Sunday, May 27, 2007

Siddur Kol Hevel

Eric Selinger

Hi, everyone. I've made the joke so often it's not funny anymore--which is to say, I am now officially working on Siddur Kol Hevel: A Prayerbook for the Rest of Us. Not a prayerbook, exactly: more a set of readings. Poems, tags of prose, you name it, all of them contrapuntal to normative Judaism, whether from a secular, heretical, philosophical, mystical, or literary point of view. Jews and non-Jews welcome: in this book, Blake rubs shoulders with Scholem, Duncan with Deutcher with Dickinson, the Kotzker Rebbe with Leonard Cohen and Marc-Alain Ouaknin. You get the picture.

What I need now is your help.

What are your favorite, most inspiring, most unsettling passages? The ones you turn to, or that shaped you, for better or for worse? Ones you've stumbled across, and that haunt you--or tickle you, for that matter, with their sass and heterodoxy.

I'll post mine, one by one, as the summer goes on. Please post yours, as comments or (if you're a contributor) as a post: the passage, and some sort of attribution, so that I can track it down if need be.

I don't know what all of this will end up being: a book, a website, who knows? But it's a project worth doing, I'm sure of that, and we're the folks to do it!


rbarenblat said...

A fascinating project, Eric. I'll be curious to see how this unfolds over time.

Are you interested only in weekday and Shabbat material, or also in material for various festivals?

I ask because poet and liturgist Catherine Madsen wrote a kind of alternate Avinu Malkeinu, which I posted a few years ago in this post. It knocks me off-kilter and I think it's really powerful.

rbarenblat said...

Here's another one I love. It's a classic. (A close runner-up: the Mary Oliver poem "Morning Poem," which appears below the footnote line on the page containing Yishtabach in the Reconstructionist weekday siddur...)

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver
published by Atlantic Monthly Press

bnewman said...

I've written a number of songs which I think of as "contrapuntal Jewish songs" in the sense you intent. They're linked here. I'd especially recommend "Shechinah" (for Shabbat), "Starlight through Woven Branches" (for Sukkot), "Masquerade" (for Purim), "The Holy Mountain", and "Tzur Hashlishi".

Feel free to link to and/or include those lyrics and MP3s in any web-based thing that you create, but if you want to include them in anything typeset and printed, please contact me (at the email address which can be reasonably inferred from the linked URL) first. Good luck!