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Shalom, everybody and welcome to episode 31 of the light lab podcast. My name is Eliana light. And I am here with my good friends, Cantor Ellen Dreskin!
And in our third chair today, we are so so excited to welcome Chava Mirel to the podcast! Hi Chava!
Hey, so excited to be here!
Woo! So excited and so blessed to have you here on this day of awe, special days of awe, I like to say the days of awww, that's nice, too, sometimes, isn't it? And I want to ask as our opening question, what is a memory for you, that comes up around these times around the days of awe? Could be a memory from last year, could be a memory from when you were a kid. So much of this time is about memory. So I'm wondering what's coming up for you. And I can go first, mostly because I just added this question to the document. So I'll give you some more time to think. But immediately, I think of when I was really little, I would hide in the folds of my father' kittel. The kittel is a traditional white garment that kind of either ties around the waist or looks like a choir robe. My dad had the one that was kind of choir robe-y, and the Cantor and the rabbi would wear them. And they would do a recessional at the end of every service where they would walk out and stand in the lobby to Adon Olam or Yigdal, depending if it was the morning or the evening, and the entire congregation would come out and shake their hands. This is probably something we can't do anymore. You know, given COVID, and germs and all of that. But when I was a kid, I would like run around, like under the legs of all of the people and tie myself and wrap myself in the folds of my dad's Kittel and shake everybody's hands. And it just felt so safe dor me both being with my family and also being in this community that meant so much to me. And in times where I don't feel that safety or as my relationship with my father changed, over the course of my life, I always go back to that memory. You know, we say Avinu Malkeinu, we call God, our Father, our Ruler. And sometimes that image doesn't make sense to me with the way that I see my relationship to the Divine. But sometimes, God as father is me hiding in the folds of that Kittel and feeling safe. So that's where my mind went today. Ellen, where does your mind go?
Wow, I have a huge memory. It's it is the memory for me. And that also has to do with those that came before us. It's Kol Nidrei. It's, it's and I'm standing next to my grandmother every year when I was a kid. And the minute, it's interesting on many levels, I didn't grow up with the cantor in my congregation. I didn't know what a cantor was, until I was a teenager. So I only heard in my early childhood memories, only heard Kol Nidrei played on cello with organ and without somebody on the bimah of singing it. And, and my grandmother standing next to me with tears streaming down her face the entire time. And when I asked her why, she said because I remember standing next to my grandmother hearing Kol Nidrei. So two things one, the one time that I remember being in Kol Nidrei since I've been a parent being a congregant, and standing next to my daughter, and she knew this story very well. So it became another generational kind of story. And also, oddly enough, I have this thing for Kol Nidrei and talk about impostor syndrome as a cantor, only because I hear cello in my head and there's no voice that can match that for me, so. So I hold that with me every single year in the best way.
That's so beautiful. And yeah, Kol Nidrei so evocative. Even without the words, maybe it's evocative for some of us in spite of the words. But that melody that really touches us, thank you so much. Chava, memory is coming up for you?
Well, I also have the Kittel memories, my dad was also a rabbi in the congregation and they had to wear robes for every service. So not just high holidays, they wear black robes on the regular Shabbatot and then white robes on the holidays. And I remember saying to my friend, my dad is the one in the dress. But my really strongest memories from the chagim was my mom was the soloist with the choir. And so she would sing a couple of solos. And one of them was Shalom Rav by Steinberg. And she there's a choir would sing it, but she would do the solo part. And at the very end, b'sefer chayim - they have an extra verse that's just insert for the chagim. And at the end, she sings the chatima and she would take it up an octave she oseh hashalom, and it was the most beautiful sound I've ever heard in my life. And I will never forget it. And I know there are a lot of other people that feel the same way.
