Episode 23: An Exercise in Sensitization (Middle Blessings 4 +5)
10:17PM May 17, 2022
Shalom, everyone! Welcome back to the Light Lab Podcast. My name is Eliana Light and I am here with my dear friends Cantor Ellen Dreskin.
And Rabbi Josh Warshawsky.
Now my friends when you hear this, it is the Omer, at the time where we count up from redemption to revelation, from Pesach to Shavuot. But when we're recording this, we're still before Pesach. That's the magic of audio, my friends. And so I'm wondering for everybody to tell us a Passover story. Big part of Pessach was the stories tell us a Passover story. Now I'm going to ask myself, and I'm going to start first, because I'm first on the list. I told this to my students yesterday, and it's come up in my mind. I remember very clearly when I was in high school, going to the assistant rabbi's house for Seder, Rabbi Infeld. And we walked in, and the couch was upside down. And my little brother and I looked at each other. And we looked at the couch. And we were just like, Okay, we didn't say anything, because we didn't want to be rude. Right? Maybe this is just what their house is like. So we sit at the table and the Seder is just happening as it happens. And we say the kiddish and we wash our hands, and we dip the carpas. And we keep looking at the couch like growing more and more, like frustrated and the absurdity of it. And then finally, finally, I said, Rabbi, why is the couch upside down? And he jumps up and says, aha! The couch was upside down so that we you would ask why is the couch upside down? Because Pesach, and the seder is all about asking questions. And I didn't realize this until yesterday, when I did a little online learning with Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, who's episode of this podcast you should listen to. But he said there's a piece in the mishna where they discuss right, Josh, you're nodding your head. Do you know about this piece of the mishna that I just described?
There's a great piece of Mishna Pesachim, that that talks about how Abaya was sitting before his teacher and they're at the Seder table and then he notices that the the tables everybody had their own little table then there was like, that's how they would do the Seder, would you get you know, you're sitting on your little couch with their TV dinner? And they were taking away all the tables in the beginning of the Seder. And so he asks, why are you taking away all the tables? And the teacher says, Uh huh! You've now exempted us from saying Ma Nishtana. No need to do the this formal questions in the Haggadah, because you already did the main purpose purpose, which is just to ask questions bichlal, in general.
Thank you so much for that recap. I love that so much. First of all, that Rabbi Infeld did that in his house like we still did the Ma Nishtana. But it really shows us this balance also between keva and kavanah, between the things, the questions, the liturgy we've inherited, and what we get to bring ourselves so I'm thinking about that balance as I move into planning my Seder. Are we going to do the Ma Nishtana, or am I just going to turn some furniture upside down and wait for somebody to notice? I'll pass it to you, Josh.
I love that so much. That's an amazing story. I now want to flip a couch over it every Seder that I go to. So I'm, I'm the we're also the rabbi at the Schecter Day School in Chicago. And for our Passover preparation, I'll be there on Tuesday and Thursday. And I have like a whole like little Seder companion that has the four by four questions, which is 16 other questions that you could ask instead of asking any of the four questions, and the idea is that kids are all going to take this home the students and if they ask any of these questions, they can then exempt themselves from having to recite the four questions based on that mishna, which I think is just an awesome idea that the whole point is just to notice things that are happening and just ask about that. That's what we do in Judaism. We ask questions, we think about things that's beautiful. When I first thought of a Passover story, the first thing that I thought of is actually a Passover item. And it's not a traditional Passover item. In fact, it's a wooden charoset bowl, a chopping bowl that my mom takes with her wherever we go for Passover. She used to she takes this old large wooden chopping bowl and a big like almond chopper and she used it with her grandmother her, it was her grandmother's chopping bowl and chopping knife and anywhere we go for Seder we bring this chopping bowl on the chopping knife. We brought it to Israel for five years. We brought it to Florida to have Seder with my grandparents a long time ago, we brought it to Allentown, Pennsylvania. We have it in Chicago. And I don't know it's Passover until the chopping bowl comes out. And it feels like that's that moment of like passing on the dish. And this is just the third generation of people to be using this Passover chopping bowl. I think my brother is going to be the one who gets to take the chopping bowl, because he's the one that's much more active in the charoset chopping experience. But the idea of the ritual items that we have that are already on the Seder table, and then the ones that we charoset our own ritual items that we bring to the Seder experience the add, that make each family Seder unique, I think is is what's really beautiful about this experience that we're all doing this in our own unique ways and - And then every year we're trying to add something new. We're trying to engage. I see on Facebook, all these different people who are trying to talk about what new haggadah they're using this year. And the fact that there are like 10s, or hundreds of new haggadot that come out every year that have the same text in it, but different interpretations is like, I think one of the best manifestations of what Judaism is all about.
