hazzan Diana Brewer was ordained through the aleph ordination program. she leads prayer services regularly at the jewish community of amherst, and is on the staff of the davvenen leadership training institute.

Ratzo vaShov - Running and Returning

“And the creatures ran and returned, appearing like flashes of lighting.” (Ezekiel 1:14)

This verse, from the beginning of one of the most mind-bending prophetic visions in the Hebrew Bible, has long been a source of contemplation, exploration, and inspiration in the world of Jewish spirituality. In particular, the phrase “ran and returned” (“ratzo va-shov”) has become a shorthand term for a particular variety of spiritual experience or practice. We run to cleave to our Life Source, we return to our earthly activities. We run here and there, doing and being, we return to a place of repose. We run and return every second of every day. We run and return on a periodic basis, throughout the year, to revisit the great events of our formative years as a people. We are quickly approaching one such moment in our calendar!

Over the last week, I was charged with exploring this term - Ratzo vaShov. I was moved, one fine day, to study it from the perspective of each individual letter, packed so full of meaning in themselves. Using Rabbi Lawrence Kushner’s book Sefer Otiyot (The Book of Letters) as a guide, here is what I came up with.


(ר) The one who knows she is susceptible to a fall at any moment, who is striving (צ) to live a life of justice, (ו) and to connect through heart-opening truth (א) to the Holy One.


(ו)Two disparate ideas, connected by the Divine outstretched arm, (ש) bringing us into wholeness and peace in the presence of Shekhina. (ו) In this connection, (ב) we feel ever more grounded in our Earthly comings and goings, dwelling in the house built for us by the Creator.

May your comings and goings be blessed with awareness of Divine Presence. May your strivings be fulfilled. May your heart be opened, and may you dwell in ease and comfort in our Earthly Home.

Shabbat shalom

Omer Day 1 חסד שב חסד Chesed SheBeChesed

Ordination - My Thoughts on Being a Hazzan