Another beautiful musical memory. Thank you. I also have memories of my bubbe in the high holiday choir. I got to be in the choir. A couple years after she passed and I still have her choir binder we were both Sopranos. I think she might have been an alto but we sing the same parts and something about it coming back. We're talking about the days of aw today because we are going to be looking at Psalm 27. Psalms for the days of Awe, Psalms for the penitential season, however it is put in your prayer book. It is the prayer that takes us from Elul all the way through and keep for in some congregations all the way through Simchat Torah. That book ends the entire journey that we are going on. And before we zero in on just one line, and take a really deep dive, I'd love to talk with y'all about the Psalm as a whole and why it's meant for us why it's been chosen for us for these particular days. Ellen, what do you think?
Well, one thing I love about Elul is is studying and reading about just the month of Elul is all told in this psalm is prominent of course. I've read so much interesting stuff this year. In particular, the psalm opens with this line Adonai Ori V'Ishee, that Adonai is my light and my salvation. And I found out that our commentators, our scholars from the past identify with Ori with with my light as Rosh Hashanah. And Ishi, this sense of forgiveness and salvation to Yom Kippur. And later in the Psalm that says something about the Sukkah. And so it's perhaps from these kinds of references that we get the tradition that you mentioned the beginning to read this psalm as we approach the High Holidays, but also taking it all the way through the end of Sukkot. And in Torah times, it's considered that this is the time of year when we've messed up because of the golden calf. And Moses is the second time now up at the top of Mount Sinai pleading for forgiveness on our behalf. So it seems like an an opportune time to come to this. Can I please just get close to God? Can I please just make up for my mistakes? Now? Yeah, over the years, it's just become this psalm. It's really It's customed. It's not halacha, right. It's customed to read the psalm, but there's so many references to the season and to that turning.
That's beautiful. That desire to God, for God's presence that you talk about is really a running theme in the Psalms certainly of the lines that we're going to discuss. And I think about the dichotomy between the Liturgy of the High Holidays, which so much of it at least on surface level can seem like God is up there over there. It's God's coronation God is very far away. And yet the mystical tradition that says starting in Elul, Hamelech Basedeh, right? The King is not up in his throne, the Kings out in the field. The King is hanging out with us. The King is down here. And what it means to kind of flip that understanding of when we talk about God as a king with all of these beautiful potent metaphors that we have. What does it mean for the King to actually be closer to us than we might think?
The idea, the High Holidays in that image are also so communal with the with the court, with the everybody being there and, and our high holidays are celebrated it mostly in a communal setting. And the psalm is first person singular. I love that it opens right up there with just really need to talk to you on you and big guy right now.
I am so moved by the vulnerability in this in the psalm. There's I mean, even aside from the line that we're going to discuss later, there are so many single sentences that are so potent by themselves. Like Shema adoni koli v'ekra choneni v'aneni, one little six word five word sentence that's so potent. And it keeps I think these themes keep repeating through the chagim also, of calling out. And just that surrender, of crying out and wanting to be heard.
That line that have just shared with us. Right? My my voice calls out for justice for mercy. It starts with Listen to me hear me, right, hear what I have to say. I think that theme of reading something at face value versus looking at what's underneath it, I think is very potent for me in this psalm because it seems like the guy has everything figured out, at least at the beginning. God is my light and my help whom shall I fear? God is the strength of my life, Whom shall I dread? It's like in my head reading it. And he in English from my synagogue when I was growing up, though foes threatened, they stumble and fall something something I remained steadfast in my faith. But as we say, or as I bring up a lot, if you have to say that to yourself, you're probably not as steadfast as you're trying to project to the world, something difficult is probably going on in the psalmist's life, as difficulty is a part of all life. And towards the end, that vulnerability, Chava, that you were talking about really comes out. Because this is the only line that doesn't have a pair like in the poetic structure, there are two lines that mirror each other. And that's how it goes down except for lulei he'emanti. If only I could be certain that I would see God's goodness in this life. And then in a lot of the translations I've read, there's just an ellipses there as if to show well, this is just a thought that is coming up, a truth that he has to speak that it's not as clear cut as he thinks. And that idea that we don't have to have it all figured out, that there are moments of doubt and moments where we're unsure is so beautifully human at a time where we're being asked to take stock of ourselves if we're trying to live up to the first part of Psalm 27. That's a lot to ask of us. But then the bottom comes and I think says, I'm a human being just like you living life just like you. It's really beautiful.
