Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Parting the Sea of Reeds... Under the Mighty Redwoods

The "dynamic duo" under the Redwoods
We're back from our "paper midrash" weekend in the woods with Peninsula Temple Sholom – praying, studying, and cutting paper. It was lovely being brought in as artist-and-rabbi-in-residence for PTS, and we're grateful for the opportunity to share our world with them. Bonus: they also had Cantor Rosalie Boxt as an artist-in-residence for the weekend (an incredible team at PTS put this incredible weekend together)!

Friday night after services we shared our presentation on "Pop Culture Torah and Jewish Fan Fiction" (also known as "Intro to Midrash"), with a focus on the weekend's Torah portion, Beshallach – which includes Shirat HaYam, the Song of the Sea from which the "Mi Chamocha" prayer comes.  Rabbi Shawna shared SO MUCH great midrash, including a text that delved into the many meanings of a particular sentence that started with the word "then." Seriously – "then." And a team-up between Spider-Man and Moses. (We have a lot of fun.)

Exodus/Shemot 15:1 starts with: "Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord..."

Saturday morning we led a meditative tefillah with emphasis on the prayers that make up the Amidah section, using large projected images of my "Paper Tefillah" series to encourage deeper thinking about personal meaning in the words.

And the rest of the day was set aside for workshops and learning. Cantor Boxt led sessons on music, while Rabbi Shawna and I led papercutting workshops, all inspired by Shirat HaYam.

Hard at work, cutting up comics

Rabbi Shawna discussing the mechanics of papercutting

It never ceases to amaze me how a room full of people can all start with the same story and find so many different meanings and foci for their artistic expression – some very deep thinking about the words of the portion and how we can connect to them.

Cut! Tape! Cut! Tape! (Repeat until done.)

You think the tables look messy? You should see the floor.

From explorations of the shape of the parted sea, to the emotions of the Hebrews fleeing to freedom, to contemplation of the nature of Divine presence and protection.

Finished work by workshop participant: Parting the Sea

Finished work by workshop participant: Egyptian in Peril

Finished work by workshop participant: The Parted Sea as Heart

We ended the weekend on Sunday with a particularly special experience: a "teach-back" session in which the workshop artists explained their work to the rest of the community, walking them through the midrashim they studied and the inspirations for their work.

We wish to thank Rabbi Dan, Rabbi Molly, Rabbi Lisa and the PTS community for bringing us up to "Happy Valley" for this year's retreat; we enjoyed praying and studying and creating with you.

(Interested in bringing us out to *your* community? Visit www.PaperMidrash.com for details.)

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