The Light Lab Podcast Episode 11: Pool of Blessings (Baruch Ata yud-hey-vav-hey)
7:59PM Jan 18, 2022
Shalom, everyone! Welcome to another episode of the Light Lab Podcast. My name is Eliana Light. I'm here with my good friends Cantor Ellen Dreskin,
and Rabbi Josh Warshawsky!
So good to be back!
So good to be back. And I'd love for us to play a little get to know you game for ourselves and for our listeners. If you could choose three words, to say where you are right now in your life or the three words that have been on your heart or on your mind, right at this moment? Just three words. What would they be? Ellen, we're going to start with you.
Oh, goodness, three words. Theyre intent intentional in nature. I think my three words would be wake up, honey. How's that?
I love that. Anything else you want to add?
I'm, I'm learning a lot this week. And I'm wide open to that. That's kind of the short answer. And it's the it's an educational week, and I'm appreciating it.
Beautiful. Josh, what are your three words today?
I took it a different direction. I just thought of three, I guess adjectives, three things that I was feeling lately. And but I like the bumper sticker direction, too. That was I've now I want to think of one like that also. But my words were anticipation, rejuvenation, and quiet. Anticipation because I this month was supposed to be filled with a lot of music making and gathering and live times together. And all of that has been deferred down the road, some to set days and some indefinitely it's I'm feeling a lot of anticipation for, for those things to happen. Rejuvenation is I got to escape a little bit before some of this stuff happened to a really nice break. And so I'm feeling invigorated from that. And quiet because as a result of all that stuff being pushed back this year has gotten off to a much quieter start at a much more immersed in my own space and in my own home beginning. So that's sort of where I'm placing myself and finding myself right now.
Beautiful. I also picked three separate words, health, discipline, and boundaries. And I'm realizing and saying them that these are things that I'm trying to work on in myself. And so they are both, they are hopes they're aspirational, words that I've been thinking about a lot in order to bring more of them into my life, going to a lot of doctors working on some current health issues, trying to get that out settled. And then of course, the health issue that is on all of our minds and hearts right now. And the recent surge, working on discipline, but discipline that is out of joy and out of love for my body for my heart and my spirit and my work. And boundaries in in my work in my personal relationships, you know, boundaries and discipline, very connected. I was trying to find a Hebrew word for this. Someone said, Oh, it's gevurah, of course it's gevurah. That kind of strength is something I want to work on. And sometimes I have to say it out loud many, many times before it becomes true. And so these are the words that I'm putting out into the universe right now. And speaking of three words, in our last group episode, we explored adonai sefatai tiftach, three words of a six word prayer. And that led us into the Amidah. But before we jump into the Amidah, I know we keep saying this, y'all, but we told you we were going to dive deep and so we are diving hella deep. As one might say, before we jump into the Amidah, we are going to look at three other words, very important words that appear all over the Amidah and all over our Siddur. But we're going to focus on their function in the Amidah today, those three words are Baruch Attah and then there's one I can't pronounce and we're gonna get there when we get there. Let's start with the word Baruch. Josh, tell us about the word Baruch.
Baruch, this, this word of blessing, this word of opening. It has a lot of different meanings and a lot of different intentions. And we've talked about this a lot on the podcast about the way that all these different Hebrew words connect to each other. Especially because in Hebrew, often it's written without the vowels so you can pronounce them in a lot of different ways. There's a lot of different ways to jump into a word. And this word bracha, usually when we say it, we baruch, we're usually in a bowing posture. And it also connects to the word berech, birkayim which means our knees. And so when we say this word that connects to the word knees, we actually take the action that our knees would take, we allow ourselves to bend down, and to jump into and move into this experience of blessed, of blessing, of whatever that word is going to open up for us.
I love that idea about, you know, the idea about bowing and and the Jewish bow most often begins with those knees with with the birkayim. And growing up, quite honestly, I didn't grow up with a lot of choreography in my prayer life. And when I first encountered bowing, and that on that baruch, it made me uncomfortable in all sorts of ways, I think, because I only saw bowing as an act of submission. And have since, but it took years and years and years for me to be comfortable and open to the idea of bowing out of respect. And out of awe. And I confess that I got that, you know, from my little knowledge about the Zen tradition, and and bowing when you see someone namaste is like, see, I see the divine in you. And I really had to learn to look at this phrase, and the idea of bowing in a whole different way.
