#blogExodus 14: Praise


Can I offer it with all that I am?
Not despite my fears

that those around my seder table
will be checking their watches,

the nagging sense that I presume
simply by being as Jewish as I am

simply by being --
-- but with those shadows

kindle a light
to shine to the ends of the earth?

In the furrows of my cracked heart
I plant seeds of gratitude.

Eternal One, open my lips
that I might sing Your praise.


Blogexodus5775The final #blogExodus prompt is "praise." When I began to write this morning, this is what emerged.

To those who are celebrating Pesach tonight and tomorrow night: may your seders be sweet and meaningful.

To those who are celebrating Easter on Sunday: may your day be filled with alleluias.

To everyone: this year may we find the liberation we most deeply need, and may it spark us to do the work of liberating others.

Shabbat shalom and chag sameach.

For #blogExodus 13: Welcome (and NaPoWriMo 2: a poem about stars)


Tonight's moon obscures most stars from view, but
I want to rename the ones that remain: turn
the huntsman into the man who stood up to Pharoah
even when his syllables faltered, the dipper
into a mikveh for washing away what hurts.
The great wheel of the galaxy is an angel,
and the fiery heart of every nebula unfolding...
Friday night angels and seder constellations:
bring us the wholeness of knowing that our bonds
are already broken, that freedom is already here.



Today's #blogExodus prompt is "Welcome," which made me think both of welcoming seder guests, and of welcoming the Shabbat angels who -- tradition says -- join us every Friday night as we make Shabbat. (And tomorrow night will be both Shabbat and the first seder.)

Today's #NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a poem inspired by the stars. Last night I stood outside for a little while and noticed the moon and the stars...

Today's poem is a response to both of those prompts.

#blogExodus 12: Find - and #NaPoWriMo 1!


If I had any pull with God, everything you need
would appear right now in front of you.

A door would open and inside it
a rose-strewn path, the yearned-for embrace.

I'd take the broken pieces of the afikomen
and restore them as if by magic.

But that isn't how it works. God isn't
a diner waitress saying what can I get you, hon?

That's why our sages taught: a clay vessel
is purified when it breaks and is glued.

A human heart, charged with a lifetime's losses
becomes real when lovingly mended.

All I can do: ask God to cradle your heart
in Her own hands and make you whole.



For today's #blogExodus prompt, "Find," I decided to write a poem, since today is also the first day of NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month.)

The afikomen is the ceremonial middle matzah, broken during the seder. Half is hidden, and the seder cannot conclude until it is found.

The stanza about our sages and a clay vessel is a reference to classical teachings about how to make a clay vessel which has become tamei (charged-up or "impure") become tahor ("pure") again.

To me that teaching has always held an internal / emotional resonance too.


Edited to add: deep thanks to reader Ann, who pointed me toward this gorgeous Japanese pottery, repaired with gold. "Kintsugi ("golden joinery") or kintsukuroi ("golden repair") is the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a special lacquer dusted with powdered gold...this repair method celebrates the artifact's unique history by emphasizing the fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them. Kintsugi often makes the repaired piece even more beautiful than the original, revitalizing the artifact with new life."


#blogExodus 11: Celebrate

Blogexodus5775Spring is an easy time for me to celebrate. I love the longer days which are beginning to come. I love the promise of tender living green -- for now just a promise, since it's still too cold here anything to grow outside, but I know it's coming.

I love Pesach, with its reminder that liberation is here in every moment; its opportunity to gather with loved ones around a shared table; its instruction to share our bounty, both practical and spiritual, with those who hunger and thirst.

Seder is a celebration. A celebration that we're still here, still telling our ancestral story of freedom. A celebration of family and friendship and connection. (And I know that I'm blessed to have family and friends around my seder table.)

Seder is a celebration of the narrative that holds us together. Once we were slaves and now we are free. We cried out to God from the Narrow Place, and God responded to us with expansiveness. Seder is a celebration because the work of creating liberation is infinite, but that's no reason not to pause and give thanks for how far we've come before we rededicating ourselves to continuing.

