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Top 10 Poetry Posts of 2008

A few days ago I posted a list of my top ten nonfiction posts from 2008: essays about prayer, Torah, my time in Israel and the West Bank, midrash. Here's the companion list I promised: links to my ten favorites among the poems that I posted here this year.

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This week's portion: kin


Understand: we sat shiva.
Every moment of that week
I ached with what we had done.

Our father began moving slowly
as though he no longer trusted his feet.
His hair paled and thinned.

Remorse settled on my heart
like a clenched fist
constricting every beat.

Mine is the third generation
estranged, brotherhood buried
beneath years of angry silt...

When the vizier sent his courtiers away
I thought he was going to kill us
and my heart flew to our father.

But now our sons and Joseph's sons
will play together
on the stony Egyptian sands.

In this week's portion, Vayigash, Joseph's brother Judah appeals to him not to seize Benjamin. My father, he pleads, will die if he loses his second-most-beloved son (the subtext being, of course, that he has already lost his most beloved.) Take me instead, Judah says.

And Joseph is overcome with emotion, and sends his attendants out of the room so that he can make himself known to his brothers -- who are so dumbfounded that they cannot speak. Not until he kisses his brothers and weeps upon them are they able to respond to this revelation.

This year I've been struck by how dysfunctional the families of the patriarchs seem. Abraham's two sons led disconnected lives; Isaac's two sons had a troubled relationship at best; and Jacob's sons sold one of their own into slavery. The families of the patriarchs are -- sometimes troublingly -- recognizable as flawed human families, for sure.

But I'm struck also by the way this story encapsulates the teaching that teshuvah and tikkun -- repentance/returning and repair -- are always possible. Maybe Joseph's children were able to repair the pattern of alienation that had been passed down in their family since their grandfather's generation. In that sense, the text continues to speak to us today, no matter what our own family structures may be.

I've always wondered whether Joseph's brothers truly didn't recognize him. Maybe they knew to whom they were speaking, but never expected him to acknowledge them, much less rescue them. Or maybe they really were shocked to discover that their brother yet lived -- that they could stop beating themselves up for their rashness and their cruelty, which Joseph has put long behind him.

This week's poem arises out of all of those thoughts. No recording this week; sorry, folks, life is just too chaotic in the last days of the old year! (If any of you wants to record it, feel free.) I'll hope to return to recording my poems next week. Wishing everyone a happy end of December and of 2008.

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Nothing more beautiful than peace

Now that I've lived a summer in Jerusalem, Middle East news feels more immediate to me than it used to. This week, that truth has been a painful one. It's been heartbreaking to watch the news pour forth from Gaza these last few days. And the vitriol I'm seeing across the blogosphere, and on several of the e-mail lists to which I belong, leaves me almost as heartsick as the news.

So what can I offer? Via Sustainable Judaism comes this YouTube video of "The Jewish-Arab Peace Song" (not the most creative title ever, though I guess at least it's informative) -- a song celebrating the shared wish for peace, in Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles:

I like the oud line, the doumbek, and (for lack of a better term) the feel of the song; this couldn't have come out of anywhere but Israel, and I love that about it. I also love its message -- and how its very existence reminds me that there are Israelis and Palestinians who share the vision of a just peace between their two peoples, no matter what either government does or says.

The song was commissioned by Peace Child Israel, an organization which aims to teach coexistence to Israeli and Palestinian teens through theater and the arts. It was written by Israeli artist Shlomo Gronich and is performed by Gronich, Leah Shabat, Mizrahi singer Zehava Ben, and Eli Luzon alongside Palestinian artists Sahmir Shukri, Nivine Jaabri, Elias Julianos, and Lubna Salame. (Read more, including a list of supporting instrumentalists, here.)

Feeling saddened by the flood of news, I opened a book of psalms; I landed on psalm 122, which contains the line  לְמַעַן אַחַי וְרֵעָי, אֲדַבְּרָה-נָּא שָׁלוֹם בָּךְ, "For the sake of my brothers and friends, I pray, peace to you." If only we could see one another, across these various borders, as brothers and friends.

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And God descended (Radical Torah repost)

Here's the d'var Torah I wrote for this week's portion in 2006 for the now-defunct Radical Torah. Please note: I wrote this two years ago! The medical misfortune to which this post alludes is, thankfully, old news now.

