Friday, August 28, 2009

My First Solo-Maven: Shehechiyanu

By Mile-High Maven Ilan Glazer
August 8, 2009

My first Solo Maven Storahtelling had me worried.

Could I pull off a full Maven experience even if I wasn't yet fully trained?

Could I memorize my lines even if I didn't finish tweaking the script until Friday afternoon?

Would I make a complete fool out of myself in front of my classmates and teachers?

As a student in the ALEPH:Alliance for Jewish Renewal Rabbinic program, I am required to attend the Davennen Leadership Training Institute, a 4-part schooling in the art of creative prayer facilitation taught by Rabbi Marcia Prager, Rabbi Shawn Zevit, and Hazzan Jack Kessler, all pillars of the Jewish Renewal movement. I've looked up to these three wonderful teachers since I started the program a few years ago. I was asked to co-lead Shabbat morning services, and since I was a Maven-in-Training with the Mile-High-Mavens, the Colorado cohort of Storahtellers, I decided to surprise my teachers and fellow students with a Storah-style Torah service. Could I pull it off?

I decided to keep it a secret from everyone except my two co-leaders. I worked on the script with my friend and fellow Maven-in-the-making Dr. Caryn Aviv and flew to Elat Chayyim for the retreat. All week I tweaked the script. I asked a few musical friends for assistance with a few melodies while people came up and down for aliyot. I coordinated with Torah readers and prepped them to leyn Storah-style. I lined up ark openers and ritual leaders. And each afternoon Hazzan Jack worked with the whole group (about 40 people) on creative Torah translations. Still, I remained silent, waiting to surprise everyone during services.

Shabbat morning finally arrived. We began davening. The closer we got to the Torah service the more I worried. Can I do this? Reb Marcia's the Dean of the Rabbinic program - am I going to completely embarrass myself? Is Hazzan Jack going to like my translations? What have I gotten myself into? Finally, it was time. I invited people to close their eyes and listen to a beautiful meditation from Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra. I look around the room at the 150 or so people waiting for the Torah service to begin, I take a few deep breaths (here goes nothing!), peek at my script, and say Ladies and Gentleman, Welcome to Storahtelling!

I should have known it would be okay. Actually, it was great. The readings from Parshat Ekev were all about letting go of fear and relating to God from a place of love. We had a wonderful discussion about how to bring God into our everyday lives, and how to let go of our fears that we weren't smart enough, worthy enough, holy enough to do so. The leyners were great, the musicians were happy, and the brilliant Maven template carried me through. Many people came up for the aliyot, and lots of people told me it was one of the best Torah services they'd ever been to. It wasn't perfect, mind you, but once I let myself get in the flow of the service, I relaxed and let the Torah carry the day.

I am now a certified Storahtelling-trained Maven, having finished the training last week. It's a powerful experience to help others encounter the words of Torah in a new light.

and the process of creating a show, delving deeply into Torah, commentaries, midrash, and modern sources is deeply enriching.

I am blessed to be a Maven, and I've no doubt I'll be part of the Storah-world for years to come. (Next up is a year in Jerusalem - now I have to learn the scripts in Hebrew!).

Many thanks to Amichai, Naomi, Jake and all the Mile-High-Mavens for helping me join the club.

It's truly a pleasure to help change the world, one verse at a time!

1 comment:

  1. Israel will be in for a treat with you there, Ilan!!! And that's no story!

    Lisa Kaye
    fellow Kol Zimra 3'er