The Light Lab Podcast Episode 13: Who is Present? Avot V'Imahot)
6:22PM Feb 1, 2022
Shalom, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the Light Lab Podcast. My name is Eliana Light and I am here with my dear friends Cantor Ellen Dreskin,
Good day everybody!
And Rabbi Josh Warshawsky.
A good day indeed.
I love that. Good day to you, dear friends. I you know, it kind of makes sense that we're speaking in old timey ways. It was a terrible segue, but I'm rolling with it people, because our opening question for the day is that I want to know something about your ancestors. So, Ellen, can you tell me something about your ancestors?
Oh, my goodness, what I know only goes back a couple of generations, oddly enough. But in terms of my ancestors, I feel that my, I have Texas roots. And I have deep Eastern European roots. And they are the mixture is very interesting. And but my family came over from Eastern Europe, to America in the late 1800s, early 1900s. And out of my four grandparents, three of them were born in Eastern Europe, only one was born here in America. So I feel like I got the best of both worlds. Hard working, Yiddish speaking except for my mother, who was born and raised in Texas. And it's a very kind of Fiddler on the Roof meets Texas ancestry.
You know what I would watch that show. That sounds delightful, some sort of Oklahoma, but it's actually a Texas Fiddler, hybrid. Incredible. Josh, tell us something about your ancestors.
So my great uncle at one point was keeping like a really comprehensive family tree, and I have to track it down. Because I don't feel off the top of my head that I know enough about my ancestors. I know that on both sides of my family, three generations, at least, have been in America, for an America. So lots of roots in Chicago, in auto parts business over there. And then, but the Warshawsky side, also went back to Poland at some point to Warsaw, hence the name. And on the other side to Romania. That's what I got.
What I have to say blew my mind Warshawsky has something to do with Warsaw. Who? How do you see that it makes so much sense?
Lately, not lately. I guess when I've been traveling over the last couple of years, I ran into various people in various different places who say, Hey, I know Warshawsky - Are you related? And generally, I don't know who that Warshawsky is. But at some point, we were probably all on the same street in Warsaw together. I think that that was sort of the modifier that got into Ellis Island for many of us.
That's a nice thought, you know, there are all those stories running around. My mom's grandparents, I suppose, were Berman, and the story is that they showed up at Ellis Island, and they said, Isaac, what is your, what is your name? Or they said, What is your name? And the translator says, what do they call you? And he said Isaac, the beer man because he sold beer. Now, is that true? I don't know. On my father's side, my uncle got ahold of my great grandfather's Ellis Island papers, we always thought that our name was originally Light in Russian or Polish, because that's where my family comes from. But our last name used to be Gitllis. And so I have no idea how we got from that to Light. And I'm also not related, besides my cousin's in my immediate family to any of the other Lights around. So no idea where that came from. And it's interesting, similar to you, Josh, I don't know that much about my immediate ancestry. And sometimes that can feel really defeating and sad. And there. I certainly want to know more about who they were. But I also feel like I don't know that much about my own family. Like I asked my mom all the time, like, what was it like for you growing up? What kind of things did you do with your friends? Like, what did you love? There's a yearning that I have to feel like I'm a part of something. I think that's one of the reasons I love the Lower East Side so much. When I lived in New York, I would just go to the Lower East Side and wander around, get a pickle, get a knish, and I would feel like this is the land of my ancestors. And then I remember being down there with a friend once and saying this is the land of my people. He was like, Eliana, your family never lived in New York. They went straight to Chicago. Or, or Canada. Like that's not this is not where you come from. But we as Jews are blessed with a sense of collective heritage, which means that even though I don't know my immediate ancestry, I get to feel a part of an incredible lineage, which I find to be very meaningful because it keeps me rooted and reminds me of the connection that I have to, to all Jewish folk and to really all people everywhere, depending on how far back we go. And I asked this question today, because we are finally, after taking three steps back and three steps forward. After doing a deep dive on baruch atah yud hey vav hey, and if you have not listened to those episodes, I suggest you go back so that you are prepared for us actually stepping into the first bracha of the amidah. We have entered the praise section of the amidah, some maycall the wow section of the Amidah giving big ups to the Holy One over here. And we start with our ancestors traditionally, the section was called avot, that means fathers in Hebrew. We'll talk in a little bit about how now, many in the liberal Jewish world call it avot v'imahot, meaning fathers and mothers, patriarchs and matriarchs so we're gonna take it section by section, explore a little Midrash interpretation, see how it feels to us and listener, I would encourage you if you want to use this for your own education, do that as well. Listen to it, pause the podcast and think, how do I respond to this? What is this make me feel and join in on the conversation with us. And Josh, take it away!
Alright, so we're gonna make our way into the first section here just by reading through the names, which is the names of our ancestors that we call out. I'm reading from the Conservative Movement's new Lev Shalem Shabbat and Festival Siddur, which actually has two paragraphs next to each other one that has just the patriarchs and one that has the patriarchs and matriarchs, I'm going to read from the latter, and we'll see where it takes us! Baruch atah adonai eloheinu v'elohei avoteinu. Then in parentheses there it says also, v'imoteinu. Elohei Avraham Elohei Yitzchak V'Elohei Ya'akov, Elohei Sarah, Elohei Rivka, Elohei Rachel V'Elohei Leah. The translation here on the side it says, Baruch Atah Adonai, untranslated, our G?d and G?d of our ancestors, G?d of Abraham, G?d of Isaac and G?d of Jacob, G?d of Sarah, G?d of Rebecca, G?d of Rachel, and G?d of Leah. So what do we notice? What's standing out anybody so far?