In the way that we love to play with the Hebrew phrases and the Hebrew words. If we look at the word Lulei, that if only kind of word, you turn it around backwards, guess what it spells. Elul.
Oh, my goodness.
Lulei is elul backwards, and it just takes us you know straight from the Psalms to the season. And here comes achadeti, look out here it comes again.
Gosh, why is this the first time we're, Chava you and I are like whoa! Mind blown!
Considering that you wrote a song Lulei, I'm glad that you have learned this new wisdom and I'm looking at Sefaria right now and for some reason the word Lulei has all this barnish, all these dots around it. I don't know why.
I don't know why either. But it's really quite beautiful. So we keep mentioning this one line that we are going to talk about in fact, if you look at the Lev Shalem Siddur, besides the bottom, this is the one line that is transliterated. It is verse number four and Ellen I would love for you to read us verse number four.
It would give me great pleasure to do so. It says achat sha'alti me'et adonai otah avakesh. Shivti beveit Adonai kol yemei chayai. Lachazot benoam Adonai u'levaker heichalo. It is, it is, Eliana I know that you listen very carefully for the sound of the Hebrew language and and just the Hebrew itself even before we translate. Are you hearing things in the Hebrew recitation of it?
Yes, I think the ah sounds and the ee ounds, which of course, for me, are evocative grammatically of I statements, which really pulls even though there have been I statements all throughout, it pulls us in to the individual nature of this that this is one person, one person's response, one person's relationship with the Holy One, which we can see ourselves in. And it might also inspire us to have our own personal relationships.
Beautiful. Should we go to we listen to translation or two?
Okay, I my translation comes from Rabbi Richard Levy. And he translates this verse, one thing you hear that achat. One thing I have I sought from Adonai, how I long for it, that I may live in the house of Adonai all the days of my life, that I may look upon the sweetness of Adonai and spend time in the palace.
Hmm, I really like that translation.
I like it very much. There's such there's just the word sought, and longing. I find so beautiful. And I will have one question about what's going to come up later, is when I look at his translation, I'm very curious if this is really only one thing, or is this three things. But we'll come back to that perhaps.
I'm looking at a translation from Rabbi Jill Hammer. This one says one thing I ask of the Divine, one thing I seek, may I dwell in the house of the infinite every day of my life, that I make gaze on the beauty of the presence and linger in the holy place.
That gaze upon the beauty of the presence. It's just.
Yeah, it's powerful. And I'm thinking also have the fact that of course, well, maybe not, of course, but I'll tell you listener is that God's name is spelled out yud hey vav hey in the Hebrew, the unpronounceable name of God. Is there a difference between saying, one thing I ask of Adonai, my lord, versus one thing I ask of Hashem, the name, or havaya, all that is, or one thing I ask of the infinite or the ineffable, or of the Divine? I think, because this is such a personal thing. We can think for ourselves, how does it chang when we bring in those different nicknames for the divine here?
Chava about I know that we're going to talk in more detail about your composition later on. But in particular, I have heard you use different God names as you share the song with others share your setting of the song with others. Can you say just a little bit about that part of it now about what it feels like for you to sing those different names in the context of your composition?
