Thursday, October 9, 2008

"Here I Stand" (with my bow)

The Velveteen Rabbi posted her interpretation of the Yom Kippur prayer called Hineni, "Here I Stand," which she will chant in the traditional Hebrew text for her community tonight. (She's a poet and a rabbinic student, not yet a rabbi, but she seems ready to me to run and play with the real rabbis.)

I am taking her up on her offer to "Feel free to use it in whatever way is meaningful for you," by sharing it with you here.
What she writes is close to what I feel about the Catholic ritual for atonement and absolution, the sacrament of reconciliation (confession): that through acknowledging our flaws, we free ourselves from baggage that might get in the way.

This reminds me that I dreamt several months ago that Leonard Nimoy (who's Jewish, you know) was teaching me archery. It made sense immediately as being about aiming true, staying focused and centered, and so forth.
But today I see it a little more to that dream image:

One meaning of "sin" is "to miss the mark." It's hard to aim true if I'm holding on to junk.

As Anthony DeMello, a Jesuit from Bombay and one of my favorite religious writers, was always saying, "Drop it!"

[Image of a Japanese archer from the Seiren Dojo * site.]
interpretation by the Velveteen Rabbi (Rachel Barenblat)

Here I stand
painfully aware of my flaws
quaking in my canvas shoes
and in my heart.

I'm here on behalf of this kahal
even though the part of me
that's quick to knock myself
says I'm not worthy to lead them.

All creation was nurtured
in Your compassionate womb!
God of our ancestors, help me
as I call upon your mercy.

Don't blame this community
for the places where I miss the mark
in my actions or my heart
in my thoughts or in our davening.

Each of us is responsible
for her own teshuvah.
Help us remember that
without recriminations.

Accept my prayer
as though I were exactly the leader
this community needs in this moment,
as though my voice never faltered.

Free me from my own baggage
that might get in the way.
See us through the rose-colored glasses
of Your mercy.

Transform our suffering into gladness.
Dear One, may my prayer reach You
wherever You are
for Your name’s sake.

All praise is due to You, Dear One
Who hears the prayers of our hearts.

* The Seiren Dojo writes:
" Kyudo is the modern study of Japanese archery.Though one of the oldest bugei (martial arts) of Japan, the practice of kyudo is more than just the “loosing of an arrow”.
Kyudo is a highly-formalized and internal expression of physical, mental and spiritual unity. It is a discipline which the practitioner develops and demonstrates concentration, reflection and composure."


momo said...

Thank you! I have shared this with a good friend for whom it will have special meaning.

rbarenblat said...

I'm so glad this resonated with you! Thanks for reposting it here.

I'm intrigued that it took you to an archery place. The Hebrew word chet, usually translated "sin," literally means something more like missing-the-mark... and some folks understand the word "Torah" to derive from an archery term which relates to aiming in the right direction. :-)

fresca said...

Momo: That's neat you will pass this on!

Rachel: And thanks for writing--both the poem/prayer and this comment about archery--that is so cool about "Torah"! I had never heard that!

I've never ever held a real archery bow, and this makes me think I'd like to. I tend to focus more on metaphor than physical things. Metaphors are all very well, but the thing itself has a power all its own.

Elisson said...

You commented over at Rachel's place that "my favorite bit is the canvas shoes."

About those canvas shoes...We're prohibited not only from eating on Yom Kippur, but also from things like marital relations and wearing leather shoes. Thus you see a lot of hungry, unsatisfied, unshaven guys in sneakers.

Me, I wear Crocs. No leather...and plenty comfy.

fresca said...

Thanks, E.!
I had no idea about the canvas sneakers fulfilling a religious function; I just thought they were dear, like Edward Gorey's "unexpected guest" who "pealed the soles from its canvas shoes."
Thanks for enlightening me (in such an amusing way!).