Archive for the ‘Davenology’ Category


Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Reb Zalman writes: 

“The following love poem is one of the S’lihot recited between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  Ibn Gayat (b. 1038 – 1089) was not timid about using the most intimate symbols in asking God to become reconciled with us.” 

The translation by Reb Zalman may be used for heartful prayer in English.  Click here for Hebrew/English Version.

S’lihah by Isaac b”r Judah Ibn Gayyat. (b. 1038 – 1089)
Davvenen Translation by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi 

I must return to my very first lover,
Like an eye’s pupil He kept me safe,
Tall is my beloved like a cedar,
I can’t sleep when I think of Him.

How He rescued me from vile hands,
How He wed me in all new robes,
Speaking to me in holy words,
Honoring me with sacred pact.

Endowering me with ample boon,
Amidst many joys, delights supreme,
Our tryst He stocked for intimacy,
Countless lasses in waiting He set to serve me.

The choicest foods to fulfill His pledge,
In His inner chambers He cleaved to me,
While in the courtyards they spiced the air,
My Royal Lover took me into His chambers.

And I, bathed,
To purity my scent arousing,
He mounted our couch and between my breasts,
He laid, embraced me and held me…

And in the wink of an eye it happened,
All broken – betrayed –
As I went off with attitude defiant,
Mocking, and dazed, My Lover, now disengaged, was gone.


A Note from Reb Zalman

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Dear Friends:

Thanksgiving is just about here.

Many of us will have a festive meal.

But the important part is that at this dinner we should invite some needy people so that we might feed them.

It is also important before Birkhat Hamazon, the grace after meals, to count our blessings and to give thanks to God.

Based on the model that we have for Hanukkah and Purim I have written an insert prayer to include both in the Amidah as well as in the Birkhat Hamazon and I offer this as a suggestion for your Thanksgiving celebration.  (CLICK HERE FOR A COPY)


Reb Zalman Hiyyah Schachter-Shalomi

Reb Zalman’s Offerings Through Aleph Store

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

The ALEPH Canada Web Site,, offers Reb Zalman’s books, CD’s and DVD’s as digital downloads. Prices are in Canadian dollars.

Here is the current listing:

* Credo of a Modern Kabbalist (with Daniel Siegel) ($18)

* An English Siddur for Weekdays (temporarily unavailable)

* First Steps to a New Jewish Spirit (with Donald Gropman) (available from Amazon)

* Gate to the Heart: An Evolving Process (edited by Robert Esformes) (available from Amazon)


Shalosh Seudos Time and Weekday Davvenen

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

The following is a transcription of Reb Zalman speaking at the recent Shavuot retreat.  Please scroll to the bottom for a copy of Reb Zalman’s singing translation of Yedid Nefesh.  Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor

“The last few years, I’ve felt that it is important to draw back from leadership so that I can really put my energy in highlighting what’s most critical: 

“In terms of the innovations we’ve made in the Jewish services, we are doing good Friday nights.  ‘We give good Friday night.’  People come and they dance and it’s freilach and they love each other and ‘v’ahavta l’rayacha kamocha’ / love thy neighbor as thyself and Shema Yisroel / Hear Oh Israel.  And we did pretty good with Shabbos morning, because everywhere, little by little, the notion of not calling up the ‘Mr. Goldberg-s,’ i.e., the ones who would give a big donation to the shul, (he gets this aliyah and this one gets that aliyah), has been replaced by saying to people, ‘We’re going to read in the torah about such and such a thing.  Do you feel this deep?  Then you come up to the torah here.’   So we’ve done something remarkable with shabbos morning too. 

“What we haven’t yet done well is shalosh seudos.  This means the Shabbos afternoon time.  Also, I’m still worried about us not doing enough weekday davvenen.


Diversity and Ahavat Yisrael

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Last week, I was one of the hundred plus participants at the wonderful Shavuot retreat at Isabella Freedman (Elat Chayyim).  At the closing circle, a question was posed by another attendee: 

  • For those of us who came here from a place of more traditional observance, do you have any advice for how we can integrate what we’ve experienced and learned here with those traditional places of worship?” 

I’ve transcribed Reb Zalman’s response below.  Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor

In the booklet called “Gate to the Heart,” I make the following point (cf., Stages of the Path, pp 6-8): 

When a person first gets caught in “Oy! How wonderful it is to be a Jew,” they are in the land of “Milk and Honey.”  This is like the Oral Phase in Freud’s Psychosexual Stages of Development, (NOTE:  Referred to as the Rung of Love in “Gate to the Heart”).  “Oy is it good, geshmak / delicious, it’s beautiful.”  

And after a while, following the Freudian model, the progression has their Judaism moving to the Anal Phase, which is to say, “Now I need to learn some discipline,” (NOTE:  Referred to as the Rung of Power in “Gate to the Heart”).