And He said, "I am God, the God of your father. Fear not to go down to Egypt, for I will make you there into a great nation. I Myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I Myself will bring you back, and Joseph's hand shall close your eyes."

When I first began studying Vayigash to prepare for writing this d'var, I was struck by this passage. It amazes me to think of God descending with Jacob into Egypt -- into Mitzrayim, the Narrow Place -- and then bringing Jacob out again. It's the story we retell each year at Pesach, of course: how God brought us out of that tight spot with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.

I find myself on Friday morning with a new interpretation of the verse. This week I had my own yeridah, my own descent, into an unexpected hospital stay. This isn't the place to tell that story. What I want to say here is that the need to trust in God despite the many unknowns in my situation gives me, perhaps, a hint of how Jacob might have felt at this moment in our story.

Continue reading "And God descended (Radical Torah repost)" »

New VR comments policy

For the first 5+ years of this blog's existence, there has been no official comments policy. I have trusted in the general good intentions of my readers, and on the whole, that's worked pretty well.

But over the years, the community of folks reading this blog has expanded. So I decided that the turn of the (secular) year was a good time to post a comments policy. Here are five simple rules for being a part of this blog.

Rules of engagement at Velveteen Rabbi:

  • 1) Be polite

    I consider my blog to be an extension of my living room. Whatever you're going to say in response to my posts, please consider whether it's the sort of thing you would say to your host or fellow guests if you'd been invited to someone's home for tea. If it isn't, then please don't say it here.

  • 2) Be open-minded

    I write for a broad audience. Sometimes I may say things with which you disagree. If that happens, take a deep breath and enjoy the delicious diversity of human experience and opinion! I aim to foster an environment of pluralism, where multiple perspectives can coexist. I hope that everyone who hangs out at this blog can join me in celebrating that.

  • 3) Stay on-topic

    The comments which follow posts here are a part of a conversation. So please, when you comment on a post, keep your comment germane to the subject at hand.

  • 4) Own your words

  • When you comment here, I hope you'll do all of us the courtesy of including your name, your blog URL, and your own valid email address with your comment. (The email address will not be displayed, but it allows me to respond to you personally off-blog if I want to continue the conversation in that way.) The words you post here are yours; be willing to stand behind them. (And if your words are inappropriate, I reserve the right to delete them.)

  • 5) Treat people with respect

    It is a tenet of my faith that we are all created b'tzelem Elohim, in the image of God. Every human being is worthy of respect. I expect everyone who comments here to show that respect, to everyone.

I'm adding a "comments policy" link to the sidebar, so if you ever want to refresh your memory about what the comments policy is, it will be readily available for you.Thank you, everyone, for your willingness to abide by these rules of discourse. And thanks for being a part of Velveteen Rabbi! I look forward to our many conversations in the year to come.

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Top 10 Nonfiction Posts of 2008

Every year at the end of December I post a list of my ten favorite blog posts from the year now ending. This year I've compiled two such lists: one of my favorite nonfiction posts, another of my favorite poems. (Here's the first one; I'll post the second one in a day or two.) [ETA: Top ten poetry posts of 2008.]

Rereading the year-in-blog-posts, I'm reminded of what a rollercoaster this year has been. Thanks for being part of the conversation here during 2008; here's to 2009!

A place where prayer can dwell. "I think our multifaceted nature is both our boon and our greatest challenge. We're a patchwork religious movement. My other Jewish identity, Jewish Renewal, is also a many-splendored thing, a patchwork quilt of ideas and practices and teachings; of course, Renewal is actively transdenominational, so a certain patchwork nature is presumed. Reform Judaism aims to be a single unitary denomination -- though one which can include, for instance, my parents' congregation (historically a classical Reform institution) and mine (which lives out Reform values in a decidedly nontraditional way.) My guess is that this siddur will challenge both of our communities, though in different ways. Maybe that's a sign that its creators have crafted something interesting and complex."

Brokenness and purity. "Why did the children of Israel save the shards of the broken tablets? Why not destroy them, or leave them behind in the desert? Surely no one there wanted to keep them as mementos of one of the community's strongest lapses of faith? But the tradition teaches us that the broken tablets were preserved as a sign that holiness persists even in our brokenness. Sometimes our brokenness, our mistakes, are what we have to offer to God...and that's worthy of preservation along with the aspects of us which are whole."

