Excerpts From

Ancient Wisdom, Modern Words:

Poems, Prayers, and Readings


Michael Gurian

Before the Blessing on the Children

(Responsive Reading)

Let us pause, and look into our children’s eyes,
and see the light God promised at creation.

Dear children, before your births, we were asleep;
You opened your eyes and said “Wake up!”  We did.

As you grow, we open ever wider our book of eternity;
we each find the words of love God wrote for us there.

Dear children, in our own youth, we made journeys,
we lived, we sought every possible magnificence.

Then you came:  you became our masterpiece;
now we know we must seek whatever you need.

Dear children, one day you will move away from us.
We only borrow you; you must find your own work.

Will you do for us these things?  Work hard,
love your fellow wanderers, remember our lessons.

Dear children, share with us a few of your joys
and your failures; you are our greatest work.

Now, as we place our hands on your heads,
may you know patience, passion, and kindness.

Dear children, we pray:  “O Lord, show us
how to care for You through our care of this child!”

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Praised Are You, O Lord, Light of the Universe

(Solo Reading, Before Brahot – He Schachar)

Praised are You, O Lord, Light of the Universe,
             Love everlasting,
                      praised are You,
Nature and Time, design of each cell, praised are You,
            gentle doe in the moonlight
                       and the lion’s fierceness,
                                    praised are You,
            our courage of calling, praised are You,
                      invisible Breath
                                    in every song.

O Lord, open our sleepy eyes that we may see You,
            breathe into our souls the music of Your will,
                      bend our heads toward Your dreams,
                                   teach us to love You, our Source,
                     Who knew us before we were born,
                                  will know us after we die—

on this Sabbath day, open our lives to Your presence, Lord,
                     so we may remember who we are:
            beautiful souls who grow even more beautiful
                     when we praise You.

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Silent Amidah: The Dance of Eggs and Stones

      Every day we must risk something.  Life is a dance between eggs and stones.  Things must break, if we are to say, “I’ve lived!”  Arrogant or just dreaming, ignorant or testing the world, our risks break shells before little birds can be born.  We are that powerful.

    You know this, don’t you?  You’ve felt the guilt and shame of your errors.  We who carry light in our heads are so smart we often remember people’s fragility after we’ve broken their hearts with our dancing.

    What will it take to be a better person--to dance with more grace, to know when my harsh steps are right ones, and wrong ones?  If I lie down at night recalling a day for which I should be judged, mustn’t I change? The next morning, mustn’t I rise up and pray?
    I must learn the next piece of choreography God has written for me in covenant.   I must work to meet brothers and sisters who will advise me.  I must listen to what they say, see what they see, wander toward their wisdom as does the stone from the original mountain, falling toward the nest of eggs below.

    Jews, if you have been mean or arrogant or ignorant or mistake prone this year, do not use your actions or shames as excuses to stand away from this life.  Our goal is not to become stationary in G-d’s eyes.

    God made us from both eggs and stones so we can fulfill the eternal commandment of intimacy:  repair. 

    Friends, isn’t it wonderful this life is so fragile? How else would we teach one another how to love?


Ancient Wisdom Modern Words book cover

The Sabbath - the book by Michael Gurian

Ancient Wisdom Modern Words book cover

The Sabbath - the book by Michael Gurian

Ancient Wisdom Modern Words book cover

The Sabbath - the book by Michael Gurian

Ancient Wisdom Modern Words book cover

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