Four quotes for discussing before beginning Rabbi A.L.P.E.R.N. Seders
- (Amos 5:21-24) I hate, despise, your feasts and festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. If you offer burnt offerings and meal offerings I will not accept them. I pay no heed to your fat prayers, they make me nauseous. Spare me the sound of your worship, let me not hear the music of your praise, I will not listen, but let justice well and righteousness flow like an everlasting stream.
- A focusing story of the Apter Rebbe:
When I was young I had a plan to save the world, to bring Peace.
As I grew older I focused on peace in my homeland.
Older and wiser yet, I prayed for peace in my home.
Now, in old age a sage I pray for peace in my own mind and heart.
- There is no need to leave your home. Stay at your table and listen. Do not even listen, just wait. Do not even wait, be silent and alone. The world will offer itself to you to be unmasked; it cannot do otherwise, in ecstasy it will turn you.
4.)Selections from The Alphabet by Karl Shapiro:
The letters of the Jews are strict as flames
Or little terrible flowers lean…
The letters of the Jews are dancing knives
That carves the heart of darkness seven ways.
These are the letters that all men refuse
And will refuse until the king arrives
And will refuse until the death of time
And all is rolled back in the book of days.
The Seders are theatre for reliving the peak experiences of revelation. Enjoy.
Table services for your Personal Sanctuary: An Introduction
True religion always returns to the fundamental questions, such as: “What gives my life meaning?” and “How do I create a morally coherent life?” Also,” How do I understand truth?” “What is a true in religion?” “How and where do I begin?”
Karl Shapiro speaks of the death of time in his poem quoted above, and the arrival of “the king.” As a poet he is speaking of an ideal leader (Small case k) who will inspire humanity to delight in peace. The poet, as Franz Kafka explains above, need never leave their cell to experience the truths revealed in the rich life of the imagination. True religion defines all aspects of the peaceful kingdom, from peace in our hearts to peace on earth and goodwill toward all. How do we create Peace, and the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth?
What follows is my personal answer. I think of these programs as Active Learning Programs or Arête Learning Programs. They are active because you must be involved in the process of their creation. They are Arête because they are visionary, as I will explain in a moment.
Where do we begin? How do we create a holy life? The ancient model of holiness was thought of as a series of concentric circles with the Holy of Holies in Jerusalem as the center. The next circle was Jerusalem and after Jerusalem Israel. Our model is based on the story of the Apter Rebbe quoted above and the following teaching of the Talmud (Bechoroat 8b):
When Rabbi Joshua Ben Hanania went to Athens to dispute with the philosophers there, they asked him many questions and he answered them all successfully.
One of their questions was: “Where is the center of the earth?”
Rabbi Joshua pointed with his forefinger to a spot on the ground nearby, and said “HERE.”
They said “How do you know you are right?”
He said “Bring your measuring rods and measure for yourselves.”
In our time the Holy of Holies are the mind and heart, the next circle the family, and then community, and finally the world at large.
Switching metaphors these Active Learning Programs are “Arête” because of the need to climb to the top of a mountain to experience the vision from the peak. Arête is a Greek term that means the sum quality of all virtue. Arête also means a sharp crested ridge in rugged mountains (as the Alps). One must make the ascent to experience the vision. We follow the paths of Moses and Elijah and others who ascend the mountain.
The narratives of the following homemade Haggadahs are often in Elijah the Prophets voice. Elijah is the hero of our history and these learning and living programs because he is an Arête person. Most people focus on what Moses and Elijah say at the bottom of the mountain more than what was seen on the top. These active learning and living programs are for “peakers”, those willing to ascend to the Arête.
We encounter Rabbinic Narrative in this voice, and meet the author of these Seders, Rabbi Alpern. (A.L.P.E.R.N .=Arête (Active)Learning (Living) Programs Encountering Rabbinic Narrative).
Elijah is the character in the bible that learns the most from history. Of course he has the advantage of being around for three thousand years, since he ascended to heaven and never died. In legend Elijah walks the earth, and has become a comforter for all who suffer. This is in stark contrast to the Elijah we encounter in The Book of Kings, since the post- biblical or post- ascension Elijah, to paraphrase Elie Wiesel, (Five Biblical Portraits University of Notre Dame Press1981), morphs Elijah into every person’s friend and companion. Elijah brings comfort and joy, light and warmth. He teaches wisdom to the sages and compassion to everyone by suffering every humiliation by our sides. In the end Elijah resolves all disputes and announces our redeemer. The angry prophet of the Bible becomes our most popular folk hero.
