The recent discussion and sharing on the OHALAH list of readings for funerals inspired me to take a next step in the development of a manual for klei kodesh. Of course, the job is much bigger than I thought and the time it will take to bring it to the point where I can share allows me to extend an invitation to all of you to contribute to it.
For many years while I served communities, I used a simple template that I created for myself for life cycle ceremonies. I would create a separate document and paste into it the pages and readings I wanted to use, including inserting names, cut them down to fit in a small loose-leaf binder, and bring that to the ceremony.
What I am doing now is revising and reformatting the template for funeral and burial services. The basic outline is traditional as I learned it both from watching rabbis and by looking at other manuals. I’ve also added niggunim and readings which I’ve found meaningful over the years.
But this is not intended to be “Daniel’s Manual,” but rather I see my job as creating as rich a template as possible so that all of us will have access to each other’s ideas and the results of our inspirations.
So, while I’m working on my piece, I invite you to send me the readings and prayers which you have found most meaningful and the place in the funeral or burial service where you insert them. I can’t promise to include every one, but on the whole there is good reason to include as much as possible. Since the “product” will be available at no cost, I don’t think there is an issue with permission as long as we acknowledge the sources.
In the meantime, I also revised and edited the introduction to the manual which I shared a few weeks ago and which includes Reb Zalman’s templates. The revisions primarily expand the concept to include all klei kodesh and not just rabbis. I’ve placed the revised version on this site and put a link to it below. Please replace the previous version.
I’m also hoping to format the pages so that they stand alone and can easily be re-arranged for each time you’ll need to construct a service. And I’m also planning on including sound files within the manual.
Looking forward to receiving your contributions in the near future and sharing the template with you.
Reb Zalman’s Templates and a Renewal Manual for Klei Kodesh
In his closing address at OHALAH last week, Reb Zalman made mention of some things to which he hoped we would pay attention. In particular, he spoke about liturgical changes he had written which better reflect our new approach to Jewish particularity within a universal context, including his new middle blessing for the Shabbat Shacharit Amidah. I wanted to remind you all that you can find it in Siddur Kol Koreh, along with another alternative which I wrote and which more closely follows the traditional version.
He also spoke of his templates (aka boilerplates) for life cycle events.
Some years ago, R. Boni Sussman and I began working on a life cycle manual for Jewish Renewal. We managed to write an introduction and an outline for the manual. The only other thing we were able to complete at the time was a reformatting of these templates of Reb Zalman’s and which form the core of what we still hope will be a much larger volume of life cycle ceremonies and commentary.
While I had posted these on the OHALAH website years ago, they first got separated into two different sets of files and then the link to them broke. Therefore, I’m taking the liberty of reposting them here to improve accessibility.
In addition, as you look at them, please feel free to share with me any documents and/or commentaries you think might fit well into this emerging manual. While I can’t promise to include everything I’m sent, I will look at them carefully and suggest changes when I think warranted.
In looking over what we wrote, I notice that we were still using the term “rabbi” where today I would use “Kli Kodesh” to include Rabbinic Pastors and Cantors. I have updated the terminology and the link below is now to that revision.
I went to Reb Zalman after he had finished to assure him that he was being heard. I hope that I’ll be able to relay to him that many of you have downloaded the templates and that we are working together to improve and expand this manual. And, as I add to it, I will let you all know via this blog so that you will be able to download the versions as they are developed.
I’ve finished reading Syd Schwarz’s book, Jewish Megatrends, in preparation for his appearance at our upcoming OHALAH conference. There is much in it that I endorse and applaud. I’m especially gratified by the support and funding which the organized Jewish community and private foundations are now willing to provide to new programs and experiments. And, at the same time, there are two things which nag at me. One is a personal feeling of invisibility, which appears over and over again as I read each essay, and the other is the absence of anything focused on how we talk about God.