And now I think I'm, you know, I'm trying, I'm trying to think about all the different times and experiences when we bow, right. I love what you said about the Zen masters and bowing and seeing divine in each other. And as a musical theater kid growing up, you know, you you bow at the end of her performance also. And and is that bow? Is it acknowledging gratitude? Is it I've done this thing and somebody else is, is giving me applause and I want to acknowledge that experience of being connected to? And so I wonder what that bowing is about in some of those other situations also, and whether that connects here.
Gosh, I don't know where I heard it. Maybe it was one of you. But that when you bow at the end of a performance, you're bowing so that the audience has applause washes over you, and doesn't go into you. And like inflate your ego, you're like, I appreciate you. And whoosh. Over it goes. I heard that recently. And I can't remember where. But it's an interesting,
I read a, I've read a couple of books by the Buddhist monk, Jack Kornfield. And the introduction to one of his books is about bowing and his learning to to be Zen in that way, and his resistance to bowing. But then he talks about his journey and ends up with after how a while he began to enjoy bowing and has the sentence, "If it moved, I bound to it." And I just love that sentence. I've remembered it for a long time. But that idea of acknowledgement of things and people being seen and being heard, I think that's what this baruch is doing for me.
I love that too. And just as I said in the previous episode, I love asking children, why do you think we take three steps back and three steps forward? I love having the conversation about bowing with them. Because you know, we inherit these pieces of choreography, we don't often take the time to think about why. And the students often notice after some prodding, that the act of bowing is a lowering of self. Right? It could be anything it could be up on the toes, it could be do a pirouette, but it is a physical lowering of ourselves before something, right. So I think when Jack Kornfield is bowing like to the flowers in the trees, it's a lowering of self because sometimes we must small ourselves to acknowledge the beauty or the holiness or the whatever it is that is in front of us. We need to lower ourselves in a way. It's incredible the Hebrew language and how these different roots build to so many different words and the sounds. The root for blessing is so close to breicha, which is the Hebrew word for swimming pool, or the Hebrew word for pool, that a pool is about abundance and about depth. A pool requires depth. You can have a kiddie pool, a wading pool, but for really to be a pool, you have to be able to immerse in some sort of way. And so that connection tells me something about depth, immersion abundance, and so I can keep those ideas in mind, as I'm saying the word baruch.
You were speaking about working with children and asking questions and things like that and important teacher of mine early on Joel Grishaver that he asked students the question, How is saying a blessing, like diving into a swimming pool? And the amazing kinds of answers that he got to such a question.
How is saying a blessing like diving into a swimming pool? We might leave that one for the listeners to to hold on to because when only on the first word. It's what I love about going deep. This is great.
Right. There's our closing meditation right there.
Great, amazing. All right, I love it's it's arising organically, amazing. We will hold on to it. Our next word is atah, which is translated as you. But of course, it's not that easy. One of the things that's difficult for me, and for many people that I've talked to about prayer is that it is directional. We can say prayer is a moment of meditation. It's a time to sit and open our hearts. That might work for you. But then you start talking about prayers, going to some one, some thing, some being, something that is outside of me, and that can be difficult that "you" can be difficult. There's a teaching that I learned from Reb Andrew Hahn, also known as the Kirtan Rabbi, that has helped me with this. In the kedusha, which is the third section of our Amidah that we'll get to eventually, we imagine the angels and chorus and they say kevodo maleh olam, the Holy One's glory fills the universe. It's overflowing with G?d's glory. You could even say there is no space in the world that does not have G?d's glory in it. And Reb Andrew said, Okay, this makes sense to me is like a new agey guy, G?d is everywhere. G?d is in everything G?d is in me, this makes sense to me. And then later, the angels say ayeh makom kevodo, where is G?d's glory? It's like, well, you silly angels, G?d's glory is everywhere, what are you talking about. But that the angels in that moment, are giving us permission to both understand or think about the Holy One being everywhere and everything, and also permission to call out to the Holy One as separate from us. Where is G?d's glory, in those moments of gratitude, and awe and wonder, and sadness and fear and hopelessness, to be able to call out to something that isn't us. And the idea that that does not have to make intellectual sense. You know, I used to be really interested in people's theology, I'm less interested in that I'm more interested in their experiences of G?d and their holiness. Because it's not usually linear. It's hard to get that to fit in a box. And it can be suppressing if we do that. And so this permission to have an intellectual understanding, and also live as a full person with my feelings in the world has been very helpful for me in what does it mean to relate to a "You" as a pray-er?
