The psalms give voice to a range of human emotions, from despair to exultation. In this class we will study psalms (both classical / Biblical, and contemporary poems that function in similar ways) and then open our creative channels to write our own. Both the reading and the writing will enliven our relationship with text, tradition, ourselves, and our Source, and will give us tools for building a more robust relationship with the psalms and with our own creativity.
In each session, we will study select psalms and poems together, delve into writing exercises, and enter into a safe space for creativity as we write. We’ll share work and offer feedback. Throughout, we will seek to attune ourselves to the inner dynamics of heart and spirit, exploring how our continuing spiritual formation is being impacted by our spiritual service during this time of pandemic.
Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, named in 2016 by The Forward as one of America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis, is a rabbi and spiritual director. She is a founding builder at Bayit: Building Jewish, and serves as a spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams, Mass. Since 2003, she has blogged as The Velveteen Rabbi, and in 2008, TIME named her blog one of the top 25 sites on the Internet.
She is author of six book-length collections of poetry: 70 faces: Torah poems (Phoenicia Publishing, 2011), Waiting to Unfold (Phoenicia, 2013), Toward Sinai: Omer poems (Velveteen Rabbi, 2016), Open My Lips (Ben Yehuda Press, 2016), Texts to the Holy (Ben Yehuda, 2018), and Crossing the Sea (Phoenicia, 2020.) In 2019 she edited Beside Still Waters: A Journey of Comfort and Renewal (Bayit and Ben Yehuda), a volume for the mourner’s path. Her work has appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies.
She has taught courses arising from the intersection of the literary life and the spiritual life for Bayit, the Academy for Spiritual Formation, the National Havurah Institute (where she was digital liturgist in residence in 2020), and Beyond Walls, a writing program for clergy of many faiths at the Kenyon Institute.
If you are taking this class for personal enrichment, you are encouraged to do the advance preparation work, but it is not a requirement for participation. For those enrolled in the Spiritual Formation Certificate Program, please read psalms as described below prior to your arrival. Prior to the first meeting, send [email protected] a one-to-two paragraph statement on your favorite psalm and what it is about this psalm that connects with you.
Required Reading: There will be no books assigned for this class. Instead, we ask that students spend time with the psalms in their favorite edition, whatever that might be. Beyond that, the instructor will provide material for each class via the class online portal. The readings will be selected excerpts from a variety of things rather than entire books.
A schedule of times when the class will meet synchronously (all at the same time) are listed above. Registrants should plan to commit these hours for class work and guard against interruptions. Portions of each session will be (1) online, face-to-face presentation; (2) dedicated individual reflection work; and (3) open discussion forums with the instructor. Other content may be made available for download or viewing at the student’s convenience.