It is true that there are occasional references to spirituality and the search for deeper meaning, and one reference to our “ancient God.” However, given that for most of our history the search for meaning has taken the form of “What is it that Yah our God wants from us?” would seem to require that this question at least be acknowledged somewhere. What is Jewish about how we eat, how that food is grown and raised, and our concern for social justice if not rooted in the covenant we made with God? It is that which has always been at the core of our world view and, whether we choose to believe in its traditional formulation, a new variant, or not at all, it deserves its place in the discussion of our future.
Which leads me to the invisibility. I know I’m not the first to notice the absence of God and the place of spiritual practice in this book. I’ve been told that my old friend and teacher, Reb Arthur Waskow has already commented on this. I found this out because I spoke out loud about my concerns and was informed, to my joy, that he has spoken about this before me and my current reading of a book which has been out for several years. I don’t know how he framed his thoughts, but I do know that I am only adding and maybe reiterating, but not initiating. Yet, nowhere in this important book is there communicated who might have been sharing the concerns raised by the current writers during those invisible years between the mentions of the Havurah movement in the sixties and the changes which only seem to begin in the mid-nineties. When a later Talmudic rabbi voices an opinion, the first question often asked is who before him might have said the same thing or something similar.
That is what I have found missing. Again, I am happy that new endeavors now get sympathetic hearings. It’s wonderful that Limmud NY had federation funding when it began. It’s great that there is a Jewish food movement and there is now an ethical kashrut certification. But these changes didn’t just appear in the last 15-20 years. They owe a great deal to the pioneering efforts of many people who not only go unsung but suffered disdain and rejection for voicing these concerns 35 and 40 years ago. And so, I applaud the new initiatives, as well as the baby-boomer contributors, from the perspective of someone who has spent a lifetime advocating for many of these same ideas.
Let me give only one of many possible examples. Rabbi Jacobs wrote: “In the past, social justice has been seen as the purview of secular Jews.” Yet, both “Jews for Urban Justice” in Washington, DC and “Na’aseh: A Jewish Religious Fellowship for Action” in Philadelphia were formed in the sixties. Arthur Waskow wrote the first Freedom Seder then and Na’aseh sponsored the second interfaith seder using his groundbreaking merger of Jewish spiritual practice and social justice. We were consciously merging religious observance, God wrestling, and social justice then and have continued ever since. And I can personally trace this convergence farther back in my own family, because my maternal grandfather, a practicing Orthodox Jew, was a Social Revolutionary in Tzarist Russia and a member of Lenin’s only coalition cabinet.
I am saddened that we who are now called Jewish Renewal still remain invisible to so many and I hope that soon people will ask the questions about who may have said similar things to themselves in the past. There is so much more I could say, and perhaps I will at some later date, but I don’t want to go farther and take away from my genuine satisfaction in seeing this growing willingness to change and adapt. And, I am grateful to have been part of the earlier pioneers of the renewal of Jewish life in North America.
Finally and for fun, I attach a column I wrote in 1976 for Vancouver’s Jewish Western Bulletin following the visit of Reb Shlomo Carelbach. We brought him to Victoria, where I was serving as rabbi, and then he went on to Vancouver. The style seems quaint to me now, but the substance is still relevant.
I was told that Reb Nachman said to take every opportunity to open a new year with blessing and hope. So I wish all of us a happy and good new year, one which brings us closer to a proper sharing of wealth and healing for our planet.
We know the drill when a potential convert comes to the rabbi, or at least we think we do. The rabbi is supposed to say something like, “Why do you want to become a Jew? It’s hard to be a Jew. We have 613 commandments to observe. Moreover, we are a persecuted and isolated people.” This is supposed to give the potential convert an opportunity to either back out or say something like, “I know this and even though I am not worthy, I still want to become a Jew.” At which point we are supposed to welcome the person with open arms and then, depending on which school of thought is closest to our own, we require the person to engage in a period of study.
As I listened to the recording of the sessions I convened in response to Reb Zalman, I heard Reb Laura Duhan Kaplan read a different version of this moment from a secondary source, which she later provided for me.* When I searched for copies of this medieval document, I found that the relevant section came in two versions. The first one I found read closer to the familiar drill we already know, although with more detail than the Talmud uses to describe how terrible the situation is in which the Jewish people finds itself.