The anger of the prophet confuses. Amos, in the quote above, and other prophets, portray a God who is sickened by some forms of religion. Abraham Joshua Heschel (The Prophets) explains that God is angry with those who confuse the trappings of religion with true Revelation. Gods voice thunders at Revelation and our task is to see the thunder. Worship is pleasing to God when it leads to a moral life and social justice. Otherwise religion and ritual become abominations. God demands righteousness and justice.
How do we teach our children to have character and to do justly? The prophets did not object to worship. Prayer and praise and song may be preludes to right practice and are more than acceptable to God. My personal take on prayer is that by praising God we learn to praise one another.
I am a Rabbi and not a prophet, but I do enjoy speaking in Elijah’s voice in these table services. My voice is expressed (often off tune) in lyrics that jump and skip around like sheep grazing on the arête more than the orderly two by twos of those entering and exiting the Ark. You must shepherd the ideas into your own coherent script.
The scripts for the Seders may all be thought of as rough drafts. I know of very few people who do not personalize and customize the Passover Seder.
Unlike a linear book, where you start with chapter one, these Seders revolve around the year according to the season. Also every day may be made holy so I offer a Seder of daily prayer, and the “Live It”, the Seder for food. The Shabbat Shalom Seder may be done weekly. If you go to any Judaic website such as Aish.com you will find the text of the Torah and Prophetic reading.
Remember the goal is to create a Haggaddah that will work for those joining the meal and be age appropriate. The script may well change every year. Personalize. Enjoy
Make time for yourself and family. Think about how you will pass on your core values to the next generation. The future, to paraphrase Rabbi Jacob Neusner, will not be decided by the edifices of our houses of worship nor by the millions or billions raised for education and culture. The future will be decided by our ideals. The buildings are all built. Make your cell and then home into a house of worship. This is the foundation of our future.
A Concise Seder for Fasting on the 17th of Tammuz
The fast of the 17th Day of Tammuz is the beginning of ten weeks of reflection that lead to a return to our true selves as we prepare to once again ascend the Mountain Sinai and receive the Ten Teachings , the Second Set of Tablets, on the Day of Atonement. For three weeks we will hear the rebuke of Jeremiah and then for seven weeks we will hear the comforting of Isaiah. These are the prophetic readings of summer. For those who want to prepare, read the first four chapters of Jeremiah and then Chapters 40 to 63 of Isaiah.
If you are unable to attend services on the seventeenth of Tammuz prepare
Chapters 32-34 for your discussion of the fast day. The haphtarah is Isaiah 55:6 –56-8 but I suggest you add chapter 18 of the Book of 1Kings to bring the spirit of Elijah into your study and discussion.
Sanctify the meal and discuss the following:
- What is or are the Golden Calves of our time?
- What do you think of Moses shattering sacred objects?
- What was the role of Aaron?
- Why a calf, and not a cow?
- I think of modern bar and bat mitzvahs that celebrate the end of a person’s commitment to Judaism as a dance around the golden calf. Others consider bar and bat mitzvah a sacred cow. What do you think?
- Why are the 13 attributes of Gods mercy (Exodus 32:11) part of the Torah reading for the 17th of Tammuz?
- What do we learn from the symbolism if the Shattered Tablets that contained the original teachings?
- Were the original Ten Teachings different from the Second Set received on Yom Kippur?
- What is your vision of the Third Temple?
Prayer for the 17th of Tammuz:
Answer us, O Lord, as we learn empathy from our suffering. We humbly accept your presence. We hunger for your love. Rescue and redeem us as we reconstruct our shattered world. Our hands reach up for your teachings. Blessed is our God who answers the afflicted.
Recite Grace after the meal.
August reading is often the paperback best seller that fits perfectly in a tote bag taken to the beach. Do you read Shakespeare or the Bible on the sand and in the sun? The synagogue has an ancient summer reading program designed by sages steeped in Kabballah. The readings guide the community towards renewal and repentance. The study guide culminates with texts that inspire atonement, contentment, and finally pure joy.
The August reading of the Rabbi’s begins at the end of the narrative of the wilderness
where we encounter Jeremiah lamenting and rebuking his children Israel. Rabbis
complain that congregants no longer congregate to hear the lamentations of summer. In
fact perfect attendance at services is required for ten weeks in a row to grasp the
kabballahistic essence of rabbinic summer reading. Most congregants opt for the
paperback and beach towel, everything in its season.
There will be time enough for sermons during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
For aspiring Kabballahists I recommend you find a teacher and synagogue
and experience the Ten Readings that prepare us for the ascent of Ellul and The Ten
Days of Return. Yes, all Kabballah is in tens. I will teach you how to prepare for
Judgement Day by concentrating on the Ten Readings
Again, I wonder why so many modern aspiring Kabballahists insist on ascending to The Arête (Yom Kippur) alone. Our tradition assumes we ascend together, over a ten week period, in the synagogue. On the other hand Moses ascended alone and the people could only become base at the bottom of the mountain. The warning flag of the traditional Kabballah is raised: Beware.
