Dallas-area rabbi hopes readers use her book in daily life
By Deb Silverthorn
Gather. Settle. Bless. Read. Write. Sit. Forgive. Remember. Celebrate. These are the directions, guidelines, reflections and recommendations of Rabbi Debra J. Robbins, in her new book “Opening Your Heart with Psalm 27.”
“We are the recipients of these beautiful words and I want people to do more than just read them,” Rabbi Robbins said. “Use them toward the spirited work we’re called on (to do) at this season. This is an invitation to read Psalm 27, traditionally read every day from the beginning of Elul to the end of Sukkot, carefully and meaningfully.”
At 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 29, Rabbi Robbins will share an introduction to the practice of her book in celebration of the book’s launch. Books will be available for purchase and Rabbi Robbins will sign copies.
In addition, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 26, Rabbi Robbins will lead participants in personal reflections on repairing the soul and repairing the world during the High Holidays. She’ll conclude the High Holiday season at the sukkah luncheon at noon on Thursday, Oct. 17, to review the holiday season and consider practices moving forward. All events will be held at Temple Emanu-El, where Rabbi Robbins has served since 1991.
Rabbi Robbins was inspired to write “Opening Your Heart with Psalm 27” by her own introspection. With encouragement from others and realizing the process she developed for herself could be meaningful to others, she spent two years transforming her experience beyond the bimah and the classes she’d taught.
“This practice is built on the premise that anyone can do (almost) anything for five minutes,” Rabbi Robbins said. “With ‘Opening Your Heart with Psalm 27,’ we read, write and then sit still and let it settle — each for just five minutes.”
With lessons learned from her participation in the Institute for Rabbinical Jewish Spirituality, Rabbi Robbins recommends finding the depth and possibilities of one phrase within a prayer and connecting to it.
Rabbi Robbins finds joy in seeing her book’s dedication to her parents, Judith and Norman Robbins, of blessed memory, “with gratitude for the gift of life and the blessings of their legacy that continue to unfold,” just above the Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication details.
The Newton, Massachusetts native, raised at Temple Israel in Boston, received her undergraduate degree at University of California, Berkeley and was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. There she met her future husband, Larry, and the two are parents of their son, Sam. Their golden retriever, Baskin, rounds out the family.
“My mother was a teacher who inspired me to enjoy writing, learning and teaching and my father was a great source of solace and strength,” said Rabbi Robbins. “I realized, as a rabbi, I could write, read and teach and I absolutely love what I do.”
Rabbi Robbins has served on the boards of Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas and Family Gateway and is a founding chair of the Rabbinic Association of Greater Dallas’ Vaad HaMikvah. She is former vice-president for leadership and mentor for the ethics committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and president of Reading Village, helping teens become leaders through literacy in Guatemala. She is also a member of the Women’s Rabbinic Network.
The book’s pride-filled foreword is written by Temple Emanu-El Senior Rabbi David Stern. “She translates the ancient word into the language of human experience and, in doing so, illuminates both.”
Stern says, “(Psalm 27) oscillates between doubt and hope in a way that reflects the truth of our human condition. Psalm 27 knows our pain and our joy.”
Cantor Richard Cohn, at Temple Emanu-El for almost a decade before becoming director of the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at HUC-JIR, wrote a composer’s commentary to accompany the singing practice he created for the book, “Kaveih el Adonai, Wait Hopefully for Adonai.” A link to the composition is included.
“How do we move step-by-step toward a strengthening of the heart that lifts us in hope toward an awareness of the holy?” wrote Cantor Cohn, who sings the composition with Cantor Amanda Kleinman, raised at Congregation Tiferet Israel and Temple Emanu-El, and now Senior Cantor at Westchester Reform Temple in New York. “Repeating the melody again and again can deepen and expand our understanding of the journey.”
“I am grateful to everyone who has been a part of this book and to Temple Emanu-El for affording me the time and space to work on it,” said Rabbi Robbins, reflecting on the psalm’s last phrase. “‘Wait for Adonai — Fill your waiting with hope in Adonai; Let your heart be strong and of good courage and wait hopefully for Adonai.’
“This is a challenging time to repair ourselves and the world, and it takes great courage for us,” Rabbi Robbins said. “I hope this book provides a true opportunity for readers to find that courage.”
To register for the free workshops, open to the public, visit participate.tedallas.org/psalm27workshops. “Opening Your Heart with Psalm 27” is available at Temple Emanu-El’s Judaic Treasures, on Amazon and at psalm27ccarpress.org. Cantor Cohn’s “Kaveih el Adonai, Wait Hopefully for Adonai” can be downloaded at psalm27ccarpress.org.