There's repetition of just a few words over and over again in there. That's what I'm noticing there's a rhythm to it right off the bat.
There is a definite rhythm, even in the blessing part. Also interesting to notice that it left it was left untranslated in that Siddur because it's really hard to translate those three words.
G?d, we had a whole podcast episode about it.
Exactly! Even the way Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah has a rhythm and a rhyme. Even though Leah, technically, if you're going by who was married first, she would be the sister that would be first. And I know some people that do say, Leah before a while to kind of give her that kavod, that honor. But there is a really nice flow to the way that it sounds, now. And it's also not something I hear read out very often. It sounds like a beautiful poem.
And now that you're saying that, I mean, it made it clear that the rhyming there is definitely intentional. There's so much ryhyming or like things that fit when you say them out loud. There's a meter to the Hebrew in prayer, that that was clearly intentional. And I think that that was why the choice was made, I think in many siddurim to put lay after Rachel. And whenever we generally lift list out that are our ancestors and the matriarchs, I think if I've heard it more often in that direction, probably for that very reason.
So I want to go to this point, parentheses, you don't have to play this parentheses, even if we're going in a different order than on the sheet, close parentheses, about this section, and the different ways that it can be said. Right, one side of the page just says Elohei Avraham Elohei Yitzchak V'Elohei Ya'akov are three patriarchs. Then the other side adds Elohei Sarah, Elohei Rivka, Elohei Rachel V'Elohei Leah. In the span of Jewish history, that's a pretty recent addition, happening in the last few decades or so, I might say, at least in the more mainstream siddurim, and I can imagine that it was bubbling up maybe in the Havurah Movement, the Renewal or Reconstructing Judaism movements, other sort of grassroots places, but it's only become mainstream in the past few decades. And I know at least for me, it's something that I didn't adopt until later in my spiritual journey. And Ellen, I wanted to ask you about it. How do you feel?
It's really interesting. I grew up with only the patriarchs but I also grew up in a classical Reformed Congregation Huston, Texas and I don't even know that I was all that familiar with the Hebrew and I know I wasn't familiar with the source text etc. I really looking at this phrase Elohei Avraham Elohei Yitzchak V'Elohei Ya'akov. I like to look at it in context. This exact phrase comes from Torah. It comes from Moses experience at the burning bush in Exodus 16:3. And when G?d is describing G?d's Self to Moses at the burning bush, G?d says, I'm Elohei Avoteicha, as opposed to Elohei Avoteinu, I Am the G?d of your ancestors, or we're going to be gender insensitive of your fathers, and then list them, Elohei Avraham Elohei Yitzchak etc. And so I think that our imahot were added later on, in an effort to be gender equal in an effort to give merit to our matriarchs as well as our patriarchs. And yet, I can't help but hold on to that. The Elohei Avraham, the patriarch part is supposed to remind me or does remind me of each time I entered the Amidah of that burning bush moment of that very individual moment between Moses and G?d. And that loses its power for me, when we add on the matriarchs, and I hope I haven't offended anybody that I grew up with the patriarchs. Adn to add the matriarchs, I learned it through summer camp through the URJ summer camping. And so from my experience, much like many of our contemporary melodies, the matriarchs came home from camp and took seed in our home congregations and then started to grow there in the Reform Movment.
What you're saying is totally valid, because they're your feelings and prayer is personal, right, tefillah is both personal what we say. And it's also communal and political in the choices that we make. Synagogues choosing to add the matriarchs, for a lot of them was a pretty big deal. Because I think for a lot of synagogues, it signaled aspirationally how they wanted women to be treated in their congregations. For me, one of the reasons that I didn't add the matriarchs in my personal Amidah was because sometimes it felt just like that, like a token. And to say that if a synagogue cared about women's leadership, there would be other things that you did. You know, my father was a rabbi, I've been around the politics of this my whole life. I remember, one of the synagogues, we were at, we had left, they were looking at a rabbi, and she would have been the first woman rabbi of their congregation, first female rabbi. Now, this was like, eight years ago, shouldn't be a big deal. But it still is. And people were saying, Well, I don't care that she is a woman, but people will care. Won't people care? Won't this be a problem for people? I'm like, Who are these people? Where did they go? Who are they? Right? It's you. You just want to sit don't want to say you have a problem with it. So what does it mean, for something to be token or for it to really be representative? You know, there are congregations, where they also add Bilhah and Zilpah, who were Yakov's concubines, who also birthed the sons that gave birth to all of us the 12 tribes. So how can we be inclusive in a way that isn't token? And how do we make it even more inclusive?
What I do really appreciate is the reminder, when we add these names, or and others, there's that siddur that liturgy is not Torah, in terms of its text, and that we are allowed and invited and given wholehearted permission, I think, to add words of include words that make our entire liturgical experience more inclusive, and that I heartily approve of.