Absolutely. I like alternating between names. And some composers like to find the God name that they think resonates for the entire text and stick with that. But personally, I like to kind of alternate through, partially because the Siddur says Adonai. And so when people are joining, I want them to at least have the lyrics in front of them for part of the song, even if I switch it up later on. But when I use the word Havaya, what I'm referring to for myself is just the being, like being in presence or the awareness of now. And so that's what I that's kind of the face of God that I'm looking for, when I'm asking this question, is the ability to be in this moment. So that's when I say havaya. And sometimes I end to gaze upon the beauty with the word Shechina. So to gaze upon the beauty of Shechina. To me Shechina is like a gracious presence, and so Shechina is the beauty of existence. And so that's why I like to use that euphemism in that context.
That's beautiful. Shechina being the presence of God that is the closest to us that dwells around us and among us, and that idea of dwelling, of sitting comes up so many times even just in this one line. As I said before, this really shows us the parallelism that we see all throughout the psalm, right? One thing I ask this one thing is my request. Which is almost to say that when it says shivti b'veit havaya kol kemei chayai, that I may dwell or sit in the house of the Holy One all the days of my life we can imagine the third part, at least now I'm thinking about it for me to say, Well, what does it mean? What does it mean to dwell in the house of the Holy One, it means lachazot benoam adonai. To perceive, or even in modern Hebrew, I looked it up on Google Translate, as I often do, to visualize or to foresee the beauty of the Holy One. So even if you're in a predicament where you cannot, where it is harder to feel. The beauty of all that is to know that you have the power in your own mind and body to predict it, to visualize it, to see it coming, that can be very powerful, ulevaker b'heichalo. And to to visit, I love the idea to linger, to stay a little longer in the holy place. To make wherever, this could be a little recipe for how to make wherever you are the house of the Holy One.
It always strikes me that it's kind of an if then, like, if I'm able to be present, then all of the beauty that is already there, will open up to me. So that and when I see linger, it reminds me of savoring, which is like a practice of really taking in all of the goodness of the moment, we often kind of dig into difficulty, but what we forget to savor the beauty, so I love that idea of lingering in it.
It goes back a little bit. Also, when you mentioned about, just just one more day, can I state that and we really do get to visit the palace. And we talked about reading this psalm, all the way through the end of Sukkot. So then there's Simchat Torah. And then there's that last holiday Shmini Atzeret, the eighth day of gathering that has no other purpose. And Larry Hoffman, who has been on the podcast with us previously described Shmini Atzeret as for those of us, musicians, oh won't stay just a little bit longer. And so it comes back to, you know, I know, everybody has to finish off the season, and you have to live your lives. Don't forget that you've had a chance to visit in the palace here for a little bit. One of the things about this phrase lachasot b'noam havaya, is that beh, in addition to meaning in or on, can mean through. And to envision or to see through the beauty of havaya, Adonai, to, like, if I can put myself in that place, or can I also look at others? Can I look at the world? Can I look at myself during the month of Elul? Through these eyes of compassion of beauty, the way that I would like to think that God is looking at me and all of us, can I because if I could get boy, if I could look through those eyes, every day, it would be a game changer.
I have a question for you Hebraisists out there. This is a very loose kind of interpretation. But when I look at achat sha'alti, all of the translations that I see say one thing, but I don't see the word thing. And I'm wondering if the question could be that I'm asking for a achalti. Like I'm asking for oneness. Achat, I ask of You. So I know that that may not be grammatical, but I'm just you know, taking it apart a little bit.
I'd like the people listening to to see our minds exploding.
Yeah, we don't have a visual for that. But you can imagine it. I mean, that's why that's why there's so much power in just gazing upon and lingering in these few words. Because, yeah, Chava, what an incredible idea, oneness I ask of you. Because when I recognize that all is one, that all is connected, then perhaps it becomes easier to gaze upon the kindness and to focus on the goodness of all that is. And to feel like I am lingering in a palace and lingering in a holy place. It's beautiful.
I love the idea of us reciting the song for a solid month or more. And then the rest of the year. It's, it's the response is shema! Shema! Open up your ears! Keep your hearts open to hearing this. You know, it's you asked for it. You know, can the shofar throughout the rest of the year keep up I was awake to hearing it.
