My Story, the Short Version
My wife fell down, hit her head and died. I began writing prayers from my grief and, later, from a place of joy, renewed. I wrote about love and loss, infertility and cancer, travel and adventure, children and friendship. The prayers connected my heart to the hearts of people all over the world. Then, these new partners in prayer asked me to write a book.
Sample the Prayers
There are more than 150 new prayers for people of all faiths in Jewish Prayers of Hope and Healing. Here’s a prayer sampler from the book, including audio (click on the triangle in the bar below the excerpt):
From “Whispered Prayer”
Your secret hope
Your quiet yearning
Have holiness and power…”
From “On Recovery from Surgery”
of renewal and strength,
Thank you for the gifts of vitality, comfort and recovery
After the many traumas of surgery…”
What Others Say About the Book
“A masterful set of conversations with God.”—Rabbi William H. Lebeau
“Authentic, honest and alive . . . this book brings God into everyday life.”—Rev. Dr. Margaret Benefiel
“Alden Solovy is a craftsman of words.”—Rabbi David Levin-Kruss
“Alden’s words from his faith tradition find a home in my own heart and in the hearts of my Christian readers.”—Pastor Austin Fleming
“A loving guide for people searching for a way forward.”—Rabbi Susan Silverman
“A collection inspired by the ancient Jewish yearning for God that speaks to us all.”—Susan Diamond, Prayables/Beliefnet
Jewish Prayers of Hope and Healing will be a soft-cover, perfect-bound 5"x7" volume. (These mock-ups are for illustration and are not to scale.)
The ability to build a broad marketing campaign will have a huge impact on the reach of these prayers. Here are “stretch” goals and thank you rewards:
• If the campaign reaches $15,000, everyone who contributes $25 or more will get a free copy of the song “Psalm 150” from God is Near by Andrew Dennen and Tracy Friend.
• If we reach $18,000, all who contribute $25 or more will get a free copy “Psalm 150,” plus an audio companion of five prayers from the book that I will create as a special bonus gift.
Here’s a link to God is Near on CDBaby where you can preview all the songs on the CD, including “Psalm 150.”
What will I do with the additional support? I’ll create two or three U.S. and U.K. book tours and possibly a book trailer, which have become very popular for introducing new books.
When this campaign is over, I’ll open a book store on my web site. Many of these reward packages will be available, but at higher prices. Now’s the time to join in. Thanks for considering it.
My Story, a Few More Details
Here's an excerpt from my introduction to the book, where I tell — in greater detail — the story of how I rediscovered prayer and prayer rediscovered me:
“In the month before my wife Ami died, my meditation practice shifted dramatically. Until then, I would sit for fifteen minutes in the morning after reading two inspirational texts. Then, I’d pray. The prayers were usually on the same theme: the health and well-being of others generally, plus family and friends, in particular. After prayer, I’d write a gratitude list, a personal affirmation and my intentions for the day, as well as any specific observations that came to mind about my feelings and experiences during the past day or so.
“The basic structure of this practice remained constant, but the meditation took on a depth and breadth I couldn't explain. I’d begin the practice and, without noticing the flow of time, I’d lose most awareness until I had a sense that my meditation was over. An hour or more had passed with my mind completely quiet, something I have never experienced since.
“Several times during the month, I’d say to friends, “I’m so full. This is so different, so new. I don’t understand why I am so full.” I felt like a river of blessings overflowing its banks. And I wondered — rather casually, it now seems — if God was preparing me for something.
“A week after Ami died, I was completely empty. Out of gas. Out of energy. Out of emotion. I was a blank, less-than-zero shadow of a man making the motions of life. I stopped meditating. I stopped praying. I stopped writing. This wasn't a theological or an existential statement. I simply needed to get up in the morning — force myself up, really — and take care of the business of life. And family. And death.
“I wondered, “How does a man call his daughters to say, ‘Your mom is going to die today’?” I did it. I did it twice. The simple fact is that I have no idea how to do it. I know that somewhere, today, this very moment, another father is giving his children the worst news of their lives. Somewhere else, a mother is doing the same thing. I am convinced that, like me, they will understand what they did, but may never understand how they did it.
“I wondered, “Will I ever write another prayer? Will I ever want to pray or meditate or write a gratitude list again?” The questions felt stupid. Of course not. Why the hell would I ever write another prayer?