Notice the connection between the politics of conquest and rebuke of the prophet. Why does the boiling cauldron of history continue to scald humanity with war, disease, and disaster?
How long will we wander in the wilderness of words? Will history end?
Is Peace real? How do we teach the true word to the world?
Isaiah moves from rebuke to consolation. Notice that, in essence we read the entire second Isaiah scroll during these ten weeks. We move from Isaiah’s condemnation of religion in Chapter one to a promise of the renewal of religion in the last chapter. A Kabballahistic explanation requires a new word.
Focus on the table above for more connections. Get a calendar and fill in the dates. On the other hand you are welcome to read Deuteronomy and Isaiah in one sitting. Go for the gestalt, and then go to a synagogue and sign the congregation up for a mountain climbing expedition.
Yours in the Ascent;
A Tisha B Av Seder
How to prepare:
We begin to prepare for Tisha B Av (The 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av) at the Passover Seder. We open the door for Elijah the prophet and ask God to pour out his wrath on those who lay waste to the world, referencing the end of the third chapter of the book of Lamentations. This Tisha B Av moment at the Passover Seder is a cry for justice and a plea for reconciliation with our Creator.
Only Elijah is able to answer the question of the apparent triumph of tyranny in history and the “why” of suffering. We all know the “how” all too well. The Psalms of Praise ( Hallel ) that follow in the Passover Seder sing a message of hope despite the exiles, trials, and tribulations of our history.
We also prepare for the fast of The Ninth of Av with another fast three weeks earlier on the 17th day of the Hebrew month Tammuz. On that day Moses shattered the first set of the Ten Teachings in response to the incident at the golden calf. Tradition records the Ninth day of Av as the date in history when ten of the twelve scouts spoke evil of the Holy Land and the date the Exodus generation was condemned to die in the desert. The First Temple in Jerusalem was set aflame by Nebuzaradan on this date and the Romans destroyed the Second Temple on 9 Av. On Tisha B Av in 1492 the Jews of Spain were exiled from their homes. A new form of Kabballah based on the teachings of Rabbi Isaac Luria explained this exile in cosmic terms, and understood that in the end , as an act of mercy, God will repair our broken world (Tikkun Olam). The origins of World War One and Two are also traced to Tisha B Av.
We suggest the following for your summer reading to make ready for Tisha B Av.
A.) The Book of Deuteronomy. Read it twice. If you attend synagogue simply follow the Torah reading. Since fewer than one in ten attend services this Seder becomes the alternative.
B.) The Book of Isaiah. Note that we read Isaiah as we read The Book of Deuteronomy leading up to the high holydays. The Tikkun of Tisha B Av includes the rebuke and consolation and final vision of this great Hebrew prophet. We study Isaiah the entire summer, for seven full weeks, as a preparation for the ascent of the Hebrew month of Ellul and its culmination on The Day of Atonement and the Tikkun of The Second set of Tablets. Consider Isaiah summer reading for iconoclasts.
C.) The Book of Zechariah
D.) The Book of Lamentations
E.) The Book of Job
F.) www.aish.com. Tisha b Av
G.) www.Chabad.org.”The Three Weeks”
H.) www.My Jewish learning .com
How to begin: Cover the mirrors. Take off your shoes. Set out bread, water, hard boiled eggs and a non-meat dinner.
Food: The custom is to eat a large lunch and to have only austere food at the Seder. Some have only bread and water. You may include an egg, beans, rice, and you will not need wine for Kiddush.
The Washing of Hands:
Baruch ata adoneigh elohanu melech haolam asher kiddshanu b mitzvotav v’tzi-va-nu al netealot yadeam.
Blessed art Thou Lord our God ruler over everything, who commands us to uplift our hands by washing.
The Motzi: Baruch ata adoneigh elohanu melech haolam hamotzi lechem min ha aretz. Blessed art Thou Lord our God who will bring forth bread from the earth.
Kavvannah (Focusing meditation): We await the day O Lord our God when life triumphs over death and Peace over war.
When you are sovereign each will receive our daily bread, you will bring forth bread from the earth. On this solemn day of the 9th of Av we are reminded that this month is also called Menachem Av, the comforting of the father. You are our Father and our only ruler and King. The world will be perfected under your rule, and all lost souls and even the wicked will turn to Thee. We pray that our fasting will be atonement.
Kavvannah: O Lord, my God, I am as mute as an egg. My eyes do not see, my ears do not hear. I have forgotten your holyday offerings of joy. I pray that I will be satisfied by this Humble meal and understand that suffering has the potential to inspire love and reconciliation.