Yeah, I'm really, I really like the idea of thinking of the textual sources, where the the words of our prayers come from. And so you know, that really resonated with me what you said a lot about taking those words from that particular verse and thinking back to that burning bush moment, as the moment that we're entering when we enter into this prayer. I think that's really powerful. And now I'm also thinking about if we're to understand and you know, there's a lot of different opinions about this. But if we're to understand where the Torah came from, and for some people who think that the words of the Torah were divinely inspired, but written down by human beings or even crafted by human beings, the people that were writing down those words were most likely male. And so you know, maybe it maybe if they were words of the Torah were crafted or divinely inspired in a different way, then are matriarchs would have been present in that moment at at the burning bush. And you know that that's a that's in some ways some spheres that might be a blasphemous thing to say that we could add those words to the Torah, since we weren't supposed to add or subtract at all. But I'm thinking about that there's this book of feminist Midrash that I've been studying in hevruta called Dirshuni, and it's all Midrashim written by female identifying professors in Israel, who are crafting new stories and understandings based on the words in the in the Torah, and the words that aren't in the Torah. So you know, that that sort of got me thinking about I wonder if, if there's a way that we can begin to think about feeling the presence of those people in that moment. It brings me to like this a Star Wars sort of experience, or like, you know, if anybody's seen Star Wars were like, at the end of some of the original trilogy, and like, they're having a celebration, and you see the ghosts of all the people that that should have been there. And so now I'm imagining that ghosts of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob but also have Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, and they're sort of present in that moment with us in the throne room, you can use it in even in like Harry Potter, where they're like, there's a the attack and all these different ghosts come out. And so who is present with you in that moment, when you enter into prayer? Got me thinking about that. I guess I would also add that that way, that, you know, we actually use those words, the purpose of those words, in that moment, I think, in a lot of different contexts is zchut avot. It's the merit of our ancestors, that we want to use the words of others, to help us gather our own thoughts and our own feelings and our own prayers. So in that moment, when we call out to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, when we call out to Sarah, Reecca, Rachel and Leah, we're thinking about those particular moments of, of prayer of Moses in that moment, also, and how we can use those words that are here in the Siddur, to help open up the words of our own heart, and soul.
That's really beautiful. And I love that imagery from Star Wars and Harry Potter, but it's, it's that feeling of being supported and our friend Chava Mirel has led me in a mindfulness exercise when we were leading a service together, where she learned this from practitioners of mindfulness who didn't happen to be Jewish, but that if you stand, right, this is our Amidah, if we can, if we are able, we stand, to bend your knees, to feel your feet, on the Earth, where your ancestors are, right? There's the idea and the spirit of our ancestors. And then there's the bodies of our ancestors, which are in and have become the earth. And to feel supported by the earth to feel gravity, meet your feet and hold you up. And to imagine your ancestors holding you up in that moment, I found it to be incredibly powerful. Because, right, there's a reason that the Amidah starting here. And it's pretty smart of the editors of the Amdiah or the writers of the Amidah just start us by focusing on our ancestors, we've already said that prayer is hard. That's where the Adonai S'fatai Tiftach bit comes, right help me pray. And so calling back to our ancestors is not just about saying, you had a great relationship with our ancestors, G?d, for the most part, remember that when you think about how you want to relate to us, but that it's also supportive for us as individuals. So we don't feel like we're alone in this. So we feel like we're being supported and held. And part of the lineage.
I was going to ask about, I did have that in my early religious school education, that idea of the reason they Amidah begins this way is because you're about to ask G?d for a lot of things, you're you're entering into that private audience with G?d, it's time to, to remind G?d that you may be lonely nothingness, but you are descendants of great people like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And I so wonder about that, that it's also not so much to remind G?d, but to remind me, you know, I'm not alone, because I'm hearing community praying these words in this moment. And I'm not alone, because there is a thread, a spiritual thread of some sort that is running through and I'm, I'm on that same thread. I'm in that same fabric.
Another thing I remember learning about this, when I was young, was asking the question, why does it say Elohei so and so, Elohei so and so, God of so, and so, and not just God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, I'm wondering what that what that says how that speaks to all of us.
Yeah, I think we've we were probably taught the same thing over growing up and ask you that question, which is the idea that the reason that it's the G?d of each particular person is that each of those people had different relationships with G?d, and different connections to divinity. And so when we call out to G?d using all of these names, we call out and express that there are different ways to relate to and connect to and converse with and be in conversation with G?d. And if we can experience that and understand that, we can let that open ourselves up to our own connections and conversations and communication with G?d.
I actually have a song about that, remembering now, um, maybe we'll play a couple of seconds of it here, I was asked to find a musical component for this piece. And besides the nusach, which we'll talk about later, there really aren't any songs about it. But the song is from G?d's point of view. Saying I remember when I called out to your father, I remembered when I called out to your mother, and each little couplet harkens back to a story when G?d had a connection with that particular ancestor. And so it's a interesting teaching tool to ask the students to be like, well, who is it? Who is the song talking about there? And then the chorus is Elohei Avraham Elohei Yitzchak Elohei Ya'akov, Elohei Sarah Elohei Rivka Elohei Rachel V'Elohei Leah, Eloheicha, which is your G?d. And then at the Elohayich, Your G?d would in the feminine, so saying, G?d is kind of calling out to us also through the Siddur in this moment, saying, I got to know your ancestors, and now I'm really excited to get to know you. Like let's have a relationship. Let's let's connect together.
