Giving Voice to the Speechless

Giving Voice to the Speechless

It’s been a long year. For the last couple months I’ve fallen silent, no small feat for me. Nothing I had to say seemed equal to the task of the chaos around me.

I think I’ve found my tongue again. The Nishmat prayer that paves the way into the main section of Shabbat morning services refers to Hashem as mekitz nirdamim, mesiah ilemim – the One who wakes the dreamers and gives voice to the speechless. I’m feeling more awake than I have in a long time, and plan to be sharing a lot more material over the coming months here on this website and over my social media channels, where most of you will probably be reading this, starting with my newest installment of my Times of Israel blog, which is actually about mekitz nirdamim, waking the dreamers. That should post by tomorrow.

I haven’t been completely idle; aside from my day job I’ve actually had a few speaking engagements lately. Check out the Events page to see what I’ve been up to despite the pandemic, and “where” I’ll be next. There are at least two talks coming up in February and March, and I’m always open to discussing new virtual events (and eventually in-person ones) if you’re interested. Tag me on one of the social media platforms and we’ll talk, or email media@healerswholisten.com.

Where did this return of energy come from? Who knows. Maybe Hashem decided to give me a reprieve – or maybe it was the new puppy.

Moving Day

The Healers Who Listen blog is getting a new home! Effective a couple hours ago, my regular posts will now be housed in the Blogs section of Times of Israel. Thanks to Toby Tabachnik of the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle for making this happen. Check out installment one at https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/birthday-gematria/!

Open Your Mouth and Say…

Open Your Mouth and Say…

A dozen years ago I stood on the bowling green in Frick Park with a group of Jewish teachers from my community to listen to Gabe Goldman, an educator with a strong passion for the environment who had recently arrived in town.  He pointed out some poison ivy to us, and then reminded us that often, in nature, the antidote to a poisonous or noxious plant is found in the immediate vicinity of the offending species.  The solution is embedded in the same environment that produced the problem.

A well-known Mishna in Pirke Avot (5:6) asserts that God works the same way.  At dusk on the sixth day of creation, just before the twilight that would usher in the first Shabbat, God created 10 things that would seem later to be miracles.  The Mishna, however, asserts that these were no miracles in the sense of violating the order of the universe, but rather things that were built into the fabric of that universe from the beginning, to serve a single purpose.

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Listen, Self…

Listen, Self…

My wife tells me that as a child, she often caught her grandfather talking to himself.  “I’m talking to a very important person,” he would reply.

Self-talk has become a lifeline for me in the turmoil of the last few years.  The turns of phrase that anchor my published writings often originate as grounding statements I employ to haul myself back from the brink, or to call my own attention to God’s presence in the world when I have been missing it.

Prayer is self-talk at its most refined, a vocabulary of these phrases woven into a daily drama in three acts if you’re Jewish, five if you’re Muslim, and so on.  The dialogue of this drama is purportedly between the worshipper and God, but the Hebrew word for prayer, l’hitpalel, comes from a root meaning “to accuse” or “to interrogate,” as if in a courtroom.  Since it is a reflective verb, where the actor is doing the action to themselves, l’hitpalel means, “to accuse or interrogate oneself.”  Don’t bother me when I’m praying – I’m prosecuting a very important person.

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