Yeah, the reverberations, I mean, they say they say that the gates, the gates of repentance, close at neilah at the end of Yom Kippur, but actually, they stay open longer. They stay open through Sukkot, but actually, you have even more chances. They stay open through Simchat Torah. But actually, they stay open through Hanukkah really? So you know. And then by the time Hanukkah is over, we're already preparing for the next one, because Jewish life goes in cycles in circles. So it's never, it's never too late, you know, it's never too late. I think the thing that I'm thinking about here now is for me, how difficult it is for me to often voice what I need. This is just coming, coming to me now, how powerful this is actually. Because the way that the psalmist is able to get to a place of seeing the world this way, the first thing he did was to articulate it to say, this is what I'm asking for, and phrasing it like this is what I'm asking for. A true desire of the heart is a way to show a path forward to say, well, if this is what I want, then I get to figure out how to get there. And I get to notice the things that are happening in the world and in my life that can pull push me or pull me in that direction to surrender to what is that will get me there. And how maybe this line is, I would say the most popular and has the most tunes from it certainly out of Psalm 27. Because we are constantly teaching ourselves or at least, I'm thinking of someone who is socialized female, who finds it difficult to ask for what I need, that we're practicing asking for what we need. And if we practice it in a prayer context, maybe we can get better at it in our lives.
Wow, that really resonates.
And with that, I am asking for a short break, we will be right back.
Welcome back, everyone, you just heard a little snippet of a beautiful melody for Achat Sha'alti by Cantor's Josh Goldberg and Jacqueline Rafii that I really love it kind of is both upbeat and it has momentum and it brings in that pleading that asking idea. I also want to share the melody that I grew up with and listeners, if any of you know the attribution for this, you can let me know because this is the one that we sing in day school Achat sha'alti me'et hashem, otah avakesh, achat sha'alti me'et hashem, otah avakesh. Shivti, shivti, shivti, wooh! Shivti b'veit hashem. Ellen do you not know this one? Kol yemei chayai, kol yemei chayayayayayay! Shivti, Ellen's laugh.
You know, I can't get enough of it. This is great.
It's a hoot! Actually my best, my favorite moment with this melody was at Temple Beth Abraham, where I did high holiday services for a couple of years with the amazing Rabbi John Spira-Savett who is helping to sponsor this week's episode, which is incredible. We walked down to the river in Nashua, New Hampshire, to do Tashlich, the kind of symbolic casting away of sins, a lot of people throw bread into the water, we now know that that's not the best thing for the ducks. So some people throw bird seed or other things, but in any case, every community does it differently. And so we're standing there and we all start to sing that melody, achat sha'alti me'et hashem, and then we go shivti shivti shivti! Woo! And when we said woo everybody threw their bread into the water at the same time. It was so - I it was so surprising. I just burst out laughing I'm like, this is incredible. And we did it again, ay yay yay shivti shivti shivti woo! 100 pieces of bread arc at the same time. It's like, it's so interesting to pair this kind of like upbeat catchy kid like melody with these like, yearning words, but it certainly brings another element of like playfulness, like what does it mean to see where you are is playing around and God's Palace you know, that can be kind of beautiful.
Who's to say who's to say what it looks like in God's house all the days of your life? And you know, people say the same thing about the the major or melody ashhamu, ya day day day day day day day day day day day, and the commentaries, it's because when we realize that, oh, I have a chance to speak honestly and to communicate and to be, you know upfront about my mistakes and know that there's forgiveness there. Why shouldn't I sound happy? You know, if I know that the possibility exists to dwell in God's house all the days I'm like, Oh, my God was meant to be the most fun thing in the whole world.
100% Yom Kippur war in Jerusalem was one of the most joyful prayer experiences I've ever had. It was just full of fun and play and joy and love, because we already know, like, we made it, we're gonna make it through, it's a chance to start over. It's incredibly joyful. Ellen, what are some melodies that that you're reflecting on?