One of my favorite teachings in my haggadah is that if we wait until we feel fully ready, we might never leap at all. But the same holds true for celebration. If we wait until the work is complete, until everyone is free both physically and spiritually, until creation is redeemed, we might never get to celebrate. The rhythm of our liturgical year teaches us to pause and celebrate -- every week; every month; at every festival. The soul needs to celebrate, to feel and articulate gratitude and joy.

"This is the day that God has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!" (That's Psalm 118:24.) This -- right here; right now -- is the day which God is making. God is telling every atom in the universe to exist, to be, right here, right now. This is the day -- not some other day you're looking forward to, not some other day you're dreading, but this day right now. God is making this day. It's our job to find a way to celebrate: not what was, not what we hope might someday be, but what is, right here, right now.

Sometimes we don't feel like celebrating. Sometimes our bodies aren't up to it. Sometimes our hearts or our spirits aren't up to it. Sometimes celebration seems impossible. But Pesach invites us to discern how we may come to feel liberated, even if we are still living within constraints. How we may feel released from slavery, even if we are still struggling with loss or with grief. How we may be able to celebrate what we have, even if it is not everything we might wish for.


This post is part of #blogExodus, a daily carnival of posts / tweets / status updates relating to themes of Passover and Exodus, created by ImaBima. Find other posts via the #blogExodus hashtag.

#blogExodus 10: Join

Blogexodus5775One of my favorite teachings about the Exodus from Egypt is that we didn't leave Mitzrayim, that Narrow Place, by ourselves. A mixed multitude -- in Hebrew, an ערב רב –– came with us. (That's from Exodus 12:38.)

One interpretation holds that those who joined us in leaving the Narrow Place were Egyptians who had intermarried into the Jewish community and wanted to remain with us. They had chosen to connect themselves with our community.

It's also possible that others joined the throng for other reasons. Perhaps they had felt constrained in their existing lives, and needed change. Perhaps they had suffered oppression and resonated with God's call to freedom.

One story holds that Pharaoh's daughter came along, too -- and in so doing changed her name from bat Pharaoh, the (otherwise nameless) "daughter of Pharaoh," to Batya," daughter of God." Perhaps everyone who joins in the walk toward liberation is a child of God.

One way or another, I love that here in our most central story -- the story which we remember in daily prayer and in the Friday night kiddush and at the Pesach seder table -- liberation is not for us alone. This is not an insular experience, open only to those with the right credentials. Freedom is here for anyone who wishes to join us. Join the mixed multitude, the motley crew, in hoping for a better world.

Of course, you have to be willing to join not only in the fun parts, but also in the difficult ones. The joyous march toward freedom leads us inexorably to Sinai, to covenant with God and to the system of mitzvot which guide our lives. You have to be willing to join us in heeding Torah's imperative to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to care for the powerless, to love the stranger.

But freedom isn't ours alone. God isn't ours alone. Even revelation isn't ours alone -- my teacher Reb Zalman z"l taught that God broadcasts on all channels and each religious tradition hears the revelation to which it is attuned. If you want to join us in seeking to heal the world, pull up a chair and join the table, and let our story be your story too. "Let all who are hungry, come and eat."

Every year we pray that next year we may merit to celebrate Pesach in a world redeemed. And the only way to get it together, as Reb Zalman famously taught, is together. The only way we're going to repair the world is if we collaborate: each tradition bringing its unique gifts to the table; each person lifting up the holy sparks which only she can lift, teaching the Torah which is uniquely his to share.


This post is part of #blogExodus, a daily carnival of posts / tweets / status updates relating to themes of Passover and Exodus, created by ImaBima. Find other posts via the #blogExodus hashtag.

If the idea of collaborating with other religious traditions to repair the world speaks to you, consider joining ALEPH for this summer's "Getting It... Together" weekend, July 3-5, which will feature a variety of amazing people and experiences. Click the link to read all about it.

