Ki Anu Amecha v’ata Elohaynu
We are your people and you are our God
Devorah explores the intersection of identity and naming in this central prayer of the Yom Kippur liturgy. Relationship is at the core of who God is for us and who we are to God. Further, how can we understand “king” and “lord” in this beautiful piyyut (liturgical poem)? Taking us back to the history of the intent of these roles, Devorah sets a challenge for herself and offers one to us. In the end, however we name the relationship, we are all in it together.
Shema Koleynu is one of the most powerful prayers on Yom Kippur.
“Hear us o God and do not leave us alone. Respond to us and do not forsake us!”
The High Holy Days are filled with prayers that invoke our need for God in our lives. But what about people who don’t relate to any form or concept of God? What does it mean for a Jew who doesn’t believe to stand up on Yom Kippur and say, “Hear our pleas, O God”?
Elizabeth explores this question through the lens of the High Holy Day “Shema Koleynu.”
In the age of doubt and true skepticism, the answer might be found in the strength of individuals who make up the diverse tapestry of a Jewish community.
The 13 attributes of God, in Hebrew called the middot, can be found in Exodus 34:6. Two biblical chapters after the Israelites commit the grave sin of building a golden calf and worshipping in its midst.
The Talmud explains that God gave Moses a way to appease divine anger by reciting these attributes and since then, Jewish people have had access to a special way appeal to God to forgive our sins. We recite these holy words at auspicious times when we hope to find God ready to accept us with love.
However, we are not always in the right place to be loving. Devorah explores righteous anger that may be holding us back from forgiveness and a clean slate.
The 13 middot demonstrate that is not anger that we should be afraid of, but rather its excesses. As God models turning back from excessive anger, so too can we follow this example. The 13 middot show us the way.
Exodus 34:6 וַיַּעֲבֹ֨ר יְהוָ֥ה ׀ עַל־פָּנָיו֮ וַיִּקְרָא֒ יְהוָ֣ה ׀ יְהוָ֔ה אֵ֥ל רַח֖וּם וְחַנּ֑וּן אֶ֥רֶךְ אַפַּ֖יִם וְרַב־חֶ֥סֶד וֶאֱמֶֽת ׀
The LORD passed before him and proclaimed: “The LORD! the LORD! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, [Sefaria]
קַוֵּ֗ה אֶל־יְה֫וָ֥ה חֲ֭זַק וְיַאֲמֵ֣ץ לִבֶּ֑ךָ וְ֝קַוֵּ֗ה אֶל־יְהוָֽה׃
Look to the LORD; be strong and of good courage! O look to the LORD! Psalm 27:14 [Sefaria]
Devorah tells the story of her first husband’s tragic death and remembers the feelings of being alone with two young children. When is the right time to move forward and when is it right to stand still? Only God can tell us.
We thank Rabbi Hanna Tiferet Siegel again for the use of her beautiful rendition of Kaveh El Yah. We so enjoyed having it as our background niggun these two and half weeks and today we have added the lyrics and done a cover of her original music. For information on her full album, please scroll down to Day 1 of our Psalm 27 offerings.
Psalm 27:13. Alaskan Residents Stranded in Spokane, Clairvoyance, and a Bridge to High Holy Day Liturgy
לׅׄוּלֵׅׄ֗אׅׄ הֶ֭אֱמַנְתִּי לִרְא֥וֹת בְּֽטוּב־יְהוָ֗ה בְּאֶ֣רֶץ חַיִּֽים׃
Had I not the assurance that I would enjoy the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living… Psalm 27:13 [Sefaria]
Elizabeth ponders what it means to see God’s goodness in the land of the living—The most powerful of holy day prayers—U’netaneh Tokef asks us to face the reality that some of us won’t make it to the next Rosh Hashana. It is a terrifying prayer and also somewhat cathartic. Isn’t better to just have it out there that we might not make it? That we don’t have unlimited time on this earth and that putting things off might leave some seriously unfinished cosmic business.
אַֽל־תִּ֭תְּנֵנִי בְּנֶ֣פֶשׁ צָרָ֑י כִּ֥י קָֽמוּ־בִ֥י עֵֽדֵי־שֶׁ֝֗קֶר וִיפֵ֥חַ חָמָֽס׃
Do not subject me to the will of my foes, for false witnesses and unjust accusers have appeared against me. Psalm 27:12 [Sefaria]
Ki Kamu Vi
Though they rise up against me to slander me
Devorah reflects on what it means to be accused of something you didn’t do, and the subsequent moral, spiritual, and psychological consequences of being abused by and abusing with words. Though painful to remember, the greater pain is to discount the effect of our speech on the fragile souls in our wake.
ה֤וֹרֵ֥נִי יְהוָ֗ה דַּ֫רְכֶּ֥ךָ וּ֭נְחֵנִי בְּאֹ֣רַח מִישׁ֑וֹר לְ֝מַ֗עַן שׁוֹרְרָֽי׃
Show me Your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my watchful foes. Psalm 27:11 [Sefaria]
How is it that we can stay on the right path? The forces of chaos and anxiety, our watchful foes, push us to our limits. Join Devorah on her regular evening walk around her local lake in Michigan and be with her as she confronts that which threatens to destabilize our communal path to equilibrium.
כִּי־אָבִ֣י וְאִמִּ֣י עֲזָב֑וּנִי וַֽיהוָ֣ה יַֽאַסְפֵֽנִי׃
Though my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will take me in. Psalm 27:10 [Sefaria]
Devorah explores her childhood as the daughter of a minister, and her path home to Judaism. Feelings of longing for Jewish family result in a surprising realization that she may be blessed with more family than she imagined. Elizabeth's chant of Psalm 27:10 weaves in and out of the reflection, pulling Devorah along and into the song as she reaches her conclusion. The music is a redo of a popular song from her youth.