It speaks a bit too, in terms of where is G?d? Where is G?d not? I want to try and understand this word, atah, you, from a non dualistic perspective. If I really am into the, what I'd like to call the "echadity" of the whole, of chei haolamim, then for there to be a you at all that, you know, like say that it is an all encompassing, that is everywhere, and presents a grammatical problem already and a philosophical problem. So I went looking for how would a non duelist approach these three words and I went to the author, and Rabbi Jay Michaelson, and surprisingly enough in the book that I happen to have on my shelf, there's not like translation for prayer phrases such as these that made me think about and he does speak about the limits of language, and that we accept, were well, and I would add, we accept words as placeholders, knowing they're symbols for something else. And because like you say, We want there to be an object of our affection, we have to say we want to say something. But immediately, we're limited. And it makes us look at all liturgy, I think, in a different kind of way.
I love that idea. That of words is placeholders that we where we have to accept the limits of language. And when we use these words, they can mean a lot of different things that the language is also limiting, but also in some ways that makes it expansive, because we can offer in a lot more meanings to it, especially when we're using translation, especially if we're trying to understand it in our own vernacular and our own language. So when I was thinking about it, atah, you know, I love as we've mentioned, the connections between different Hebrew words and how these words can be expansively interpreted and understood. And so I looked at this word atah, and the first thing that I saw when I looked at it with these new eyes was aleph through taf that we have this sort of all encompassing nature of hey, have Hashem, of holiness of G?d, that this atah we're reaching out to like Eliana was saying is is the kvodo maleh olam! It's this expansive G?d is everywhere atah, and so really what we're calling out to is just something without, as opposed to within. Right, something that is outside of our own bodies is what we're trying to connect to be in relationship with something that is external, and not necessarily only internal.
And as difficult as that can be, I think it is important. It's one of those lowering things. It's just like the bowing, it's a recognition that I am not the A to Z, right? I am not the end all and the be all, or the beginning and the end, that there is a you, there is something outside of me, in learning about G?d with students, in previous years, the students often gravitated towards looking at Martin Buber's concept of I and thou, the idea that when we enter into relationship with G?d, we are mirroring relationships that we can have with other people, where the other person is not something for us to use, or take advantage of only there for our benefit, but full in and of themselves is a you. And that practicing relating to G?d as a you could potentially help us relate to other people as full "yous" in our lives. Ellen, you talked earlier about how the more we dig deep into these words, the more we realize that language is just symbolism for something that's much deeper. And I don't think anything cuts to that deeper than looking at the name of G?d. The reason that at the beginning of the episode I said Baruch Atah blank is that if you look at the letters in a Siddur, it will say yud and hey and vav and hey, you know many of us have been trained to say Adonai, My Lord, we've brought this up many times on this podcast because you can't avoid it. It's everywhere. It's everywhere. So let's dig a little deeper into yud hey vav hey.
I grew up in a home or or in my religious upbringing, my Jewish education it was that we used when we saw these four letters yud hey vav hey, we said Adonai because you can't pronounce G?d's real name. And I don't know if it was intended this way, or for some reason I just took it this way, it always came along with his wagging finger of he can pronounce G?d's name. Don't forget, you can pronounce G?d's name as if a lightning bolt was gonna come out, and strike me if I did. And I learned later on in my life that these letters yud hey vav hey, you literally can't pronounce these letters, in combination without some extra vocalization, Hebrew vowels, et cetera. And but these letters have so much more to do with verbs, the nouns as far as Hebrew goes, we find that in the rearrangement of these letters, in order to assist in interpreting them, which Hebrew does in a lot of different ways. We get the words hiyah, hoveh, and yihiyeh from a recombination of these letters, and these are words that mean was-ness, is-this, and will be-ness, for lack of a better translation. And many of us know the, the song Adon Olam that we sing at the end of services so often, or the beginning of services have done says vehoo haya vehoo hoveh vehoo yihiyeh betifarah, all space all time all, you know, it's tries to be all encompassing these letters, and we again, take a word adonai, or whatever, and it's a label, it's a placeholder. Unfortunately, I think sometimes we then give too much weight to the literal meaning of the placeholder and leave the real thing behind.