#blogExodus 9: Bitter

Blogexodus5775Bitter as in bitter herbs: the beet-stained horseradish of my childhood, magenta and pungent, dotting globes of gefilte fish.

Bitter herbs as in horseradish root, and the way that nibbling its slices can make the sinuses and the back of the throat burn.

Bitter herbs, maror, which we eat on matzah -- combining the taste of slavery with the humble traveling-bread of our freedom.

Bitter like the hardships of slavery. Bitter enough that we cried out from the depths of our hearts, and those cries aroused divine mercy for us.

Bitter like fears of loss, like fears of rejection. Bitter like the fear that I could've done more, should've done more, and didn't, and now I can't. Bitter because sometimes it's too late to change the story we've already written.

Bitter because even in our moments of greatest joy, somewhere in the world there is sorrow. Sometimes in our moments of joy there's sorrow in our midst, too. It's a bitter pill to swallow, remembering that even at seder, some of us, somewhere, are grieving.

Bitterness is part of the journey. But thank God, it's not the whole journey. May there always be sweetness to balance the bitter. May the maror in our lives be startling but not painful. May it be bitter like arugula, like dark leafy greens, like bitter melon. Noticeable, but never the only flavor.

The taste of maror can wake us up. It's the springtime analogue to the sound of the shofar which awakens our souls as Rosh Hashanah approaches. Sleepers, awake, wake from your slumber! The time of our freedom is at hand. Take stock of who you are, prepare yourself for change and for rebirth.

When we leave the constriction of this Narrow Place, when we enter the wide-open spaciousness of freedom, we'll move to a diet of manna and gratitude. But we'll keep the hint of bitter in our story, in our seder, in our remembrance. Like the bitters in a cocktail, bringing life's sweetness into fuller form.




This post is part of #blogExodus, a daily carnival of posts / tweets / status updates relating to themes of Passover and Exodus, created by ImaBima. Find other posts via the #blogExodus hashtag.

#blogExodus 8: Rise

Blogexodus5775Years ago I attended an Easter morning service at my friend Peter's church in Williamstown. I went with our friend Bernard, visiting from Ghana. (I wrote an essay about it: A field trip into Easter.)

One of the moments which has stayed with me is Reverend Peter asking, at the end of his sermon, "Will you rise?" -- and the pregnant pause during which we all realized that it wasn't "just" a spiritual question but was also a literal one.

"Everything that rises must converge," wrote Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. He believed that all creation was rising toward the Omega Point, the highest possible level of consciousness toward which the universe continues to evolve.

I don't think the rising he's describing happens automatically; I think that there is spiritual work involved. But I like the idea that ultimately there is convergence. That in the end we all come together. As a Jewish Renewal chant has it, echad yachid u'm'uchad -- "one, singular, united" -- or, in singable English, "The One, every single one, each one joined and united in the One." We come from unity and we return to unity.

As Pesach approaches, of course, the kind of rising most of us are thinking about is a literal rising -- the uplift in fermenting bread dough caused by yeast. Some of us cleanse our homes of hametz, leaven; some of us cleanse our hearts of spiritual hametz, the puffery of ego. For a week we will eat only matzah, eschewing foods which are risen. And yet Pesach is a time of great spiritual ascent. Our bread may be flat, but our souls are invited to soar. Time for our spirits to rise.


This post is part of #blogExodus, a daily carnival of posts / tweets / status updates relating to themes of Passover and Exodus, created by ImaBima. Find other posts via the #blogExodus hashtag.

#blogExodus 7: Ask

Blogexodus5775Every night before bed I sit with our son and we say our prayers (asking God to bless everyone we know and love, "and everybody else, amen" and the shema) and then we sing a handful of songs.

There's a lullaby we've been singing to him all his life which is still part of our bedtime routine (though just this week he's beginning to insist that he's outgrown it, which feels bittersweet.) Usually one of us also sings "I Love You, A Bushel And A Peck."

