On Friday morning, my friends Aura and Shoshanna led an "Erev Fourth of July" (Fourth of July Eve) shacharit, which blended traditional nusach with a variety of American tunes. The first thing that really knocked me out was singing the entirety of psalm 148 to the tune of "The Water is Wide" -- the harmony around the room, and the gorgeousness of the Hebrew poetry combined with the power of the melody, brought me to tears.
We sang the Shema to the tune of Gershwin's "Summertime," and "Mi Chamocha" to "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." We sang Tom Paxton's "Peace Will Come" and a verse of "Simple Gifts." As our Aleinu, we sang an abbreviated version of "Letter to Eve" by Pete Seeger, where the chorus is a list of words which mean "peace" in a variety of languages. (Our version included shalom alongside pacem in terris, mir, shanti, salaam, and hey wa.)
It was completely extraordinary, and I suspect that it's going to subtly shift the way I feel about Independence Day this year.
I always love Jewish Renewal mikvah experiences. This time we were a group of maybe forty women, of all ages, including a few of the teens who are here this week. I wonder how I would have responded, as an adolescent, to seeing women comfortable like this in our varied and different bodies? I paired up with a mikvah buddy and we spoke quietly about what, from the week now ending, we each wanted to release in the world of assiyah (physicality), yetzirah (emotions), and briyah (intellect) and what we want to release into in the world of atzilut (essence.) We made the bracha for the immersion together as a group. And then, singing the "Woman I Am" chant I learned so many years ago at Elat Chayyim, we all made our way into the water, and sang throughout everyone's immersions. I watched my partner immerse four times, and then she witnessed me, and then we joined the singing circle. At the end, all those who were new to mikvah made their own smaller circle in the middle and we blessed them with a shechecheyatnu and with whooping and song, and then tromped out of the pool so that we could make space for the men's mikvah which would follow our own.
I forgot to bring my little jar of wearable glitter this time around, but even without it, as I moved into Shabbos I felt sparkly.
Of the three Shabbat evening davening options, I chose to daven with Nava Tehila -- no surprise to anyone who remembers my posts about the three Shabbatot I spent with them last summer, all of which were grand.
I sang, and danced some when I felt able, and otherwise dancd in my chair. And then I joined the throngs walking in our white Shabbos clothes to the gymnasium, which had been set up as our Shabbat dining venue, and made kiddush and motzi with three friends. We ate dinner and talked about a million things: our classes and the ALEPH program and our journeys here and so on.
Eventually I made my way back to the atrium of the student center, where the Nava Tehila folks (plus Reb David Ingber, of whom I have also often blogged) were setting up an oneg of song and storytelling. It reminded me very much of the oneg at Reb Ruth's house after Nava Tehila meets -- after the potluck dishes have been cleared away, people hang out and sing and tell stories late into the night. Last summer I never stayed terribly late because I always felt compelled to walk the 45 minutes home so I could get up early and visit a different shul in the morning. This year I stayed until midnight, singing and listening to stories and waltzing a little bit with myself in the back of the room. When I left, the party was still going strong -- I wish I could have stayed, but my body was demanding sleep, and what is Shabbos about afterall if not rest?
So I caught a lift back to my dorm on one of the roving golf carts, and we sang Shabbat niggunim and rounds all the way. Singing outdoors at midnight felt deliciously transgressive -- as though we were rowdy college students making a racket in this sleepy corner of town, high on togetherness and Shabbat and song.
I chose to do my Shabbat morning davening with Rabbi David and Shoshana Cooper (he wrote the wonderful God is a Verb which I reviewed earlier this year), accompanied by Cantor Robert Michael Esformes. The service was very gentle: mostly it consisted of short chants interspersed with periods of silence to let the chants soak in.
Sleepiness is often a problem for me, especially these days, so during our periods of silence I mostly kept my eyes open, looking out the big chapel windows at the sky around us. The highlights of the service for me were the moment when Reb David made the impromptu request of Michael that he grace us with a song in Ladino (he sang a Ladino rendition of psalm 92, the psalm for Shabbat, which was utterly gorgeous) and the Torah service, which was led simply and elegantly by Reb Phyllis Berman. She chose to read from the part of the story which sparked this week's Torah poem -- the death of Miriam and Moshe's decision to strike the rock in order to get water. Before she chanted the verses, she spoke about how easy it is, in relationships, to imagine that you know what the other person is going to say -- but when we do that, we often close our ears to what they actually do say, and that can get us into trouble, as it surely did Moshe in this piece of our story.
After lunch with friends, I found myself dragging a bit -- sleepy, low-energy, and beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed by the reality that the week which has now ended is going to be followed by a second week of learning which will be even more intense! So I retired to my room for, if not a Shabbos nap, at least some Shabbos downtime. There are many afternoon happenings, but I'm giving myself permission to miss them. Yet another lesson in my own Kallah self-care...