Another version, however, contains the words which Reb Laura cited, which shift the emphasis from one of joining the Jewish people as its primary focus to becoming God’s servant.
As I write in the document still in progress, I learned to understand the giyur process as a tension between these two fundamental understandings of what it means to be a Jew. One is that we are a special people, made so by the intensity of the faith of our patriarchs and matriarchs culminating in God’s choosing us at Sinai and our acceptance of the status of being a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” The other is that we are a people committed to a way of walking with God and the essence of becoming a Jew is to affirm that belief and commitment.
Thus, while we think we know what is supposed to happen, in fact there are at least two sets of different understandings of how we receive a potential convert. What is even more interesting is that both of these approaches are represented by different versions of the very same text!
I have attached both versions in pdf form for you to see.
Next, I want to return to the question of whether two sets of options exhausts the possibilities.
Blessings to all of you for a good secular new year. May this be the year that we finally realize how much we all need to work together to redeem ourselves and the planet which is our shared home.
*Shaye J.D. Cohen The Beginnings of Jewishness (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), p. 199. It is an excerpt from the “post-talmudic tractate Gerim…first attested explicitly around 1300.”
“Why do I pray?”
By this I mean, why do I find liturgical prayer meaningful? Why not just meditate, focus on my breath, and empty my mind?. If liturgical prayer seems founded on the notion that there is me and there is God, that somehow God is waiting for me to let him know what I need and that once I’ve expressed that need, She will hear and grant my requests, then how can I take that seriously, knowing what I do about the nature of the universe, about the seemingly limitless cruelty possible, about all the suffering that seems to go unheeded? Further, if all is One, then there really is no “out there” and to whom are my prayers actually addressed and in what direction do they go?
Once I thought to write about this in the form of a theological essay. But I am neither a theologian nor a systematic, academic thinker. As my friend and teacher, Rabbi Marcia Prager has said and which is true for me as well, I don’t really “believe” in God; I experience God. And so my reflections on prayer arise from experiences, some cosmic and life changing; most the little insights and bits of meaning that come to me in prayer.
Jewish liturgical prayer appears to be based on two fundamental principles. The first is that there is a “me” who is addressing a transcendent God who literally is sitting somewhere above the firmament which supports the sky and looking down at all of creation.* The second is that, while the one praying may sometimes be represented as either male or female (especially since, in Hebrew, the first person singular is gender neutral), the God to whom one is praying is always identified as male. If these assumptions are correct, and to a large degree they are, then how can someone living in the 21st century possibly find meaning in this form of prayer?
There is a tendency, perhaps there has always been this tendency, to assume that when I identify a problem on my own, that this is the first time the problem has been noticed. But what happens when I discover that I am far from the first to see these issues. What can I take from previous identifications of the same issue and to what extent do I need to adjust my own conclusions based on this knowledge? For example, critical students of Bible noticed that there are sharp differences in the way creation is described in the first two chapters of Genesis. This “discovery” led to challenges of the integrity of Torah as well as its accuracy. However, these differences were also noted by rabbinic scholars of the Talmudic and post-Talmudic periods as well. Committed as they were to the integrity of the Biblical text, they resolved these differences by positing Divine adjustments in the plan of creation itself as it unfolded. God noticed, as it were, that the plan to organize creation only through cause and effect, karma in the east and din in Hebrew, (often rendered as judgement in English), was fatally flawed once the human being was introduced and that therefore there was a need to inject a second major, and counterbalancing force called rachamim, mercy or compassion, without which humanity, with its inherent freedom of choice and therefore of error, could not survive. This solution maintains the integrity of the text even when we grant that the two sections come from different geographic areas and times, what I’ve seen scholars in the Conservative Movement call “R,” not the redactor as in critical circles but rather “Rabbenu,” our teacher, the one who moulded these disparate units into coherence.
