[For this translation, I used] two translations of Laments, [and] the book of mourning poems read on Tish’a B’Av. Chapters 1, 2, 4 and 5 were translated by Rabbi David Mevorach Seidenberg, with attention to the principles of the Buber-Rosenzweig Bible. This translation strives to be “concordant” by translating related Hebrew words with related English words, and by following the order and syntax of the Hebrew as much as possible. In some cases alternate translations are given, indicated by a slash. This translation also focuses on the more physical, earthy meaning of words, drawing the reader from modern thought patterns towards more ancient ways of seeing and feeling. Chapter 3 is partly retranslated from James Moffat’s 1922 translation. Moffat followed the principles of “idiomatic” translation, recasting the Hebrew according to the word order, meaning, and sense of everyday English. Moffat, more than most idiomatic translators, evokes the emotional depth of the Hebrew. For brief essays on the theology of Eikhah and links to songs, see the end of this booklet. . . .
This Haraḥaman (prayer to the merciful or compassionate One) for the Shmitah or sabbatical year can be added to Birkat Hamazon (blessing after meals) during the whole Shmitah year, in order to remember and open our hearts to the sanctity of the land. Say it right before the Harachaman for Shabbat, since Shmitah is the grand shabbat, and right after the paragraph beginning with Bamarom (a/k/a, Mimarom). . . .
In Kabbalistic tradition, the new moon is sanctified seven days after its appearance, under a clear sky, standing facing east. It may be said as early as three days after the new moon, and as late as a day before the full moon (the moon should still be visibly waxing). It is the custom in the month of Av to wait to sanctify the moon until after Tisha b’Av, and in Tishrei to wait until after Yom Kippur. In a minyan, the Aleinu prayer and kaddish are traditionally added at the end. . . .
This version of the Aleinu recognizes that all nations play a role in God’s plan for humanity. . . .
Domesticated animals (beheimot) are halakhically distinguished from ḥayot, wild animals in having been bred to rely upon human beings for their welfare. As the livelihood and continued existence of wild animals increasingly depends on the energy, food, and land use decisions of human beings, the responsibility for their care is coming into the purview of our religious responsibilities as Jews under the mitzvah of tsa’ar baalei ḥayyim — mindfullness of the suffering of all living creatures in our decisions and behavior. Rosh Hashanah LeBeheimot is the festival where we are reminded of this important mitzvah at the onset of the month in which we imagine ourselves to be the flock of a god upon whose welfare we rely. The Council of All Beings is an activity that can help us understand and reflect upon the needs of the flock of creatures that already rely upon us for their welfare. . . .
May it be Your will Hashem that we remember that just as we do not own this ḥametz, we do not own this earth. May we once again recall that Adam, the human, is made of afar, soil, dirt, and that God’s promise Abraham that his progeny will become “like the dirt of the earth,” in Aramaic, afra d’ar’a, means that we must live to nourish all Life. . . .
The prayers for hurricane victims that have been circulated through the Open Siddur Project and elsewhere on the social web are poignant and heartfelt, but they don’t reach the higher standard of speaking the truth that we need to hear. What about our responsibility for climate disruption and for the harm caused by this storm? And what about the Deuteronomic promise that God brings us recompense for our actions davka through the weather? Here’s an attempt at a different kind of prayer. . . .
The essential idea of the liturgy of Ushpizin is to invoke the energies of the seven lower Sefirot in the proper order, so that Shefa, blessing and sustenance, can be drawn down into the world. This is the essence of Kabbalistic liturgy, and a liturgy of the imahot would only make sense if it were to follow that pattern. That means we have the playfully serious task of finding a stable order for the imahot where no clear order exists. . . .
Almost everyone who is Jewish knows that Kol Nidre is about releasing vows and has participated in the ceremony. Few know the parallel ritual done in small groups before Rosh Hashanah. Traditionally, right before Rosh Hashanah one performs this simple ritual with three friends, each in turn becoming the petitioner, while the other three act as the beit din, the judges in a court. The ritual is a wonderful way to enter the holidays as well as to prepare oneself for what will happen on Yom Kippur. . . .
From [the Holy One’s] form/to’ar the constellations are shimmering, and God’s form projects the exalted ones. And Her crown blazes [with] the mighty, and His garment flows with the precious. And all the trees will rejoice in the word, and the plants will exult in His rejoicing, and His words shall drop as perfumes, flowing forth flames of fire, giving joy to those who search them, and quiet to those who fulfill them. . . .
In Uman, Ukraine (and in [the Breslov [community] in general) during the repetition of Rosh Hashanah Musaf, when when the ḥazan gets to the special brokha in the Amidah for Yamim Nora’im [the Days of Awe]: . . .
The idea that tragedy and disaster are punishment for our sins is alien to most most modern Jews. The author(s) of Eikhah believed that what happened to Zion was divine punishment. (This is one reason why it is hard to connect the Holocaust with what we mourn on Tish’a B’av.) Besides the obvious consolation of believing that the tragedy had meaning, the reader might also consider that for the ancients, the two choices were to believe that the destruction was punishment, or that God simply had no interest in them. It is easy to imagine why people would choose the image of a punishing God over the complete absence of God – though the latter possibility is suggested in the very last line of the text, before we go back to repeat the more comforting line “Turn us…” . . .
When the spring (Aviv) season arrives, a blessing is traditionally said when one is in view of at least two flowering fruit trees. In the northern hemisphere, it can be said anytime through the end of the month of Nissan (though it can still be said in Iyar). For those who live in the southern hemisphere, the blessing can be said during the month of Tishrei. . . .
This prayer for Tu Bish’vat, derived from the prayer included with the seder for Tu Bish’vat, the Pri Etz Hadar, are based on the Kabbalah of the four worlds and the ancient idea that everything physical is an image of the spiritual. . . .
God of all spirit, all directions, all winds You have placed in our hands power unlike any since the world began to overturn the orders of creation. . . .
We come here ready to fulfill the Creator’s commandment to give blessing for the Sun’s creation and in this year we recognize that the abundance of blessing which Earth receives from the Sun depends on the health of the Skies, which is in human hands for the first time in any generation in all the years of blessing the Sun, from the beginning of the world. . . .