I often wonder if we were to put other names in there. I wonder about our patriarchs and matriarchs, while the Torah would have tells us about all the dialogues that took place in between our, our ancestors and G?d, mostly once faith is acted out in one's life and the way one lives. And if I aspire to have those kinds of relationships, like, Could I have a relationship with G?d like Abraham did? Or like Isaac did or Rebecca, I wonder about what I were moved to say, gosh, I wish I were as inspired or strong or courageous as and because we're recording it on the week that we're recording it as, say Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Then would I want to say you know, Elohei Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hello. Elohei Reb Nachman. Elohei my grandma who had a faith beyond anybody else I've ever known that, that all of these are different manifestations, and they play out in so many different ways in these people's lives. I'd like to remind myself of that too. And I wonder if you want to pause the podcast now and maybe think if I could play a When Harry Met Sally moment of all have what she's having? Then who's out who's G?d? Based on someone's actions to the universe? What would your response to elohei fill in the blank? I'd like to have a relationship with G?d like I think that person has.
Hmm, that's beautiful and seems like a perfect time to take a break while you think about that listener. So with that, we'll be right back.
The next section we're going to talk about together is only a few words, but because of a couple of things that we'll talk about later, they've become some of my favorite words in the entire Siddur isn't it great that they're in the Amidah? So they show up all the time? HaEl HaGadol HaGibbur V'Hanorah El Elyon. I'm gonna say that again, because I love saying it, wanted us to hear it. HaEl HaGadol HaGibbur V'Hanorah El Elyon. Jill Hammer in the Rommemu siddur translates that as G?d deity abundant mighty wondrous oh most high, El Elyon, something about height and going up. How do we feel just hearing that kind of isolated piece of text?
For me it gets a little bit of a sense of like are in the best way a boulder starting to roll down a hill. There's a there's a like if you kept going with the the Ha- Ha- Ha- Ha repetition that it would get more and more. I don't know greater, heavier.
I don't know if this is it might be intentional. But when you were emphasizing all those ha-s so beautifully. I felt very regal to me. It was almost it was like trumpets blasting it was like we're this is like entering this throne room. And I thought about that idea before but I really felt it manifests in the way that you are pronouncing the words.
One of the things that really connected me to this was a conversation I had with someone I met at Limud Southeast a couple of years ago at Ramah Darom. It's a big Jewish learning gathering. And I wish I remembered his name, I might have to find him because his Midrash, his interpretation had so much effect on me. He imagined that all of these names are kind of going up in transcendence, up up up into everything. So we start with HaEl that just means deity, G?d, right? This is what it is. We're naming it. HaGadol, the great. HaGibor, the Mighty. VeHaNorah, the wondrous, it's kind of going up and up and out and then we're El Elyon, G?d Most High. We're up here. And we're going to leave ourselves up here until we come to the end of this section. And then you'll see why this means a lot to me. But the other thing that means a lot to me, is the intertext of it all. Right, when we quote a line from Tanach, it's understood potentially by the editors that we know all the stuff around it. And I learned this from Rav Elie Kaunfer of Hadar who listeners, it's very exciting. We have an interview scheduled with him for the next couple of weeks. So that'll come out, eventually. But he's done all of this incredible work on the Amidah was really meaningful to me if you go to Deuteronomy 10:16-19. And again, we'll link the text in the show notes so you can follow along. It paints a very different picture. You know, when I work with students, a lot of them say, you know, we've said this before on the podcast, wow. G?d must have a really fragile ego if we have to keep telling G?d how great and wonderful and smart they are. Or they're just very egotistical, and that's why we need to tell them all of this. Why do we have to repeat it? But here are those lines. U’melachtem et orlat levavchem ve’arpchem lo takshu od.
Cut away therefore the thickening around your hearts and stiffen your necks no more. Ki adonai eloheichem hoo elohei haelohim vadonei haadonim hael hagadol hagibur vehanorah asher lo yisa fanim velo yukach shochad. For the Lord your G?d is G?d Supreme and Lord Supreme, The Great, The Mighty, the Awesome G?d hael hagadol hagibur vehanorah, who shows no favor and takes no bribe. Oseh mishpat yatom vealmana veohev ger latet lo lechem vesimlah. But upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing him with food and clothing. Veahavtem et hager ki gerim hayitem be’eretz mitzryaim. So you too, must befriend, the stranger, love the stranger for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Does this change anything? Knowing the intertext of where this comes from? How might this change our praying of this piece?
I don't want to jump the gun into the next section of the prayer. But even as you're speaking now, the next sentence makes a lot more sense to me that if I know the context of the these attributes, because the next part of our prayer is all about the chesed. So I will go there in a second, but.
That it makes sense to put this before the piece about G?d's loving kindness, because we're sharing here about G?d's kind of radical love.
Yes, that that is part of the the gadol and the gibur and the norah right there. And we would think it's like getting higher and higher into the heavens, when really it's all about staying in relationship with us. That's what I'm hearing in it now.