That being said, the first melody that comes to mind is one that I guess we would say is misinai. That it comes all the way from Mount Sinai, which means to say it's a folk melody, we're not quite sure where it comes from. But it's been around a long, long time. And that's this, this plaintive kind of achat sha'alti me'et adonai otah avakesh. And it's very, it helps us get into that meditative mood and, like is it and meanwhile, new melodies are arising all the time, and one that I heard very recently, is by Aly Halpert. And who made a recording of it with Joey Weissenberg. And I just recently saw it on my Facebook newsfeed and I fell in love. So I encourage everybody to go take a listen to that one.
Absolutely beautiful. And friends, if you were to go to Google now, and you were like, I love to listen to some of these achat sha'alti melodies and you typed in achat sha'alti, the very first hit would be our very own Chava Mirel's melody, with very many videos to choose from. There's one beautiful one sitting on the beach. There's, I think the first one you did, which is you pulled over in your car, which is just so powerful. I'd love to get a little behind the music here and ask you, where did your inspiration for writing a melody for this line come from?
I had never heard Achat Sha'alti before in my life, and probably because Elul is not during the school year. And I'm a religious school teacher. And so you know, it wasn't like part of the curriculum. I missed out on all of the summer stuff. So I never heard Achat Sha'alti. It's not the most common prayer in Reform communities. So I've first learned about it when I was doing a Jewish mindfulness. I'm part of a Jewish mindfulness community, led by Rabbi Jill Zimmerman, who's one of my old dear friends from Seattle, she lives down in at California now. And she was teaching a whole Elul unit and introduced Achat Sha'alti with the melody that Cantor Ellen just sang for us so beautifully. And so I had never heard it before. And she was teaching it to us as a mindfulness text, which is how I've, I've known it the whole time. And I'm really like, kind of obsessed with mindfulness practice, you know, I'm working really hard on it. It's not doesn't come easily. But it's something that I just like, I'm interested in it. It's very like a juicy thing that I have a lot of curiosity about. So I was drawn to the text. And I had written this melody. I often write melodies right before services. I'll write a melody right before service starts. So I'll press a voice memo and just come back to it later. And I had written this before a service at one point, the melody, and I didn't have a text for it. And so what do you do you get the Mishkan T'fillah Siddur. And you open it up. And here it was, I remembered that Rabbi Jill had taught this and I was like, oh, okay, this is a great sentence. And I fit it to to the melody, I didn't understand that it said shivti. I thought it said shiviti because I was familiar with shiviti, which is a different song. And so in my mind, I turned it into a different word. And so I had to like go back and revise it because I was singing the wrong thing. And my smart friends very graciously informed me that I was pronouncing it wrong. But you know, this is just to say that I really wasn't familiar with this text at all. And writing the tune, the melody for it, kind of got me into it, for the first time, so it's been a cool journey. And I feel really honored that I get to be associated with this beautiful text.
Well we spoke about the God language earlier on. And it also speaks, Chava, I guess to your choice of, of using both the Hebrew and English as well, which makes it quite accessible to a number of people.
I at that time is around 2017, I was really intent on writing melodies that included Hebrew and English, because I felt like they were really useful for the congregations that I was serving at the time. And so it was, it was a mission that I wanted to find texts and figure out a way to say it in English, that that resonated for me. The other thing that I'll say about this, I don't usually write songs that start on the one chord, like the chord that the key is in, and then come right back to that one chord immediately. I usually stay off of that, because I like tension. But this one is different. It's like, stay here, don't go looking for exciting things. Just be where you are. And so that, like the chord progression, tells me that. And that's part of the message of the song for me.
I definitely feel that, that sense of coming home every time. I'm wondering for you, are there other pieces of the melody or the way the song fits together that inform a particular understanding or bring about a particular understanding of the words?
