Ben Yehuda Press, April 2016
This volume of contemporary liturgical poetry is both a poetry collection and an aid to devotional prayer. This collection dips into the deep well of Jewish tradition and brings forth renewed and renewing adaptations of, and riffs on, classical Jewish liturgy. Here are poems for weekday and Shabbat, festival seasons (including the Days of Awe and Passover), and psalms of grief and praise. Intended for those who seek a clear, readable, heartfelt point of access into Jewish tradition or into prayer in general.
You can also find the whole collection online. The poems are available for use, for sharing, and for remix (as long as any transformative works are also released for free under a creative commons license.) Use and share the poems widely — and if you’re able to support independent publishing and buy a copy, please do.
“You enfold me in this bathtowel/ You enliven me with coffee,” writes Barenblat in Open My Lips, a collection of accessible and compelling prayer-poems that manages to locate the sacred in the quotidian. After reading these poems, one realizes the ordinary moment is filled with hidden light, and inspiration isn’t as far away as we often assume.
— Yehoshua November, author of God’s Optimism (Main Street Rag Press, 2010)
Poet and rabbi Rachel Barenblat is determined neither to surrender her tradition, nor to surrender to it. She creates here a liturgy which is an ongoing struggle with her own tradition. Her project is to find the sacred in every moment, high or low, and to turn towards it without hesitation.
In her meditation on removing leaven for Pesach, she notes that “odds are good there are stale O’s / in the crevices of the car seat.” She does not shy away from them or their implications: they become, surprisingly and delightfully, part of the ritual. And her lesson for us is larger than the lesson of any particular ritual of any particular tradition: that if we have not yet found the sacred meaning of any thing, we have not yet looked hard enough.
Rabbi Rachel Barenblat’s work is incredibly moving. She takes a traditional prayer, understands its essence, and then recreates it in a way that makes it accessible to anyone. She opens a path for the reader to feel and understand the traditional Jewish liturgy from a modern feminine perspective. I love it!
Readers from every point along the spiritual spectrum will find poems that appeal and satisfy in Open My Lips, the latest collection of poems from rabbi and poet Rachel Barenblat. A portion of her poems are firmly rooted in the cycle of Jewish holidays, yet by anchoring them in the rhythms of the year and the seasons, she renders them accessible. All but the most hardened atheists will understand the desire to pray and to grieve and to celebrate a Sabbath, and Barenblat offers poems for all of these spiritual occasions. And even hardened atheists will appreciate the deft way she uses science and the natural world. In short, Rachel Barenblat has achieved a remarkable feat with her latest collection.
Rachel Barenblat’s latest offering is truly beautiful – moving, ethereal, grounded, accessible and profound. Her words will nourish the journeys of anyone who opens the book’s pages, connecting the deeply personal to the larger currents of time and life to the Source Within and Beyond Us All.
Barenblat’s God is a personal God – one who lets her cry on His shoulder, and who rocks her like a colicky baby. These poems bridge the gap between the ineffable and the human. Her writing is clear and pure and the poems are excquisitely executed. This collection will bring comfort to those with a religion of their own, as well as those seeking a relationship with some kind of higher power.
Rabbi Barenblat’s poems are like those rare cover songs that bring new insights to familiar rhythms and melodies. Her interpretations of ancient liturgy turn up the volume and realign the balance on our tradition’s greatest hits.
— Rabbi Elana Zelony, Rabbi Without Borders Fellow, Congregation Beth Torah, Dallas TX
With gorgeous language, a profound sensitivity to the yearnings of the soul, and deep knowledge of the power of traditional Jewish prayer, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat has composed this extraordinary collection of liturgical poems. Useful for the expert and novice, seeker and skeptic, believer and doubter alike, Barenblat’s exquisite and powerful verse will enrich your connection to Jewish prayer, enhance your spiritual journey, and encourage your ability to connect to the Divine within and around you.