This connects for me with my conversation with Yoshi Silverstein a couple of weeks ago about being outside of time, and how the Holy One, holiness, however you want to think of it, is was is and will be that means it exists outside of the sphere of time, was looking, my friend sent me an excerpt from Aryeh Kaplan's book on Jewish meditation. And it talks about this of G?d being outside of time, and how that's really difficult to understand. We categorize things into two categories, he says, things are either a being or a principal. And so we want to talk about G?d as a being as something we relate to but even saying G?d is anytime you say G?d is, that brings it down that shortens it smallens it. What however you might want to say it. But if it's just a principle that takes away the personalization aspect, so what does it mean for G?d to be both a being and a principal? But also neither of those things?
I love I love the idea of being the both and and the neither. Right that there's right that's that's what it has to be is that when you're talking about this, this thing that defies explanation and defies description, but we have to human beings we we need to grasp onto something. So we have to we use words that are placeholders, you know, going back to that same idea, each of these words can be a placeholder for so many different ideas. And, and I guess for me, this week, I'm in the, I'm in the so I'm in sort of the mystical, the connections between different letters and the gematria. The way that different letters had different significance is and how we can connect words in different ways. And so when I was thinking about what else yud hey vav hey could mean, you know, I think a lot about that, that number 26, yud hey vav hey numerically. And and there's a whole bunch of different ways that different words connect the word Ahavah, meaning love, is 13. And so when you have 13 times two, when there's love between two people in a partnership that is equal to 26, right? There's divinity there's g?d, there's yud hey vav vav hey there. And another word that I thought of it that has the same connection has the same numerical equivalent is the word caved. Caf vet daled is 26 Caved meaning weight. Caved also meaning from the word cavod, meaning honor, and caved is like the liver, these internal organs. And so there's something about the weight that we give to something that's important, right, that yud hey vav hey is this sort of importance, it's something that should be honored. But also something that you know, we were talking about atah being something that's far away, but this yud hey vav hey, this presence is something that we're feeling internally. So how can we be connected both to the atah, and to the yud hey vav hey, the presence that's within at the same time?
That's so beautiful, and there's so much Midrash, interpretation to be made on it. That's one of the things that can be challenging and frustrating. But that's also what makes it beautiful and open. There is no one right answer, except maybe that whatever it is, we are talking about is one, is echad. But even within that there is so much interpretation. Something that I love to do in my own practice is there's an idea in Jewish mystical tradition that again, we can't pronounce it because we can't pronounce those letters without vowels. But we can be it. If you look at the letters yud and hey and vav and hey stacked on top of each other, they look like a human form. And we'll link to that in the show notes. And I love doing a meditation. Well, we'll do the pool of blessings at the end of today, we'll save this one for another time where I imagine that there is a beautiful scripted yud, kind of superimposed on my face that my head is a beautiful scripted yud, how does that change how I hold myself that my arms and my torso are a hey, that my spine has a vav, nd that my legs and my lap are another hey? And breathing through those letters and feeling them in my body? How might I treat myself differently, if I was the walking talking seal of the Holy One? And how would I treat other people differently if I truly understood each of them as the name of G?d, a teaching that I'm now remembering, I think from Rabbi Shai Held, who gets named dropped a lot on this podcast, is that it was actually a really radical thing to say that human beings were created Btzelim Elohim, in the image of the Holy One, as it says, In bereshit, in the Genesis story, because in the ancient world, monarchy was said to be created in the image of their God, Kings and Queens. And so by saying, We are created in G?d's image, it's a radical way of saying that we are all royalty. what does it mean to treat ourselves and each other with that amount of respect and reverence?