I think it's so you know, our stories make me think of, you know, other stories as I listen to y'all. And I'm aware Josh, for the first time that I have my grandmother's wooden chopping bowl, and that that is it rarely cut, it occasionally will come out other than Pesach time, but but rarely, and it is the chopping bowl for the charoset, I refuse to go the way of food processor for for charoset. So it's, it works for me. I love this idea that Pesach is a holiday that unless you understand what we're all doing there at Seder, we haven't fulfilled the mitzvah. And so in every generation, we have to add the layers of the story on that make it relevant to our own generation. And I also love that about the period that we're in now, when you're listening to this listener, hopefully, when it's the time of the counting of the Omer. And that a simple agricultural sacrifice of bringing a measure of barley over the years has had these wonderful added layers of preparing us each individually every single day on the 49 days of the omer to recommit at the holiday of show out when we metaphorically are all once again at the foot of Mount Sinai, and, and ready to be in relationship with this G?d that we really just met at Passover, many of us for the first time. And how between these two very massive events, the Exodus and Sinai, that we are each on our own individual journey to, to get ready to be in relationship. And so the counting of the Omer this part time of year is really my favorite time of year of all.
It's become one of my favorites. I think in the past few years of being at home, being able to participate in Omer experiences with other people virtually has really been a meaningful thing. I don't think I thought of it as much before, honestly. But now, it is such a beautiful journey. And we go from the holiday journey in time to the journey that we take with the Amidah every time we say it. Let's recap where we have gone. We have started with our ancestors, we have gone through the power as we have explored holiness. We have gotten into the middle blessings, what we're calling the middle blessings. We've done knowledge we've done repentance, we've done forgiveness. And now why did we ask about Passover? Because we are moving on to redemption. Ellen, why don't you take us there?
Okay, so the blessing for redemption as part of these petitions. Of course Passover is all about redemption, as you just mentioned. And so we think of Passover is our time of redemption. And yet in every single Amidah, there is imbedded a prayer for redemption. So we'll start with the Hebrew that I have here in Mishkan T'fillah, and it sounds like this. Re’eh v’onyenu v’rivah u’gealteinu mehera l’ma’an shemecha ki goel chazak atah. Baruch atah YHVH go’el israel. The translation that Mishkan T'fillah offers is: Take note of our affliction, and make our struggles yours. Redeem us swiftly for your namesake. For You are the mighty Redeemer. Bless it are you Adonai who redeems Israel. So first thoughts either Josh or Eliana.
I'm noticing so many things that are happening here. In the Amidah, you know, there's so much in each of these small brachot, they're very short. And that means that I think the word choices have to be even more intentional, because we're trying to sum up a whole lot on every one of these different themes. So here we have this theme of redemption. And I'm just noticing a whole lot of different connections to all these different places. The first one that came to mind for me was when I hear those words, riva riveinu, it takes me always back to al hanisim, the al hanisim prayer that we say on Chanukah, Purim, and Yom Ha'atzmaut has those words ravta et ribeinu, danta et ribeinu, actually, I don't know if it's in every one of them. I'm going to look back definitely in Hanukkah. Okay. V’ata berachamecha harabim, in Your mercy, amadeta lahem be'etzeratam, You stood up for them in their time of troublem, rafta et rivam, You pleaded their case you argued for them, you you datna et dinam, you were just for them bakamta nivnetam, you did damages for them, asarta giburim, you brought the strong into the hands of the weak cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But this idea of of standing up for those who might not be able to stand up for themselves, I'm looking at the Jonathan Sacks translation in the Koren Siddur. And his translation is, look on our affliction, plead our case. I thought that was an interesting way to translate
it. I go back and forth between the when I read something like the translation here, make our struggles yours, whether I am asking that G?d help me fight my own battles, or argue my case, or shall I make sure before I start arguing my case, that this, indeed, indeed is a case for or a case l'shem shamayim. I am, do I want to make sure in my own battles, that they're not just selfishly mine, but that they are connected to G?d or to redeeming somebody somewhere someday.