And in some ways, it gets into the specifics in a way that that neither the preceding lines or the following lines are going to get into, but it's as if we're supposed to, you know, the original prayers are ones who just knew the whole time and by heart, they knew the whole tour by heart. So we're supposed to just know that these are the specific acts that we're talking about when we reference them with these sort of ethereal and large terms.
And that also, it's a reminder, and we'll talk about this a lot more next episode that when we talk about G?d being strong and mighty, when we praise G?d's strength and might, it's not about the violence that G?d could commit. It's about the justice and the righteousness that G?d does in the world. G?d loves the widow and the orphan. G?d loves the stranger. And so we too, are told, and I think this is the mitzvah, the commandment that comes up the most times in the Torah is veahavta et hager, is to love the stranger. And it could have been very easy to say, well, the Egyptians treated us terribly. So let's never trust anybody again and let's treat everybody terribly. But the Torah goes out of its way to say the opposite. You know what it's like to go through some stuff. Treat others with love and respect and cherish them. And that's really powerful to take this piece about praise and flip it back into human relationships and how we treat each other. You know, Rabbi Shai Held one of the quotes of his that I love is, I don't really care whether you believe in G?d or not, I care about what the G?d you profess to believe in asks of you. Right? What does G?d want from you. And in this piece that we read from Devarim, G?d wants us to love the stranger. And that's a beautiful thing for us to take with us into the Amidah. I want to quickly mention before we move on to the next section, I'm going to post in the show notes, this learning that I absolutely love this piece of Talmud that I learned first from Rabbi Aaron Alexander, we don't have time to go through all of it now. The line Hael Hagadol Hagibur V'Hanorah, particularly those last three adjectives, great, mighty and awesome, shows up in the Tanakh in a couple of different places with some of those words missing. And the rabbi's do this incredible thing where they look at each of those instances, they're a little bit scandalized at first, that all of these other people would misquote Moses, because in their understanding Daniel and Isaiah, the prophets knew the whole Torah. So how could they misquote Moses? And not to give away the ending, but they kind of get to a place where they say, first of all, what it means to be great and mighty, are different. You might have thought it was mighty to smite your enemy, but it's actually mighty to hold off and have patience, something like that. And then the other thing they say, is that, well, in those times, it would have been a lie to say those things about G?d. And they knew G?d was the true G?d that didn't say those things about G?d. Just incredible to wrestle with. What does it mean to have been handed a liturgy that other people wrote? And then also have in the back of our minds, we need to be true about what G?d feels and what G?d is in this moment. But yeah, let's move to the next section. Ellen, there's so much more to say.
All right, well, that those last three words in this moment, you know that as we're we're continue throughout the prayer to remind ourselves about all of these qualities of G?d. And what do we need and how to G?d manifests to different individuals throughout history are the prayer continues with gomel chasadim tovim vekoneh hakol vezocher chasdei avot umeiveih goel lifnei bneihim lma'an shemo beahavah. It's a mouthful after all the high and mighty we really now get get to a little bit of an opposite perhaps Gomel chasadim tovim, rewarding good acts kind of recording kindness and mercy really vekoneh hakol G?d owning everything, the owner, the landlord, the super the, the that we are all and everything we know and everything we are our G?d's possessions in a way. V'zocher chasdei avot, we go back to our ancestry again. Vezocher chasdei avot veimahot, that you remember the the chesed, the kindness of our ancestors, this is what you this is what you want from us, huh. Umeivee goel livnei vneihem lema’an shemo beahavah. And you bring redemption to their children's children. And I love this phrase and I'd love to hear more of what y'all think about this particular phrase: lema'an shemo beahavah. What a beautiful, calm bringing it down to earth, part of the prayer for me.
There's there's so much happening in just these few words. You know, I'm glad we we took on just this paragraph for this podcast because every word is just so meaningful. And I also I love that phrase lma'an shemo b'ahavah, in ending this, this paragraph in connection with love. And I looked down at the Lev Shalem Siddur that I was referencing to see what it translates it as it says redeemer of their children's children for the sake of Divine Honor. And what does it say in the Siddur that you're using for a translation?
I have a very interpretive translation from Rabbi Marcia Prager, which folds it into the phrase, gradually embracing all things into one. How's that for interpretive?
Oh, and Rabbi Jill Hammers for that whole paragraph. It's doing good to those who love all creator taking note of our ancestors love bringing healing to their descendants in love for the sake of the holy essence dwelling in the world.
For the sake of the holy essence dwelling in the world. I just looked at Mishkan T'illah also, just as for their children's children, re-redemption of children's children for the sake of the Divine Name. Without again, without that Ahavah sort of being specifically translated.
Well, the Sim Shalom Siddur, Sim Shalom Siddur says, Because of your loving nature.
I like that, there's something about there's something about love, it's really avoiding the love!
I don't know why everybody's avoiding the ahavah bit.
Well, there's a big thing about because of or for the sake of, and how, I don't know G?d's reputation reflects on ours and or vice versa, in there, that we need to do something to, for, for G?d's sakes, my mother, for G?d's sakes, I haven't thought about whatever. But wasn't me to do something for G?d's sake, I wonder.