And so it is with prayer as well. The Jewish mystical tradition knows full well that a commitment to the absolute unity of God challenges the notion that there is a me which is so separate from God that it is only through prayer that God can know what I need. In the opening chapter of the Tikkunei Zohar, we find the expression quoted frequently by all later mystics, including the Eastern European Hassidim, “there is no place free of God.” As the Zohar understands the process of creation, somehow the unstirring, never changing Ein Sof, the Infinite, experiences a desire. At that very moment the possibility of creation, of an other, comes into being and the creative process begins. How that happens is a mystery which could not be resolved, both then and now. That it happens is obvious, for we are the products of a long chain of creative moments.
*Illustrations of this appear too many times in the Bible to list here. One example to which I’m particularly drawn is this verse from one of the Selichot prayers recited in the week before Rosh HaShanah and the melody to which Belzer Hassidim sing it. I so want this image to be true.
For the words: Hakshivah Adon
For the melody: Hakshivah•Belz
After a long delay, I’m finally working with some regularity on a booklet which responds to the concerns Reb Zalman raised with us about three years ago. He voiced his worry that our conversions were short on requirements for observance and thus on the life-changing quality of becoming part of the Jewish people and enterprise.
I have been privileged to study this issue twice over the years. The first time was as a part of the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, where it was the subject of intense learning for an academic quarter. The second time was at the Spertus Institute, under the guidance of Rabbi Byron Sherwin (and when I still had hopes of earning of doctorate). In both instances, the issues revolve around prerequisites for converting and expectations of how life will be lived after mikveh. However, the limitations of classical halachic thinking mean that there are only two options: either become a Jew or not. No matter how much a non-Jew participates in Jewish life by attending shul or keeping kosher, those practices do not effect the person’s status vis a vis the Jewish people.
Reb Zalman offered the possibility of a third option by reviving and renewing the status of ger toshav (what might be called a resident alien in the U.S. and a permanent resident in Canada). His suggestions and our responses are detailed in this emerging booklet.
As I had promised, we convened an ad hoc committee (of anyone who chose to join) to hear Reb Zalman’s concerns, to study some relevant texts, and come to some suggested options to share with you all. In addition, the Issues in Integral Halachah course for senior rabbinic students that year also studied giyur and I’m planning to include two or three of the papers from that course in the booklet (the first that you will see is Jeremy Parnes’ which will be part of the Halachah Panel at OHALAH in January).
I have now reviewed four of the six session recordings and written about 20 pages, which I hope to begin sharing soon. In the meantime, since so many of us believe that the disruption of halachic unanimity is a modern phenomenon, I offer this responsum written by the Rambam in which he clearly states that, while he knows the halachah should be one way, he has decided to rule differently based on changed conditions and competing values. This is a wonderful example of both the value and limitations of the Codes, especially given that the writer of this responsum is also the author of a major code. I “discovered” it in a careful re-reading of another source, having missed it the first times around.
Also, there was a discussion some time ago on the OHALAH list around the question of whether a conversion can be revoked. Reb Sami sent me a link to an interesting responsum written on this question in relation to a rabbinic court decision in Israel. It is well reasoned and cites many of the same sources I have consulted (which makes me feel good!) and I recommend it to you:
PS: Readers of the Rambam text will notice a question mark following one of the abbreviations (roshei teivot). This is how it appears in both the printed texts I could consult, but it doesn’t appear in my book of roshei teivot nor could I figure it out. While I think I’ve still translated correctly, I would love to hear from anyone who thinks they’ve figured it out. You can post your idea as a comment and we can talk about it. And thanks.
“A vein runs through spiritual tradition that says that we, too, give back to the sun; indeed that the sun only continues to shine through our gratitude. Ancient sun rituals weren’t only to thank the sun – they were to keep it shining. Solar energy is the light of earthly love reflected back at us. Here, too, the circle of the gift operates.”