I really liked that Ellen, I have to say, I've been I've been a little quieter because this one hasn't been connecting with me, I think as much as the other ones. Maybe it's because of the language of redemption, feeling a little far away from my own experience and redemption ge geulah, being one of those words like holiness, or G?d, where we all kind of use it, but don't often talk about what it means I love the idea of like aligning what I am asking for, with the good of the world. And I think one of the goals of the Siddur in general, why we have communal liturgy is to help us align ourselves communally. Even if there are individual things that we want or need, or explore that there are values that we take on together. And I can also take this as a B'tzelem Elohim in the image of G?d moment, what does it mean, to fight on behalf of those who need it? What does it mean to be the Lorax who speaks for the tree, for the trees have no tongues? And what does it mean, to work on behalf of all of us, but I'm wondering like for you, for both of you, for you listening this idea of redemption? What is it? What does it mean though?
I really resonate with labor saying about redemption on behalf of the world and working to engage with those who again with it with the last line of al hanism, one of putting the strong in the hands of the weak of standing up for those who can't redeem themselves. I think there's something really interesting there with with the specifics in the Hebrew here, u'gealeinu mehera lema'an shemecha, right, do this for Your sake, G?d. And I'm looking at this other Siddur called Siddur T'filat Yossef. And it has commentary from the Mishna Berura, which is a Jewish law code sort of embedded in the in the Siddur here, and lemon Shema, it says. And this is sort of a jab at those who may say that it's not within G?d's power to redeem. And what that made me think of is, how do we make it so that when we're doing something, it reflects well on us and those around us that, that for this, they're asking G?d to redeem them, because it reflects well on G?d to help those who are less fortunate, to help those who need help. And so what does it look like? How do we how do we engage with redemption in a way that lifts everybody up and helps people who need it more than we do? And that to me connects with that one word in the Hebrew. I don't remember if Ellen in Hebrew that year, I did have the word nah in there? After re'eh? Re'eh nah?
No, it didn't. And I noticed in other siddurim that I look at it, re'eh nah, and I think, ther rivah nah or nah riva, right, and it's not here in the Hebrew that I read.
Yeah. So I noticed also that in some of the siddurim I was looking at the word not appears in some it doesn't. Nah is sort of another way to say bevakasha, it's another just please, and it adds to the pleading-ness of this, this question of here we are and some of us are suffering and please just just find a way to open up your eyes and open up your heart and do this if not for us at least do it for your own sake do is to help help the world and help the people around you. But that nah I think was an interesting addition of just just for this particular one. Why is there a please here, for redemption as opposed to any of the other one is find out for forgiveness, why not for wisdom? Why not for repentance?
It goes back so much to the the question of what does it really mean to redeem something. That we have the same chatima here, pretty much as we do after our geulah prayer, our redemption prayer earlier in the t'fillah that that prayer that the law prayer includes mi chamocha and the chatima says baruch atah adonai ga'al israel. And here it's baruch atah adonai goel israel, it's present tense. So on a daily basis, what does it mean for something or someone to be redeemed. And I remember teaching that I learned from Rabbi Jonathan Kliger. And who is the rabbi in Woodstock, New York. And he taught and I do not know the original source for which I apologize, I can't do b'shem omro really here beyond Jonathan. But that ga'al, that route Gimel aleph lamed is about taking a gal, just gimel lamed, like the waves of life, all of the daily things that are happening to us that we participate in, et cetera, taking those waves that routine, and dropping an aleph right in the middle of it, aleph being another name or word or symbol for G?d. And that one way that we redeem any situation, or on a daily basis, is to remember that G?d is there, in the right in the middle of it all, even when it just feel like waves of whatever are crashing over us, there is G?d there. And that thought itself can be comforting or strengthening or healing. And that that is what can redeem these moments internally, even in the face of external conflict and tension that is continual or that is now there's also G?d there.
I really liked that idea, in terms of how it brings this into our individual lives and our daily lives. It was pointed out by Marc Brettler in our friend My People's Prayer Book that some of this language comes from Psalm 119. Which, holy moly friends, I did not realize that there could be Psalms this long, Psalm 119, lines 153 and 154. Very long. Re’eh oneini vchaltziteini ki toratecha lo shachachti, see my affliction and rescue me for I have not neglected Your teaching and we hear that re'eh oneini, it's individual. And the next line 154 Is Riva rivi u’gealeini le’imratecha chayeni.
It's translated here in Sefaria a champion my cause and redeem me, preserve me according to your promise. And there's something powerful about taking that individual language and transforming it into the collective. You know, it's maybe not that it's easy, but thinking about how do I as an individual need saving? How can I again, that language of redeem is it transform? Is it take back? Is it recall? Like, how do I do that? For myself? But what does that mean for the whole world? I'm still struggling with it. Josh, what what is redemption been for you?