About a month ago, around Purim-time, I started adding the first question of the Four Questions to our bedtime routine. Within a couple of weeks, he was singing along. Now he sings the whole first question by himself proudly, and sings along with most of the words of the other questions too.

I love hearing him sing the Four Questions. My heart swells every time I hear it. One of my strongest memories of my own childhood seders is of singing the Four Questions proudly in front of my aunts and uncles and cousins. It was my job, and I loved that moment in the spotlight. That our son is now growing into that role brings me tremendous joy.

Asking the questions is central to the seder. Why is this night different from all other nights? Why are we doing these unusual things? Why are we putting pillows on all the chairs, why are you roasting an egg, why are we reading a storybook during dinnertime, why do you have your guitar at the dinner table, why are we hitting each other with scallions? According to one theory, all of the rigamarole of the seder evolved precisely in order to spur kids to ask the question "why."

Because when the kids ask, then we can answer. We do this because of what God did for us when God brought us forth from slavery to freedom, from constriction to expansiveness. We do this to remember that we are free and that with freedom comes responsibility. We do this because it connects us with the generations and with our community around the globe, through all space and time. We do this because it makes you want to ask, and when you ask, then we can tell you this story which we so love.


This post is part of #blogExodus, a daily carnival of posts / tweets / status updates relating to themes of Passover and Exodus, created by ImaBima. Find other posts via the #blogExodus hashtag.

Last year I wrote a poem in response to this prompt. It's here: Daily April poem for #blogExodus: Ask.

#blogExodus 5: Hide

Blogexodus5775At Purim, God hides. The Name of God appears nowhere in the Megillah -- though divine presence is woven through the story for those with eyes to see.

At Pesach, God is everywhere in the story. "And the Holy One of Blessing brought us out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm..." There is nothing hidden about God during the Passover story.

In the shift between the two holidays I see a familiar oscillation. Sometimes God seems absent, or at the very least hidden. Hester panim, the mystics say -- "the Face is hidden."

Just as, at moon-dark, the moon's face is hidden from view though we know she still orbits our earth -- in that same way, sometimes God's face is hidden from view. Hidden from us.

Sometimes God is so present it seems there ought to be trumpets and fanfare. Beams of light stream through a break in the clouds -- a mighty waterfall thunders -- a baby is born and new life enters the world -- one comes face-to-face with another being, animal or human, and a spark of connection becomes manifest -- old bonds shatter and the heart becomes free...

And maybe sometimes we hide ourselves from God. We turn away and hide our faces. When we've done something we regret, something which brings us shame. When we can't bear the luminous, the numinous, because we feel too fragile. When we can't imagine that we could be forgiven. Though as an old Sufi story has it, even when we think we're hiding, there is One Who always sees us.

And even when God seems to be hiding, that One is still present in our lives. Even when God is as hidden as the moon, as hidden as the Afikoman we'll wrap in a napkin and conceal. We hide the Afikoman so that it can be found. Maybe God, too, hides in order to be found. Hide and seek. Come and find Me. Yearn for me, and I will be revealed.



This post is part of #blogExodus, a daily carnival of posts / tweets / status updates relating to themes of Passover and Exodus, created by ImaBima. Find other posts via the #blogExodus hashtag.

#blogExodus 4: Grow


These are hostia shoots, photographed outside our house one year in early May. I look forward to their return -- though I know it will be several weeks before I see any such thing. The snows fell high and thick this year. It's going to be a while before anything can safely poke above-ground and visibly grow.

But under the surface of the earth, new life is preparing itself to rise. There will be hostias again, and hydrangeas. There will be crocuses and tulips and daffodils. A whole verdant spring is waiting. Sometimes growth is almost imperceptible, but that doesn't mean it isn't happening all the same.

Pesach comes at this season of new growth. The karpas, the parsley we dip in salt water early in the order of the seder, represents the spring green of new life. And the Pesach story is also a story of our community's growth from a ragtag bunch of slaves to a people capable of striving toward covenant.