And also I was thinking about that gomel chasadim tovim and I went to I looked up in one of the Hebrew online dictionaries the word gomel again, about this, like sort of paying back and redeeming. And I guess if we're reading gomel chasadim tovim, I think if you read it literally, it's G?d pays back. Or it pays back one who does chasdim tovim, as opposed to G?d being the one doing the chasadim tovim. Is that grammatically incorrect to say? I think most translations as that is the is G?d who is the one who's acting with loving kindness. But if gomel is to to recompensate, or to pay back, gomel chasadim tovim, could it also be read is one who sort of pays back one who acts with loving kindness?
I got that second impression. If I'm understanding you correctly, Josh, the reward is going to those who act in that way. Is that what?
Right, that is, that is what I'm saying. I think that the way that I had originally understood those words is that it was G?d who is acting with loving kindness, even with some of these translations. A transcendent G?d who acts with kindness and love is the translation that I see in my Siddur. But now that I'm thinking about it, the way that you've read it, I'm thinking that it's not G?d who's supposed to be acting with loving kindness. It's G?d who is responding to our acts of loving kindness.
Okay, this might be taking it a little too far. But liknot, we're doing it though. Liknot in modern Hebrew means to buy, right like to purchase. It's almost like G?d is paying us back for like, rewarding, rewarding good deeds. And then it's like, no, I'll take it all. Everything. I'm taking the whole world, it's all you know, I love it so much. It's all mine, I don't know, I'll take the whole store.
I like that. I even like it. I wonder if it's like, you know, for using it in the language of like acquiring, like, acquire a friend or acquire a rabbi, a teacher, that these acts of loving kindness that we do, that G?d is sort of paying us back for G?d is ascribing to G?d's self, all of those acts also, when we act like G?d, G?d gets to sort of tally those as as you know, kindness acts of G?d's own self.
Which speaks back to us doing things for G?d's Name's sake, and doing them in love is that you know, Yisrael, it's always this aspect of relationship, of being in balance with and in touch with. I love that about the whole give and take.
Me too. And the idea that when we're in partnership, we're both doing we and G?d are doing these acts of loving kindness. We and G?d are acting in these ways. We're learning from each other's examples in a way,
Something that I read about in the My Peoples Prayer Book on the Amidah, where a lot of this is coming from is that poetically, it's starting small and getting bigger, which apparently is a poetic structure that's used all over the Siddur you know, Hael Hagadol et cetera, is one word el elyon, two, gomel chasadim tovim, three, vezocher chasdei avot, and then we have umeivi goel livnei vneihem, which is one long phrase to kind of say that we are expanding and expanding and expanding even in this one section, moving kind of from the esoteric to the more tangible. I also wanted to point out something you mentioned when we were talking Josh, about goel versus geulah.
Yeah, so I had always grown up in the siddurim that I do is that the word goel with the who brings a redeemer to us. And you know, reckoning back to mashaich, the Messiah, to is the sort of eventual redemption of coming from an individual. In all the reform in the reformed liturgy of the word is replaced with the word geulah. Redemption, as it as in brings redemption to our children's children that this redemption is is an idea. It's something that we can aspire to and something that can be brought about but isn't coming from an individual. And the reason why is going back to that Ahavah. Right, there's this little this love that brings us back to the why the redemption is coming for us. And I like that idea of bringing it into redemption, as opposed to using the goel, and as someone who has just sort of begun to experiment with changing liturgy for myself with some of the prayer language that was so my own melodies I think I've never tried to pray with it with the word geulah with this redemption and I think that's something that now I'm I'm inspired to try and take on it, see how it feels and sounds and tastes for myself.
And it's so interesting, Josh, because I never heard goel l until I was an adult, because I grew up with geulah. And my impression about the reason that it is that way in the reform movement also has to do with reformed views about the Messiah, of course, and that not a messianic age, as opposed to an individual Messiah. So that geulah translates as a card carrying reformed Jew for me as it lies, the Messianic age would be the translation I grew up with.
Yeah, the only thing one other thing I would just say to it to give goel a little bit more potential for Midrash is I wonder if there's a way for us to say that the person who is praying is the goel, that the goel or goelet at that we're talking about, right? Is there a way to to understand that it's like, each one of us could be the Redeemer? Should that happen to occur?
And it doesn't say hagoel now does it. It says goel. There you go, Oh, yes, unspecified. Well done.
Reminds me. I walked into my dad's office one day when I was a kid, and I was like, What are you reading? And he shows me the book. And it's called something like, There is No Messiah. And you're it. And I was like, how's the book? Well, it's really the title, like the whole thing. That's the whole thing. There is no Messiah and you're it. But it's also reminding me of the tradition of inviting, quote, unquote, Eliyahu Hanavi, to be at our baby naming and covenant ceremonies. The reason that I learned for that is because who knows, right? Eliyahu Nanavi is supposed to herald the coming of the Redeemer or the age of redemption. This person that was just born could in fact, be it. Who knows, but but I love the idea here that it says, goel, maybe it is each of us.
Beautiful. I think that the book you're referring to is by Larry Kushner, the might have to look oh, I'm almost certain I think it was on my shelf in the room next door.
Oh my gosh. Well, now that I've thought of it again, I'm going to have to read it and we'll put it in the show notes. And with that, we'll be right back.