Read the Book of Lamentations around the table.(Davka Software edition)
- How lonely sits the city, that was full of people! She has become like a widow! She that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, has become a vassal!
- She weeps bitterly in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies.
- Judah has gone into exile because of affliction, and because of great servitude; she dwells among the nations, she finds no rest; all her pursuers overtook her in the midst of her distress.
- The roads to Zion mourn, because none come to the appointed feasts; all her gates are desolate; her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness.
- Her adversaries have become the chief, her enemies prosper; for the Lord has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions; her infants have gone to captivity before the enemy.
- (K) And from the daughter of Zion all her splendor is departed; her princes are become like harts that find no pasture, and they are gone without strength before the pursuer.
- Jerusalem remembered in the days of her affliction and of her miseries all her pleasant things that she had in the days of old, when her people fell into the hand of the enemy, and none did help her; the adversaries saw her, and mocked at her destruction.
- Jerusalem grievously sinned; therefore she has become loathsome; all those who honored her despise her, for they have seen her nakedness; even she sighs, and turns back.
- Her filthiness was in her skirts; she took no thought, not her last end; therefore she came down astonishingly; she has no comforter. O Lord, behold my affliction; for the enemy has magnified himself.
- The adversary has spread out his hand upon all her precious things; for she has seen that the nations entered into her sanctuary, whom you did forbid to enter into your congregation.
- (K) All her people sigh, they seek bread; they have given their precious things for food to revive their soul. Look, O Lord, and consider, how abject have I become.
- Is it nothing to you, all you that pass by? Behold, and see if there is any pain like my pain, which was brought upon me, with which the Lord has afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.
- From above has he sent fire into my bones, and it prevails against them; he has spread a net for my feet, he has turned me back; he has made me desolate and faint all day long.
- The yoke of my transgressions is bound by his hand; they are knit together and are set upon my neck; he has caused my strength to fall, the Lord has delivered me into the hands of those against whom I am not able to rise up.
- The Lord has spurned all my mighty men in the midst of me; he has called an assembly against me to crush my young men; the Lord has trodden, as in a wine press, the virgin daughter of Judah.
- For these things I weep; my eye, my eye runs down with water, because the comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me; my children are desolate, for the enemy has prevailed.
- Zion spreads out her hands, and none is there to comfort her; the Lord has commanded against Jacob adversaries around him; Jerusalem is like a menstruating woman among them.
- (K) The Lord is righteous; for I have rebelled against his word; hear, I beg you, all the peoples, and behold my sorrow; my virgins and my young men are gone into captivity.
- I called to my lovers, but they deceived me; my priests and my elders perished in the city, while they sought food to revive their souls.
- Behold, O Lord; for I am in distress; my bowels are troubled; my heart is turned inside me; for I have grievously rebelled; outside the sword bereaves, at home it is like death.
- They have heard that I sigh; there is none to comfort me; all my enemies have heard of my trouble; they are glad that you have done it; you will bring the day that you have announced, and they shall be like me.
- Let all their wickedness come before you; and do to them, as you have done to me for all my transgressions; for my sighs are many, and my heart is faint.
- How has the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven to the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger!
- (K) The Lord has swallowed all the habitations of Jacob without pity; he has thrown down in his wrath the strongholds of the daughter of Judah; he has brought them down to the ground; he has profaned the kingdom and its princes.
- He has cut off in his fierce anger all the horn of Israel; he has drawn back his right hand from before the enemy, and he has burned against Jacob like a flaming fire, which devours its surrounding.
- He has bent his bow like an enemy; he stood with his right hand as an adversary, and he has slain all that were pleasant to the eye in the tent of the daughter of Zion; he has poured out his fury like fire.
- The Lord was like an enemy; he has swallowed up Israel, he has swallowed up all her palaces; he has destroyed his strongholds, and has increased in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation.
- And he has broken down his booth, as if it were a garden; he has destroyed his place of the assembly; the Lord has caused the appointed feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and has spurned in his angry indignation king and priest.
- The Lord has cast off his altar, he has loathed his sanctuary, he has given to the hand of the enemy the walls of her palaces; they have made a noise in the house of the Lord, as in the day of an appointed feast.
- The Lord has determined to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion; he has stretched out a line, he has not restrained his hand from destroying; he has caused the rampart and the wall to lament; they languish together.
- Her gates are sunk into the ground; he has destroyed and broken her bars; her king and her princes are among the nations; the Torah is no more; her prophets also did not find a vision from the Lord.
- The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground, and keep silence; they have cast up dust upon their heads; they have girded themselves with sackcloth; the virgins of Jerusalem bow down their heads to the ground.