Yes, I'm so glad you asked that. So this song has a little bit of syncopation in it. And you know, there are three lines that we mentioned before the achat sha'alti line, and then we say shivti, and then there's the part that says lachazot. So the part that says shivti in my melody of the song is very syncopated. It's like 1234 shivti. So the beat is right before the one, the first beat of the measure and what there's a beat right after the first beat of the measure. But there's no nothing right on the beat. And that's a kind of a difficult rhythm that I feel very committed to it's a foundational rhythm for me. And it's in a lot of the songs that I wrote, so much so that I literally wrote an entire song about that rhythm just to teach that rhythm to the Jews. And it's called Up Up Down. And it illustrates that rhythm 1234 Up, up. So I just wanted everyone to know about it. And so when I say shivti, which is like, the settling and it's like dropping down, which is a it's a term in mindfulness and meditation practice, people talk about this anchoring or landing. And so that to me is what shivti is like, dropping down, landing anchoring in presence, the stability of that. And for me, even though this rhythm sounds really syncopated, and jumpy to some people, it's so foundational for me, it's like, this is the most stable thing in my life.
I was only gonna say that, and from there it goes for the lachazot phrase, your melody really does, like land, then it's not, you know, it's still slightly syncopated, but the notes are longer, et cetera. Lachazot b'noam havaya. It's it comes down a little bit there, in my head, in my heart,
Totally like you made it, you got through the, whatever shpilkes that you had that, you know, makes it hard to sit there. And once you get through it, you can see the beauty it comes out.
It's so perfect this idea of stability, within the syncopation amongst the syncopation because life is not always stable. But what mindfulness practice can help us do is find stability within ourselves in an unstable world, and you bring in your own experience, your own musical identity and background in the syncopation of that lines also teaches us that, like syncopation happens, it's not always going to be as straightforward as you thought, but that's what brings the interest to our lives. And that's what helps us learn to cultivate that steadiness within ourselves.
And just on that same topic, when I'm saying b'veit havaya or b'veit adonai. For me, that has to do with being in my body, like being present in my having an embodied experience, like the body is the Holy Temple. And I see that in a lot of songs like Ashrei Yoshvei Beitecha, you know the contentment of just being in the seat of awareness. So these are like this, this is the language which I really enjoy.
And when and knowing that, you know, perhaps that that achadeti that we've spoken about is also that dwelling in in my palace in my house in my body. And you know it is first person singular, can I know that wherever I am and how I inhabit this body is also being in the house of havaya all the days of my life because this is where I am all the days of my life is in this body.
Right. How can our body be a doorway to the fullness of life, the existence in general?
What it sprang up for me, this conversation is the fact that if the question of, if you could ask one thing of God, like what would you ask is usually phrased in a way like, well, if you could change one thing about the world, right? What would you change? When in fact, that's not the function of this here. It is about what can I change about my perspective, and the way that I move through the world, we each have different ideas about what God's power in the world means and what God has the power to do separate from us. But I think the fact that you're bringing such a gentleness to this, it's to say, well, actually, what we're asking is help with what we can do and what we are able to do. And I think putting part of the song in the English also does that because it can be very easy to hear Hebrew, especially like me, who is not a fluent Hebrew speaker, when we put a melody to a piece of liturgy, it kind of stays being the voice of the psalmist, and the liturgist. But Chava, when you sing, one thing I asked You, it feels like it's coming from you, which is a very powerful statement that we can take the words of liturgist and use them as a vessel for our own prayers.
I have to say, I just realized that the most important I mean, the most moving part of this whole text for me, and the part that I brought the most moving melody part to is the kol yemei chayai. And like, it's just that practice of keep trying every day and you're never gonna get there. You're never going to reach complete presence and just be you know, you're always gonna have to work on it. And so that's what the kol yemei chayai means me. And like, I really longing to keep that you know, and so it's something that like, I'm almost crying when I sing that part.