This idea of being in that tzelem and in that image, and the physicality of the letters, the sense of what you said before about not so much what we believe but how we experience. And these four letters we didn't mention earlier, and I think the same yud hey vav hey letters, rearranged yet one more time, spell Havayah, which is the Hebrew word for experience itself. So so not only experiencing the Divine or experiencing G?d in other people, but in all of life that surrounds us, and not just the physical things, but the experience of life in general. It it's continually expansive, which I suppose is, what it's meant to be.
Exactly. And it is those moments that I think are the G?d moments, it's less about what I think and more about recognizing when I feel that connection, that oneness. When I feel both in the moment and part of the flow of time are outside the flow of time, when I feel both more like myself than ever and more like a channel for something greater than ever, more connected to the people that I'm with, or the tree that I'm looking at, or the sky that I'm under. It's those moments of both being present in time and timelessness that are those G?d moments. So as frustrating as it might be, or as challenging as it might be, to not be able to pronounce yud hey vav hey, it leaves us open because it's less about the language. We use language because we have to. And it's more about the feeling and more about the experience. And there is so so much more that we could say, but I bet this will not be the last time that we talk about yud hey vav hey on this podcast. And with that, we'll be right back.
So we've talked about baruch, we've talked a little bit about atah, and we've explored a tiny drop in the bucket that is yud hey vav hey. So let's put these three words together. In the traditional way, we would say baruch ata adonai. Now the way I learned it growing up was that this means Blessed are You. Or if you go back even further, bless it art thou that gives it that kind of stateliness, Ellen is smiling. Was it, was it blessed art thou in your Siddur?
100% blessed art thou amazing. And and I have a love for that as a result of it just being you know, familiar.
It being familiar. And I also have to say, you know, for me with language, it's really a pendulum swing, there was a time where I really wanted to get away from that formal language. And then there are some times where I think, yeah, it's grand, it's grand in the way that sometimes I want to pray in a field of flowers under the moon. And sometimes I want to walk into a big, beautiful cathedral. And both of those are ways of experiencing holiness. So it's good to have both. But let's expand our understanding. Because one of the challenges of this is that blessings are often seen as things that G?d gives to us or that we give to each other. We say bless you, when someone sneezes, we bless you with good health and happiness. And here, the direction is reversed. So what does it mean, to say, Blessed are You? I really like the translation, I think I learned this from Rabbi Brad Artson at first, which is we can say it as Blessing Are You. This idea comes up in a lot of different texts, which is that we are calling upon the Holy One as the source of blessing. I remember taking a class with Rabbi Joel Alter a long time ago. And he talked about how for him, a blessing was that we are experiencing the immensity ennormity infinity of the blessing of the Holy One kind of funneled or like marbled into a particular thing, whatever it is, we're doing. Of course, now I'm a watcher of The Good Place. So I just imagined Janet being marbleized. Don't know if either of you, I think we watch the Good Place. Janet is like, contains all of the knowledge of the universe, right past, present, and future. And she can be marbleized, kind of condensed into this package. And so it's almost like when we are calling something out with a blessing, calling upon His Holiness, or we'll talk about in a second how we use it in the Amidah. It's kind of all of that blessing concentrated in that moment.
Oh, all that blessing concentrated in that moment. I love that. And so when you said when you mentioned you have Rabbi Brad Artson, that was also the the direction that I went with is sort of where this blessing is coming from. He also talks about G?d often is the Holy Blessing One, right, the one who is doing the blessing, even though we're the ones who are also we're the ones who are doing this blessing in the moment, but we're blessing the One who is blessing, which was an interesting way to think about that. And to me, you know, I talked to kids a lot about what Judaism means to me. And often I tell them that it's all about awareness. It's about noticing that things that happen as we're going about our lives. And that's what a blessing is. Right here in the Amidah and also all the time when we say a blessing we say when we do a thing. Oh, we're gonna light candles. Here's a blessing that we're gonna say to make that moment important. To notice that this is something that's happening - there's a blessing that we say. Right when we see a rainbow, when we meet a new person, these blessings are about noticing, and living life being present. And so this blessing right here is an opening to be present to notice the words that we're about to say here at the beginning of the Amidah, to open ourselves up to noticing what's happening as we move about this prayer.