- My eyes are spent with tears, my bowels are troubled, my liver is poured upon the earth, because of the destruction of the daughter of my people; because the children and the babies faint in the streets of the city.
- They say to their mothers, Where is grain and wine? when they faint like wounded men in the streets of the city, when their soul was poured out on their mothers’ bosom.
- (K) What shall I take to witness for you? What shall I compare to you, O daughter of Jerusalem? What shall I equal to you, that I may comfort you, O virgin daughter of Zion? for your ruin is great like the sea. Who can heal you?
- (K) Your prophets have seen vain and foolish visions for you; and they have not exposed your iniquity, to restore your captivity; but have prophesied for you burdens of falsehood and deceit.
- All who pass by clap their hands at you; they hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying,” is this the city that men call the perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole earth?”
- All your enemies have opened their mouth against you; they hiss and gnash the teeth; they say, we have swallowed her up; certainly this is the day that we looked for; we have found it, we have seen it.
- The Lord has done that which he had determined; he has fulfilled his word that he had commanded in the days of old; he has thrown down without pity; and he has caused your enemy to rejoice over you, he has risen up the horn of your adversaries.
- Their heart cried to the Lord, O wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears run down like a river day and night; give you no rest; let not the apple of your eye cease.
- Arise, cry out in the night; in the beginning of the watches pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord; lift up your hands toward him for the life of your young children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street.
- Behold, O Lord, and consider to whom you have done this. Shall the women eat their fruit, their cherished babies? Shall the priest and the prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord?
- The young and the old lie on the ground in the streets; my virgins and my young men are fallen by the sword; you have slain them in the day of your anger; you have slaughtered without mercy.
- You have called as in the day of an appointed feast my terrors in every side, so that in the day of the Lord’s anger none escaped nor remained; my enemy has consumed those whom I have cherished and brought up.
- I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.
- He has led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light.
- Surely he has turned against me; he turns his hand against me all day long.
- He has made my flesh and my skin waste away; he has broken my bones.
- He has built against me, and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship.
- He has set me in dark places, like the long ago dead.
- He has walled me around, so that I cannot get out; he has made my chain heavy.
- Also when I cry and shout, he shuts out my prayer.
- He has enclosed my ways with hewn stone, he has made my paths crooked.
- (K) He is to me like a bear lying in wait, and like a lion in secret places.
- He has turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces; he has made me desolate.
- He has bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow.
- He has caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my insides.
- I have become derision to all my people; and their song all day long.
- He has filled me with bitterness; he has sated me with wormwood.
- He has also broken my teeth with gravel stones; he has covered me with ashes.
- And you have removed my soul far away from peace; I have forgotten prosperity.
- And I said, My strength and my hope are perished from the Lord;
- Remembering my affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall.
- (K) My soul remembers them, and is bowed down inside me.
- This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
- The grace of the Lord has not ceased, and his compassion does not fail.
- They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.(See Commentary)
- The Lord is my portion, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
- The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.
- It is good that a man should quietly hope for the salvation of the Lord.
- It is good for a man that he bears the yoke in his youth.
- Let him sit alone and in silence, because he has taken it upon him.
- Let him puts his mouth in the dust; there may yet be hope.
- Let him offer his cheek to him who strikes him; let him take his fill of insults.
- For the Lord will not cast off for ever;
- But though he causes grief, yet will he have compassion according to the abundance of his grace.
- For he does not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.
- To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth,
- To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High,
- To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approves not.
- Who is he who says, and it comes to pass, when the Lord commands it not?
- Do not both evil and good come out of the mouth of the most High?
- Why then does a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?
- Let us search and try our ways, and turn back to the Lord.
- Let us lift up our heart with our hands to God in the heavens.
- We have transgressed and have rebelled; you have not pardoned.
- You have covered with anger, and pursued us; you have slain, you have not pitied.
- You have covered yourself with a cloud, so that our prayer should not pass through.
- You have made us offscouring and refuse in the midst of the people.
- All our enemies have opened their mouths against us.
- Fear and the pit have come upon us, desolation and destruction.
- My eye runs down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people.
- My eye trickles down, and ceases not, without any intermission,
- Till the Lord looks down, and beholds from heaven.
- My eye affects my heart because of all the daughters of my city.
- They hunt me like a bird, those who hate me without cause.
- They have cut off my life in the pit, and have cast stones upon me.
- Waters flowed over my head; then I said, I am cut off.
- I called upon your name, O Lord, from the lowest pit.
- You have heard my voice; hide not your ear at my sighing, at my cry.
- You drew near in the day that I called upon you; you said, Fear not.
- O Lord, you have pleaded the causes of my soul; you have redeemed my life.
- O Lord, you have seen my wrong; judge you my cause.
