Given that the Torah forbids impressing our imaginations with illustrations of the divine, some other method is necessary to perceive divine Oneness. One method is found in the verse in Psalms 16:8, “I have set YHVH before me at all times.”
שִׁוִּיתִי יְהוָה לְנֶגְדִּי תָמִיד׃ Shiviti YHVH l’negdi tamid I have set YHVH before me at all times.
. . .
My God and the God of my ancestors,
My limbs, my heart, the tips of my fingers buzz with creation.
This body is Your instrument
Ready to move
On the knife’s edge of action. . . .
For those of us who speak a religious language, we can understand our journey of building shame resilience as one of the many ways we can uplift, exalt, praise, and honor not just our own lives but the Life of life itself. Whenever we feel unworthy of love and belonging, we can remember that the very self which we are struggling to believe is lovable is none other a manifestation of God’s own Self. Our belief that we are worthy to live and belong is one way we can practice our trust in God. And if the God language doesn’t do it for us, we can get in touch with our own wonder at being alive, call it whatever name or conjure whatever image works for us, and remember that our journey to live a wholehearted life honors that wonder. Ultimately we can affirm that any step toward a wholehearted life lifts up holiness in this world. . . .
Elijah began saying: Lord of the worlds You Who are One and not just a number You are the highest of the highest most hidden of the undisclosed no thought scheme grasps You at all. . . .
The earliest artifacts recording Jewish liturgy (or for that matter any Hebrew formulation found in the Torah) are two small silver amulets, discovered in 1979 by Israeli archaeologist Gabriel Barkay. He discovered the amulets in a burial chamber while excavating in Ketef Hinnom, a section of the Hinnom Valley south of Jerusalem’s Old City. The inscriptions on these amulets conclude with parts of the Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing), the three-part blessing in which the Kohanim are instructed to bless the people of Israel in Numbers 6:22-27. The script in the amulets dates them approximately to the reign of King Yoshiyahu (late 7th or early 6th century BCE) predating the Nash papyrus, and the earliest of the Dead Sea Scrolls by four centuries. . . .
You who love my soul Compassion’s gentle source, Take my disposition and shape it to Your will. Like a darting deer I will flee to You. Before Your glorious Presence Humbly I do bow. Let Your sweet love Delight me with its thrill Because no other dainty Will my hunger still. . . .
My God! my soul is Yours my body is Your servant, take pity on what You have created; my soul is Yours and my body is Yours, God help us for Your sake. We come to You because we want to honor Your reputation. Help us in our moral struggle for the sake of Your reputation; because You are kind and compassionate. Forgive us, for there is so much we need to be forgiven for. . . .
Talmudic and midrashic sources contain hymns of the creation usually based on homiletic expansions of metaphorical descriptions and personifications of the created world in the Bible. The explicitly homiletic background of some of the hymns in Perek Shira indicates a possible connection between the other hymns and Tannaitic and Amoraic homiletics, and suggests a hymnal index to well-known, but mostly unpreserved, homiletics. The origin of this work, the period of its composition and its significance may be deduced from literary parallels. A Tannaitic source in the tractate Hagiga of the Jerusalem (Hag. 2:1,77a—b) and Babylonian Talmud (Hag. 14b), in hymns of nature associated with apocalyptic visions and with the teaching of ma’aseh merkaba serves as a key to Perek Shira’s close spiritual relationship with this literature. Parallels to it can be found in apocalyptic literature, in mystic layers in Talmudic literature, in Jewish mystical prayers surviving in fourth-century Greek Christian composition, in Heikhalot literature, and in Merkaba mysticism. The affinity of Perek Shira with Heikhalot literature, which abounds in hymns, can be noted in the explicitly mystic introduction to the seven crowings of the cock — the only non-hymnal text in the collection — and the striking resemblance between the language of the additions and that of Shi’ur Koma and other examples of this literature. In Seder Rabba de-Bereshit, a Heikhalot tract, in conjunction with the description of ma’aseh bereshit, there is a clear parallel to Perek Shira’s praise of creation and to the structure of its hymns. The concept reflected in this source is based on a belief in the existence of angelic archetypes of created beings who mediate between God and His creation, and express their role through singing hymns. As the first interpretations of Perek Shira also bear witness to its mystic character and angelologic significance, it would appear to be a mystical chapter of Heikhalot literature, dating from late Tannaitic — early Amoraic period, or early Middle Ages. . . .
This is the beginning of an Israelite-Samaritan daily prayerbook. This work is still very much in progress. The file includes the title page, the Samaritan equivalent of “birkot hashahar” (the early morning blessings before prayer), and the first couple of pages of actual prayer. It is all in Samaritan script, an offshoot of paleo-Hebrew which developed after the Jews had already switched to today’s square “ashurit” script. . . .
Image: ADAMAHniks on the truck – 3 by Batya Schuman, 2006 (License: CC-BY 2.0)
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Avodat HaLev Shaḥarit: Service of the Heart
This work is available for you to adopt, adapt, and redistribute. All translations are shared copyleft with a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike . . .
Last year around this time, I was sitting with Ya’qub ibn Yusuf in his bookstore, Olam Qatan (54 Emek Refaim in South Jerusalem), asking if he might share some useful practice that I might share through the Open Siddur Project. He offered this thought which he had heard from someone else:
I have difficulty with the idea of thanking G!d for “returning my soul to me” sheheḥezarta bi nishmati while I’m still endeavoring to remain in touch with my dreams. So I much prefer what someone else suggested, that instead of saying nishmati (my soul), to say instead han’shamati (the embodiment of my soul). I thank G!d for returning me to my body — my soul was never missing.
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Thankful am I in your Presence, Spirit who lives and endures, for You’ve returned to me my soul with compassion. Abundant is your faith! . . .
An original liturgical poem inspired by the Modah|Modeh Ani prayer. . . .
In these still, quiet moments I am not asleep, and not yet awake. In the threshold of day and night, with the mixture of darkness and light, my body is once again coming to life. I am reborn, each day, from the womb of your compassion. May all of my actions be worthy of the faith you’ve placed in me. With words of thanks I’ll greet the dawn. . . .
According to Rabbinic tradition, the 21st of Nissan is the day in the Jewish calendar on which Pharaoh’s army was drowned in the Sea of Reeds, and the redeemed children of Yisrael sang the Song of the Sea, the (Shirat Hayam, Exodus 15:1-19). The song, as included in the the morning prayers, comprises one of the most ancient text in Jewish liturgy. The 21st of Nissan corresponds to the 7th day of Passover, and the recitation of the Shirat HaYam is part of the daily Torah Reading. Rabbi Hillel Ḥayim Yisraeli-Lavery shares a performance of a melody he learned for the Shirat Hayam from צוף דבש Tzuf Devash, a Moroccan synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem. If there is something about this tune that strikes one as particularly celebratory, it might be because the relationship between G!d and the Jewish people is traditionally described as a marriage consummated with the Covenant at Mt. Sinai. The passage of Bnei Yisrael through the Sea of Reeds towards Mt. Sinai thus begins a bridal march commencing in the theophany at Mt. Sinai, 42 days later. . . .
Once upon a time, according to the Mishnah, it was the nusaḥ (liturgical tradition) of the Cohanim in the Bet Hamikdash[ref]Priests of the Temple in Jerusalem[/ref] for the Ten Commandments to be read prior to the Sh’ma. . . .
When works are printed bearing shemot, any one of the ten divine names sacred to Judaism, they are cared for with love. If a page or bound work bearing shemot falls to the ground it’s a Jewish custom to draw up the page or book and kiss it. Just as loved ones are cared for after they’ve fallen and passed away, when the binding fails and leaves fall from siddurim and other seforim they are collected in boxes and bins and brought for burial, where their holy words can decompose back into the earth from which their constituent elements once grew, and were once harvested to become paper and books, and ink, string, glue. While teaching at the Teva Learning Center last Fall 2010, I collected all our shemot that we had intentionally or unintentionally made on our copy machine, or which we had collected from the itinerant teachers who pass through the Isabella Freedman Retreat Center on so many beautiful weekend shabbatonim. While leafing through the pages, I found one and kept it from the darkness of the genizah. . . .
Sh’sh’sh’ma Yisra’el — Listen, You Godwrestlers! Pause from your wrestling and hush’sh’sh To hear — YHWH/ Yahh Hear in the stillness the still silent voice, The silent breathing that intertwines life; YHWH/ Yahh elohenu Breath of life is our God, What unites all the varied forces creating all worlds into one-ness, Each breath unique, And all unified; YHWH / Yahh echad! Yahh is One. Listen, You Godwrestlers! No one people alone owns this Unify-force; YHWH / Yahh is One. . . .
Gelobt sei der lebendige Gott! Ihn grenzt nicht Raum, ihn grenzt nicht Zeit. Er ist der Einzige, dem nichts gleicht in seiner hehren Einzigkeit. Er ist nicht Form, ist nicht Gestalt, „der Heilige“, sich gleichend bloß. Der Urbeginn, vor allem Sein: Anfang, der selber anfangslos. So waltet er als Herr der Welt, von dessen Macht das All erzählt. Mit dessen Geist erfüllte er G-ttkünder, die er auserwählt. Nie stand, wie Mosche, einer auf, der je so klar sein Bild erschaut. Die wahre Torah gab uns Gott durch ihn, der seinem Haus vertraut. Und nie verwirft Gott sein Gesetz, nie gibt er es für ein anderes hin. Er schaut in unser Herz und weiß das Ende schon beim Anbeginn. Von ihm wird nach Verdienst und Schuld uns Lohn und Strafe einst zuteil. Die Zeit des G-ttesreiches kommt und bringt den Harrenden das Heil. Die Toten weckt er auf zur Zeit. Gelobt sei Gott in Ewigkeit. . . .
In Avignon, France, in 1767, Eliyahu Karmi (Elijah Crémieux) compiled a siddur preserving the nusaḥ of the Comtat Venaissin titled the סדר התמיד (Seder HaTamid). Just after the section for תפלת שחרית (the morning prayers), Karmi provides the following advice for how to organize one’s workday: . . .