אַל־תַּסְתֵּ֬ר פָּנֶ֨יךָ ׀ מִמֶּנִּי֮ אַֽל־תַּט־בְּאַ֗ף עַ֫בְדֶּ֥ךָ עֶזְרָתִ֥י הָיִ֑יתָ אַֽל־תִּטְּשֵׁ֥נִי וְאַל־תַּֽ֝עַזְבֵ֗נִי אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׁעִֽי׃
Do not hide Your face from me; do not thrust aside Your servant in anger; You have ever been my help. Do not forsake me, do not abandon me, O God, my deliverer. Psalm 27:9 [Sefaria]
Elizabeth looks back on a painful time when it felt like God had rejected her (and other LGBTQ rabbinical students). Elul is a time when we not only let ourselves feel present discord but past hurts as well.
What feelings do these experiences bring up for you? Have you been able to let God back in? Maybe, as Elizabeth ponders, God was really there the whole time.
"For your sake my heart seeks your face; your face does my heart seek.” Psalm 27:8
Devorah reflects on the face to face encounter with the Divine through her experiences as a young girl with her grandmother. Citing Victor Hugo, Moses and the God of the Exodus, we are pushed to see God in the face of the other. We then find ourselves elevated by a free offering of abundant love from an unexpected place.
Shema Adonai Listen God
Koli Eqra When My voice calls you
V’ Haneni That you should have compassion on me
V’anaeni That you answer You answer me
Elizabeth ponders the risk of calling out to God in difficult times, and even more risky, waiting for the answer.
How free do we feel to let God share in our burdens?
How patient can any of us be to wait for an answer that may be too hard to bear?
Perhaps, if we let ourselves be open enough, God will respond with compassion and grace.
Psalm 27:6 “Now my head is high over my enemies all around; I sacrifice in His tent with shouts of joy, singing and chanting a hymn to the Adonai. “
Devorah reflects on a childhood friend named Jacob, who was bullied. With the help of friends and his own inner strength, he prevailed by “going high.”
Elizabeth composed “yarum roshi—-my head held high” to accompany Devorah’s story and, as usual, Devorah’s editing work brings us all to a higher plane.
Psalm 27:5 “God will shelter me in Her sukkah on a bad day, grant me the protection of His tent, raise me high upon a rock.”
Elizabeth bemoans having the holiday of Sukkot during the Corona Pandemic and looks to verse 5 for rejuvenating inspiration and a new approach to the holy days of Sukkot.
Devorah harmonizes with Elizabeth’s memorized version of the verse from Jewish day school days.
Elul Reflection Psalms 27:4 Devorah Tucker-Fick explores the famous verse 4 of Psalm 27, sometimes called Achat Shaalti (one thing do I ask of God), by asking us to consider, “What is a House of God?” She also brings us an original musical interpretation of Achat Shaalti that is easy to learn and you can use at home and/or when you return to shul. This is pretty much one of my favorite lines from Torah so Thanks Devorah.
Psalm 27 Verse. 3 “Should war besiege me, still I would not be afraid; should an army encamp against me, in this would I put my trust.“ Devorah contemplates her time in Iraq as she drives a truck through a dark moonlit road. How can we navigate between fear and trust when we are face to face with our own fragility?
Thanks to David Meyersberg for blowing the shofar in today’s recording and his son Charles for making sure it got to us. We will use this shofar blast throughout the rest of Elul.
Our second Elul offering explores verse 2 of Psalm 27, where we contemplate what it means to have enemies, and the way in which our soul engages with negative forces. Devorah shares with you her vision inspired by the Gemara and Kabbalistic teachings during a contemplative journey through the Universe.
Enjoy our Elul offerings beginning tonight as we celebrate Rosh Hodesh Elul. If you are sitting and listening and you would like to light a candle with us, have a candle and a match ready. Tonight through Friday, we welcome Rosh Hodesh and explore the “light” in the first verse of Psalm 27, also known by its first words as “L’david Hashem Ori V’Yishi.” For the first 14 days of Elul we will use music and narrative to this Psalm. We hope you will find this audio recording a useful tool to enter into the introspection of Elul.
Our theme song for these days is the song “Kaveh el Yah” by Rabbi Hanna Tiferet Siegel. Devorah and I have done a cover of this beautiful song which you can find in its original form on the album Seeds of Wonder. For Rosh Hodesh, we are singing our cover of “Rosh Hodesh (New Moon) Candlelighting” song, music composed by Linda Hirschhorn and original text by Marcia Falk. The blessing can be found in Marcia Falk’s Book of Blessings and the original musical composition can be found on Behold! by the amazing A cappella group, the Vocalot.
Beginning Thursday, August 20, 2020 Hineni.Space will begin posting brief daily offerings (Elul meditations, reflections, and melodies). There is a tradition to hear the shofar every day of the month of Elul and to recite the verses of Psalm 27.
For 14 days we will explore the wisdom of the 14 verses of Psalm 27. And for the remainder of Elul we will introduce the liturgy of the High Holy Days. Because these are audio recordings, you can listen to them, when you have time, or while you are involved in other activities.
In this way we will prepare together for the Days of Awe and solidify our connections to one another. We look forward to your feedback on this endeavor.
Hineni.Space posts brief daily offerings (Elul meditations, reflections, poetry, and melodies). There is a tradition to hear the shofar every day of the month of Elul and to recite the verses of Psalm 27.