I keep thinking about this concept of blessing and for me resounding with with being a blessing. And this idea that, Josh, I love that you were just mentioning, we're the ones in the moment doing the blessing. And yet, it's also, Are we a na - Are we bestowing blessing on G?d, or are we announcing the presence of blessing? And I suppose it could vary from from moment to moment for any any individual. But I - this idea that it's a way of being, blessing. So baruch atah, to me is acknowledging I'm very aware of that blessing. And I'm also trying to be part of that blessing. If it's really all one.
That's so beautiful. What does it mean to pass the blessing along? And thinking about blessing also as directional grace, not just concentrated, but that we're taking that kind of flow, and we're trying to move it and shift it and that we can be part of that flow that when we bless someone, we're trying to send some of that goodness and blessing their way. Even though it's all over, we're just directing it a little bit. And this conversation brought up this quote that I heard on the podcast, Death, Sex and Money, which is a great podcast, by the Reverend Katie Ernst, who sums it up pretty well, which is that blessings are not used to make something holy, but to name what is already holy. She then goes on to read a blessing for thunder thighs. So I would encourage everybody to go listen to that, because it's pretty spectacular. So if it's all of these open things, there are plenty of other ways of saying it then just baruch atah adonai. So what are some other ways of formulating this formula?
I think that we are all evolving in our ability to speak about things in relevant ways. Many, many years ago, I really appreciated Marcia Falk revisiting of the blessing formula and offering up the words nevarech et yah, as another way of saying, Baruch ata adonai. I am attracted to it because it's first person plural. So it it is much more gender sensitive than baruch atah which is masculine, grammatically, but also this idea of nevarech because it's we will bless no matter who the we are, we are bestowing, I mentioned it before, bestowing the blessing at this point, but it puts the onus on us to bestow the onus on us to notice. Where baruch atah, I feel it speaks about the state that is already inherent in G?d. So I'm not sure how I feel about that one. But I also do love the shortened form of yud hey vav hey used here, I suppose, yud hey, yah. And grammatically want to mention that if you look at it in writing in Hebrew, there's a dot in that hey, and it's called a mapik, I also just like to say the word mapik, but it's that extra that expulsion of air at the end of yahhh. And it just turning into the breath itself, that I appreciate. Nevarach et yah. Feels good.
It does feel good. And breath itself, a metaphor or maybe more than a metaphor, for the Holy One, for blessings, we breathe in and out, we share our air we know that more than ever now. There's no new air it just cycles.It cycles through us it cycles through the plants cycles through everything. I love the idea of nevarech because it says that whoever is here is our community. We are blessing. And I wonder if, you know, my my Hebrew grammar is not that great, if it was just going to be me. Josh would I say yevarech? Tevarech? What would that look like for an individual to say?
I think it might be avarech. I might bless. Avarech et yah. Remember that song mah avarech?
Yeah I'm pretty sure I know and Israeli circle dance to that. That's beautiful.
Yeah, I liked it. Also actually, you know, I that's what I was thinking of when Ellen when you were explaining it is I love the idea of feeling that yah, and feeling the presence, and I was wondering what it might sound like what it might feel like to be able to personalize that as a singular. Because often I'm not praying in community and especially for the Amidah. This prayer is something that is recited often as a solo prayer and then as a communal prayer. So what does it look like in this in this instance of saying this blessing and to recite it is as avarech et yah, as I will bless as I'm going to do this and what kind of sort of autonomy it gives to each one of us to be the one that's offering the blessing as opposed to it's coming from that person or from that group or like, here we are, we can do it together, but I can also empower myself to do it on my own.