Yeah, I think you're totally it's a tough word. It's a really hard word to figure out. And I think, like you were saying, in the very beginning of this conversation, I don't often struggle with it. I generally, I'm making my way through the Amidah. This isn't one of the ones that usually stands out to me, the first thing that I think of what I usually hear the word redeem is like, you know, you're redeeming a coupon or like if you were at one of those, like old school arcades, and you would redeem a bunch of tickets for like a booby prize. Those were always the best prizes when I was a kid. So that's in thinking about that. It's sort of like trading one thing for another, right? Could it be trading the thing that we're suffering with for some sort of feeling of positivity, trading our space to a different kind of place I don't want to say trading up but moving you know, there's a in the Hebrew idiom meshaneh makom meshaneh mazal, change your space change your luck. So what does it mean to change also the change the space within your mind if we're able to sort of view something in a different light is that changed the way that we think about it, understand it, internalize it, actualize it in the world. So I've been trying to think about the redemption as coming from within, what does it look like to re envision for ourselves where we want to be how we want to be and then to actualize that.
I kinda like the idea of trading up. And I know that that comes from another teacher, Rabbi Larry Kushner, my favorite metaphor for redemption is his and it made me understand how redeeming something is different than saving something from the illness or from from disaster. He uses the metaphor which because I'm an old lady makes sense to me about S&H green stamps, which I don't know that anyone listening to the podcast, who's under a certain age will have any idea what we're talking about. But when I was a kid, I would go grocery shopping with my mom, we're talking 5, 6, 7 years old at the cashier. At the end, when we were checking out in addition to our groceries in our change, etc, according to the amount of money that was spent, we got these little tiny postage stamp size stamps, S&H green stamps, which we would take home. And if we spent $23, at the grocery store, then we got $23 of of S&H green stamps to take home. And then it was my job to get the shoebox out of the closet and open up all these books and lick these stamps and put them in these books in their proper places. Why did we go to all this trouble? Because when we had filled a certain number of books of stamps, then we could open up the catalog. And we did this as a family and say, Oh, we have, you know, 18 and a half books of stamps, what can we get for our stamps? And you could get the steak knives or the hammock for the back porch or the you know, window decals, whatever. But when you decided what you wanted, you took your stamps to the redemption center. I never heard the word redemption other than that context, when I was growing up, I don't think outside of Jewish context, because you took these useless little scraps of paper, that meant absolutely nothing that you got just because you bought groceries, and you combine them. And indeed you walk away after you redeem them with something that much more value to you. And I don't know how it fits on a day to day basis. But I think in the talking about big time, national redemption, and fighting battles, et cetera, that the idea that when we all come together, we indeed, did, in one instance, emerge on the other side of the sea, as a community stronger, taking this omer journey towards Sinai to continue that act of redemption, of making us realize how valuable we are to the world, when we combine with others, and try and lift and elevate our actions in that way. And that that's really redeeming it is kind of trading up a little bit. I think.
I really love that it reminded me of this quote that I just looked up by the activist Lila Watson, if you have come here to help me, you're wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together. That may be one of these things, the things this blessing can do is expand our view, what are the fights that we're fighting? Because while I like looking at this, on an individual level, I don't think we can forget the collective level of this. The story of Passover is a story of redemption. But even if we leave that language behind for a minute for me, and I think for countless of other liberation movements across the world, and throughout history, it is a reminder that what might seem impossible is in fact possible. Right? For the people of Egypt, within the story. And for the Israelites who were slaves. That is all they knew. They didn't know that a different kind of world was possible. How could our economy survive if we didn't have the Israelite slaves to build our cities for us, everything would collapse. These things that we take for granted these structures of power, the way that our governments run and the way that our economies run. So many of us take them for granted when in fact, they are human things that human beings created. And nothing is saying they have to be that way. And part of the move I think from ga'al israel in past tense to goel yisrael in present tense is a reminder that it is possible, over and over and over again. That a movement from slavery to freedom is possible across all spectrums of life and for all groups. I think part of the challenge especially I always think of my middle schoolers and in my head, like where is G?d now to do this, but we know that at least in this time in our history, it is us that have to hold up our end of the covenant and work towards liberation and redemption, collecting the green stamps and exchanging them and working together for a better world that we want. We got to work on that for everybody.
People's Prayer Book, it points out that Isaac Mayer Wise, one of the kind of architects of Reform Judaism in the United States, he didn't think that we needed this prayer in America anymore. And he changed it to be hold the oppression of our brethren and redeem them. We are in America now. We're fine. We don't need Geula anymore. But there are people out there Jews out there who still need our help. And the Union Prayer Book, apparently omitted it all together. And then, yeah, Ellen?
