybe we'll do a whole episode on this, because I just think it's so fascinating and important about how having a strong spiritual core, she says, through her research is the best defense against maladies of the Spirit, depression, anxiety, feelings of loneliness, feelings of isolation, which are so endemic in our worlds and in our culture right now. And everything that she ticked off about building the foundation of a strong spiritual core, are things that Judaism has an abundance and isn't shy about within itself. And I wonder if we're doing the best job of bringing that to light. I wonder if we're doing the best job of shining a light on those pieces of our practice, and our heritage, that have these very strong messages of love, and oneness and resilience, but also resilience coupled with the desire to change our circumstances, that it's all there. It's all there. And through this podcast, and the other things that I'm hoping that we'll do, how can we engage educators, clergy, and every person in this desire to make change in ourselves and in the world, through softening our edges, opening our hearts being present, a meaningful prayer experience that happened to me, I actually thought of how lately I've been chanting, just English chants, have a little area, little altar in my room. But what I found really meaningful is just sitting at the altar and taking a deep breath. And whatever happens, happens, whatever words come out, come out, and they're the words that I need to hear and the words that I need to say. And I have found it very meaningful. When I do it, it changes my whole outlook for the rest of the day, everything becomes more open. I'm able to sing whatever happened that morning as a mantra to myself, I think today is because I looked out and I saw my tree was the flowers on the tree, they bloom like me. And so the rest of the day, I was walking around looking at flowers and thinking about like, what does it mean to bloom and to be open? It took me a while to get there. I'm hoping part of this can be how can we get how can we help Jews with extemporaneous English prayer? Like prayer off the cuff? Was it which isn't something that we're all totally used to?
You know, we don't think about it when we say, oh, gee, I sure hope that, etc, etc, etc. Just in the course of the day, or my g?d, I hope that x doesn't happen, or did you hear about something? Oh, my g?d. We don't think of these little moments as prayers. And yet, you know, what is a prayer but to say, I really hope that or would you look at that, Oh, my g?d, you know, that, for us to give ourselves permission to accept the fact that we may be praying more often than we think it's just about expanding our idea of what prayer might be.
I think that that's like the crux of it right there. Right? It's about expansiveness. And it's about how can we think about what we're doing as a form of prayer? How can we read redefine some of and re characterize some of the things that we're already doing in our lives? Right, like, you know, I mean, to bring in some theology right there we were saying about looking at and contemplating the tree was like, that's like, boober right there. It's like talk that's what that's what relationship with God is all about looking at creation and saying, I'm in relationship with this thing. And you know, that I think that that's, that's really what we're trying to think about is how can we the practices that were already engaged in and then opening ourselves up to just being aware of the things that we're doing as we go about our daily lives? How, how is that in some ways, going back to our you know, one of our, our taglines for today? How is that a prayer practice?
I think also opening ourselves up to the idea that we don't totally need to know or be 100% sure of what's on the other line, so to speak, we will definitely do more segments about g?d in the future. But I think that is a place where we get so caught up. And I've just learned, this is like funny to say, as someone who teaches about g?d a lot, but I care a lot less about theology than I used to. Because I think it's about having those g?d experiences that are expansive, and connective. That's where the real work is where at least I think that's where they were. Your life shifting ness is and everything else is lovely. And it's good to talk about what philosophers think g?d is or isn't. But it's really up to each person to feel that for themselves. Because it's that feeling, I think of pure connection that if we take it seriously can lead us to acting differently in the world can lead us like to what you said, Ellen can lead us to living deeper lives, let's change in meaning.
What you said about, about the difference between praying to, and having an experience of that, that when we want to deal with g?d, or, or spirit, our own spirit, our own spiritual core, having an experience of it is very different than I will now have to pray to g?d and I'm not quite sure I know what that means.
There was so there's this group of middle schoolers, I've been working with this incredible rabbi, Rabbi Rebecca ben Gideon, on and we had a meeting today where she showed a piece of student work, they had been doing an exercise around the different names of g?d. Basically, the kid says, I don't know if I like all of these names, can't just talk to g?d, can I just talk to g?d, like a person? Like if I saw my friend, I wouldn't say, Hello friend, owner of the cool trampoline, brother of my brother's friends, how are you? Like, that's not how you talk. I was like, wow, this kid is like already at hebo to do already at just talking to g?d out loud, being present in the world, and that sometimes, the language we use can get in the way, and that there can be room for both somehow. And with that, we'll be right back.
So just like Sesame Street, or podcast is going to have a word of the day, or letter of the day, or Word of the Day today is T'fillah surprise to no one. But the word of the day. Is T'fillah. Ellen, can you tell us a little bit about the word T'fillah?