How have I grown since last year at this season? Am I wiser, kinder, more compassionate? Am I willing to poke my vulnerable shoots out of the safety of familiar earth, to reach out toward the air and the sun, to risk the dangers of letting myself grow?


This post is part of #blogExodus, a daily carnival of posts / tweets / status updates relating to themes of Passover and Exodus, created by ImaBima. Find other posts via the #blogExodus hashtag.


#blogExodus 3: Cleanse

Blogexodus5775A few weeks ago Ethan misplaced his wedding ring. We realized on a Monday morning, and searched all week with increasing urgency.

We hunted everywhere in the kitchen, even moving the stove to make sure it hadn't fallen behind. We opened up the baseboard heater and shone a flashlight inside.

Eventually we picked up all of the dining room furniture, put it atop the table, and scoured every corner. We were just about to give up...

...when Ethan found the ring -- in our coin jar. It had apparently slipped off his finger on a cold day as he was divesting himself of a pocket full of change.

We felt pretty sheepish when the ring was found. It had been hiding in plain sight the whole time. But we agreed that it was surprisingly nice to have such a clean dining room! Now that our child is years beyond the crawling stage, we don't spend a lot of time paying quite that much attention to the floor.

It felt like a prelude to Pesach, since one of the traditional ways of getting ready for the holiday is engaging in massive spring cleaning. The traditional reason, of course, is to rid one's house of even the tiniest crumb of hametz, leaven, before the holiday begins and we spend a week eschewing bread.

But I find that there's a spiritual component to it entirely separate from the intention of getting rid of leaven -- whether literal crumbs between the sofa cushions, or the metaphorical puffery of ego. Cleaning house, getting rid of things we don't need, always leaves me feeling lighter.

Nigel Savage is right -- getting rid of the "leaven" of old things -- piles of accumulated preschool art, sweaters which are no longer flattering, toys our son has long outgrown -- actually leaves my heart and soul lighter. It feels like throwing ballast off of a hot air balloon.  The lighter I get, the more I can soar.


This post is part of #blogExodus, a daily carnival of posts / tweets / status updates relating to themes of Passover and Exodus, created by ImaBima. Find other posts via the #blogExodus hashtag.

#blogExodus 2: Bless

Blogexodus5775The seder unfolds over the course of fifteen steps. The Hebrew word סדר / seder means "order," and this is a ritual with a distinct order. In our house, we sing the fifteen steps in the order of the seder every time we come to a new step, a new stop, a new pause along the journey.

The first step is kadesh, which means "make holy" or "sanctify." We sanctify the sacred space of the seder meal by lighting candles and blessing juice or wine -- just as we do every Shabbat. (This year the first seder falls on a Friday night, so we'll bless candles for Shabbat and yom tov / holiday, and bless matzah a bit later in the meal.)

Creating sacred space is something we do together with God. The evening of the seder may have some intrinsic holiness, because for so many centuries we have observed the full moon of Nisan as the night when we commemorate the Exodus from Egypt, but most of its holiness (I think) arises in our partnership with God. We work with God to make it holy, using the tools of candles and wine and haggadah, scents and stories and song.

When we speak our ancient words of blessing, we usually begin ברוך אתה / baruch atah, "Blessed are You..." (Or, in Rabbi Marcia Prager's beautiful translation, "A fountain of blessings are You...") We assert that God is blessed. This may seem a chutzpahdik assertion, but we bless God. The power of that blessing lies in our hearts. And as we reach out to God and offer our blessing, God reaches back to us with shefa, divine abundance, streaming into creation. We bless God, and in return God blesses us.

Several years ago at the old Elat Chayyim I took a week-long workshop in the art of offering spontaneous blessings. I remember finding it strange at first. Turning to someone and saying, "May I offer you a blessing?" and then, at their nod, continuing with words customized to their situation -- that was difficult for me. (I think it became smoother, or at least more familiar, during my nine months of Clinical Pastoral Education. My Christian colleagues taught me a lot that year.)