- You have seen all their vengeance and all their schemes against me.
- You have heard their insult, O Lord, and all their schemes against me.
- The lips of those who rose up against me, and their muttering against me all day long.
- Behold their sitting down, and their rising up; I am their music.
- Render to them recompense, O Lord, according to the work of their hands.
- Give them sorrow of heart, your curse be on them.
- Pursue and destroy them in anger from under the heavens of the Lord.
- How has the gold become dim! how has the finest gold changed! the stones of the sanctuary lie scattered at the head of every street.
- The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they considered as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter!
- (K) Even the jackals give the breast, they suckle their young ones; but the daughter of my people has become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness.
- The tongue of the sucking child cleaves to the roof of his mouth for thirst; the young children ask for bread, and no man gives it to them.
- Those who fed delicately are desolate in the streets; those who were brought up in purple embrace dunghills.
- For the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the sin of Sodom, that was overthrown in a moment, and no hands were laid upon her.
- Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphire;
- Now their visage is blacker than coal; they are not recognized in the streets; their skin is shriveled upon their bones; it is withered, it has become like a stick.
- Those that were slain with the sword are better than those who are slain with hunger; for these pines away, stricken by want of the fruits of the field.
- The hands of compassionate women have boiled their own children; they were their food in the destruction of the daughter of my people.
- The Lord has accomplished his fury; he has poured out his fierce anger, and has kindled a fire in Zion, which has devoured its foundations.
- (K) The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world, would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy would enter the gates of Jerusalem.
- It was for the sins of her prophets, and the iniquities of her priests, who have shed the blood of the just in the midst of her,
- They wandered blindly in the streets, polluted with blood, so that none could touch their garments.
- Away! Unclean! men cried to them; Away!, Away!, Do not touch! So they fled away and wandered. Among the nations it was said, They shall no more sojourn there.
- (K) The anger of the Lord has divided them; he will no more regard them; they respected not the persons of the priests, they were not gracious to the elders.
- (K) As for us, our eyes fail watching for vain help; in our watching we have watched for a nation which could not save.
- They hunt our steps, that we cannot go in our streets; our end is near, our days are fulfilled; for our end is come.
- Our pursuers are swifter than the vultures of the sky; they pursued us upon the mountains, they laid wait for us in the wilderness.
- The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the Lord, was taken in their pits, of whom we said, Under his shadow we shall live among the nations.
- (K) Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, living in the land of Uz; the cup shall also pass over to you; you shall become drunk and strip yourself bare.
- The punishment of your iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion; he will no more carry you away into exile; he will visit your iniquity, O daughter of Edom; he will uncover your sins.
- Remember, O Lord, what has come upon us; consider, and behold our disgrace.
- Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our homes to foreigners.
- (K) We have become orphans and fatherless, our mothers are like widows.
- We have drunk our water for money; our wood is sold to us.
- We are pursued to our necks; we labor, and have no rest.
- We have given the hand to the Egyptians, and to the Assyrians, to be satisfied with bread.
- (K) Our fathers have sinned, and are no more; but we bear their iniquities.
- Slaves rule over us; there is none to deliver us from their hand.
- We get our bread with the peril of our lives because of the sword of the wilderness.
- Our skin is hot like an oven because of the burning famine.
- Women are ravished in Zion, and virgins in the cities of Judah.
- Princes are hanged up by their hand; the faces of elders are not honored.
- They took the young men to grind, and boys stumble under the wood.
- The elders have ceased from the gate, the young men from their music.
- The joy of our heart is ceased; our dance is turned into mourning.
- The crown is fallen from our head; woe to us, that we have sinned!
- For this our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim.
- Upon the mountain of Zion, which is desolate, foxes walk.
- You, O Lord, are enthroned for ever; your throne is from generation to generation.
- Why do you forget us for ever, and forsake us for so long?
- Turn us to you, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.
- But you have utterly rejected us; you are very angry against us.
Commentary and Questions on the Book of Lamentations:
David G. Roskies, in his study that is an essential guide to Tisha B Av, ( Against The Apocalypse, Harvard University Press 1984) concludes:
“Thus, the great imitatio Dei of the modern period has been…the ability, in the midst and in the wake of apocalypse, to know the apocalypse, express it, mourn it, and transcend it: for if catastrophe is the presumption of man acting as destroyer, than the fashioning of catastrophe into a new set of Tablets is the primal act of creation carried out in the image of God.”
In other words we live in a world that is broken. Tikkun Olam, repairing our world, is our job. God awaits our receiving of The Second Set of Tablets.
What do you think of this creative view of catastrophe?
Discuss the metaphor of reconstructing the Broken Tablets.