Yes, I am the roots and grammar person of the day. So nice to be here. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. I will I love hearing the Hebrew language. First of all, I know that all of us do. And I'm glad to be able to dig into that a little bit. And I think it highlights what we're doing here, what the word means, or how it gets translated. Because we can say, Oh Tfillah that's the Hebrew word for prayer. And we can be done right there. So it's great to look at Of course, the Hebrew root for Tfillah is actually Pey Lamed Lamed. And "pillel" means to judge or examine or inspect. But I also found when I was looking more deeply into it, that there's an element of curiosity and surprise there. I don't hear the word used in modern Hebrew too often, but the expression "mi pillel" in Hebrew is a way to say Who woulda thunk? Or who would have expected that, that things were going to be this way. And I love that idea of inviting a closer look inviting a deeper exploration into something to be curious about. And then for T'fillah the infinitive of the verb to pray is l'hitpallel to make it reflexive and turn that curiosity and that examination and exploration inward. And so it's it's an active examination and inspection and then we take it and we use it as a mirror and we examine ourselves and inspect ourselves and go deeper back to our own spiritual core that we were talking about before
thank you i love the idea of curiosity. No when I was a kid we learned it you know to judge oneself is a good translation. It also sounds kind of harsh. So like being self curious, that's beautiful. How can
I exercise self exploration with compassion? Hmm,
I love that also and to me it also it feels if we take out the judgement of it is it's noticing what's going on within yourself. It's worth examining is like a holding up a microscope, or what like a magnifying glass to like inward and saying what's, what's going on in here and how can I figure out how to How to express what's happening inside. But there's a struggle there right and and i think that you know, a lot of that struggle has to do it and we've talked about this a bunch already today's is the change that happens, right? If we're only going to be able to move to have any movement in the way that we're living our lives if if we do that action of of holding up the magnifying glass ourselves, if we take a moment to pillel to like, really examine and think about it, if you don't do that, then there's no there's no movement, we can't be walking through life with any sort of chip shift in our behavior, then what we were doing a minute before a day before. And I know we mentioned the Hebrew letters and our love for letters already. And so I just wanted to the other thing I would add to that is, you know, we're thinking about gematria, which is Hebrew numerology that every Hebrew letter has its own numerical equivalent and the words are connected to each other with throughout these mystical significances and powerful for the three of us as as prayer leaders and musicians that the gematria for T'fillah is 515 which is the same as the gematria for the word Shira. That that whenever we are praying there there's got to be some form of of singing of expressing it out into the world and that also for you know, in reexamining and redefining some of the things we already do whenever we're singing that there's in some way that's a form of prayer, right that that expression that feeling that we're getting we're doing that on our own or with other people that feeling you get when you sing is there's there's a prayer aspect to that also and the power in that in that mutual connection.
I love the idea also that in Hebrew, Shira is not just song but it's also poetry. And that just melts my heart every single time I think about it. the poetry of prayer is all over the place.
I can't be the only person that was singing in my head mi pillel mi pillel
it's a podcast actually took a second to remember that it took me a second to remember that it wasn't mi pillel like I said it I was like oh yeah, that's a great set. It's a great Shabbat zemer I was like, wait, it's not mi pillel
you could be mi pillel mi pillel mi pillel yivarach kol Yisrael, you know, who-da thunk! Go figure.
I love this, Josh, I think this might be your next zemer idea. "mi pillel", um, something I love about the word T'fillah is that it contains both of these ideas that we've already talked about as being so difficult the idea of liturgy, are a vast treasure trove of prayers that's been handed down to us. And prayer itself, the act of sustained attention with an open heart, being present with what is expressing that which is inside of ourselves. And the fact that both of those are the same word in Hebrew, I think reminds us of the importance of both of them, and how each of them reinforced the other, the more that we can sit with and be with an open and learn from the liturgy, looking at different translations, different ideas, exploring what instead of imagining that we are just reciting the prayer book thinking, what is the liturgy saying to me today? What does it have to say to us, that encourages us and can open us up to being present in the world and sharing our own language. And the more that we're present, the more we're able to share, the more that we find ourselves in the liturgy, and it's a cycle a beautiful cycle that can just keep moving in and of itself. There's also something I think I learned this from Shira Klein that if you take it in English, it's to feel Ah, so we can check it all together to feel it there's so much to learn even just from the sounds, what does it mean to give ourselves that outbreath that ability to just be, and exist in the world?
Amen. And with that, we'll be right back.