This is a quote from Charles Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition (pp.183 & 444) and, as did many other things he says in this interesting book, it reminded me of the emphasis on relationships in our Judaism. While I wouldn’t say that we believe that our gratitude is what powers the sun, we do believe that our gratitude is a primary reason why this world evolved us. Particularly, I think of the second verse of L’cha Dodi which ends with the phrase, “that which was done at the end was first in thought.” Shabbat, the day when we refrain as much as possible from manipulating the parts of this world for our advantage and comfort, though coming on the last day of creation, was the purpose and goal of this creation from the beginning.
While reading this book, I felt over and over again how close he is to Biblical and rabbinic economics. I care about this not so much because I want to see Judaism get the credit it deserves in pioneering approaches to living which infuse the ordinary with cosmic significance, of trimming branches with a consciousness of the forest, of joining the material with the spiritual. Rather, it is because if we are indeed in a paradigm shift, which I do think we are, then the messianic age which has been our metaphor for the new paradigm and guided so much of our present and past, is a useful model.
It is from this consciousness that I write my little blog, focusing on seeming details through which I encourage us all to keep our connections to the larger vision alive, to guide us in the details of our personal practices, the ways in which we lead our specifically Jewish communities, and the ways in which these communities and individuals can help influence the world around us in ways which will help us move through the more difficult part of this shift.
My focus for the next little while will be two areas, one from the specifically Jewish and the other an aspect of how we actualize our place in the new emerging world.
1. Siddur and Machzor Kol Koreh: Among many reasons for praying, one is as a way that we reconnect to our values on a regular and cyclical basis. My plan is to share small essays as comments on the liturgy and observations about my personal prayer practice. I also hope to include samples of the revisions to Kol Koreh as I work through them myself.
2. Ger Tzedek and Ger Toshav: The ways in which we view and actualize entry and exit from the Jewish project, vision, and people say a great deal of what it is that we think being a Jew is all about. I hope you remember that I’ve been working on a little book which responds to Reb Zalman’s challenge of three years ago to our conversion standards. I’ve now gone back to work on this book and will be sharing pieces of it with you as I go along.
PS: I am, as usual, still catching up on email and so was reading R. Rachel Barenblat’s Elul series earlier this month. It was and is an incredibly beautiful and meaningful way to walk through that month before Rosh HaShanah. While she is gathering it into a single document, you can access her archives now if you haven’t seen it already:
For this last post of the old year, I’m attaching Hanna Tiferet’s translation of the Yom Kippur Torah reading as a rap. I’m not sure if it will remain in the upcoming revision of Machzor Kol Koreh which I hope to undertake sometime in the next few months, so with her permission I’m sharing it with you now as a pdf document.
On a more serious note, Hanna and I just completed a version of Machzor Kol Koreh for B’nai Or of Boston which they will use next week. My plan is to take many of the changes and improvements we made and transfer them to my master template for Machzor Kol Koreh. Given the number of these changes and possible issues around the embedded sound files, I can still realistically hope that the new version will be ready in plenty of time for 5785.
Some years ago, I organized our tashlich experience around making a commitment to change an aspect of behaviour to be more conscious of energy use and carbon footprint. This year, after learning how much plastic is not only floating in the ocean in the big collections but has broken into such small pieces that it’s embedding itself in the cells of marine life, I’m undertaking to reduce my plastic consumption by buying glass containers when they are available. I’m also notifying companies that make a good product but package it in plastic that I will no longer buy that product if there is an alternative which is not plastic (Annie’s horseradish mustard, my favourite, was my first).
So, best wishes to all of you for a good and sweet year. I pray that this will be the year when our recognition of climate change turns into significant action. May we experience the changes we will be making in how we organize our priorities and values as exciting. Our Judaism has so much to offer this process and you all are crucial in communicating this to others. So may all your work be blessed with clear communication and harmony between words and actions.
In my last posting, I included two outlines of possible ways to reorganize the Rosh HaShanah morning service so that its unique elements were moved into more central locations, particularly when considering the length of the service.