Beginning to wrestle. "During the first few years of this blog's existence, I didn't write about Israel. Because I wanted to quietly challenge the assumption that a Judaism-focused blog must necessarily be Israel-focused. Because I figured the last thing the internet needs is another person pontificating about a place she barely knows. Because most online discourse about Israel and Palestine is hotheaded and partisan. Because time and energy and passion are limited resources, and it often seems that so much of these go to Israel that little is left for other aspects of Jewish identity and experience. // All of those reasons still hold. And yet I'm beginning to grapple with what it will mean to shift this unofficial blog policy (and, more importantly, to shift the internal focus behind it) because this summer I'm going to spend seven weeks in Jerusalem."

Continue reading "Top 10 Nonfiction Posts of 2008" »

Shabbat morning adventures

This morning I arrived at shul a couple of minutes before 9:30, rainbow tallit under my arm. I missed going last week, so it felt really nice to walk in the door -- and even more so when one of the congregation's co-presidents greeted me at the door with an effervescent "Rachel! I'm so happy to see you!"

How nice it is to be appreciated, I thought, beaming at her and at the room. Then she continued, "The rabbi's car is in a ditch!"

One of the downsides of living in a beautiful semi-rural area, as we do, is that winter weather can get in one's way from time to time. The rabbi lives on a dirt road which twists up and down some hills. It's been raining lately, then freezing at night (joy.) On his way to shul this morning, his car slid backwards into a ditch.

Baruch Hashem, no one was hurt -- not even the car. But it would take a while for AAA to arrive. So he'd called the co-president to dash to shul and open up shop. She had left a house full of guests to come and make sure we were able to get into the building! The only thing she'd been missing was a shaliach tzibbur. Until I arrived.

Actually, the rabbi emerita was there, too, it turned out. So we had a gracious plenty of options. I led the davenen, which was a treat for me as always. I missed having my guitar, and I really missed having my own siddur (which is aflutter with colored tabs and thick with penciled notes which remind me how to direct everyone smoothly to new pages as needed.) But it was fun to invent the service as I went along, choosing this poem or that tune on the fly. The rabbi emerita led an awesome Hallel.

And then, just as I was preparing to do a creative Torah service pinch-hit (as I've seen done elsewhere: we were going to open the scroll and have someone follow along with a yad as I read from the chumash, since I didn't want to accidentally mangle a Torah reading I hadn't practiced aloud) the rabbi walked in the door of the shul!

"Baruch ha-ba b'shem Adonai," I said -- "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord" (Psalm 118:26) -- and he laughed.

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The treasure of teshuvah (Radical Torah repost)

Here's the d'var Torah I posted for this week's portion two years ago at the now-defunct Radical Torah.

Late in this week's portion, Mikets, there is an intriguing conversation between Joseph -- by now, in command of Egypt's storehouses, and second only to Pharaoh in the power structure of the land -- and his brothers.

The first time the brothers visit Egypt in search of food, Joseph gives a secret order that their money-bags be returned to them along with their grain. Upon their next journey there, they go immediately to Joseph and protest that they don't know how they managed to leave without paying him last time. "Peace be with you," he responds, "Do not be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, must have put treasure in your bags for you. I got your payment."

We, the readers, know perfectly well that the money was returned to them by Joseph. But he chooses to let them believe it is a gift from God. What gives?

Continue reading "The treasure of teshuvah (Radical Torah repost)" »

Christmas greetings to all who celebrate!

The star embedded in the floor in the spot where Jesus is said to have been born. Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem.

Christmas, too, has something to teach us. Every Christmas I get a real yearning for the Christian ability to imagine God as a baby. Seeing God as a newborn babe, you begin to understand that even God needs to grow, just as we do! And that this really may be the purpose of the universe -- that we ourselves are God growing Godself, and that the task of every person and faith community is to collaborate in that process.

-- Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Jewish With Feeling

Wishing my Christian friends and readers a Christmas that is merry and bright!

This week's portion: unrecognizable


When Pharaoh placed his signet
on my hand, dressed me in gold
and cloaked me in new syllables

I became unrecognizable
even to my own brothers
who prostrated before me.

All these years I'd imagined
reunion, though in my wildest dreams
I never pictured it like this

how my brothers tore into dinner
as though they feared deep down
there wouldn't be enough...

I turned away and wept
but I hid my sorrow, not ready
to show my true face

or how I had yearned
for the relationship we still
didn't know how to have.