“The question, however, had its own answer, a different answer. My children. What else could I really do for them but pray? One morning, without my usual morning process, a prayer moved from my pen to the paper, a prayer “For Bereaved Children.” With my own hand and my own heart — guided by a Power I did not understand — I found the words that I needed to recite on behalf of my girls. In that moment, my view of my life shifted. The gift that I’d give the world, in the shadow of Ami’s death, would be a new voice of prayer.”
Want to Sample a Few More Prayers?
Please visit my website, tobendlight.com, to sample more prayers. And here’s a YouTube link to my prayer “To the Soldier, To the Veteran” being read at a Veterans Day commemoration and a link to a video produced by Call on Faith of my prayer “For the Survivors of 9/11.” See Project Updates 2 and 4 for videos of me reading two prayers: “For Bereaved Children” and a thank you prayer that will open the Acknowledgements. There’s a button to view the Projects Updates at the top of this page.
Meet the Reviewers
Please meet the men and women who read my prayers and this book, providing the kind words shown on the video and on this page. Four very special endorsements came from Rev. Dr. Margaret Benefiel, Susan Diamond, Pastor Austin Fleming and Rabbi David Levin-Kruss. Two lovely and touching introductions, written by Rabbi Susan Silverman and Rabbi William H. Lebeau, will set the tone for readers.
Rabbi William H. Lebeau is former vice chancellor for rabbinic development and immediate past dean of the Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary former rabbi of North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park, Ill. He is senior consultant for rabbinic and institutional leadership for the Rabbinical Assembly.
Rev. Dr. Margaret Benefiel is the Executive Officer of Executive Soul, LLC, www.executivesoul.com. She is a consultant and a coach and offers spiritual direction to leaders and organizations. Dr. Benefiel is also an adjunct faculty member at Andover Newton Theological School in Boston and a visiting lecturer at All Hallows College in Dublin, Ireland.
Pastor Austin Fleming is a Parish Priest in the Archdiocese of Boston and the author of the popular blog A Concord Pastor Comments, as well as the Prayerbook for Engaged Couples and Preparing for Liturgy: A Theology and Spirituality.
Rabbi Susan Silverman is author of Casting Lots: How Raising My Children Helped Me Find God.
Rabbi David Levin-Kruss is director of special programs and faculty in Mishna, Talmud, Torah and philosophy at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem.
Susan Diamond is founder and publisher of Prayables and the contributing publisher and editor for Beliefnet.
Meet the Cover Photographer
The photo is the work of Martin Sykes-Haas, a Jerusalem-based photographer and a friend. I love it, which is why copies of the photo are available at several reward levels. Martin and I pray together in a warm and caring community. Martin specializes in pictures of the Old City, street views, abstracts and large scale decorative images. His work ranges from classic views of Jerusalem — Jewish, Christian and Moslem — to shots of the unique, the interesting and the unexpected. Please visit his web site at www.jerusalemphotographs.com.
The cover is a close-up of the Western Wall of the ancient Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, an iconic symbol of Jewish prayer, known all over the world by people of all faiths. Legend says that the Divine Presence rests on the Western Wall. People come from all over the world to put their prayers on paper on insert them into cracks in the Wall, like the ones in this photo. Another legend says that if one returns to the Kotel for 40 consecutive days — and prays for one specific thing — that it will be granted.
Meet the Musicians of God is Near
Andrew Dennen and Tracy Friend created the music of God is Near, a wonderful collection of 13 original liturgically-based songs ranging from pop to jazz, as well as ballads and middle-eastern fare.
Tracy has been composing music since she attended summer camp in the 1970s, where she discovered the power of expressing prayer through music. She recorded her first CD, When All is Said and Done, in 2004, and donates a portion of every sale to the One Family Fund, an organization providing financial, legal and emotional assistance to victims of terrorism in Israel. For Tracy, songwriting is a spiritual journey and a way to connect the rich Jewish history of words and stories to the world of today. She’s founder and coordinator of the Midwest Singer/Songwriter Association.
A musician and poet for more than 30 years, Andy says “it wasn't until almost six years ago that I learned what all the training was actually for. Reading Torah, listening to teachers, learning about who I am and who my ancestors were has helped shape me and who I am. I attempt to capture all of this in these melodies.” This sums it up: “For me, music is the key to creating sacred space, a lightening rod held up to the sky.” His latest solo release is Open My Lips and he recently created a new band called Soul Zimra.
Risks and challenges
My deadlines are tight for delivery of books in November. There is a risk that they will not be available or delivered in time to use as Hanukkah gifts. I'll keep you informed of progress throughout the final design, production and shipping process.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)