But if someone doesn’t want to move on, saying, “I don’t want to go for a practice with discipline, I want to go back to the original belief that I had,” then they are like one fixated on the Oral Phase.  And if they get fixated on the Oral Phase, they will go from guru to guru and from system to system and say, “Because I love to be ‘love-bombed’ by the people to whom I come and bring my soul and they love me and I feel good, I will stay here.” And so, they will be going in this kind of incestuous way from one place to another trying to recapture the good feelings of the Oral Phase. 


Music for Sefirot

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Dear Friends:

Reb Zalman:  “I would love it if someone were to write these themes into a symphony in seven movements that we could use for the Simchat Torah dances.”   (From “Simchat Torah Processions”.)

The themes Reb Zalman references in this quote are those associated with each of the seven days of Sukkot and also with the seven processions of Simchas torah.  Each day and procession are associated with one of the seven sefirot / divine attributes:  Chesed / LovingKindness, Gevurah / Strict Justice and Discernment, Tiferet / Balance, Mercy and Harmony, Netzach / Persistence, Focus, Hod / Beauty and Aesthetics, Yesod / Foundation, Malchut / Kingship, Shechinah / divine in-dwelling, tikkun / repair and a healed planet.

When I first read Reb Zalman’s statement, I envisioned a ballet with seven movements based upon the composition.  Halevay / God-willing such a piece and such a production will come to fruition so we can all hear and see it!

Zalman has sometimes spoken of particular pieces of music that evoke associations in us of specific sefirot.  In this post, I have put together various recordings of classical music with such associations.  I brainstormed the list based upon my own understanding of Sefirot;  the list is a current snapshot of a subjective understanding and association with each Sefirah.

I hope you will find this useful in your connections to Sefirot and God.   Enjoy (click a composer’s name below to hear the music)!  Please place suggestions for music that you associate with Sefirot in the comments section, below.  Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor

Music for Sefirot, 5769

Chesed:  Ravel: Pavanne, Barber: Adagio for strings, Tchaikovsky: Symphony 6, mvt 2Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (please ff to section from 5:34 to 7:42), DvorakSymphony 5Wolf:  “Schlafendes Jesuskind, Massenet: Meditation from ThaisTchaikovsky: Symphony 6, mvt 1 (please ff to section from 8:27 to end), Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Tallis, Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on Greensleeves, Brahms: “Wiegenlied, Wolf: “der Genesene an die Hoffnung.


Reb Zalman’s Thanksgiving Prayer

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Dear Friends:

Here’s a copy of Reb Zalman’s wonderful insert to birkat hamazon / grace after meals, for your Thanksgiving celebrations:

Tanksgiv All The Boona

It’s a beautiful prayer that will add a Jewish touch to your Thanksgiving celebration this year.  

At the same time, we need to also reinforce the notion that it would be unkosher for us to behave as some say the Europeans did as they settled in America.  

Here’s an excerpt from Reb Zalman’s book, Integral Halachah where he lists the non-negotiables, the anchors of a Halachah for our time:


Simchat Torah Processions

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Dear Friends:

Oy!  The joy of Simchas Torah as we did it at P’nai Or!  

It was 1992, led by Rabbi Jeff Roth and held in Saxe Lodge in Saugerties, NY.   The attendees included a sprinkling of Musicians and Choreographers among the sixty or so attendees.  We were to create a Simchas Torah / rejoicing in the torah service reflecting Reb Zalman’s innovative work in which the kahal / community moves to each Sefirah / Divine Attribute in succession; we were to explore and create the sacred ritual dances of Simchat Torah

I was assigned, (along with a dozen others, including Tsurah August and Efraim Eisen), to the Sefirah of Tiferet / Harmony.  Five other groups were assigned to the other Sefirot from Chesed / Lovingkindness to Yesod / Foundation. 


The Global Dying: Please Save

Friday, October 17th, 2008

Dear friends:  The following prayer is good for Hoshana Rabba.  Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor.

by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
(tr: Gabbai Seth Fishman)


Hoshanot / Please Save!

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

The Hoshanot / Please Save! prayers are recited while walking with the Lulav and Etrog around the Torah desk, each day of Sukkot on its day as part of the morning service.  All seven are then also recited on Hosha’na Rabba / THE GREAT ‘PLEASE SAVE!’ DAY.  Traditionally, each set of prayers followed the Aleph Bet with a different theme running through the phrases (e.g. Save us as per Your divine attributes, Save as per qualities of the holy Jerusalem temple of yore, etc.)  As we are dealing with the health of our mother, the planet, Reb Zalman has composed Hoshanot based upon the days of creation.   Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor

Hoshanot Prayers
by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

Yom Rishon / Sunday’s-turn (let there be light!)
Hosha’na / Please Save! For the sake of  the Aura of life, the Beams of Light, the Clearness of Light, the Dynamics of Light, the Effulgence of Light, the diFfraction of light, the Glory of light, the Haloes of light, the Illumination of light, the Joys of sight.