I could not be more delighted to announce this news: Open My Lips, my new collection of Jewish liturgical prayer, has just been published by Ben Yehuda Press! Here's how the publisher describes the book:
This volume of contemporary liturgical poetry is both a poetry collection and an aid to devotional prayer. This collection dips into the deep well of Jewish tradition and brings forth renewed and renewing adaptations of, and riffs on, classical Jewish liturgy. Here are poems for weekday and Shabbat, festival seasons (including the Days of Awe and Passover), and psalms of grief and praise. Intended for those who seek a clear, readable, heartfelt point of access into Jewish tradition or into prayer in general.
For those who seek a prayer practice in English but don't know where to start, this volume offers several starting points (poems for weekday and Sabbath, psalms of grief and of praise.) These poems could be used to augment an existing prayer practice, Jewish or otherwise -- either on a solitary basis or for congregational use. For the reader of poetry unfamiliar with liturgical text, they can serve as an introduction to prayer in general, and Jewish prayer in particular. And for the pray-er unfamiliar with contemporary poetry, these poems can open the door in the other direction.
The publisher and I welcome remix and transformative works. The poems in this collection are available online; feel free to (with attribution) use them in services and share them widely, and also to create your own prayer/poems based on or inspired by them -- as long as you also release your own material under a creative commons license which permits remix and transformative works too. And please support independent publishing and buy a copy of the book: for yourself, your rabbi, your pastor, your roshi, your imam, or anyone else in your life who you think might enjoy it!
Open My Lips, Ben Yehuda Press, April 2016 - $14.95
“You enfold me in this bathtowel/ You enliven me with coffee,” writes Barenblat in Open My Lips, a collection of accessible and compelling prayer-poems that manages to locate the sacred in the quotidian. After reading these poems, one realizes the ordinary moment is filled with hidden light, and inspiration isn’t as far away as we often assume.
— Yehoshua November, author of God’s Optimism (Main Street Rag Press, 2010)
Poet and rabbi Rachel Barenblat is determined neither to surrender her tradition, nor to surrender to it. She creates here a liturgy which is an ongoing struggle with her own tradition. Her project is to find the sacred in every moment, high or low, and to turn towards it without hesitation.
In her meditation on removing leaven for Pesach, she notes that “odds are good there are stale O’s / in the crevices of the car seat.” She does not shy away from them or their implications: they become, surprisingly and delightfully, part of the ritual. And her lesson for us is larger than the lesson of any particular ritual of any particular tradition: that if we have not yet found the sacred meaning of any thing, we have not yet looked hard enough.
Rabbi Rachel Barenblat’s work is incredibly moving. She takes a traditional prayer, understands its essence, and then recreates it in a way that makes it accessible to anyone. She opens a path for the reader to feel and understand the traditional Jewish liturgy from a modern feminine perspective. I love it!
Readers from every point along the spiritual spectrum will find poems that appeal and satisfy in Open My Lips, the latest collection of poems from rabbi and poet Rachel Barenblat. A portion of her poems are firmly rooted in the cycle of Jewish holidays, yet by anchoring them in the rhythms of the year and the seasons, she renders them accessible. All but the most hardened atheists will understand the desire to pray and to grieve and to celebrate a Sabbath, and Barenblat offers poems for all of these spiritual occasions. And even hardened atheists will appreciate the deft way she uses science and the natural world. In short, Rachel Barenblat has achieved a remarkable feat with her latest collection.
Rachel Barenblat’s latest offering is truly beautiful – moving, ethereal, grounded, accessible and profound. Her words will nourish the journeys of anyone who opens the book’s pages, connecting the deeply personal to the larger currents of time and life to the Source Within and Beyond Us All.
Barenblat’s God is a personal God – one who lets her cry on His shoulder, and who rocks her like a colicky baby. These poems bridge the gap between the ineffable and the human. Her writing is clear and pure and the poems are excquisitely executed. This collection will bring comfort to those with a religion of their own, as well as those seeking a relationship with some kind of higher power.
Rabbi Barenblat’s poems are like those rare cover songs that bring new insights to familiar rhythms and melodies. Her interpretations of ancient liturgy turn up the volume and realign the balance on our tradition’s greatest hits.
— Rabbi Elana Zelony, Rabbi Without Borders Fellow, Congregation Beth Torah, Dallas TX
With gorgeous language, a profound sensitivity to the yearnings of the soul, and deep knowledge of the power of traditional Jewish prayer, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat has composed this extraordinary collection of liturgical poems. Useful for the expert and novice, seeker and skeptic, believer and doubter alike, Barenblat’s exquisite and powerful verse will enrich your connection to Jewish prayer, enhance your spiritual journey, and encourage your ability to connect to the Divine within and around you.