Today I think of offering a spontaneous blessing in much the same way that I think about using the classical blessing formula (or its gender-switched or gender-neutral variations, which I also employ.) Making a blessing, whether traditional or ad hoc, is an act of reaching with my heart toward God and imploring God to open a channel so that shefa can flow through my words. As the moon waxes toward Pesach, what blessings do you most need to receive? What blessings are you most able to give?


This post is part of #blogExodus, a daily carnival of posts / tweets / status updates relating to themes of Passover and Exodus, created by ImaBima. Find other posts via the #blogExodus hashtag.

Forty. New beginnings. Also, blogExodus!

Today I will have the inestimable joy of leading davenen at my shul alongside my friend (and ALEPH partner) Rabbi David Markus. I can't think of a sweeter way to begin my 40th birthday.

Perhaps this is a good day to reread the poem I wrote a few years ago -- Forty Lines About 40 -- which is full of rabbinic teachings about the deep symbolism of this number.

According to an oft-quoted (and rarely-sourced) teaching, being now 40 and married I am finally qualified to study kabbalah. I've been at it for more than 20 years, but I hope my studies will deepen.

I like to think of turning 40 as a time to pause and honor the harvest of these first four decades -- and perhaps also a launching pad for whatever the next four decades (God willing) might hold.

Of course, I also regard today as the first day of spring. (At least in this hemisphere.) Even if there's still snow on the ground (which there is, where I live), today marks a new season, a new beginning.

And we're also beginning the lunar month of Nisan. Pesach (Passover) begins at the full moon of Nisan. That's only two weeks away. Our people's central journey of liberation is about to begin.

New moon, new season -- both feel like seeds, packed with potential still curled tight. Where will that potential take us as the coming weeks unfold? Today is the start of a story. "In the beginning..."


Blogexodus5775This post is part of #blogExodus, a daily carnival of posts / tweets / status updates relating to themes of Passover and Exodus, created by ImaBima. Find other posts via the #blogExodus hashtag.


Daily April poem: for #blogExodus, "Be"


BlogexodusWhat do you want to be?
Have you always known?
Can you imagine the becoming?
What would it feel like?
Would you carry your body differently?
How would you walk in the world?

Will you be at a seder tonight?
Will you pay attention to your heart?
Do you know to what you've been enslaved?
Are you ready to leave Mitzrayim?
What do you need to jettison?
Can you promise not to tarry?

What will you do when you reach the sea?
Will you curse the day you took the risk?
Will you berate those beside you?
Wish for your comfortable straitjacket?
Or will you stride into the waters?
Can you trust that they will part?

Do you see what this holiday is about?
Do you see what this poem is about?
What do you yearn for?
And what do you yearn for?
And what do you yearn for?
It's right here, waiting for you.

Today's NaPoWriMo prompt invites us to write a "twenty questions" poem, in which every line but the last is a question. I combined that with today's #blogExodus prompt, "Be," and this is what resulted.

Today's the last day of #blogExodus. Pesach begins tonight. I will miss this daily spiritual discipline of paying attention to the journey leading to Pesach! But starting tomorrow night I'll get to enjoy a different discipline, the forty-nine days of Counting the Omer. (Stay tuned for more about that tomorrow.)

If you are celebrating Pesach tonight, I wish you a sweet and meaningful festival of freedom.


This post is part of #blogExodus, a daily carnival of posts / tweets / status updates relating to themes of Passover and Exodus, created by ImaBima. Find other posts via the #blogExodus hashtag.

Daily April poem: for #blogExodus, "Change"


Blogexodusslavery into freedom
midwives into dissidents
basket into ark
Hebrew into prince
babbler into stutterer
boy into man
overseer into corpse
bush into flame
was into will-be
fugitive into emissary
staffs into snakes
Nile into blood
darkness into light
Pharaoh's heart into stone
Pharaoh's daughter into God's
no into yes
dough into matzah
Sea of Reeds into birth canal
mourning into dancing
degradation into praise

This poem draws on the outlines of the story of the Exodus as told in Torah, as well as in midrash. For instance: "babbler into stutterer" is a reference to the midrash about Moshe and the coal, and "Pharaoh's daughter into God's" is a reference to the story which holds that Pharaoh's daughter changed her named to Batya -- bat Yah, "daughter of God" -- when she left Egypt with Moshe and the assembled multitudes.

