It means “The Strength of the Blessing” and I am indebted to Rabbi Eleanor Pearlman for giving me the small book with this title, which I can’t find at the moment even though I used it last night to put together our Birkat haChammah service this morning. So I can’t at the moment properly credit the authors, who pointed out that the numerical value of koach כח is 28. So Koach haBrachah also means, if you stretch it a little, “The 28-[year] Blessing.”
It was not the strength of our gathering that blew the clouds away, though we had a great turnout and it felt wonderful. It was not the strength of the Rabbi’s connection with the Kadosh Baruch Hu. It was perhaps the strength of the brachah itself — Or maybe we were just really, really lucky. But I was up very late last night putting that service together and then going down to Berith Sholom and printing and photocopying it in the middle of the night (even changing the toner — yay for machines that walk you through the instructions), and every time I checked Weather Underground or Accuweather they said “mostly cloudy” with possible “snow” and “rain” for this morning.
So I got up at 6:30am, fed the baby goats, cleaned off the tables and chairs outside and put out table cloths, and did I can’t remember what all else — oh yes, I did find Lela’s mother’s kippah from Israel with the gold braid, white pearl beads, and mirrors, gathered the shofarot including the 3 my children have made at Chabad shofar-making workshops … Anyway, Lenny showed up promptly at 7:30 and fired up the grill, we got the last half gallon of yesterday’s milk from the fridge and Judy collected a dozen eggs from under the chickens, and he made the better. Dawn and Jane showed up and plugged things in, made a sign showing people where to park, and I’m sure did a bunch of other things I don’t know about. I believe that Audrey
brought the coffee. I got all my kids downstairs and dressed. I went around singing “Here Comes the Sun…” And just after 8am, with the clouds rolling back from west to east, we began.
And it WORKED. It came together. A rooster crowed somewhere toward the beginning — obviously the sun was coming out! — and we read and sang and talked. My favorite part was when we actually recited the brachah, followed by shofar blast (and Leo blew his Peruvian conch shell!) and singing Shehecheyanu (which isn’t traditional but it fits). And then a little later we sang “Morning Has Broken” — it sort of substituted for Eyl Adon, a medieval piyyut (poem, hymn) in acrostic form which hails God as creator of the universe, particularly the shining lights in the sky.
I did leave out Psalm 19, but unless I can have Steve Reich’s setting of the first 4 lines in his composition Tehillim, complete with complicated drumming, it doesn’t have the power it has inside my head.
The other thing I would have liked to have included was Shir l’Shalom, the peace song that Yitzchak Rabin had in his pocket the night that he was assassinated, after having sung it at a peace rally in Tel Aviv. His attempt to make peace and his death occurred during this last sun cycle. (Hear it) But it would have taken the whole observance in another direction and would have been too much. But I’m sure that there are places in the world where it was sung that morning as part of Birkat haChammah, where remembering Prime Minister Rabin would have been close to home. This idea, too, came from that little booklet that I can’t find at the moment.
We talked about Pesach coming, and Rabbi Arthur Wascow‘s notion of cleaning out the puffery and sourness in our lives that leads us to over-consume. We talked about the whole earth being solar-powered already — it’s just a question of whether we’re spending our solar “earnings” or depleting our “solar savings bank” of fossil fuels. That was from the Teva Learning Center‘s bus last Sunday.
I forgot to bring down my little book of Robert Heinlein’s about solar wind and solar sailing.
I had a copy of a scroll written by/for/with R. Wascow 28 years ago, pledging to take care of the earth using the positive values of the sun. Some of us signed it in the margins when we were through. When I talked about living more simply, I followed it with a verse that traditionally is included in the ceremony of Birkat haChammah, a quote from Psalms which says that those who live simply are rewarded. And at the end I used the traditional opening of the ceremony, the last verse of Psalm 90 asking that the work of our hands be established. In other words, may some good come of all we do.
It worked. It happened. People came together, pitched in, made it real. Several folks from Beth El read portions of the beginning of the Creation story in Hebrew. I was surprised and impressed by how many people seemed to know Hebrew; there were a couple of things where I expected to read it myself, so didn’t include a transliteration, and I was delighted to hear others reading along with me.
Yes, we used paper plates and plastic cutlery. That doesn’t fit in with the reduce-reuse-recycle theme. But I have made my peace with disposables IN LIMITED SITUATIONS. It made this gathering possible.
Lenny had suggested ahead of time that we could make pancakes with the “sun” in the middle — here’s mine, and then here are the chickens eating it when I put it down to go get one of the baby goats:
And then, very shortly after 9am, the clouds rolled in again from the west, the temperature dropped, there’s even been more snow … But for the precious, perfect hour from 8 to 9 this morning, the sun shone in all its glory in a pure blue sky. Last night I didn’t dare hope for such a basherte occurrence. Sure, they happen, I thought, but don’t expect it. We’ll just say the brachah without shem and malchut — that is, we’ll abbreviate the opening formula of the blessing in a time-honored way, allowing us to both say it and “not say it” at the same time. If we couldn’t even have seen the disc of the sun, that’s what we would have to do.
But we didn’t have to. I was smiling like crazy. I just couldn’t believe it. I know our weather around here, after two and a half years on the farm; I know it can and often does things like that. But I didn’t want to count on it. And it happened anyway, and that was as much miracle as the creation of the universe itself!
I don’t think this post has much literary merit, but I really wanted to get my thoughts out there. I’ll cross-post it on Facebook and I’ll try to get it onto the Berith Sholom website too. In the next few days I hope I’ll come back and put in all the links.
Chag sameyach v’kasher, a zissen Peysach, and next year may all people everywhere be free to celebrate!