The Music and Texts of Rabbi Josh Warshawsky: Hame'irah

A hum… and then a bang. And each day it grew larger and larger and contained more and more. We cannot live each new day in the same way we lived the last, for we have all of the experiences and memories of the previous day filed away in our internal memory bank. And so each day is created anew, filled with new opportunities. And each day, we have the potential to become partners with God in the act of creation, adding to the world in a way that only you can. - Rabbi Josh Warshawsky

1. Without looking forward to any of the other texts, what do you think it means to be a "partner with God in the act of creation?"

2. Why can't we live each day similarly to the one that came before it? Is it sometimes worth trying to anyway? Why or why not?

הַמֵּאִיר לָאָרֶץ וְלַדָּרִים עָלֶיהָ בְּרַחֲמִים. וּבְטוּבו מְחַדֵּשׁ בְּכָל יום תָּמִיד מַעֲשֵׂה בְרֵאשִׁית. מָה רַבּוּ מַעֲשיךָ ה'. כֻּלָּם בְּחָכְמָה עָשיתָ. מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ קִנְיָנֶךָ. הַמֶּלֶךְ הַמְרומָם לְבַדּו מֵאָז. הַמְשֻׁבָּח וְהַמְפאָר וְהַמִּתְנַשּא מִימות עולָם. אֱלקֵי עולָם. בְּרַחֲמֶיךָ הָרַבִּים רַחֵם עָלֵינוּ. אֲדון עֻזֵּנוּ. צוּר מִשגַּבֵּנוּ. מָגֵן יִשְׁעֵנוּ. מִשגָּב בַּעֲדֵנוּ. אֵל בָּרוּךְ גְּדול דֵּעָה. הֵכִין וּפָעַל זָהֳרֵי חַמָּה. טוב יָצַר כָּבוד לִשְׁמו. מְאורות נָתַן סְבִיבות עֻזּו. פִּנּות צְבָאָיו קְדושִׁים. רומְמֵי שַׁדַּי. תָּמִיד מְסַפְּרִים כְּבוד אֵל וּקְדֻשָּׁתו. תִּתְבָּרַךְ ה' אֱלקֵינוּ עַל שֶׁבַח מַעֲשי יָדֶיךָ. וְעַל מְאורֵי אור שֶׁעָשיתָ. יְפָאֲרוּךָ סֶּלָה.

You illumine the world and its creatures with mercy; in Your goodness day after day You renew Creation. How manifold Your works, O Lord; with wisdom You fashioned them all. The earth abounds with Your creations. Uniquely exalted since earliest time, enthroned on praise and prominence since the world began, eternal God, with Your manifold mercies continue to love us, our Pillar of Strength, protecting Rock, sheltering Shield, sustaining Stronghold. Our praiseworthy God with vast understanding fashioned the rays of the sun. The good light God created reflects God's splendor; radiant light surrounds God's throne. God's heavenly servants in holiness exalt the Almighty, constantly recounting God's sacred glory. Praise shall be Yours, Lord our God, for Your wondrous works, for the lights You have fashioned, the sun and the moon which reflect Your glory.

3. What are some of the major themes you find in this tefillah?

4. Why do you think this section was placed immediately after Barechu, the call to formal prayer?

5. What role does light and illumination play here?

These words have sat nestled beneath the “Barchu” in our siddurim for hundreds of years, waiting for their power to be unleashed and their message to be understood. This section of our Tefillah is all about creation, leading us into the other main themes of our central Tefillot: revelation and redemption. We begin with the creation of the whole world. How can we pray without first acknowledging the miraculousness of our own existence? Without mentioning the fact that we are even present at this moment to offer words of gratitude? And so the first thing we do is speak of mercy. “The Holy One, who lights up the world and all of her inhabitants with mercy.” The key here is light. The first act of creation, mentioned first, and inherently interwoven with the divine attribute of mercy. And then this: “And in the Divine’s goodness, every single day, She renews the act of creation.” - Rabbi Josh Warshawsky

6. What do you think Rabbi Warshawsky means when he asks, "How can we pray without first acknowledging the miraculousness of our own existence?"

7. What steps do you (yes, you personally) have to take in order to be ready for meaningful tefillah?

8. Do you think acknowledging and praising God for creation is the best way to start tefillah? Why or why not?

9. Why is it considered merciful that God renews creation every day?

הַמְּאִירָה לְאֶרֶץ וְלַדָּרִים עָלֶיהָ בָּרַחֲמִים
וּבְטּוּבָה מְחַדֶּשֶׁת בְּכָל יוֹם תָּמִיד
וּבְטּוּבָה מְחַדֶּשֶׁת מַעֲשֶׂה בְּרֵאשִׁית

You illumine the world and its creatures with mercy;

in Your goodness day after day

You renew Creation.

