Retreating to savor the Days of Awe
In Medias Res: Liturgy for the Estranged

This week's portion: not empty-handed


The gift of silence.
The gift of transforming stars

into constellations.
The gift of recorded voices.

The gift of bare feet
dangling over the pier.

The gift of blurred vision
doubling the moon.

The gift of the name
you gave me, and the one I chose.

The gift of the right tool for the job.
The gift of a gate opening

and the wide-open possibility
on the unknown other side.

This week's Torah portion, Re'eh, includes the lines, "Three times a year... all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place that He will choose. They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed, but each with his own gift, according to the blessing that the Lord your God has bestowed upon you." (Deut. 16:16-17) Those lines sparked this week's poem: a meditation on some of the different gifts we carry with us into our interactions with the Divine.

This week's Torah poem is an associative one, which means it leaps from image to image in a way more intuitive than logical. I'd love to hear what the images (and the juxtaposition of images) suggest to you, if you're willing to share. And I invite you to imagine coming before God -- whatever you understand that to mean -- at these three sacred pilgrimage festivals, Pesach and Shavuot and Sukkot. What are you holding in your hands? What's the unique gift that only you can bring?

As usual, if you can't see the audio player at the top of the post, or if you'd like to save the audio to listen to it again, you can download emptyhanded.mp3.


Edited to add: this poem is now available in 70 faces, my collection of Torah poems, published by Phoenicia Publishing, 2011.