In this week's portion, Miketz, Pharaoh dreams dreams of cattle and of ears of grain. When no one else can interpret them, the cupbearer remembers Joseph who had interpreted his dreams in prison. Joseph is sent-for and when he successfully interprets Pharaoh's dreams, he impressed Pharaoh so much that he is made vizier of Egypt on the spot.

I love the repeated symbolism of clothing in the Joseph novella. Joseph has that multicolored tunic, which is then torn away from him and dipped in blood to fool his father; Potiphar's wife tears at his clothing when he refuses to accede to her sexual demands, and uses the scrap to "prove" his guilt. Then, in this week's portion, when Pharoah calls for Joseph the servants hurry to cut his hair and change his clothes; and once Joseph enters Pharaoh's employ, he is adorned with gold and linen and with Pharaoh's own signet ring.

Clothes can manifest our sense of ourselves, or they can disguise who we truly are. Just so, the faces we choose to present to the world. In this week's portion, I see Joseph choosing to hide his true face from his brothers just a little while longer. How do we hide our faces from each other in our daily lives? In what do we cloak ourselves: for protection, for concealment, for pretense, for beauty? What are we afraid would happen if we let one another see?


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Chanukah miscellany

Here are five Chanukah-themed gems from my delicious feed:

That last one probably only appeals to the limited subset of people who recite Hallel regularly enough to know it well, and who know and like a bunch of Christmas carols, but since I'm smack in the middle of that demographic, it's perfect for me.

(For a more serious take on Chanukah, I'm pretty happy with yesterday's Mai Chanukah; if you haven't read it yet, I hope you will.)

On a completely unrelated note:

The folks at invited me to contribute a list of my top ten religion blogs to their topten section. I chose ten blogs which are among my regular reads; I think it's an eclectic list and hopefully an interesting one! The list is here: Velveteen Rabbi's Top Ten Religion Blogs.

If yours is one of the blogs I listed, you're entitled to one of these badges, by the way. Thanks for putting your words out there! And thanks for the invite, folks.

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Mai Chanukah?

This is the time of year when people argue about the meaning of Chanukah.

It's an old question. Mai chanukah? is how the rabbis begin the Talmud's discussion of the holiday: "What is Chanukah?" Maybe the simplest answer is, it's a multivalent holiday; it always has been.

There are of course many ways to tell the Chanukah story and the ways we do are not unrelated to who we are. Every community and generation interprets Chanukah in its own image. For us there are a number of obvious contenders. For American Jews it is most often about religious freedom from tyrants. For Israelis it is about routing the armies of a dominating empire and winning back Jewish sovereignty. For traditional Jews it is about a fight against assimilation. Hasidic Jews take another path and read the story allegorically as a story about seeking one's inner life and rededicating oneself to that small burning candle. Indeed, every generation asks what the Rabbis ask when they open their short conversation on the holiday... "Mai Chanukah?" -- What is Chanukah?

(So writes Rabbi Steve Greenberg in a d'var Torah which is available online here.)

So what's the story with Chanukah? One answer can be found in scripture -- though not mine. The apocryphal books of Maccabees (written in Greek) tell the story of the Hasmonean dynasty. (These books are considered part of the Catholic Bible, though not the Protestant Bible or Jewish Tanakh.) Anyway: those books tell the story of the wicked Antiochus IV who looted the Temple, alongside the story of the Israelites who assimilated to Greek ways and the other Israelites who slaughtered them. Matthias and his family destroyed illicit altars and forcibly circumcised babies; his oldest son Judah led the rebels to victory.

Continue reading "Mai Chanukah?" »

Here, have some Chanukah cheer.

This one comes courtesy of my father, who described it as a truly Texan Chanukah celebration. Gay cowboys singing the dreidl song; what will we think of next? I do love the internet sometimes. (Often, in fact.)

(The cowboys in question go by the name of Captain Smartypants; they're an ensemble of the Seattle Men's Chorus. So, not Texan in actuality, but very Texan in spirit. In my humble diaspora Texan opinion.) Happy Chanukah to all!

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Lighting one candle on the longest night

Today is the December solstice: the shortest day of the year here in the northern hemisphere. (A fine day to keep the home fires burning; and, indeed, we are doing just that! Ethan's chopping wood even now.) And today at sundown we'll celebrate the first night of Chanukah -- chag urim, the holiday of lights.