I think the Union Prayer Book, I'm going to guess omitted it all together, as did many of these petitionary prayers, because of that literal idea of what is G?d's role in actually doing the Redemption at cetera. That this idea that this is the whole reason that we were redeemed and just the quotation that you just shared Eliana about, I need to be reminded daily, that it's not just for me that the whole world is in constant need of redemption, and it's a process I think it's hugely important for us to remind ourselves each day, it's not about me, but and I'm not alone in it. On a daily basis, goel, it's present tense, it's happening around me I need to be in partnership with that.
Things that we think are impossible are happening all the time. And how can we be a part of that for the good of the world? And with that, we'll be right back.
Welcome back everyone, we're gonna make our way towards the next bracha in our Amidah the next petitionary prayer, this one about healing. Talk a little more what that means, but we'll read from the Hebrew first I'll translate it I'm using the the weekday Sim Shalom Siddur which is the Conservative Movement's one iteration ago Siddur and it goes like this. Refaeinu YHVH v’nerafeh hoshieinu v’nivashea ki tehilateinu atah v’ha’aleh refuah shlema lechol machoteinu ki el melech rofeh ne’eman rerachaman atah. Baruch atah adonai rofeh cholei amo yisrael. Heal us YHVH and we shall be healed. Help us Adonai. Save us for You are our glory. Grant perfect healing for all our afflictions for you are the faithful and merciful G?d of healing. Praised are You Adonai, Healer of His people Israel. What do we notice, what we see and what we feel in the Hebrew?
I have to say I'm looking at Mishkan T'fillah and you'll notice a couple of differences here. Refaeinu YHVH v’nerafeh hoshieinu v’nivashea ki atah line is not there. And then it goes into specific types of of healing lchol makoteinu ulechol tachlueinu ulechol makloteinu. And even the chatima. Baruch atah adonai, rofeh hacholim.
What is the translation of those extra words in there?
It says grant full healing to our every illness, wound and pain and then expands from our amo israel to the end our basic rofeh hacholim, all healing all healing.
Does the chatima also change for the previous blessing is it it's still ga'al Yisrael and the one we did before, right? But this one moves to the universal so redemption is for Israel, but healing is for the world.
It would appear that way.
It's really interesting to see where in our liturgy do we keep the particular where do we make it universal? Where do we take things literally, where do we take things figuratively, is the we us is the we the editors, these choices are fascinating. I'm noticing how the structure of this one is very much like the structure of the last one. Do this thing with two words that are kind of the same. Do this thing with two words that are kind of the same right? Re'eh ve'onyenu and refaeinu v'nerafeh, right? These poetic parallels because of You, G?d, right, going back to this kind of theological idea that we find a lot in ur liturgy and in our Tanakh like don't save us because of us save us because of You write this kind of convincing You, You need this as much as as much as we do. That's one of the theological things that's difficult one of the reasons I think we try to expand it and make it more personal because those questions are hard.
You know, I think it makes sense with the the re'eh nah veonyenu and the goel, right? See our suffering and then redeem us I was a little bit more confused about the heal us because we are because you are our praise, and Eliana you notice something that connection that put it all together for me?. I don't know if you want to you want to share that, t'hilateinu.
Yes. So it reminds me of this line from the Psalms, Psalm 11 that we sing you, if you have been in a Hallel service before on a Rosh Chodesh or a holiday you might know it as Adonai Zecharanu Yevarech. Yevarech et beit yisrael, right, so we get to this line. Lo hametim yehallelujah. V'lo kol yordei duma. Which as I grew up I thought was so funny. The dead can't praise You, G?d. The dead can't praise G?d, any those who go down in silence, they can't praise You. And so I in my, like snarky ways, have gotten into this bad habit of when we sing that, I go, non they don't! Nobody asked for this. It's like, if we if we all get sick and die, no one's around to praise G?d - wouldn't be sad for you, G?d? Wouldn't you not like that? Keep us alive.
It's such a silly reason for the healing to happen. It's like, Oh, you gotto heal us. Because if not, who's gonna praise You? I never made that connection with this ki tehilateinu atah this, this particular moment you but I think that that's there, you're absolutely right. That's what it's supposed to get us to connect to. Because again, you know, our original liturgist were savant, they knew all of this texts like the back of their hand. So when they see ki tehilateinu, that line from Psalms is right in the back of their minds already. The question that I have is the the one parallel that I think doesn't fit is there is refaeinu adonai venerafeh. Heal us G?d and we will be healed. I'm wondering why that nerafeh needs to be in there. It's not the same parallel as like, see our suffering, and fight for us and redeem us. It's heal us. And then here we go, we're going to be healed? Is it? Are we being healed because G?d is healing us? Is G?d choosing to heal us and then suddenly it happens? What's that nerafeh doing there? I'm wondering if you have any insights.