We are now rounding the corner to the end of this particular paragraph. We are almost at the chatima, we talked about that in last week's episode the thematic summation in blessing form. But before we do that, if you are in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, or on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, there is an addition you do here. Zochreinu vchaim melech chafetz bachayim vechotveinu besefer hachayim lemancha chaim. You can already hear the theme which is chaim, hey that rhymes, remember us that we may live oh king who delights in life inscribe us in the Book of Life for your sake, living G?d. We won't get so into that today. Maybe we'll do a whole episode on the additions for the High Holidays into the Amidah as they're so beautiful and fascinating. Then we get to this last bit. Melech ozer u'moshiah umagein, some texts say melech ozer u'foken u'moshiah umagein. Baruch atah adonai magein avraham. Some versions say Baruch atah adonai magein avraham ufoked sarah, some versions say magein avraham, magein avraham ve'ezrat sarah. I'm wondering what your translations say? Magein avraham, foked? Ezrat? What do you have Josh?
I have shield of Abraham and guardian of Sarah. I think probably to make the connection of shield and guardian to be translate them in a similar fashion.
So the Hebrew that I'm looking at has ezrat sarah, and it says, protector of Avraham supporter of Sarah.
Hmm, I wonder if one of those is is a quote from the text because what I'm looking up now, which is why you might hear me poking around on my computer because I forgot to pull it up is that magein avraham is also kind of a quote from Genesis 15. There we go. After a whole bunch of things happened after the thing with the kings, Abraham fighting all these kings and jelodemaya and kings with weird names. After all this stuff, G?d comes to Avram in a vision, not even Abraham yet and says al tirah avram anochi magein lach. I am a shield for you. And so I wonder if what the difference is kind of textually between foked Sarah and ezrat Sarah.
Foked Sarah are also comes from Genesis, we have it in chapter 21 verse one, Vadonai pakad et sarah ca’asher amar, going back to the high holidays, as we read on the binding of Isaac, beezrat sarah.
We don't know. So listeners, if you know why, in the reformed liturgy, we say ba'azrat sarah and why in the conservative liturgy, we say ufoked sarah, and that there are other liturgies that do other things, definitely let us know. We find this stuff interesting. Yeah. When we were talking about how el hagadol hagibor vehanorah, I shared the first part of this Midrash this interpretation that I learned from the person at Limud Southeast that was meaningful to me. Here's the second part, which is that now in this piece, we're coming down back into eminence, melech, ruler, king, ozer, partner, helper, umosheia, savior, like to save someone kind of have to be in their vicinity, you have to have skin in the game, you got to be in it. Umagein, which is a shield, which is right in front of your face. So first, we go up and transcendence and we're floating all around. And then we come back down. That G?d, that holiness, that support, however we might imagine it, it's up there and everywhere, and it's also right in front of my face. It's also right here. It's personal. It's that kind of imminent transcendence thing we also see in Adon Olam, which has the beginning part is high and mighty. And the end is and my relationship to the Holy One. But we get all of that in this tiny paragraph. This tiny paragraph we go from floating amongst the stars to a shield right in front of my eyes, I find that very meaningful.
It is that you realize the wisdom of the words in the open parentheses, insert prayer at the close parentheses. The poetry of the liturgy is very striking.
And to kind of close our discussion of this paragraph. During our taping, I found a translation that I had written, I wanted to share it, everyone that was like, Oh, I wonder if my translation has the word love in it somewhere. We start with, Adonai s'fatai, help me find my own words to say to the universe. I experienced your blessing Holy One, through my ancestors and their stories. They each had their own relationship with you. Divine, great, mighty, awesome, over everything source of loving kindness, source of all creation, connecting us to the deeds of our past, bringing redemption through love. Whether we feel your presence as a ruler, helper, guardian, protector or shield, we experience your blessing holy one who guarded our ancestors. And with that, we'll be right back.
While we were taking a break, I have a thought that perhaps the reason that we can say Ezrat Sarah is that ozer, helper or partner is already in that list. Melech ozer umashiah umagein. Magein is taken by Avraham, mashia, redemption. I don't know Sarah lived a pretty tough life. I don't know if Redemption was part of it. Melech isn't really how they would imagine G?d back in that time, so ozer seems to be a fit. But it's interesting to note. In any case, we're not going to talk about our favorite melodies for this text, because for the most part, there aren't different melodies that people write I'm sure people do. I love singing this part in my own prayer and seeing what melody comes out, but the way we usually vocalize this text is through nusach, the different modes that we use. So Ellen, I would love for you to hum a few bars as it were, what are the different nusach, nusachot?
