Wednesday, September 19, 2012



- Joy Krauthammer © 

A meaningful day today on Rosh Hashana with B'nai Horin's Rabbis Stan Levy and Laura Owens, cantors, musicians, shofar players, poets, playwrights, prayer community and gardeners and guards at American Jewish University's Brandeis-Bardin country property. Moving into the chapel on the ground's main lower level (not as overwhelmingly large as the House of the Book), was a positive move! So many congregants said this to me. I did miss the two mile drive up the Santa Susana Mountain, and gazing far out over the 3,200 dry acres from the top of the mountain, and sitting quietly with a friend or two (or sister) on the green grass having a picnic lunch, while most all others drive down the hill to the dining hall and then drive back up for more prayer. The smaller chapel was more intimate and comfortable, with more natural light and warmth, versus the more majestic, renowned, windowless, dimly lit, large, stone circular House of the Book. Today it was easier to physically embrace community in Torah, prayer, stories, sound, song, and dance. Seats were all filled. I could share my prayer book with others who had none, and with newcomers, share the translations of prayer songs we sang so that they too felt welcomed and included.

It was good to see friends from other spiritual communities that I don't see for a whole year, and gather at this time in this sacred space. It was good to have a friend to stand with to say Kaddish prayer, who also mourned the death of our beloved Jerusalem rebbe Yosef, zt'l, one year ago. It was good to congratulate others on their successes, have gratitude, hear new insights, stories, share familiar prayers, pleas, songs, share compassion and condolences, witness age-ing and births, and share New Year's blesSings. Important to say MiSheberach prayer for those in need of healing.

For my musical participation, I am grateful that so many people appreciated the gift of the temple sounds of the crystal and Tibetan singing bowls; that they made a difference. The sound was more clear in this holy space, congregants told me. People even said I "played better" than prior years and that they experienced deep meditation; Must be the good energy of the current room (and the angels within). A surprising surge of warmth filled my upper body receiving genuine generous words from others.

Previous years I played the singing bowls as they sat (in good company with shofarot and plants) crowded on the far side and edge of the bima (the honored table where Torah is read, and I was grateful), but the singing bowls at times also sat awkwardly on the bima / stage platform slightly raised floor, where I played them. Instead, this year, the tall small round humble wood table was perfect (that the rabbi gave me) for my singing bowls. I covered table in a long-fringed golden garment, draped to the floor. There was room for only six of my ten Tibetan singing bowls; I also carefully placed my crystal bowl regally in the center of the six. The setting and energy is different every time I play, and it is always with kavanah / spiritual intention.

This holy day, I mostly did not lift the bowls one by one into my hand, always careful to not stifle the sound during transition, but I played them in their place (because they weren't partially hidden). Some bowls in the rear sit higher on pretty Asian pillows so that they are more visible. I like the aesthetics of the setting. Woman Gong in her simple bamboo stand (this year intentionally unadorned), stood sturdy in front of table and chimes-- both hanging and stationery 'energy' chimes. I enjoy playing the large gong with cotton-covered large mallet at the beginning of meditation, and the smaller sweet chimes at the end of the singing bowls, hoping that helps meditation of listeners-- for them to release themselves and 'return'. Hmm, is that like 'tshuvah'?  I did not play my precious little inherited Asian bells, nor my metal ting shas, etc. (For longer meditations, I play a wide array of musical instruments and offer a poetic guided meditation.) At B'nai Horin services, I've played singing bowls for about twenty years.

Strangely, today I also did not play the bowls in the higher sharper tones (with a slight playful exception), and only played metal bowls using the purple cloth-covered soft end of wooden wand. I don't think I sang the bowl rims either and I love making them sing, not just ring. Today (unlike last night's playing) I did not 'wah wah' my bowls-- which vibrates them in a whole different light; They sound like ripples of bubbling water. For the first time last night, I mouthed the word, "love" while I did 'wah wah' them. I also mouthed "shalom". I admit that 'Ohm' resonates more completely, but 'shalom' is authentically mine. 'Love' felt really good. During playing, I realized for the first time that I was smiling, and not as serious a vessel as usual. Maybe because others were smiling at me. :-)

I felt sad when I finished because I realized that although I traveled with the crystal singing bowl circling from shul front to back along the two outer aisles, and to the clergy and workers in far front and back, I never traversed the middle aisle. Oy. I hope all center seated people received the good sounds. I'm always conscious of not taking too much of the rabbis' prayer time as I play, but I feel badly that I unintentionally missed the middle aisle.  For some especially interested people, at the end of the service when they come to me to personally express themselves, I show them how to play. I also play the singing bowls separately for the armed guards and I notice it is hard for them to 'let go of their guard'.

Before arriving at the chapel for High Holy Days, I stopped by the local cemetery, greeted beloved neshamahs, z'l, and took out the crystal singing bowl from it's beautiful purple velvet and satin-lined bag, and played the crystal bowl for the 'welcoming' cemetery staff. My treat was also that I saw a bunny rabbit by my husband's grave. I usually only see hawks soaring high over the hills.  This visit, I also saw last month's fire-burnt to the ground black land adjacent to the graveyard. A blesSing that this hillside fire by the freeway was quickly extinguished, unlike others. May our blesSIngs extend throughout the New Year.

More on crystal and Tibetan singing bowls:

Joy's Tibetan singing bowls, bells, chimes, gongs
B'nai Horin garden, early 1990's.
© Joy Krauthammer

Many special experiences on Rosh HaShana day one and I share two.

1. In the morning, I clearly saw Debbie, z'l, visiting in front of me to my right (facing B'nai Horin congregation). I'm not surprised by her presence. She was listening to us, sing.

2. A magical moment happened for me during Rosh HaShana first day, while responsively reading a prayer out-loud from the machzor. I have 'been drummed' and I have 'been danced' and this following experience was a first.

Prayer book section II - 57,  "Before the Beginning". 
With the congregation, toward the end of the page I read out loud the words, 

"...But we know it is only when angels move us to act
that they reveal their strength…"

The point I need to share is that I had never before seen nor read this page, and what I unconsciously read out loud --was actually NOT the words on the page.

I stunned myself. I heard myself as I spoke one word that was NOT written, in lieu of the written word. I was 'being voiced'.  I reread the written words:

"...But we know it is only when words move us to act
that they reveal their strength…"

I am grateful that angels must have been speaking through me for me to hear them and to voice them.
I am conscious of the fact that I do not acknowledge as often as I could, the angels that are with me, and this was an awesome surprising way for me mamash to hear truth. Baruch HaShem.  Thank you B'nai Horin leaders. It was a Rosh HaShana filled with blesSings and magic and inspiration. And Angels.


May we ALL be Written and sealed in the Book of Life.
It matters how we hear the Book, how we read the Book, how we speak the Book.
How do you hear, read and speak the Book?
~ ~ ~

Angels Move Us
© Joy Krauthammer

~ ~ ~

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BlesSings, Joy