Another place that it that that reminds me of is hashiveinu venashuva.
That's exactly what I was gonna say! Keep going on that!
I think like, what can you do, I don't know where I'm going with it. Except it didn't just pop into my head. This idea what it's making me think about here is this idea of not being alone, somehow is coming up for me that if I feel like I am in partnership with G?d, for the redemption of the world, on behalf of my own healing, and the healing of those, I love that I'm getting a larger and larger sense of partnership. And no matter how difficult any of this may be healing or pain or wounds, etc. If I allow myself to stay open to the idea that I'm not alone, that G?d is in this with me somehow, then that already to me is a step towards redemption and towards healing.
I love that partnership idea. I think the partnership there is key to the way that I think modern Jews need to understand what's happening in the Amidah, what what are we doing here together with G?d? And it reminded me of a beautiful Yehuda Halevi poem that I know that Ellen you have a melody for it, yaeh na imtzacha, and the idea of that poem is where might I go to find G?d, but the the line for me that does it is darashti kirvatcha, v'chol libi kratecha I sought your nearness with all my heart, I yearned to be close to you, uvtzeiti likratcha likrati metatichta. When I went out looking for you, I already found you coming towards me. And it's like so G?d is already turned towards us and all we have to do is is turned towards G?d and then we realize that we're in this together. That's where they're hashey novena shuba fits in for me, it's this mutually turning towards each other and realizing that this partnership is there. So let's act on it.
Kabalistically, I've learned that that this whole concept of it starts from below, I mean, not that we want to take below and above to literally, but then the impetus comes from us to you know, it can be raining all the time that's always flowing. It's always flowing, but literally do we notice. Oh, look, it's raining. Or oh, look, I you know what we have to start by opening ourselves to these ideas, and then we see things and realize things that we may not have before.
That's beautiful. And I think we've been talking about and Josh, you articulate this really well in an earlier episode about how these petitionary prayers can serve as a, like a tunneling of our vision and noticing a way to assess what are our values? What are the communal values and how do we make this come to pass. In My People's Prayer Book, Rabbi Dorf brings up that he says, once we kind of have redemption as a goal, and he says it's not redemption from sin. It's kind of redemption from the way that our lives are the way that we think our lives have to be toward something better than the rest of the prayers are, what does a redeemed society look like? And a redeemed society looks like one in which healing is possible. I think that's really beautiful. And what is human beings? Place in this partnership of healing, because it's something that can be very painful, right? This is specially in this time of COVID. But really, any time everybody knows someone who is sick, who has had chronic illness who has been taken from illness, and I think maybe that's why the Mishkon T'fillah changed this prayer in particular, because it's really personal. And interestingly, the inter text here from Jeremiah 17, it is a personal plea, that again, just like the blessing that came before, something personal that has been changed to communal, the original, Jeremiah 17:14, so it's the same, the whole line changed into the plural, but the next one, I think is so kind of heartbreaking to me. See, they say to me, where's the prediction of the Lord, let it come to pass. You sunrider are saying G?d is with me, I'm going to be healed. I'm not healed G?d. And everybody's wondering, when what you said would happen, will happen. And I think that's the sticking point that we talk about a lot. This idea that there are certain things that we need to do or say or believe get on G?d's good side, and then we will be healed. When that doesn't happen, that can be really difficult. We know we live in a world where illness happens. Illness happens, it is part of life. How do we hold that with the kind of world that we want and the kind of world that we want to be a part of?
Think it has a lot to do with what we mean when we say the word in English healing. That Eliana, you mentioned in our notes that there's a difference, perhaps between healing and cure, or healing and recovery? There are some things there are some wounds, there are some things, some illnesses from which we don't, or we know individually, we will not recover. And yet there can be a healing journey can there be a way of seeing things as they are and being with them, that is not all centered on everything getting better, all of a sudden, and there's a certain calm come with that. That that is a kind of healing that might not be seen by the outside world. But it's something that is internal, and again, feeling not so isolating.