So friends, you might have heard about Song exploder. I've heard it's a pretty popular podcast slash Netflix show. I don't know if we're gonna be picked up on Netflix. But as we've explored today, already a little bit there is a huge interplay between songs and music, and to be lost. So we're hoping throughout the series, to delve a little more deeply into different melodies for prayer in what we're calling right now. Prayer Song exploder, but maybe we'll come up with a better name for it. And today, we happen to have as one of our main panelists already, Rabbi Josh Warshawsky Hello Hello Hello. And we decided to talk about your composition of V'ani T'filati today. So why don't you tell us a little bit about it?
Great. So if I need to feel it, the words come from our liturgy. It's right in the morning prayer that we say it's right at the end of the Ma Tovu prayer, the prayer that we say when we enter into a sanctuary, we enter into a space of prayer. So what does it mean for me to be a prayer? How can I place myself I'm about to enter into the sanctuary of the space of prayer. What am I bringing into it? What is me being in this space? What is me entering into this moment, changing about this space about this atmosphere that that's being created? And so that's sort of where this this this melody comes from, was written by myself and a dear friend of mine. Yael Bettenhausen. And we wrote it in thinking about what what these words are is as if Ma Tovu is a theme of entering into a space and finding moments of connection, and grounding ourselves in that moment, before we open ourselves up to everything else that's in that space.
Can you tell us a little bit more about in case our listeners aren't familiar yet where Ma Tovu comes in the liturgy and what that beginning phrase means?
For sure, we're talking about entering into a sanctuary these are the first words that we say in the morning Ma Tovu Ohalecha Ya'akov How good are your tents? Oh, Jacob Mishkenotecha Yisrael, the places where you reside. Oh, Israel, and it's an acknowledgement of noticing that, that we're in this building we're in this space and how good it is to be to be gathered together. The words also come from, from the Torah there in parshat Balak the the words of an enchanter, who calls out he's told by g?d told by a king to curse the people of Israel and he looks out at the people of Israel who have their tents faced in a way that looks modest that people can take care of each other and not go into each other's faces when they're looking for some privacy and he says, Wow, Ma Tovu I like how beautiful how amazing it is that these people are able to gather and at the same time, give each person their own sacredness and privacy to
beautiful sentiment. You you translate it but I need to feel it How are you translating that again? Because that's not always the way that that we see it it says
V'ani T'filati lecha Adonai let my prayer come to You, oh g?d. eit ratzon, hopefully at a time that's a that's a good time for You that You're able to listen to me right now that we're able to focus-Elohim b'rov chasdecha Oh Holy One in this in your infinite Grace Aneini b'emet yishecha please answer me in truth answer me with with this faith and and so I've decided to to take also an understanding of that as myself being a prayer How can I be a prayer for myself and for the people around me? And thinking also about what what does an answer sound like? What does an answer look like? What does an answer feel like when I'm calling out in prayer when I'm calling out when we're doing all the things we said that prayer is all about about noticing and change and expressing what's happening inside of me what what is an answer to that prayer? act? What is it actually I think there's a lot of possibilities for that.
So with that, why don't you play the song for us and give us a kavanah and intention for going into our listening
so we're gonna we're gonna sing the whole thing through just once right now and while I'm while I'm singing it through think about you know, this is a calling out a prayer in a moment of privacy and a moment of intimacy with yourself. And what does it feel like when you name that in the world would it feel like to receive an answer? What would it look like? What would it feel like? What would it taste like? What would that sense be to feel that answer
::Josh sings V'ani T'filatli::
welcome back, everyone, thank you so much for being with us on our first episode of the light lab podcast. As all of us have articulated, prayer is a practice, not just for more prayer, but also for life, we hope that you're able to take what we talked about and explore in these times and bring it out with you into the rest of the world. So we're looking to end each episode with the practice that you can do right now and also come back to whenever you want. So I invite you wherever you are, if it's safe to do so maybe not if you're driving, but if you're in a place where it's safe to do so, to sit or stand a little bit straighter, to put your feet on the floor, feeling the earth under you roll your shoulders back, to open up your heart, allow your eyes to fall to a close or focus on the on a spot on the floor and begin to follow the natural pattern of your breath. In and out. So often we are doing so often we are doing in our world. But as we just heard, for I need to feel it, I am a prayer. It's not about what you are doing. It's about your being. By being present, and fully. By being myself, my own unique emanation of the Divine Light. I am a prayer. In fact, invite you to bring your awareness to your breath in and out. Can you feel as if every breath in and every breath out? is a prayer.
I invite you to breathe in one more big deep breath in and out. Knowing that you can return to this prayerful space whenever and wherever you'd like. I want to thank you both so much, Josh and Ellen, for being with me today. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
What a pleasure. Eliana, may it be the first of many more conversations,
man, so wonderful to get to continue this work together. Thanks for having us.
Thank you so much, everybody can't wait to hang out again soon.