On the first night of Chanukah, the flame of the single festival light (and the single shamash or helper candle) can feel tiny -- maybe especially tonight, against the weight of all that darkness. The solstice and Chanukah always feel congruent to me but it's rare for the festival to begin on the solstice itself. Night falls early in the Berkshires at this time of year. The longest night is long indeed.

It always takes a leap of faith to choose to kindle light in a time of darkness, to trust that our small flames can actually make a difference in the great cold world. But they can, and they do. Lighting the first candle of Chanukah is a chance to affirm our ability to bring light into the world.

As we kindle the holiday lights tonight, may we rededicate ourselves (as our stories tell us the temple was once rededicated at this season) to the work of creating light. Even, or especially, on the longest, darkest night of the calendar year.


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Support Global Voices Online

Donate to Global Voices - Help us spread the word

Global Voices Online is one of the most worthwhile projects I know. Their Rising Voices project offers grant support to blogging groups in developing nations; they do amazing free speech advocacy worldwide; and a team of more than 200 volunteers works tirelessly to amplify the voices of ordinary people around the world (in a whole bunch of different languages.) Want to know what people are thinking and talking about in Albania? Israel and Palestine? Kazakhstan? Zimbabwe? Global Voices is the place to find out.

And they've just launched a donations campaign. Full disclosure: I was there on the day the organization was born, back in December of 2004 (here's my post from that day: Bridge blogs and global voices.) Oh, and the project was co-founded by my husband, so it's possible I'm slightly biased. But this is a project I deeply believe in, and the Global voices manifesto which began to coalesce at that first bloggers' conference still gives me chills. Here's how it begins:

We believe in free speech: in protecting the right to speak — and the right to listen. We believe in universal access to the tools of speech.

To that end, we seek to enable everyone who wants to speak to have the means to speak — and everyone who wants to hear that speech, the means to listen to it.

Thanks to new tools, speech need no longer be controlled by those who own the means of publishing and distribution, or by governments that would restrict thought and communication. Now, anyone can wield the power of the press. Everyone can tell their stories to the world...

(Read the whole thing here -- in English, Arabic, Albanian, Bangla, Chinese, or thirteen other tongues.)

This is exactly the kind of project that makes me hopeful for the internet. Chanukah begins tonight, a fine time for gift-giving. If you've got a few bucks you can throw their way, I hope you'll consider doing so. (They've got cute badges, too. Like the one at the top of this post. You don't want to disappoint the tiny kitten, do you?)

Donate to Global Voices - Help us spread the word

Keep the world talking: donate now.

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One last poem at the BAP blog

My guest-blogging stint at the Best American Poetry blog ends today, and I just posted my last poem of the week, a tiny meditation on the season in honor of Chanukah beginning tomorrow. It's called Progression.

It's been really fun to blog there this week. It's been years since I've tried on the discipline of writing a daily poem, and this offered me a good excuse to take that on for a while.

To those who've been reading my poems there: thanks for following along! (And to those who maybe don't find poetry so compelling, I promise I'll post fewer poems in the week to come.)

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Contemporary psalm at Best American Poetry

I've posted another poem at The Best American Poetry blog, this one a kind of creative version of or contemporary poetic response to psalm 147. The poem is called Seven reasons (Psalm 147.)

Psalm 147 is part of psukei d'zimrah, the collection of psalms recited near the beginning of morning prayer. This section of the service begins with an opening benediction praising God Who speaks creation into being; then comes an interlude of Biblical material; then psalms 145-150; then another interlude of Biblical material; then the closing benediction (yishtabach, also called the "blessing of song.")

There is much which is beautiful in the classical psalm which didn't make it into my poem. I begin with verse two of the Hebrew, about rebuilding Jerusalem, and verse three, about God Who heals the broken-hearted and repairs their sorrow. Then I jump to verse eight, about the One who covers the sky with clouds; then to verse fourteen, about God Who "scatters frost like ashes" and "casts out ice like crumbs." (That's in the traditional rendering.)

In commentary on this psalm (found in Lawrence Hoffman's excellent My People's Prayerbook series -- the volume on Psukei D'zimrah, naturally enough) Ellen Frankel writes, "Blessings flow earthward because of our gratitude, not our pride... What we interpret as impediments to our freedom and ease -- snow, frost, and ice -- are just the opposite in the divine household; they represent the wool, ashes, and crumbs of God's handiwork." I'll try to bear that in mind as the snow continues to fall today...