When we feel that we're in need of healing. That's something that we're going to talk about, in a interview with Rabbi Emily Aronson of Chronic Congregation her initiative to be inclusive of folks with chronic illness, not just in space, but also liturgically and theologically, which is something that I don't know if we think about all that much, not just in how we might say, please rise, but also, what does it mean to have prayers for healing? And how can we imagine G?d in those moments? Another reason why I think this is a point of not a point of contention, necessarily, but something that's difficult is because of the connection that we have had in the past. I think we've talked about this on the show before between illness and punishment. Right right now when we're recording this, we're in Tazria-Metzora And every time I've heard like, the name mitzvah child, give a drash on Tazria-Metzora, they always connect it these parshiot, the part of the two or we're in where we read about saraat, leprosy. They connect it to Miriam, and how the rabbi's imagined that leprosy was then always in forever connected to being a punishment for lashon harah, right, for evil speech. And that's a nice idea. But then connecting those things so strongly, can also be difficult because we know that there are people who are doing evil in the world who are super fine and healthy, and people doing good things in the world who are suffering from illness. How do we hold all of that? Does this help? Or does this hinder that process of holding?
I think for me, a lot of it comes back to what we're talking about with feeling not alone. And feeling in partnership. I'm so excited for the Rabbi Emily Aronson episode, I think the idea of a bringing people together in groups who are feeling similar things who are connecting and not able to converse about that, to talk about that, I think, both with internal healing and external healing, a lot of us need to be embraced and need to be made aware that we're not the only ones who are suffering through this. And like we're talking about with this nerafeh, and this nashuva, and this natural rights, it's coming from us. It's, I love the idea of of starting it from, quote, unquote, below as opposed to above, if we're able to come to that understanding for ourselves, if we can get to that direction towards our own spiritual healing, what does it look like to be held in that moment to be held through that process to know that this is a lifelong process, that we're dealing with these things, not just in the moment, but whatever healing looks like? It's something that we're constantly thinking about, and constantly moving towards what that ideal looks like for us, and not necessarily what that ideal had to have been for our ancestors or for those in the past? And what does that partnership look like? And what does it mean to feel held in that process?
And how important it is for us to write here, in print on the page, get this message of ask, express, express your pain, express the world need for redemption, not only are we reminding the world, but so that again, I can hear it. And I can, I can remember, sometimes I feel like, if we didn't see this in front of us, I'd be so concerned with my own little life, by default, that I would get out of the habit of expressing these kinds of desires and needs on a daily basis, on my own behalf and on behalf of so many others, even if I'm not feeling it that day. Again, it's not about me, it's about me remembering what we're all doing here, including, hopefully, G?d.
I've been thinking a lot recently about T'fillah as an exercise in sensitization. Meaning that the combination of the liturgy and prayer practice is meant to sensitize us to life, both to the positive to the joy and the beauty that is around us at all times. And to the negative to the grief and the illness that is around us at all times. And by deepening our relationship with it, we live more fully in life, and we are able to help more. And we in the moments where we can't help we are able to feel more and be more in the world. There's a part after this prayer kind of in the middle of this where we are given the option in many sidurim to pray on behalf of an individual person, right so in the Sim Shalom for example, we can add this languag. Yehi ratzon milfanecha YHVH eloheinu velohei avoteinu shetishlach mehera refuah shlema min hashamayim refuat hanefesh urefuat haguf lecholeh betoch shear yisrael. And the translation given here is May it be your will, Lord our G?d and G?d of our ancestors to send perfect healing of body and soul to blank along with all others who are stricken. And I know that in the Lev Shalem it has added some words at the end.
I'm now in the Kabbalistic daily prayer book. And where there is an insert that says if one so desires, they can also say and it's very much first person singular. It goes to I won't give you all the Hebrew may it be pleasing before You that You would heal me completely with the healing of spirit and the healing of the body so I shall be strong and healthy and vigorous in my strength in all 248 organs and 365 sinews of my soul and my body so that I shall be able to keep your holy Torah.
As, as my therapist would say, that's asking a lot. No, really, that's Whoa, right? There's something beautiful about that specificity. And there's also like, all of the organs, all of the sinews is that our bar for like, being able to be healthy and live a good life? Like now I'm thinking about the idea of health ism, that we put such a right, it goes, kind of in the work that I've been doing around fat liberation, it goes not just from fat phobia, but to this idea of, of health ism, that you must be working towards your own health to the towards this platonic idea of health and perfect healing, as it says, or you don't you're not deserving of respect, or you're not deserving of help. That's really rough. What I was thinking of is an added line that I think is v'chizak, do you do you have it there, Josh?
Yeah, that's it, strenghten the hands of those concerned with their care.
