Rosh HaShannah

apples and honey,
sweeten the New Year’s advent;
Rosh HaShannah bliss.

As Rosh HaShannah, the New Year on the Hebrew calendar approaches, I prepare my soul, so that I might be able to stand before the King on Judgment Day. Selichos (the penitential prayers) have already begun; these prayers will continue, until the eve of the Day of Judgment, when all the world is judged, and decrees are made for the New Year. Yet, charity, prayer, and repentance have the effect of lessening the severity of any negative decrees placed upon us.

The two days of Rosh HaShannah are said, according to the Zohar, to symbolically represent a day of judgment, and a day of mercy, resting upon G-d’s attributes of both justice and mercy. Because the world could not survive upon being judged without mercy. Justice alone would bring harsh condemnation upon all the earth, for no one is able to sincerely live 100% by G-d’s standard; everyone falls short of the mark to varying degrees, because of our “human nature,” as some say, inherited by Adam and Eve, who disobeyed G-d, even while living in Gan Eden (Paradise). So, mercy has a sweetening effect upon our judgment, so that we can be reconciled to G-d.

Stars and Dew

The stars spin around,
at heights, above and below
the earth’s equator.

On the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, the concealment of G-d’s presence is greatest (Accidental Talmudist: Summer Solstice and Judaism). While other ancient traditions mark the day of solstice in their own ways, Jewish tradition evokes the quietude of an inward reflection (Chagigah 14b). Additionally, the month of Tammuz, that always occurs around this time, is a time of introspection, as we prepare to mourn the destruction of Jerusalem, and the subsequent loss of the Temple(s).

Interestingly, the summer has already begun, according to the religious calendar of prayer, whereas the liturgy demarcates only two seasons: summer and winter, encompassing two seasons each, out of the four observed on the civil calendar. On the first day of summer, on the liturgical calendar, the Tefillat Tal (Prayer for Dew) is recited. This always occurs on the first day of Passover in the Spring (according to the four seasons model).

Cascades

Ever flowing Spirit of Life,
cascades from one world to another,
emanations from Above to Below –
from Heaven to Earth.

Cascades from one world to another,
trickling Light down through the spheres,
from Atzilus, to Beriah, to Yetzirah, to Assiyah.

Emanations from Above to Below:
from Emanation, to Creation, to Formation, to Action,
mirroring the essential elements of divinity.

From Heaven to Earth,
the Light contracts, from Infinity to finite actualization,
where the Shechinah dwells in Malchus HaElokim.

Soulful Ingredients

A dose of discernment,
an ounce of wisdom.
Two pounds of knowledge,
plus a life time’s worth
of yiras H’Shem.

Grant light unto me,
from the stars above,
to shine in my heart.
And truth beyond measure.

From one end of heaven,
to the other end of heaven,
may all of my mitzvot
be like seeds planted,
with a great yield
at harvest time.

A dash of hope,
every morning
when I wake;
a pinch of joy,
to flavor each day.

Faith in abundance,
throughout the night;
and, an everlasting
supply of belief
in G-d above.

Aviv

O Aviv, upon your full moon, hinge all of the promises anew. The grains of the barley harvest, are roasted, ground, and sifted. Mixed with oil, a handful of frankincense placed on top. Then, consumed by the flames, it’s smoke arises to Shomayim. Thus, completed, we may partake of the abundance of the harvest.

The sheaf of the first fruits stands as a reminder across the generations. To all who aspire towards righteousness, as upright sheaves, standing in the field. Waiting for the harvest, we seek renewal, when the day arrives for joyful reaping. And, the sheaves will be gathered, waived like lulav branches in the wind. Carried across the lands of the earth, to be planted anew in Yerushalayim.


Pesach offering,
unleavened bread, wine, and guests;
waiting for next year.

Blue Calling

Blue is the color of techeles:
sky blue, looking down from Shomayim.
The ocean, likened unto Torah
flows within our veins,
whether recognized or not,
sometimes, only latent.

Until some rich experience,
a wake up call orchestrated
from He Who sits upon His throne
in His place (makom) gestures,
in a way that the designated angel
understands, and makes its way
to place the holy intuition
within the mind of one
who will be born anew,
as if he always knew
his origin, roots, and mission.

Reflections

I brush the small black spiders

out of my hair in the morning.

These creatures of death seek to retire

between the crevices underneath the baseboards.

My sleepy yawns echo

against the pile of broken bones in the corner,

remnants of my body that cried out in woe,

that broke when I fell upon this stone.

The rays of the sun glisten

upon the airborne dust.

The path of the sun hastens;

I glimpse a view of its brilliance.

The light through the window is golden.

The clarity of my mind is restored.

My tsedokah requests are overflowing,

I have to swim through envelopes to find the door.

Outside, the ice clings to pine needles,

dew covers the hidden manna on the lawn.

The sun’s brilliant rays melt the icicles,

water droplets combine with the dew as one.

I collect the manna – tastes like parfait on my tongue.

A gentle rain from above cleanses my sin.

Ahead of me is a land flowing with milk and honey;

above me is the Star of Jacob, my only kin.

This poem was written circa 2010, for a university poetry class, that was essentially a poetry workshop format. The class was divided in half; each week, half of the class would present poems. This poem was part of a three poem series. Each student’s series was read by the other students prior to class. The class would select one of the three poems to be read. When I presented, the entire class unanimously declared, Reflections as the poem to be read.

Waking Dream

Bolechov Synagogue, courtesy of Bolechow Jewish Heritage Society

“If you are a dreamer, come in.”

– Invitation, by Shel Silverstein

Standing in front of the door, I mustered up the courage to knock. As I was about to do so, I heard a voice from within the building say, “If you are a dreamer, come in.” Instead of knocking, I tried the doorknob. The door was unlocked; I entered into a synagogue, furnished with pews, lamps, an ark for the Torah scroll, and a bimah in the center where the rabbi and cantor were leading a service. I could hardly believe my eyes. I had travelled to Bolekiev, Ukraine from the States, to visit the town where my ancestors had once lived. At that time, the town was Bolechov, Poland, before the end of WW2. Now, instead of finding the caretaker inside of a dilapidated building, as expected, I entered into a world that I had thought vanished a century ago.

Eldridge St. Synagogue, NYC, courtesy of Howie Schnee