And in thinking about creation and rebirth, we were immediately drawn to the feminine. Hebrew is a gendered language, and most of the time in liturgy the masculine suffix is used for God. But here, praying for rebirth and renewal, we wanted to sing to The Divine in the feminine, and so we changed the suffixes to reflect that: Hame’irah, Uv’tuvah, Mechadeshet. - Rabbi Josh Warshawsky

10. How does your understanding or your impression of creation change when the language used is feminine instead of masculine? What differences do you find?

11. Is the change appropriate/logical to you? Why or why not?

בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹקִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃ וְהָאָ֗רֶץ הָיְתָ֥ה תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ וְחֹ֖שֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י תְה֑וֹם וְר֣וּחַ אֱלֹקִ֔ים מְרַחֶ֖פֶת עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַמָּֽיִם׃ וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֱלֹקִ֖ים יְהִ֣י א֑וֹר וַֽיְהִי־אֽוֹר׃ וַיַּ֧רְא אֱלֹקִ֛ים אֶת־הָא֖וֹר כִּי־ט֑וֹב וַיַּבְדֵּ֣ל אֱלֹקִ֔ים בֵּ֥ין הָא֖וֹר וּבֵ֥ין הַחֹֽשֶׁךְ׃ וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֱלֹקִ֤ים ׀ לָאוֹר֙ י֔וֹם וְלַחֹ֖שֶׁךְ קָ֣רָא לָ֑יְלָה וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם אֶחָֽד׃ (פ)

When God began to create heaven and earth— the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water— God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness God called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, a first day.

12. The first "thing" to be created was light. Why do you think God chose to start with light?

13. How do you think our world might have been different if God started creation with a different act?

14. God created light, but then separated darkness from it. From this we can infer that darkness existed from before creation. How would you define darkness without the existence of light, though?

ק֥וּמִי א֖וֹרִי כִּ֣י בָ֣א אוֹרֵ֑ךְ וּכְב֥וֹד ה' עָלַ֥יִךְ זָרָֽח׃ כִּֽי־הִנֵּ֤ה הַחֹ֙שֶׁךְ֙ יְכַסֶּה־אֶ֔רֶץ וַעֲרָפֶ֖ל לְאֻמִּ֑ים וְעָלַ֙יִךְ֙ יִזְרַ֣ח ה' וּכְבוֹד֖וֹ עָלַ֥יִךְ יֵרָאֶֽה׃

Arise, shine, for your light has dawned; The Presence of the LORD has shone upon you! Behold! Darkness shall cover the earth, And thick clouds the peoples; But upon you the LORD will shine, And God's Presence be seen over you.

15. Most of Isaiah is very negative and scary. Isaiah warns of terrible things that will happen to the Jewish people if they don't obey God, but here we're given encouragement. What role does light play here and how do you think it contrasts to the scary moments in the text?

16. Is the role light plays in this section the same role that it plays in the section from tefillah and the song lyrics above? Does light always play the same role or does it change, do you think?

Now is the time for us to be partners with God again in creating a better world. May we continue to merit to be partners with the Holy One. Grant us the capacity to value our friends and family, and to enrich the lives of those whom we love.

Change happens every day. Sometimes it’s hard to see and hear, like a hum,

But if we all hum together, we can move mountains.

- Rabbi Josh Warshawsky

Cat Stevens was a prolific songwriter and performer in the late 1960s and through the 1970s. He wrote folk and rock songs which often featured very spiritual themes, sometimes obviously so and sometimes a little bit more buried. In the late 1970s he converted to Islam and renounced all of his music until the early 2000s, when he returned to music, combining his past with his present.

The song below, which was originally a Christian hymn written in 1931 and recorded by Cat Stevens in 1971, speaks of the recreation of the world every morning as the sun rises, and many of its themes match the texts and song above. The lyrics are included below.

Morning Has Broken

Cat Stevens

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dew fall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight
Mine is the morning
Born of the one light Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Eleanor Farjeon / Yusuf Islam

Morning Has Broken lyrics © BMG Rights Management

17. What are your first impressions of Morning Has Broken? Have you heard the song before?

18. Would you align Morning Has Broken and Hame'irah? Why or why not?

19. Which of these two songs would you incorporate into a tefillah service?

20. Sunlight/light also plays a role in Morning Has Broken. With that in mind and the other texts, how would you define or approach the idea of light?