What's nice about putting it in the singular and then also putting it in the group plural is that it takes some of the gendered-ness out of it. That's one of the reasons that baruch atah adonai can be uncomfortable unsavory or challenging for people in a real way is that we have masculine G?d language, not just masculine G?d language but masculine everything language built into our siddur. And so feminists over the past decades, have been using different formulations that put this language in the feminine. The first time I heard it was Brucha At Yah Shechina, which again baruch turns into brucha, atah becomes at and Yah Shechina is this kind of two names of G?d in one that Yah, that breath and then Shechina, the indwelling of G?d on the earth kind of last mystical rung of G?d that is here in this plane that has always traditionally been feminine, even in the ancient imagination. And then in our conversation preparing for the podcast Ellen, you brought up that you wondered about non binary Hebrew for the blessings. And I found an incredible resource that only came out a few months ago, and we'll link it in the show notes, by brin solomon who uses the pronouns it and it's. brin been writes about compiling this Siddur from so many different sources and looking at it as an art piece. I read the introduction, which speaks to how it thought about all of the different pieces if you are a nerd about liturgy, or grammar or Hebrew, pages and pages of really incredible thoughtfulness. And what it comes up with is beruche ateh, this kind of eh formulation, which is neither the traditional masculine nor the feminine. And if you want to read about how it got to that point, it lays out its thought process in such an incredibly compelling way. But then yud hey vav hey remains, yud hey vav hey, and instead of Hashem, which is often substituted for G?d's name, Hashem, meaning the name would be Hashemoteh. There's an oteh ending that is, again, neither masculine or feminine. I hope that we'll bring up brin's translation or reimagining of the Hebrew more as the podcast goes on, because it's really fascinating. Again, we'll link it in the show notes. And know that all of these different formulations, understandings, Hebrew phrasings, it's all available to you. And you can also come up with your own I think, and with that, we'll be right back.
So, why are we talking about blessings, baruch ata yud hey vav hey at this point in time, because as we said, it shows up all over the amidah. It'll be the first three words that we talk about in our next group episode when we get into the section of our ancestors. But Ellen, why don't you tell us a little bit more about how the blessing formula functions here.
But each of the prayers in the amidah we mentioned depending upon what day of the week it is, that could be seven prayers that could be 19 prayers, each of them ends, and the first one even begins with this blessing formula of baruch atah adonai. And in all of the blessings of the amidah and many other blessings in our service, the baruch atah adonai sentence that ends the prayer is called the chatima. The chatima means a seal, not like the animal, but the seal like a rubber stamp on something or when you sealed a letter with a royal seal in wax to seal the envelopes. That's what this last Baruch ata adonai sentence in these prayers is. And so it will kind of be the the climactic sentence and a sub the cliffnotes the summary of what came before. And oftentimes I will play around with that when I'm doing those intermediary blessings of the Amidah of knowing what the chatima is and composing it, composing my own along the way, and then using the chatimot as guideposts for my own prayers at that point. So I find it to be a really good guide, the chatima.
I think this chatima as guideposts is right that that's that's what it is right there. I did the the chatimot, the fact that there's a form here, that every off every so often that in between each of these brachot, we have this baruch atah adonai, I think it opens us up to, to being creative. That's what this particular prayer is all about. The middle section changes depends on depending on what day it is on what holidays today is we're going to talk about that in a later episode. But it also allows us to fill it in with our own particular feelings and sayings in that in that particular moment. So I love the idea that the baruch atah adonai could lead us up if you see that chatima the theme of what that blessing is about, it often serves as this word prompt to allow you to create your own to fill up the container with whatever it is that you're feeling related to that theme. So I think that that for me that's exactly what it is also. It's this this word prompt that allows me to organize my thoughts based on these categories. And give my give my prayer some organization.
I also love about the chatimot that there are some, they can be taken as titles. Let's take baruch atah adonai shomea tefillah, one of the chatimot in the amidah. Blessed are You yud hey vav hey who hears prayer, the Hearer of prayer could also be interpreted as who hears prayer. All of these verbs used in the chatimot and the Amidah are present tense. And I love that and I question it all the time and and think about the wisdom there.
