When my father was diagnosed with cancer this year, despite the fact that I was someone you would rarely find reciting Tehillim, I took every opportunity that came my way to assist in completing the full sefer in the merit that he should have a refuah shelaimah.
While I know I experienced mini-miracles during that time, I had a gnawing feeling. I always struggled with seeing how the passages in Tehillim related to my life.
There was one day that my father needed to have an urgent and dangerous procedure. We decided that we would recite the whole sefer of Tehillim in his merit that morning. I said as much as I could of the portion allotted to me. I ran out of time to read because I needed to get in the car and be on time for my daughter’s siyum play.
I searched through Youtube for anything that would enable me to listen and then at least repeat the words. I found a video but I was pretty sure I missed some words here and there. I prayed it would be “enough.”
Baruch Hashem, an hour before the procedure my father’s symptoms returned to normal and the procedure was called off. The experience left me realizing that I must not be the only person that would say Tehillim “on the go.”
That moment I began to try to figure out how I could best deliver such a resource. I am not technologically savvy, but with the help of my husband downloading the right app for me, I tinkered…and by the next day I somehow had my first episode of Shomea V’Oneh: Tehillim and Other Hebrew Texts podcast, Baruch Shekivanti.
The name of the podcast is a play on the phrase in Judaism called shomeah K ’oneh, “the one who hears is equivalent to the one who recites.” This principle enables a person to fulfill their obligation of textual recitation by listening to another person recite the text, while both of them have in mind to effect such a fulfillment. We see this in the case of blowing the shofar or hearing the megillah. Just hearing my recordings of the text cannot count as the listener fulfilling their obligation. However, there are halachic opinions that say that when the listener performs the “oneh,” the response, this can help to complete the text and fulfill their halachic obligation. Simply put, the podcast is an “I read, ( I recite, give a pause), you repeat” opportunity.
Originally, the recitation was going to be the only element to the podcast. I then realized that this was a chance for me to try to better understand what was so special about this beloved text. In each episode, after the recitation, I take the listener on my journey of discovery and include about a five-minute dvar Torah with a summary of the recited psalm as well as a lesson I have gleaned.
The gentle background tunes I add to the mizmor are based on what I “hear” as potential musical accompaniment that Dovid Hamelech may have been trying to convey, anywhere from inspirational to ominous tones. I can spend hours to days preparing one episode; a labor of love. In each episode, I have found real fulfillment in getting to infuse my love of learning and teaching Tanach, Machshava, Gemara, commentaries, life and health lessons, connections to holidays, etc.
Having episodes that are not only dedicated to Tehillim has been transformational for me. Every 10th episode there are “other text” episodes, for example, Birchat Hamazon or Nishmat kol chai, based on requests from my listeners. Understanding the everyday text in addition to Tehillim has helped bring me a daily “G-d conscientiousness” that I treasure.
The “urgent episodes” have been most impactful on me thus far. When the Covid-19 lockdown started, thereby canceling public Megillah readings in some areas, with Hashem’s help, I published a Megillat Esther episode and received such appreciative feedback from my listeners.
With the rise in Covid-19 cases, also came the unfortunate need for a viduy episode. As a nurse, I became acutely aware of the need for gravely ill patients in the hospital with no access to chaplains to be able to independently take part in this holy ritual. Every time I see the number of listeners increase for that episode I am grateful it reached those in need, but it is heart-wrenching.
What’s more painful, is that I haven’t been able to reach as many people as I know are in need. The thought that there is any one person, alone in a hospital bed while there is a free resource that is available for caregivers to easily access on multiple podcast sites but it is not well known enough; I am crying just writing this now. I’m thankful to the Layers Project for this opportunity to try and get the word out.
The viduy episode does not mean that the patient is giving up. In the episode, I explain that until the end of our lives we pray for a refuah. In any case, it is an opportunity for the person to feel closer to Hashem and hopefully recognize that as alone as they may seem, they have never been alone.
The message that we are never truly alone and that we can create a meaningful relationship with Hashem, is one that is through all of my episodes in one form or another.
I pray that I can continue reaching those that need these services. May this endeavor be in merit of the continued refuah shleimah for my father, Harav Shmuel Chaim halevi Ben Esther, who thank G-d is in remission.
Click here for the podcast: https://anchor.fm/nisa-harris/episodes/Introduction-to-my-new-podcast–shomeah-Voneh-Tehillim-and-other-Hebrew-texts-ea7hk2?fbclid=IwAR0B91NijyKgxywgmvJTOHZA3F6qZjOCcrzO0j6Lek5nrcH0s7mljdObOcA
Nisa Harris is a compassionate RN/BSN of 12 years. She has worked in a number of different settings but has been providing nursing care to veterans through the VA Hospital system for the past 7 years. She lives with her husband, Rabbi Mordechai Harris, and their 3 elementary-aged daughters in Plano, TX, enjoying quality family time and pursuing her hobbies of life coaching and public speaking.