Nuschaot! Great word. I can name that nusach in three notes. We're gonna do name name that nusach for a little bit. And depending upon the time of year, and even the time of week that it is these same words have different melodies with chanted. I think most of us are most familiar with the Shabbat version of these words, and I won't say anything about what the intended mood is but hopefully that will give us some food for discussion in just about 30 seconds. Our Shabbat melody goes like this Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu V’Elohei Avoteinu V'Imoteinu, Elohei Avraham Elohei Yitzchak V’Elohei Ya’akov. And they could either come back down or go up as you were talking earlier. Elohei Sarah Elohi Rivka Elohei Rachel V’Elohei Leah. So that's a very familiar melody perhaps. And what if, for those of us who are not used to davenning every day of the week, we might never hear the weekday melody for the same words which has a different feel about it. Perhaps it goes like this Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu V’Elohei Avoteinu V’Imoteinu, Elohei Avraham Elohei Yitzchak V’Elohei Ya’akov, Elohei Sarah Elohi Rivka Elohei Rachel V’Elohei Leah. A different kind of feel. And we get to the High Holy Days and here's a whole third way of singing it and I'm sure there are a lot more in each of these different forms is my way of doing it for the High Holidays. Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu V’Elohei Avoteinu V’Imoteinu, and it goes on in that sort of vein. All for the same words. Three very different forms of seeing it so what do y'all think of that?
First all it's so interesting that even amongst nusach there's so many different variations because the flourish there's a flourish in that in that way of doing for Shabbat, Elohei Avraham Elohei Yitzchak V’Elohei Ya’akov, And then the coming back down, which is really beautiful that I didn't grow up with, Elohei, da da da da da da da da da da, it really beautiful but not as majestic. And that's kind of what I feel that the Shabbat adds a little bit of majesty and a bit of stateliness and awesomeness in that way. And then high holidays just takes it right over the edge. We're just, we're leaning in. And for me, it's the difference almost, I'm thinking between like, praying in a field and praying in a cathedral. And I like both. I like to be in the field and in the cathedral. But in the cathedral, like my built environment is attempting to help me feel majesty. And so those nuschaot, those nuschaot are kind of like the built environment trying to help me get to a place of majesty.
I'm feeling the same way I'm feeling the majesty that comes from from the Shabbat liturgy and again, or the Shabbat nusach. And even more so from the High Holidays. And I love that built in majesty and I love the idea that we have different nuschaot for all of these, for all of these days. I think that it's amazing that we tell time through melody, that we tell time through music, and that we place ourselves on the calendar based on the way that we sing. So that's really beautiful. And it was also fascinating to me, I think Eliana's eyes popped up also, that the weekday nusach that I learned was different from the weekday, weekday nusach that you learned. And also, when I spent I spent a little time in Orthodox circles when I was in college, and the weekday nusach that they used was also very different from the one that I grew up with and the one that you just shared with us right now. The one that I grew up with was Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu V’Elohei Avoteinu, Elohei Avraham Elohei Yitzchak V’Elohei Ya’akov, Elohei Sarah etc, etc. But it feels like I have somewhere to be right. It sort of feels like in the same way that the melody that you shared with us feels not not I wouldn't say rushed. But But moving in a different way.
And I think in a more, there is it's lacking the majesty perhaps but it is there when you set it on the sanctuary you're in the field Eliana, I thought that the day the day melody for me the day daily new song is a very like in the field, on my way to work experiencing G?d not in a in a throne room necessarily, but in a in an everyday kind of way. Melech ozer u’moshiah umagein. Yeah, yeah, it's, it's a little quicker.
But we get to experience the Amidah and all of these different contexts, where the words are the same, but the occasion is different. And there's value in finding the spirit in the every day in the field and there's value in the holidays and the cathedral and we get to experience it all. So I'm, I'm feeling really, really, really jazzed about all of this because I know the next time I come across the Amidah in my own prayer practice, more will be opened to me and that's one of our goals of doing this. For ourselves, I think and and for you, dear listener, so think about what of this are you taking away with you? And you might notice that if you come across this section of the Amidah - How does it feel for you? What do you imagine? We're going to end with a visualization, a little prayer practice based on that teaching that I shared. So I invite you if you're in a place where you are able to settle in, feel your feet on the ground connected again to your ancestors. Roll your shoulders back. Place your hands on your lap. Palms open for receiving palms closed for grounding. Close your eyes. Start to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Following the natural pattern of your breath, and yet deepening your breath. Breathing out through your feet, feeling held and supported by the ground by your ancestors. With each name of the Divine we expand our awareness. We expand our awareness to encompass more than we thought possible feeling a part of it all. So over these next few words go wherever your imagination takes you. How does it feel? What do you see? Hael. G?d. Hagadol. The great. Hagibur. The mighty. Hanorah. The awesome. El Elyon. The one on most high. Where are you? Can you expand your awareness into space celestial bodies the stars now when you are part of it all and the Holy One that is part of you is also part of this. Float in this space for a minute while knowing we have to come back down to earth, but we don't need to be afraid. Melech. Ruler. Ozer. Helper. Foked. Guardian. Magein. Shield. Are you feeling shielde, helped guarded, where we're ruled at this moment? What is the protection that you could seek to feel? Can you imagine the Holy One right in front of your face, almost touching your nose. That presence is always here. The Holy One is the biggest and the smallest. The entire universe and in front of your face and inside of your heart. Take one more deep breath in. Breathing in that knowledge that feeling being held and loved and supported. You can open your eyes. Thank you so so much, dear listener, please if you're enjoying the podcast, do all those lovely things like rating and reviewing and sharing with people that you also think would love it. We've really loved hearing your feedback. You can reach us at Instagram at the light dot lab. Thank you so much Christy dodge for editing. Thank you Yaffa for your amazing work on the show notes and our social media. Our theme music is A New Light by me. And thank you so much to Ellen and Josh for joining me today.