|Shirata Workshop for Jewish Praying, Singing & Being|
|Sha'alu sh'lom Yerushalayim—Pray for the peace of Jerusaelm|
|Number 9 - 1 Elul 5765 - September 6, 2005|
|The 40-Day Patach Eliyahu Segula Practice|
|1 Elul 5765, September 6, 2005|
Yom Kippur, 10 of Tishrei, 5766, October 13, 2005
|During the forty days before the Yom Kippur|
each of us recites the the Patach Eliyah prayer daily
|Please download an 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 decensds 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 of 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 book.
|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.
We have since practiced the Song of Songs segula twice. The last time ending with last Seder Pesach night. It was an awesome experience for all involved. This is the first time we are practicing Patach Eliyahu in our group.
|Teshuva—Understanding of our Truth|
This year, our focus is on the Patach Eliyahu prayer as a catalyst for the process of teshuva (repentance)—the yearning to understanding our own truth. Traditionally teshuva is considered a practice whereby a person acknowledges wrongdoing, especially regarding the commandments of Torah, and commits to not doing it in the future. Our practice is less behavioral and more introspective. It calls for a deep examination of our inherent and essential truth.
The first level of understanding our truth is acknowledging self deceit. Layers of pain has caused many of us to create false stories about ourselves and deny true stories. We spend much of our energy in worry, fear, and stress denying our own essence.
The second level of understanding our truth is the acknowledgment of existing contradictions. Opposite truths might be each relevant to our lives, but since they are in conflict, we tend to escape into doubt, indifference or avoidance. The focus of the second level is to discern the emotional tension between unresolved tendencies, by specifying each of them in its difference and contradiction with the other.
The third level of understanding our truth is bringing home all of the first level depict and the second level contradictions by accepting them in peace, by accepting responsibility and living it, by giving thanks to their oneness—as expressions of the utmost state of truth of our existence.
|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, to be 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 time 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscription information below.
|Our Song of Songs Learning|
The following file contains our translation, Malbim commentary and creative verse commentary on Song of Songs 1:1-2:9. The file size is about 450Kb.
|Email Subscription Information|
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Shirata 20, 29 Av 5771 - August 19, 2011