We have documented evidence that Hitler’s war against the Jews was a war against the Ten Teachings. The Nazis said that the only obstacle they had to world domination were the Ten Teachings. Since God is the one who gave the teachings they were wageing war against God.
What do you think?
Chapter One and Two of Lamentations speak of the suffering servants, the people of Judah and Jerusalem, and a community ravaged, as we were during World War Two.
Chapter Three shifts from the suffering of all Israel to the suffering of one individual. Rashi points out that tradition teaches this chapter as the lament of the prophet Jeremiah. Review Chapter Three and Jeremiahs inner dialogue. Notice the shift in verse twenty one. At the end of the Seder you will find a prayer upon awakening to be said every morning. Jeremiah awakens to the insight that with all our rebellions against God’s teachings, God still has faith in us. This is the key to the book. We think of faith (really Trust, in the original) as something we have for God. The verse declares that God is in search of us, and that God still trusts that we will choose life. Great is Gods faith and trust in us!
Discussion: Eliezar Berkovits speaks of the moral bankruptcy of Western Civilization. As explained, the broken tablets represent a war against morality. We are free to live by or destroy Gods teachings.
Many hold God responsible for the Holocaust. What do you think?
Grace after meals
Recite Psalm 137(1-6):
Longing for Zion in a Foreign Land
By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down, yes, we wept
When we remembered Zion.
We hung our harps
Upon the willows in the midst of it.
For there those who carried us away
captive asked of us a song,
And those who plundered us
Requested mirth, Saying, “Sing us one of the songs Of Zion!”
How shall we sing the Lord’s song In a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill!
If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of My mouth.
If I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.
Now recite a traditional grace, and then add:
I have eaten and am satisfied with my portion. I thank you Lord of suffering and God of grace.
Give strength to your people, Bless us with peace.
This Seder is nearing completion for this Tisha B Av, but continues with the comforting of Isaiah,and the ascent of the Hebrew month of Elul. The ascent is experienced in The Seder for Elul.
How to Awaken
The following is a prayer of awakening for tomorrow morning, and every day
The moment we awaken, as our eyes open, we daily offer this Tisha b Av prayer:
Modah ani lefanecha melech Chai v ki-yam sh hachazarta B nishmate bechemla raba emunatecha.
I thankfully acknowledge your presence, living and sustaining God. You have mercifully restored my soul. Great is your faith in me.
How to understand this prayer: Our prayer book is a Siddur, same Hebrew root as Seder. Our prayers order our thoughts and emotions. The prayer the moment we awaken is inspired by the third chapter of The Book of Lamentations. Kindly reread this chapter. Notice that at verse twenty one, chaos and confusion mature into the realization that every moment of life is a gift of kindness from a compassionate God. While our youth is a dance around the golden calf, we are loved in spite of our failings and transgressions. In verse twenty three we acknowledge that every day is a new creation and a second chance to put the broken pieces of our world back together. Gods’ mercy is renewed every morning.
Our eyes open to the truth, as we awaken every day, that God has trust in us! This day is a new beginning. Beyond the idea that we need faith in God we affirm that God has trust in us. With this we approach our new day with the resolve to do better, to turn our lives to the true teaching of our God of truth. Great is God’s faith in us.
As you bless God, so may the blessings of God be upon you.
A Seder for the 15th of Av
This Seder is an outline for the observance of one of the most fascinating and mysterious of the holydays, and certainly the most ignored. One Rabbi, Shimon the son of Gamaliel, teaches that the 15th of Av is a festival equal in importance to Yom Kippur. Rather than trailblazing one of my meandering maps to ascend the Arête I send you now to our Top Ten websites to gather your material to order your personal Seder for the 15th of Av. My version demands editing and may be read before, during, or after the meal, or in parts.
Reader: (One two or three etc, assign parts)
Shalom and welcome to our Seder for the 15th day of the Hebrew month Av. This is a time to create new rituals since our guidebooks mention only that on this day we do not say prayers of supplication or confession. The holiday promises much more. This is the day our mourning turns into dancing, our sackcloth into robes of joy.
Reader: The Talmud teaches that the 15th of Av is when the daughters of Jerusalem would dance in the vineyards and “whoever did not have a bride would find a bride.” The greatest joy is finding ones soul mate.
Reader: The 15th of Av also was the day our wandering in the wilderness ended. We await entrance to the Holy Land with the announcement of the Redemption. Tradition also records Av15 as the birthday of our Anointed One, The Messiah.
Reader: The 15th of Av is also the date the tribes of Israel were permitted to intermarry. At first women were forbidden to marry out of their tribe as we learn in the 36th chapter of the Book of Numbers.
Reader: On this 15th of Av we open discussion between the monotheistic tribes of today.
