|Shirata Workshop for Jewish Praying, Singing & Being|
|Sha'alu sh'lom Yerushalayim—Pray for the peace of Jerusaelm|
|Number 14 - 25 Av 5768 - August 26, 2008|
|The 40-Day Patach Eliyahu Segula Practice|
|1 Elul 5768, September 1, 2008|
Yom Kippur, 10 of Tishrei, 5769, October 9, 1007
|During the forty days before the Yom Kippur|
each of us recites the the Patach Eliyah prayer daily
|Please download a Hebrew edition with a line-by-line English translation of the Patach Eliyahu prayer here.|
|What is a Segula?|
Segula is the potential to be what you really are. The Jews are called am segula, which means that they were endowed with the ability to be great through Torah and its commandments. The vowel segol and the cantillation mark segol or segolta each constitutes of three dots in a triangle, representing the peace that comes through joining the left and the right columns. The term segula also refers at times to an amulet, talisman or other objects that hold the power of transforming potential into actual.
|Why Forty Days?|
Forty days represents the period in which nothing becomes something; e.g., an embryo, according to our sages, forms in forty days. Moses ascended to Mount Sinai to receive Torah and stayed there for forty days twice (some commentators say three times). Specifically relevant to our practice, Moses is called to ascend to Mount Sinai on 1 of Elul in the aftermath of the sin of the Golden Calf. He descends from the mountain with the new, humanly carved tablets forty days later, on Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is the day of utmost forgiveness.
The Zohar is a collection of several books, one of which is Tikkuney Zohar, the fixing of the Zohar. The book is a series of seventy interpretations of the first word of the Bible, Bereshit. The number seventy is the numerical value of sod, Hebrew for secret. Based on Psalm 25:14, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar, opens up the seventy secrets of the beginning of creation.
According to one Rabbinic tradition, the world was created on 25 Elul, making Rosh HaShana the first Shabbat. (Another opinion claims that the world was created in Nissan). There is a Kabbalistic tradition to recite Tikkuney Zohar during the forty days before Yom Kippur. The seventy sections along with their two introductions are divided into forty sections read daily.
Patach Eliyahu constitutes the ending sections of the second introduction to Tikkuney Zohar. In it, Elijah the Prophet teaches the group of Rabbi Shimon, the creators of the Zohar, about the structure of the Sephirot, the emanations of energies from the Holy One to physical reality. Elijah the Prophet then invites Rabbi Shimon to open secrets. Quoting from Song of Songs, Rabbi Shimon talks about the Shekhina (divine dwelling) suffering in exile, and the Holy One’s continuous yearning for its redemption. The prayer ends with a request for blessings.
The prayer appears at the beginning of most Sephardi and Hassidic siddurim (prayer books). It is qualified as having the potential "to open the heart." It is traditionally recited before the morning and afternoon prayers, especially on Shabbat. The version we are using is a little longer than the one that appears in some (but not all) of the prayer books.
|How did our practice start?|
I have been using 40-day segula practices for several years. Specifically, I have used the Song of Songs in times of difficulties in love; Parashat Haman, the story of the giving of manna and Shabbat, Exodus 16, in times of financial strife; and the struggle of Jacob with the angel, Genesis 32, at times of emotional distress.
A few years ago, Diana Afari asked me for a Biblical passage for one of her patients who was struggling. I did not have an answer at first, but then realized that the story of Jacob’s struggle with the angel could work. It then came to me that it would be wonderful if our entire Song of Songs study group could recite the Song together. The group agreed, and we were blessed with the awesome experiences as individuals and as a group.
|Teshuva—Accounting of the Soul|
In our tradition, teshuva (repentance) is a practice whereby a person verbally confeses any wrongdoings, especially regarding the commandments of Torah, expresses deep regret, and commits to not doing them in the future.
Last year, our focus is on the Patach Eliyahu prayer was the yearning to understand our own truth, as a catalyst for the process of teshuva. This year we are taking this intention deeper from within a more profound framework.
I have recently re-read Aryeh Kaplan’s If you were God: Immortality and the Soul. A World of Love : Three Works NCSY/Orthodox Union (1983). This book is highly recommended. In the second essay, Rabbi Kaplan develops our sages’ idea that when the soul encounters its Creator, it is faced with its ultimate truth. Gehenom, or hell, he explains, is the feeling of excruciating shame that the soul experiences while in an environment where there’s no escape from the truth.
In addition to transgressions relating to the commandments of the Creator as revealed in the Torah, each person has his or her own personal tikkun, the purpose for each soul coming down to this world. Teshuva is a call for radical individual responsbility: the accounting for what needs to be done or undone as a process of removing the barriers created by transgressions and deceit between each of us and God.
May this period of Teshuva period be a practice of accounting for our thoughts, speech, and deeds, with regard to what is expected of us, as Jews and as unique individuals. May HaShem grant us the courage to work out a fixing for all that was done wrong, or all that was omitted, with the Creator Judge who is yearing for our return, so that He can pour out His love and kindness upon us. Amen!
|Difficulties during practice|
The Patach Eliyahu prayer is very calming. However, at times during the practice, things change. It is not always fun. At first, you might feel that you increasingly understand the prayer better and better, but as the practice continues, this clarity might evaporate. You might become confused, depressed, or agitated on some days, followed by days of calm, bliss, joy or indifference.
It is good to continue the practice even through difficulties, to keep moving. If you are really changing, there might be a need to mourn over your old self, even if you didn’t like aspects of your old self. If you miss a day or two, please make up for it the following day or days.
It is good to set up a particular time and place, if possible. The practice takes around 20 minutes. Please spend some meditation, quiet times or nothing time before and after. Silence and rest are essential. Try reading aloud, softly, with a melody, without, alone or with others. If you can read a little Hebrew, read just a few verses per day. If you can read the prayer in its original Hebrew, its power is intoxicating.
Some of us keep a journal to document the journey.
When you finish reciting, listen: you might hear us all say "Amen" to your deepest being with the last verse of the prayer. "We" are all the members of the group, everyone who has ever recited the Patach Eliyahu prayer, as well as everyone who will ever recite it in the future. On blessed days, the entire creation, past, present and future, will thank you for leading its prayer of salvation.
|We’d love to hear from you|
Please remember that you are not alone. Our Song of Songs Group, which meets every Wednesday, is around 15-18 strong. There are some 70 people on our mailing list. Some 15 have told us that they will be joining us. Everyone is welcome.
The Song of Songs says: hashmi’eenee—let me hear your voice. You are welcome to share the journey with the group by sending an email message to the entire group at shirHaShirim@googlegroups.com. Subscription information below.
|Email Subscription Information|
To subscribe or unsubscribe to the shirHaShirim@googlegroups.com list, send a request to Ronnie Serr
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