My poem owes much to zen abbot Norman Fischer's interpretive renderings of the psalms (collected in a book which I reviewed in early 2007.) Though I deliberately didn't check his book to see his version of this psalm before writing my own, I did learn from him the technique of speaking psalms not about God but to God -- embedding the I/Thou relationship in the very shape of the poem at hand.

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In dreams begin responsibility [Radical Torah repost]

Here's the d'var Torah I wrote for this week's portion in 2006, originally published at the now-defunct Radical Torah.

This week's Torah portion, Vayeshev, begins the "Joseph novella" -- the surprisingly lengthy story of Joseph, which sets in motion the Israelites' presence in Egypt, which in turn is a precursor to the Israelites' liberation from Egypt. It's a beautifully cyclical story; just like the Israelite people, Joseph has to go down in order to be lifted up.

Twice in this week's Torah portion, Joseph is cast down into dire circumstances. First his brothers cast him into a pit, and sell him into slavery; later, after he's worked his way up the Egyptian status ladder, Potiphar's wife frames him and he is thrown into prison.

The first downfall comes about, in a sense, because of Joseph's dream interpretations. He has two dreams of dominance -- one, that his brothers' sheaves of wheat bow down to his; the other, that the moon and sun and stars all bow down to him -- and these raise his brothers' ire so strongly that they plot against him.

The second downfall comes about because of Joseph's moral scruples. Potiphar's wife tries to seduce him; he fends her off; she tears his cloak off, and uses it as "proof" that he acted improperly. This time, his dream interpretations come to his rescue; he is able to make sense of the dreams of several fellow prisoners, and one of those prisoners ultimately reports this to Pharaoh, who is in need of a good dream interpreter, and next week we'll read about how that gets Joseph out of jail and on the path toward glory.

How is that his dream interpretations get him into trouble at the start of this week's portion, and out of trouble at the end? What has changed?

Continue reading "In dreams begin responsibility [Radical Torah repost]" »

Psalm of assent at BAP

Another new poem up at the Best American Poetry blog. This one's called Psalm of Assent, and makes use of a line donated by Kate Abbott, who wrote me a beautiful sestina once.

The title is a play on psalm 126, "a song of ascents," which begins "When Adonai returned us to Zion we were as dreamers..." And the third stanza nods to that famous line from Pirkei Avot.

The burly men are real; my friend David and I met for dinner at a pub on rural route 43 this week, and the place was packed both with those who had neither light nor heat at home and by crews of roving electric company workers. Our waitress admitted she had trouble understanding some of the men who'd come from far afield, which I found strangely poignant.

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This week's portion: in the dark


The mysterious unnamed man
is always a messenger
sent to keep our story moving
in the right direction.

The appropriate answer
is always hineni, here I am
ready for whatever pitch
is up God's sleeve.

Into the pit, out of the pit
from slavery into service:
descent always contains
the seeds of ascent.

He had to be enslaved
in order to be accused
had to be accused
in order to be imprisoned

had to be imprisoned
in order to hear the dreams
of the cupbearer and the baker
which "surely God can interpret"

had to interpret dreams
in order to sire Freud
a few hundred generations
down the ancestral line.

But the cupbearer forgets
leaving Joseph in the dark
as the longest night of the year
threatens to swallow us whole.

This week's portion, Vayeshev, begins the "Joseph novella" -- one of the richest and most layered stories in Torah. We'll spend the next four weeks reading and studying this narrative and wrestling with its themes and implications.

In my Qur'an class this fall, we talked a fair bit about where this story and surat Yusuf do and don't intersect. I'm intrigued by the relative narrative flatness of the Qur'an, especially where this tale is concerned, since in Torah this is one of the places where we go deepest into the disjunctions between hidden and visible, latent and manifest. (Bill made the excellent point that the Qur'an privileges a kind of continuity of interior and exterior, while the Tanakh is full of disjunctions between surface and what's beneath -- a fixation which manifests, ultimately, in Freud and the psychologists/philosophers who follow him.)

Anyway, all of that was on my mind as I began to reread the Joseph story in Torah this year, and as I sat down to work on this week's Torah poem. I love that we're reading about Joseph's literal and metaphorical descents even as (in the northern hemisphere) our days are ticking down to the darkest point. Next week things will start to look brighter, but for now our challenge is to sit with what our text (and our sun) gives us.


Poem cross-posted to the Best American Poetry blog, with different commentary.

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