Two sets

On this the last day of October, day 31 of 31, I recited the blessings with Asa immediately after we woke up. For perhaps the first time ever, I spoke them with no melody at all. Asa loved it. I am pretty certain he can tell the difference between Hebrew and English, and he's fascinated and delighted by the Hebrew words.  He even frequently applauded at the end of each blessing. (He was also in a very good mood!)

And I too was delighted to bring in the morning with him in this way. I rubbed my eyes for the awakening blessing, stretched with the words "stretched forth," moved freely with "sets the captive free," got out of bed and stood up with "straightens the bent," started walking with "makes firm a person's footsteps," and so forth.

And then a bit later, I was in the car driving to Caratunk  for a walk, and I wanted to move through the blessings again, this time singing. Why not do them twice?!

At Caratunk, there were plenty of signs of the recent storm, most notably lots and lots of water rushing down the stream and spilling out into the wetlands that surround it. The leaves are mostly down now, and the openness was almost startling. I wandered through another feeding flock, and this time I could see them all so easily as they flew from branch to branch. Only the beech trees retain their leaves, and they bright gold. Oh so lovely!

This month of writing about the morning blessings has also been lovely. Attempting to put this practice into words has deepened the practice and sharpened my focus. I feel no need to stop. I have a number of ideas about what might come next...

Baruch atah adonai eloheynu chey ha'olamim oter yisrael betifarah. Blessed are You, the Beautiful, Our God, Life of All the Worlds, who crowns Israel with Splendor.

Blessed are You, Loveliness, Our God, who brings us the beautiful month of October!

Papa Nate

my cousin Paul and sister Sarah with our Papa Nate
Memorial Day 1979
Today is Papa Nate's birthday, and in celebration I looked through my oldest photo album. I took this photo of him with my first camera, and I think it captures a little of Papa's "us kids" attitude. How we loved hanging out with him!

Papa's name is Nathan Abraham Moscovitch, or in Hebrew Natan Avraham. Natan means "he gives," and I often think of him whenever I use the Hebrew word noteyn, which appears twice in the blessings.

My morning blessings today were silent at the end of a welcome nap. It was different to recite them silently but I managed to concentrate reasonably well, and it was very peaceful. Allowing the wholeness of the blessings to reside in the unspoken is a little like memory. And along with the words of the blessings, I also could hear Papa saying, "Well, hello, Rosanna!" It is a memory of his voice that I can always conjur up, and that I treasure dearly.

Baruch atah adonai eloheynu chey ha'olamim hanoteyn lesechvi vinah lehavchin beyn yom oveyn lilah. Blessed are You, the Provident, Our God, Life of all the Worlds, who gives the bird of dawn discernment to tell day from night.

Blessed are You, the Loving One, Our God who gives us beloved grandparents.

Baruch atah adonai eloheynu chey ha'olamim hanoteyn layaef koach. Blessed are You, the Renewing One, Our God, Life of All the Worlds, who gives strength to the weary.

Blessed are You, the Eternal, Our God, who keeps our loved ones near through vivid memory.


Today was a storm day as Hurricane Sandy did its thing. It rained and gusted all day, and we were all home all day. As seems to be my way on days when I do not get out, I recite the blessings while doing chores. I sang as I put away Asa's cloth diapers and looked out the window at the branches and leaves being buffeted by the storm. It was reassuring to be working with my hands and doing something entirely mundane while I watched all that power outside.

And now, this evening, it is quiet outside, and we have escaped relatively unscathed, but I know that many others are not so lucky. I am grateful for our cozy house, for the electricity that powers this computer, for all the good food we have on hand to nourish us with or without electricity, for the care and concern of loved ones near and far.

And I am in awe of the power of the storm, of the wind, of the waves, and of the rain.

October 29, 2010, was Halia's due date. Today I think of her often and of the storms of losing her. First there was the storm of the chronic placental abruption that pummeled my health and ultimately killed her. And then there was the storm of grief. Periodic squalls still come through. It has all been such an exercise in surrender to that which I do not control, of finding places of shelter amidst the storms, and of learning to ride it out, to be with what is.

And I am aware too of the quiet that follows the storm, the settling down, the gentle awakening to new realities and to the possibility of a rainbow. These two years later I am grateful to find myself emerging more and more from the storm, to be blessed with my "rainbow" Asa, and to rest in the quiet.

Baruch atah adonai eloheynu chey ha'olamim oter yisrael bigevurah. Blessed are You, the Mighty One, Our God, Life of All the Worlds, who girds Israel with strength.

Blessed are You, the Awe-Inspiring One, Our God, Life of All the Worlds, who reminds us to surrender to forces much bigger than anything we can control and who gives us the strength to ride out whatever may come.

In the Kitchen

I cooked a lot today. Big batches of food. And so, naturally, I sang the blessings in the kitchen as I finished up putting a chicken in the crock pot. I had been cooking with Asa on my back, and all my attention went towards him and the cooking. Then James took Asa off to play, and suddenly I was happily singing the blessings and sailing through the rest of the tasks! I thought to myself, wow, what a difference it makes to sing. Look at how the blessings make everything seem brighter. But, really, I have to admit that the big difference was not carrying Asa as I worked.

Nevertheless, it is fun to have his eye on things, to see what he points out, to give a running commentary about what I am doing. With him around, I pay attention to the everyday in new ways.

Baruch atah adonai eloheynu chey ha'olamim pokeach ivrim. Blessed are you, the Lamp, Our God, Life of All the Worlds, who makes the blind to see.

Blessed are You, the One Who Sees, our God, who helps me pay attention.

Living Room Services

This Shabbat morning, we had originally planned to go to services at our synagogue, but because Gabe was still recovering from being sick yesterday, we decided to have our own services at home instead. Our living room faces east so it feels like a natural place for a little davvening. James and I donned our tallitot, Asa crawled around on the floor exploring a bag full of more bags, our cat Moonlight chased glints of sun, and Gabe lay on the couch.

It was a condensed version of Saturday morning services, hitting all the parts of the service that Gabe is learning for his bar mitzvah. For the first time in a long time, I chanted the morning blessings using the melody we use in synagogue. I didn't quite do it the way we do it there: opening words in Hebrew, specific blessing in chanter's choice of Hebrew or English. Instead, I did all the words of each blessing in Hebrew and then in English. I have grown attached to hearing all the words in both languages every day. (Poor Gabe wishes I would just get on with it...what he doesn't understand is that was an unusually fast rendition, for me!)

It is always interesting to hear the blessings in the context of the larger service after reciting them alone all week. I love them more and more the better I know them, which makes me wonder what the service would be like if I devoted that kind of attention to each prayer. Ah, such a rich and multi-layerered tradition we have!

This week's parsha is Lech Lecha, in which, among other things, Abram becomes Abraham after God makes a covenant with him. Reading it today made me think back a year ago to Asa's brit milah and brit atifah and what it meant to celebrate his birth with the an acknowledgement of the covenant. I did not hold such rituals for Gabe, but it feels like we are making up for that now as he prepares to become bar mitzvah.

[God] then took [Abram] outside and said, "Look at the sky and count the stars. See if you can count them." [God] then said to him, "That is how numerous your descendants will be."
~ Genesis 15:5 (translation by Aryeh Kaplan)

I do indeed feel myself to be one of those stars in the sky and that I have added another three to the multitude.

Baruch atah adonai eloheynu chey ha'olamim she'asani yisrael. Blessed are You, the Ancient One, Our God, Life of All the Worlds, who made me of the People Israel.

Blessed are You, the Fount of Knowledge, Our God, who has made us part of a rich and dynamic tradition.