Today I’m including a section of the second of those services, better suited for a congregational environment. The first one, as you might remember, is already a part of Machzor Kol Koreh and is better suited for a retreat type situation where everyone attends the entire the service. This is part of the edition of Machzor Kol Koreh which is specifically for B’nai Or of Boston and it begins with the Torah service, since that is where we began the significant changes. I would like to remind everyone that, while you are of course free to use this approach, please remember that this is still a work in progress commissioned by B’nai Or and we have yet to firm up permissions from many of the people whose contributions we have included.
As with all the various parts of the Kol Koreh series, I am happy to work with individual communities to “tailor make” versions which will work for you. This was and remains my dream for Kol Koreh: rather than a single standardized siddur/machzor in use by our “movement,” to have a template which can be familiar to both the members and their guests while at the same time being uniquely local. That’s why I originally printed Kol Koreh in a loose-leaf format and now use pdf files.
Hoping that this may be helpful to some of you as you continue your planning for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.
Rosh HaShanah Torah and Shofar Services: RH Shacharit Excerpt
Some years ago, I was honoured to be the ba’al musaf, prayer leader for the additional service on Rosh HaShanah. As it turned out, my son Shefa had led the same service about two years before I did and we were comparing notes. He asked me how far behind schedule the congregation was when I began and I said that they were only about forty minutes late when I began. He replied that it was a full hour late when he began and we both remembered that, by the time we were done, the full house had been halved. We both saw this as a shame, since the unique elements of the Rosh HaShanah service, namely the blowing of the shofar and the three special sections of the musaf all come at the end of a long morning when people are tired and leaving for lunch.
This year, Hanna and I have been working with the same issue as she designs a special edition of Machzor Kol Koreh for her congregation in Boston. To follow the traditional order of the service means putting these elements at the end. In our case, it’s not so much that this means the service will run very late as that these crucial parts of the service will be further abbreviated and rushed if the earlier parts of the service take longer than expected.
So here are the two ideas which resulted from both conversations:
1. (a) Blow the shofar with its blessings, the required soundings to fulfill the mitzvah, between P’sukei d’Zimra / Verses of Praise and the barchu which formally brings the congregation together.
(b) Then weave Malchuyot / the theme of God’s sovereignty, through the amidah of shacharit / morning service. This is easy, since the core of Malchuyot is the middle blessing. Sound the shofar.
(c) Since the traditional Torah reading begins with “God remembered Sarah,” bring the verses and blessing of Zichronot to the end of the Torah reading. Sound the shofar and put the Torah away.
(d) In this format, you can then have a “real” musaf which will be much shorter. Instead of all three, only recite [selections from] Shofarot. Sound the shofar and conclude the amidah and the service.
You will find this option included as part of Machzor Kol Koreh. I’ve used it, but only in the context of a retreat where everyone was present for the entire service. Aside from its lack of familiarity, the risk of this format in a congregation is that people tend to come late to the service and they can miss the first and most important shofar service.
2. (a) In this option, one would follow the traditional sequence until the amidah for shacharit. Then, people could either say the silent amidah or have a collection of meditative readings. Following the silence, the cantor could chant Hineni or some alternative, followed by a traditional amidah which is a hybrid of shacharit and musaf in the way the Reform movement pioneered.
(b) After the amidah concludes with Avinu Malkenu and kaddish, take out the Torah.
(c) Then we sound the shofar with its blessings.
(d) Now do aleinu and whatever parts of Malchuyot are meaningful, including and especially the paragraph ending with the blessing. Then sound the shofar again.
(e) The reading for the first two aliyot could be the first and sixth days of creation.
(d) Now recite the Zichronot prayers and verses and sound the shofar.
(e) Read the first three aliyot of the traditional Torah reading and prayers for healing.
(f) Now do the prayers and verses for Shofarot and sound the shofar.
(g) Put the Torah away and conclude the service.
This is the option we’re working on now and, when completed, I’ll add to Machzor Kol Koreh. Everyone who has a subscription will be notified of the update. Those who would like to subscribe can go to alephcanada.ca to purchase.
With the hope that this may be helpful.