Pastorally, I think art and prayer can meet a need that discursive forms don't / can't meet. Arguments call forth more arguments, and that doesn't interest me, especially now amidst so much suffering.
Poetry and liturgy and art can also hold multiple meanings. Jewish tradition has beautiful teachings about God's speech being polysemic (saying multiple things simultaneously). I've been thinking about how prayer and art can function like that too.
Multivocality is part of the point. No prayer or poem or artwork will be understood in exactly the same way by everyone who reads or prays or views it. For me that's an important value right now. I need words and images that can hold multiple meanings and valances.
Anyway: all of this is why I've been grateful to my fellow builders at Bayit over the last couple of weeks. Much online conversation about Israel and Gaza feels fruitless to me, echo chambers talking past each other. And I'm simultaneously drawn to refresh news websites constantly to see what new horror may be unfolding, and aware that so doing doesn't actually help anyone (and might harm me.)
But a few days after the Hamas incursion into southern Israel I reached out to the Liturgical Arts Working Group and asked if there were interest in collaborating on an offering, and the answer was an immediate and fervent yes. So we brainstormed, we drafted, we commented and workshopped, we revised, and when all of that work was done I curated a flow through what we had co-created.
The collaborators on this artistic and prayerful response span the gamut from Reform to Orthodox. Some of us are mystics, others are rationalists. Our Judaisms are not the same. Our relationships with that beloved land and its peoples are not the same. In this we mirror the Jewish community writ large. That feels important to me, too. We are different and we are part of the same whole.
Find the new offering of liturgy, poetry, and artwork from Bayit here, as downloadable PDF chapbook and as google slides suitable for screenshare:
(And for those who need the above poem in plaintext, instead of as an image, here it is.)
I can't even wish
for a time machine --
which fork in the road.
The blood of beloveds
cries out from the ground.
Every bent and broken body
was someone’s beloved.
If I say
we’re more alike than not,
all our hearts are shattered
someone will disagree, but
how can I not grieve
with every bereft parent,
most treasured hope
R. Rachel Barenblat - originally published at Bayit