So something along those lines that I learned, this is kind of going both backwards and forwards in time, in that I did an interview with someone about a month ago, but you listener won't be hearing it for another few weeks. With Rabbi Steve Sager, the rabbi emeritus here at Bethel in Durham, North Carolina, and incredible scholar, and poet, and scholar of poetry. We had an incredible conversation, and he brought up that the blessings, especially in their form in the Siddur, unlike a blessing for eating or seeing a rainbow, or these other things out in the world, that a blessing in the Siddur is a reminder that G?d has done these things before. All things that in our understanding of our tradition have happened before. The next one we're going to talk about, the chatima for the piece about our ancestors, is magen avraham, Shield of Abraham, that itself comes from the Torah. And it has happened in our understanding, Abraham was shielded. And so it's a reminder to G?d, he says of G?d, you have done these things, that means they can happen again, and that they can keep happening. When we call G?d, the one who hears prayer, you have heard prayers in the past, and you can hear prayers again. I used to think about these chatimot, or even just the Amidah in general as like a nudge nudge to G?d, like an elbow bunk, like, hey, remember how you're capable of you know, healing the sick. Remember that we call you the healer of the sick? Yeah. Yeah. You know. But- but I also think, you know, that brings up difficult questions of what you think G?d's powers are, that'll be the third one and the second one after this one. Gvurot, powers, I'm getting ahead of myself. But it also means that more is possible than we think. You know, right now in the Torah, this weekend that we're recording this it's about to be Shabbat Shira, we're about to read the crossing of the sea, the song at the crossing of the sea, where the Israelites went to freedom. And the story of the Exodus for me is just a reminder that no structures of human power that exist on the earth have to be that way. They could all change. That change is actually possible, that all of these things that we say G?d did, they are possible, however you think they happen, whether it's through human hands, through a divine hand, whatever it might be, healing is possible. And listening to prayers is possible. And being or feeling a shield is possible. Hopelessness is not encouraged. We're encouraged to look around the world and see that things are not as they should be, and work towards them, knowing that they could change, and that we can be the ones that help change them.
I'd love to jump back to this idea about these words being present tense, and not only has has, have all of these things existed before, and so they can be again, but perhaps I'm pollyannish. But amidst all of the bad news of the day, and the challenges of our current times to be able to say somewhere in the world, this is going on right now. And it may be my experience, and it may not be my experience at the moment, but it is happening somewhere right now. And it fills me with hope in that way. I'm glad that you bring that up, Eliana.
So taking on that theme of hopelessness not being encouraged, we're going to try and go back to that idea of filling up a pool of blessings. What does it mean that a blessing is like a pool, like jumping into a pool. And I don't know if either of our of our co- conspirators here wanna, want to share or give an example of why they think of blessing is like a pool. And something that comes to mind. Why is a blessing like jumping into a pool?
Well, I started with my three words being, you know, stay awake honey. So that's where I'm going now of the diving into a pool and out of the noticing of a blessing is that hello, right here right now be in it.
Be in it be immersed, it makes a splash!
I'm thinking I love swimming. By the way. I love being in the pool. And the reason I love I love it is because I feel held. I'm just thinking about that now, I feel supported, my joints don't hurt, my body doesn't hurt anymore. And I can float and feel like I'm being taken care of. And now that I'm saying it out loud, that surely has something to do with blessings and feeling blessed.
Offering up a blessing gives us the feeling of being held. Right if I'm offering an experience of gratitude and giving gratitude for something that has happened, right? Like Eliana said before you did this thing in the past? Can you do this thing for me again, this thing has happened. Meaning I've been immersed in this experience before I've been in this water and I can be held again. So as it comes to a close for today, I want everyone to take a moment and think about what does it mean to feel immersed in a pool of blessings. It's a lot easier for us to pray in a moment of anguish, in a moment of hurt, in a moment of sadness. It's a lot more difficult to pray, from gratitude, to pray from feelings of blessings. So what are the blessings that are filling up your pool today? How can you take a moment and add in drop by drop? What's a blessing in my life today? What's the next blessing? How can I be immersed in it? How can I be held? How can I take a moment out of the hopelessness it's not encouraged? Hope is encouraged. What can I be feeling that can lift stuff up in blessing today? I'm trying to hold on. Fill up that pool for a moment. Dump in all of the blessings you can find. And then give yourself a moment and dive in.
Amen! And I'll respond to blessings, amen, amen, amen, thank you so much, Josh and Ellen, for joining me today on the podcast. Thank you so much, everybody, for listening. We hope that you will continue with us on this deep dive. We also have some big news coming up, ooh, what's that big news? I don't know. You're just gonna have to keep listening and find out. Thank you much. Thank you so much to Christi Dodge for editing this episode. Thank you so much, to Yaffa Englander for being our show notes and social media friend extraordinare. Speaking of which, find us on Instagram at the light dot lab. Share with your friends. We really want this to be a community, a discussion, a way for us to start talking about liturgy and prayer in a new way. So once again, thank you so much, Ellen and Josh. And we will see you all very soon.