Right. So at the same time, as we are bringing to our mind sensitizing us to the the illness that is with us in the world, we're also saying, Oh, and by the way, the doctors and the researchers and the hospice nurses and all of the people involved in doing the Holy One's work in healing, may they be strengthened. I love that where we're able to put our focus on them as well, because it is a partnership.
The only thing that I might add is how all of this, you know, is the lema'an shemecha, and the the the idea that, that if these prayers are fulfilled, then it's not just because I'm great, and I deserve to be happier or healthier, or whatever, feeling better than I'm feeling now. It is so that I can do my job in the world. It is so that I can be strong, in order to go out and be in the world, whether we phrase it as keeping Your holy Torah, or just functioning on a daily basis. It's there's something very selfless about it to me, which I very, I really appreciate.
And also recognizing that, that health, that that being able to wake up and be our holy selves in the world that looks different for everybody. It looks different based on the conditions of how we were born in the genetics we have and where we grew up. That healing is going to look different for everybody and to remember that because it's so easy as human beings, especially in this world, to pass judgments, you know, we might be trying to move away from a theology of sickness being punishment, but there are still parts of the world that see it that way. Right? If you're sick, it's because you're not eating the right foods, or it's because you're not doing the right thing. Now, in certain cases, in certain cases, like I'm thinking the vaccine, for example, the COVID vaccine is widely available. But who gets COVID- Part of it is random. And part of it is the way that we take care of our society and the way we take care of each other. You know, and yet, when someone has a heart attack, for example, people can be really quick to pass judgment on the way that they're eating or the way that they've been moving or whatever happened. And so, once again, we come back to this balance of what is in our control and what is out of our control and what it means to sit and be with what is as we as we wrestle with this question of what healing looks like. And with that, we'll be right back.
Welcome back, everyone! It's time to put these ideas into practice these big ideas of redemption and of healing, to see what we feel. Notice what we noticed, feel what we feel and be in the moment. So I invite you if you're able to sit up in your chair, or to lie down, feel yourself connected to the earth through your feet or through your seat, invite you to roll your shoulders back if you are able to imagine your spine as a ladder reaching from heaven to earth and earth to heaven. Letting your hands fall to your lap, palms open to receive or palms down to ground. Allowing your eyes to fall to a close and beginning to follow the pattern of your breath in and out. Breathing into lift and breathing out to ground. So often, we ignore these bodies that we are in all the time. Just as we seek to turn away from negative emotion sometimes we seek to turn away from the way that our bodies feel. And yet we have been blessed with these bodies. So can we sit with them? Will healing come out of this? I don't know. Can there be power and sitting together and sitting with what our bodies are feeling like right now. I invite you to start with your toes. Can you feel where your toes are, sense them in space? Can you imagine maybe a pencil or a paintbrush outlining the curvature of your toes. Can you feel your toes from the inside? Can you spread that awareness to the ball of your foot and to your heel, bring that awareness up your leg if you are able into your calves, feeling them from the inside sitting with them and however they feel right now. Move that awareness up to your knees. Feeling what you feel sitting in open awareness and non judgement moving up to your thighs feeling them from the inside sitting with them and being with them. Moving into your pelvis, feeling into it into your seat into your lap feeling the space. So often we hold in judgment feeling it without judgment. Moving up into your belly tracing your belly from the outside bringing awareness to your belly on the inside. However it feels let it be up into the chest into the heart. Back down to your hands your fingers, tracing them from the outside. bringing awareness to your hands from the inside. Moving that awareness up into your forearms, your elbows, our upper arms and your shoulders. Bringing awareness to your neck and through bringing awareness to these parts of our body perhaps you're feeling them loosen. Perhaps as you bring awareness to your head and your face it softens. bringing awareness to where the top of your head meets the air. As you breathing in, breathing in awareness as you breathe in, breathe in this awareness of your whole body, from your toes all the way up to the top of your head and breathing back out, sending that air through your whole body. There is healing actually going on in all of your cells right now. Cells are dying and being reborn. Cells are getting the oxygen that they need. On this micro level, be with this process of Breath in. Breath out. When you're ready, you can open your eyes. Sitting with this awareness, sitting with what is, and what is, at least what has been today has been pretty great. Thank you so much for joining me, Ellen and Josh. Thank you. And thank you listeners. I still don't know how to do a sign off you guys. Oh and Josh, do you have anything to say? Say goodbye?
Do you want us to -
See y'all at Sinai!
See you at Sinai. I love that. That's a perfect place to end. Thank you so much to Christy Dodge for editing. Thank you Yaffa for our show notes. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook at the light dot lab. Find us on ko-fi.com/thelightlab. And thank you so much for listening. We'll see you soon!