the three watches


Chatanu Lefanecha, Rachem Aleinu” The Yemenites ask forgivenss

Members of the Yemenite community gathered yesterday in the Beis Midrash of the city’s Rav and eldest of the Yemenite Rabbonim, Hagaon R’ Shlomo Korach. The event: a minyan for saying the “Ashmurot” – the Yemenite Slichos.

That’s August 20; I just copied and pasted, in case you were wondering.

Great photos here of the possibility of intense intentionality of prayer.


Psalms Chapter 63 תְּהִלִּים

א  מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד;    בִּהְיוֹתוֹ, בְּמִדְבַּר יְהוּדָה. 1 A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.
ב  אֱלֹהִים, אֵלִי אַתָּה–    אֲשַׁחֲרֶךָּ: צָמְאָה לְךָ, נַפְשִׁי–    כָּמַהּ לְךָ בְשָׂרִי; בְּאֶרֶץ-צִיָּה וְעָיֵף    בְּלִי-מָיִם. 2 O God, Thou art my God, earnestly will I seek Thee; {N} my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee, {N} in a dry and weary land, where no water is.
ג  כֵּן, בַּקֹּדֶשׁ חֲזִיתִךָ–    לִרְאוֹת עֻזְּךָ, וּכְבוֹדֶךָ. 3 So have I looked for Thee in the sanctuary, to see Thy power and Thy glory.
ד  כִּי-טוֹב חַסְדְּךָ, מֵחַיִּים;    שְׂפָתַי יְשַׁבְּחוּנְךָ. 4 For Thy lovingkindness is better than life; my lips shall praise Thee.
ה  כֵּן אֲבָרֶכְךָ בְחַיָּי;    בְּשִׁמְךָ, אֶשָּׂא כַפָּי. 5 So will I bless Thee as long as I live; in Thy name will I lift up my hands.
ו  כְּמוֹ חֵלֶב וָדֶשֶׁן, תִּשְׂבַּע נַפְשִׁי;    וְשִׂפְתֵי רְנָנוֹת, יְהַלֶּל-פִּי. 6 My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth doth praise Thee with joyful lips;
ז  אִם-זְכַרְתִּיךָ עַל-יְצוּעָי–    בְּאַשְׁמֻרוֹת, אֶהְגֶּה-בָּךְ. 7 When I remember Thee upon my couch, and meditate on Thee in the night-watches.

I’m stopping there for a reason.

And from, Neill Fleishmann, who calls himself NY’s Funniest Rabbi, III:

B’Ashmurot Boker

Woke up real early

Cut myself some mourning slack

for barely sleeping

We each go somewhere
When we seem to disappear
Hidden but not gone

Light of our light

Till it shines like the morning

Brighten our darkness

Can you see my interest here? It actually started from going to pack for my latest trip. I wanted to remember to take my watch with me, so I would know what time it is on Shabbat, when I don’t use my cellphone. And as it turned out, both my watches needed new batteries. I told ISHI that I was going to the jeweler down the street to get them fixed right away and he said, “Wait! Mine needs one, too!”

If you know him at all, you also know that he has multiple watches and would never let his run down. This was true here; it was preventative.

So he actually went to drop them off and I would do the pick-up. This particular store is a mom-and-pop set-up, and the mom saw me. She got our watches and wished me a good trip, since ISHI had told her I needed them right away in order to travel. I told here I was going to see our newest grandbaby.

“How many do you have?”

I told her, sheepishly, guiltily, gratefully.

“Can I touch you? Maybe that will help.”

“That’s probably really not going to help.”

“It can’t hurt.”

No, it can’t.

So that got me thinking about the meaning of “watch” and how it is connected to how we view time.

First, a little Wiki coming your way:

Watches evolved from portable spring-driven clocks, which first appeared in 15th century Europe. Watches weren’t widely worn in pockets until the 17th century. One account says that the word “watch” came from the Old English word woecce which meant “watchman”, because it was used by town watchmen to keep track of their shifts.[7] Another says that the term came from 17th century sailors, who used the new mechanisms to time the length of their shipboard watches (duty shifts).[8]

And from the Online Etymology Dictionary:

O.E. wæcce “a watching,” from wæccan (see watch(v.)). Sense of “sentinel” is recorded from c.1300; that of “person or group officially patroling a town (esp. at night) to keep order, etc.” is first recorded 1530s. Meaning “period of time in which a division of a ship’s crew remains on deck” is from 1580s. Sense of “period into which a night was divided in ancient times” translates L. vigilia, Gk. phylake, Heb. ashmoreth.

The Hebrews divided the night into three watches, the Greeks usually into four (sometimes five), the Romans (followed by the Jews in New Testament times) into four. [OED]

And thus full circle to the beginning of this blentry. Maybe I should have started with the story?

But I’m not finished yet.

I’m doing some baby watch, you see, in various times of the day and night. We split nights, basically into the watches, the ashmurot אַשְׁמֻרוֹת.

And so I think of the power of the night.

And of prayer.

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