Reader: At the end of a Jewish wedding we break a glass in remembrance of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Will this ritual be set aside if and when the Temple is rebuilt?
What will happen when the Temple is rebuilt. Will we offer animal sacrifices as in ancient times? On the 9th of Av we chant from Lamentations:” Help us turn to You, we shall return. Renew our days as of old.” Those familiar with the liturgy remember we chant this as we return the Torah to the Ark after the reading: Hashevaynew Adon nigh v’nashuva. Chadaysh yamynew k’ kedem. The key word is kedem. Most translations read “days of old” which is accurate to a point; but how far back are days of old? Certainly we do not want to rebuild the Temple on the same ancient model that led to destruction. Our vision of the future must transcend a return to our imperfect past. The Midrash on Lamentations teaches that Kedem refers to The Garden of Eden. Our lamentations end when the Temple is the entrance to the Garden.
Reader: The Talmud also refers the 15th of Av as “The day of the breaking of the ax.” When the Holy temple in Jerusalem functioned the annual cutting of the firewood was concluded on this date. There was no greater festival.
Reader: Why break the axes? Will the Third Temple need firewood for burnt offerings? It appears to me that the reinstitution of animal sacrifices is a backward vision. Nor do I expect to see the scapegoat ritual on The Day of Atonement in the Final Temple. Perhaps we need split firewood for the incense offerings.
Reader: Every day we pray for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple. Rabbis are planning, as we speak, the reestablishment of the ancient Sanhedrin. We must define and discuss our vision of the rebuilding.
Reader: It seems to me forcing the issue is fraught with danger. Our religion is not about constructing new walls. We do need a roof over the Altar and a clear understanding of the offerings. If any metal even touches the stones of the altar the altar is unfit.(Exodus 20:22) Our Rabbis of blessed memory explain: “Iron shortens life. The altar was created to bestow long life. That which shortens may not touch that which lengthens and gives life. (Talmud. Middot 3:4)
Reader: Even the firewood is prepared with this consciousness. The final redemption happens when instruments of war are transformed into instruments of Peace, “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares
( the iron points that were tips on wooden plows) And their spears into pruning hooks: Nation will not take up sword against nation ; They shall never again know war. “(Isaiah 2:4) This explains why Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamaliel considers the 15th of Av equal to the Day of Atonement.
Reader: Our pious ancestors in Eastern Europe who lived the fullness of a life dedicated to Torah understood all this. In less than one week we transform our reliving of history. Exile becomes a blessing when we grasp the lesson of the breaking of the axes. When we embrace the teachings on the building of the altar we merit the rebuilding of the Temple.
Every year many of our Eastern European would burn their booklets containing Lamentations and prayers commemorating destruction as an act of faith that the Messiah was coming to proclaim the Final Redemption.
Reader: The fact that Av occurs in summer, when many are on vacation, means that the 9th and 15th of Av are often ignored. Since we have proclaimed this Table an altar we now discuss our own visions of The Temple, Messiah and dreams of a better world. Chose some of the following to guide your discussion.
- How many generations will Israel have to wait for Peace? When will the dying end?
- Who are Israelites today? Jews and Christians see themselves as legitimate heirs of the ancient promises.
- The struggle between Jews and Christians is foreshadowed in Genesis 25:23 where we learn of the future struggle between Jacob and Esau. Is it possible both of Rebecca’s children have the birthright?
- With the roads opened to visit Jerusalem, how do we apply the lessons of history to our vision of rebuilding?
- How do you imagine worship in the Final Temple?
- The dream of a better age to come is part of our tradition. How do you see this?
- What do you consider essential holidays?
- Do you include the 15th of Av?
- Finally, on the 15th of Av, 148 C.E. the dead of the fortress of Betar, which fell on the 9th of Av, were allowed to be buried. Bar Kochba, who Rabbi Akiba thought was the Messiah, was laid to rest. Before we recite Grace After Meals and focus on an additional prayer added to those blessings in commemoration of Bar Kochba, we link the 15th of Av to The Day of Atonement by discussing martyrdom. Rabbi Akiba was one of Ten we commemorate on Yom Kippur, martyred by the Romans. The martyrology on The Day of Atonement was actually composed after the first crusade and the crucifixion of the Jews in 1096 C.E. Discuss your understanding of martyrdom.
Before Grace after Meals: A Reading
During Grace After meals we pray that “The All Merciful send us Elijah The Prophet, of blessed memory who will deliver good news of redemption and consolation. Elijah also facilitates dialogue between the religions and opens the door to peace between the religions. Elijah answers the most difficult questions. Now is the time to ask.
Grace after Meals
Go around the Table asking for prayers of thanksgiving, then add the Traditional grace after meals.
Enjoy your Summer. Keep cool. A good attitude releases us from all servitude!