Ritualwell

Tradition & Innovation

Promise of a New Day: A Review of Alden Solovy's This Grateful Heart

Rabbi Me'irah Ilinsky

I’m packing This Grateful Heart into my disaster-survival kit.

ה׳ שפתי תפתח ופי יגיד תהלתך
Adonai, open my lips that my mouth may declare your praise!

We begin our most personal portion of the Jewish order of prayer asking for the mere ability to form the words to speak the prayers of our heart. This blessing of expression of the intimacies of the soul has been amply bestowed upon Alden Solovy, liturgist and poet, in his third book, This Grateful Heart: Psalms and Prayers for a New Day, published by the CCAR Press, with a forward by Rabbi Menachem Creditor.

The selections are easily accessible in their organization, as well as in their straightforward English, with a smattering of Hebrew, always translated. While the vocabulary is simple, it is clear and powerful in its metaphor.

            Shabbat settles in my heart,

            A lover with open arms,

            Embracing my soul with song,           

            Wrapped in quiet breathing.[1]

The entries show a resonance with tradition, yet with a refreshing contemporaneity.

            Light is sown by the righteous,

            Tucked into cracks in the sidewalks,

            Dropped in the grass,

            Breathed into the air,

            Left waiting for others to find.[2]

This volume, unlike the siddur, based on a synagogue service, is arranged for one’s daily life. It begins with arising in the morning, through the day, even until and perhaps, waking in the middle of the night.

            Fill me with song on sleepless nights.

            Fill me with music in the lonely deep.

            Let the promise of a new day

            Bring comfort and consolation.[3]

The book continues in its order through the seasons, through the Jewish Holy Days to the End of Life. In the style of the psalms, the prayers dance a dialogue between the inner psychological state of the pray-er and the longing for meaning, understanding, peace and connection with the Creator of All: a desire for holiness to elucidate this human life.

            God of mercy,

            Be my hope when hope has left me.

            Be my strength when my strength has crumbled.

            Be my rock to anchor me.

            Be my courage to persevere and to rebuild,

            To choose, once again, a life of awe and wonder.[4]

Within the current volume, you will find many courageous and unusual selections not found in other prayer collections: Passing of a Beloved Pet, Travel to an Unexpected Family Emergency, For Fertility Treatment (Women), For Fertility Treatment (Men), Upon Experiencing the Loss of a Pregnancy, Loss of a Pregnancy–For a Partner, After His/Her Infidelity, Yizkor After My Child’s Suicide. These real-life experiences of pain that call out for dialogue with the Divine are witnessed, affirmed and find a voice pushing away isolation and silence.

One might want to use the book on an occasion, or conversely, as a daily practice to train and curb one’s orientation toward more gratitude, awareness of awe, joy, love, graciousness, respect, hope, giving, patience, understanding and service. (And who doesn’t want to do that?)

            Bless me with gentle speech

            And joyous laughter,

            So that all my works

            Summon holiness into Your world[5]

My one critique is that when I looked for prayers of healing, they were absent. Then I realized that Solovy’s prayers of healing comprise an entire book elsewhere: Jewish Prayers of Hope and Healing, and are also included in Mishkan R’fuah both from the CCAR Press.

This little treasure, a mere 5 ½ x 8 ½ by ⅓”, is wrapped in a tactile and inviting sueded cover, and is small enough to tuck into a purse or backpack, the better to keep close at hand. I look forward to Alden Solovy’s forthcoming book This Joyous Soul: A New Voice for Ancient Yearnings. But for now, while I live in earthquake country, I’m packing my second copy of This Grateful Heart into my disaster-survival kit.


Rabbi Me'irah Iliinksy has worked as an artist, clinical social worker, congregational rabbi, teacher, and a hospital and hospice chaplain. She is the author of Mapping the Journey: The Mourner & The Soul.

Alden Solovy is an acclaimed liturgist of over 700 original works of Jewish liturgy. He will be teaching an online course, through the Reconstructionist Learning Networks in collaboration with Ritualwell, entitled "Ingredients of Prayer: Writing Contemporary Liturgy," beginning October 16th. Learn more and register

           

 



[1] Shabbat Settles on Jerusalem p. 33

[2] Sowing Light p. 32

[3] Birdsong at Midnight p.15

[4] After His/Her Infidelity p. 122

[5] This Bounty p. 85

 

 

Found in: Daily Prayer & Mindfulness, Evening Service, Morning Service, Contemporary Shabbat Practice

Tags: blessing, gratitude, grief


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