It's so beautiful. Yeah, if it was easy to do, if we could be in a achad-itiy ecstasy all the time, we wouldn't have to ask for help getting there. Right? After write the book you bring up Ellen, After Ecstasy, The Laundry?
We, how can we remind ourselves that we are consistently dwelling in the house of the holy and right, that's also a big part of mindfulness practices returning, returning, coming back, and returning and returning, teshuva, is also the main theme of our of our season of our cycle.
And can I keep going back to Chava what you mentioned about it never says thing in the Hebrew, it's just, you know, asking for the, to be able to see, you know, like you say, life happens. I love I'm gonna get the bumper sticker now, syncopation happens. Can I see in the syncopation, can I see in the ups and downs and the challenges of life? Can I still have a sense of achat? Can I can I be in that place? When it's not Gan Eden, when it's not the Garden of Eden, when things aren't going well? Can I still have any sense that this too is is too is achat?
Or even can I keep practicing when things are hard? You know, it's I struggle so much when things are difficult, it's hard to sit down and meditate, let alone feel the oneness but even just to start the practice, because, you know, there's so much turmoil and so for me, I'm, I'm, I'm like baby steps. I'm not I'm not at oneness yet. But I just want to encourage myself to keep practicing.
You know, and theJewish way is so much one of spiritual practice. I mean, I think that there's a reason that hundreds of years ago someone said, let's do this psalm, every day from the beginning of Elul through the through the end of Sukkot. I think that might we say it every day maybe we get in some sort of habit you know, maybe there's that minor shift in, in, in our heart that we can take with us. Because it is it's a it's it's a practice.
It's a practice. And speaking of which we always end our episodes with a practice so, Chava, would you grace us with through your melody around your melody in your melody leading us in a closing practice?
Absolutely. So I like to start by just finding the ground underneath my body and feeling the stability there. Knowing that it's not moving and it can hold me if you hold all the weight of my life. And just bringing my attention to my breath you can join me if you want to bring your attention to your breath as well. As it flows naturally no need to change anything or adjust. Just noticing. Noticing the body and how it moves gently with the breath. Do whatever way it does. Taking a moment to bring bringing the sounds around you in the room. Outside the room. Sounds coming from your own body. And from this place of presence, we can ask, to stay in presence. We can ask to be deeper in presence, so that we can see the beauty of creation around us and in us. Achat sha'alti me'et adonai, achat sha'alti otah avakesh. Achat sha'alti me'et havaya, achat sha'alti ota avakesh. Shivti, shivti, beveit adonai. Shivti, shivti, kol yemei chayai. Shivti, shivti, beveit havaya. Shivti, shivti, kol yemei chayai. Lachazot benoam Adonai. U'vaker behechalot. Lachazot benoam havaya, to gaze upon the beauty of shechina. One thing, one thing, I ask you Adonai, to be with You, all of my life. Achat sha'alti me'et Adonai. Achat sha'alti otah avakesh.
I invite you to sit a couple of seconds longer. And that holy space Chava has invited us to step into it that is always there. I so don't want to leave that place. But the good thing is it is always there for us when we need it. Wow wow wow. Thank you so so much Chava, for being with us today. What an absolute delight and an honor.
What an honor for me. Thank you so much to both of you.
And thank you, Ellen, as always, so good to share the sacred zoom space with you.
Always a pleasure and really, a sweet year to one and all. Tis the season. You know, may we take everything that we have, that we have learned from within and put all the good stuff out in the world.
Amen. Amen. Thank you so much, you who are listening for being a part of this exploration and this journey. We are wishing you a very, very sweet Shana Tova. Thank you so much to Christy Dodge for editing, to Yaffa Englander for our show notes. And again, a big thank you to Rabbi Jonathan Spira-Savett at Temple Beth Abraham and his amazing podcast, Tov, for sponsoring today's episode. We are so so grateful and we can't wait to see you soon. Bye everyone!