Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Earth Etude for Elul 4 - Finding Quiet for Reflection

by Hazzan Shoshana Brown

Although Psalm 130 can be recited all year long, it is especially appropriate for the season of introspection and repentance, speaking as it does of waiting and watching for the dawn. I have chosen photos that look up to the hills "out of the depths," as the psalmist says, and also out at the sea, or at the early moments of the rising sun, or at its setting. They are mostly lonely pictures, since it is in quiet and reflection that we search our souls, but since we are often most aware of God when we behold God's beauty in creation, I have chosen moments that moved me in their beauty. These photos were all taken in the Continental U.S., and range from Maine to North Carolina to California. One photo is of a valley in Yosemite (whispering to us of one of my heroes, John Muir), and another is from the path around Walden Pond (evoking another hero, Henry David Thoreau) – and two are from Long Island, which makes me think of a third hero, Woody Guthrie, who wrote "this land was made for you and me." Most of the year I hike within 40 minutes of my home in Southeastern Massachusetts and along the coast of Rhode Island (right next door). We do not have to travel far to either search our souls or to find beauty...we just have to devote the time and seriousness to the search and to the care that they deserve.

As you to listen to my arrangement of Psalm 130, which is based on the traditional melody for the piyyut Ohilah la El, and scroll through the photos, may they inspire you to find your own spots for soul searching.

Psalm 130 (tr. by Shoshana Brown)

A Song of Ascent
From out of the depths I cry to You, Adonai:
Adonai, hear now my voice -
Be attentive to my prayers, to the voice of my supplication!
If you kept count of every sin, Adonai, who could stand before You?
But there is forgiveness with You, and so we revere You.
I wait, Adonai, my soul waits - with hope I wait for God’s word.
My soul waits for Adonai more eagerly than watchmen wait for the dawn.
Put your hope in Adonai, Israel, for Adonai is generous with mercy.
Abundant is God’s power to redeem;
Indeed, God will redeem the people Israel from all their sins.

Hazzan Shoshana Brown serves as cantor and co-spiritual leader (along with her husband, Rabbi Mark Elber) at Temple Beth El, in Fall River, MA. Hazzan Brown combines her love of singing and spiritual leadership by serving as cantor, and her love of nature and writing by writing monthly hiking articles for the Fall River Herald News. She loves that her assignments for the newspaper have made her get out in nature and also led her to learn a great deal about the unique ecosystems of Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Recently, Hazzan Brown has added nature photography to her satchel.

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