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Prayer as Freedom, Prayer as Medicine 

04/03/2023 03:25:04 PM


Rabbi Chaya Gusfield

Chag Sameach!

It’s Pesach, a time to focus on freedom. Where we feel free, how we got there, and what we can do to create more freedom for others. As I join with family, I am reflecting on a few things that have felt liberating in my life.

I have found teaching "Prayer as Medicine through Writing" liberating and witnessed the freedom others have felt as they enter prayers in deep ways through four simple steps: 1. Learning 2. Reflecting where the prayer touches their life 3. Sharing what they wrote or felt and 4. Being witnessed through a group poem that emerged through the process.

In three 1.5-hour classes we learned and shared about these blessings: Torah blessings, shehechianu, asher yatzar (body blessing), tallit blessings, adon olam, misheberach (healing blessing).

Although our class is over, some of us are considering meeting again. Please email me at if you would like to be notified if I hold a few more sessions on Wednesday nights at 7:00 pm online.

Below, I am sharing with you three interpretive versions of the V’ahavta I occasionally use. Last Friday night at services, I shared the one by Bracha Stone, a local Jewish educator in the East Bay who has a collection of interpretations of the psalms. People asked me to share it. I am also including two others I thought might be interesting.

May you find freedom and be a blessing to others who are seeking freedom.

Chag Sameach!

V’ahavta by Bracha Stone

And you shall love this life, your life; this moment, your moment with your entire being.
And you shall make this singular moment holy by filling it with love.
You will rise up and lie down; you will go out and return home, eat and become hungry again.
This is the choreography of your life-dance what you know to be holy.

Teach this to your children, our children, by loving them.
Let them see you feed the hungry and protect the weak.
Invite them to help you write it large on our city gates.
Open the gates with gladness.

Be careful!
This is not the only message you will receive today.
The world- My world is full of idols.
Stay busy with love lest you become distracted by noise and division.
Do not be fooled.
This is your only day.

Marcia Falk
The Book of Blessings: New Jewish Prayers for Daily Life, the Sabbath, and the New Moon Festival

Loving life
and its mysterious source
with all our heart
and all our spirit,
all our sense and strength,
we take upon ourselves
and into ourselves
these promises:
to care for the earth
and those who live upon it,
to pursue justice and peace,
to love kindness and compassion.
We will teach this to our children
throughout the passage of the day-
as we dwell in our homes
and as we go on to our journeys,
from the time we rise
until we fall asleep.
And may our actions
be faithful to our words
that our children’s children
may live to know:
Truth and kindness have embraced,
peace and justice have kissed
and are one.

Rabbi Simcha Zevit 

Here I am.
Ani Shoma'at.
I am listening.
We are listening.

We will learn of You from our Torah, God
We will pray to You with the ancient words we've been given
by those who came before us,
And we will celebrate the cycles and the seasons
with our people.
And we'll do our best
to walk in the ways of goodness, kindness, justice, and peace.

But God....
We pray
We beg You!
Speak to us
through our hearts.
Guide us and show us
How you want to live
and love
through us.

We are Jews.
We are listening. 

Artwork by Rabbi Chaya Gusfield      

Sat, July 20 2024 14 Tammuz 5784