The Mishna teaches that וצריך להתחיל בגנות ולסיים בשבח - when we tell the story of the Exodus at Pesach, we begin with degradation and end with praise. At its heart, the Pesach story is a story about change: once things were that way, now they are this way. Once we were slaves; now we are free.


This post is part of #blogExodus, a daily carnival of posts / tweets / status updates relating to themes of Passover and Exodus, created by ImaBima. Find other posts via the #blogExodus hashtag.

Daily April poem: for #blogExodus, "Redeem"


BlogexodusRedemption is the sensory impression
of leaving slavery, throngs shoving
toward the parted seas.

The redemption project was originally created  
by Malachi's promise to turn parents' hearts
to their children, children to their parents.

What do the beating of the heart and redemption
have in common? Both are signs of God's presence
close as my own pulse.

We are taught from an early age
that there are four basic redemptions,
one for each cup of wine at the seder.

Employing scientists to tweak ratios
to optimize redemption, we settled on
six parts compassion to four parts kindness.

Watch the official redemption online!
Redemption may be the most complicated.
Redemption is already here.

Today's NaPoWriMo prompt is a fascinating one:

Pick a common noun for a physical thing, for example, “desk” or “hat” or “bear,” and then pick one for something intangible, like “love” or “memories” or “aspiration.” Then Google your tangible noun, and find some sentences using it. Now, replace that tangible noun in those sentences with your intangible noun, and use those sentences to create (or inspire) a poem.

I chose "taste" and -- working from today's #blogExodus prompt -- "redemption." And then I took the resulting sentences and reshaped them into a poem.

The stanza about Malachi is a reference to the haftarah, or prophetic, reading for today. Today is Shabbat HaGadol, "The Great Shabbat." My friend Reb Jeff wrote a terrific post about that: The Great Sabbath, Elijah's Cup, and the Unkept Promise.


This post is part of #blogExodus, a daily carnival of posts / tweets / status updates relating to themes of Passover and Exodus, created by ImaBima. Find other posts via the #blogExodus hashtag.

Daily April poem: for #blogExodus, "Count"


Soon we'll start to count each day
the weeks until first harvest.
Not grain; instead, discernment.
Refine away the heart's dross
on this labyrinth's curved path.
When we get to forty-nine
will we be poised to receive?

Since today's #blogExodus prompt was "count," I thought immediately of the counting of the Omer, which begins next week on the second night of Pesach. What better example of counting than that measured journey of forty-nine days between Pesach and Shavuot, liberation and revelation?

I wanted to work with some kind of syllabics, since that's an interesting form of poetic counting. I did some reading, and learned about the Filipino form called the tanaga, which has four lines of seven syllables each. I decided to try my hand at a poem with seven lines of seven syllables, like the Omer's seven weeks of seven days.


This post is part of #blogExodus, a daily carnival of posts / tweets / status updates relating to themes of Passover and Exodus, created by ImaBima. Find other posts via the #blogExodus hashtag.

Shabbat shalom!

Daily April poem: for #blogExodus, "Leave"


BlogexodusAs though it were easy.
Just sling my jacket
over my shoulder
and head out the door.

As though it didn't mean
walking away
from every awful certainty
I've ever known.

I didn't want to belong
to power, instrument
of an unknown agenda.
Forgot how to be anything else.

And what if
my fears are right, if
there are no benevolent arms
to greet me on the other side?

The time to strike
is when the opportunity presents.
Full moon to light the way.
Ahead, unknown terrain.

You want me to trust
I can be more than this.
Strong enough
to choose to believe.

This poem comes out of today's #blogExodus prompt, "Leave."

It's informed by a variety of things, from Hasidic teachings about the Exodus to fiction I've recently read.

Only four more days until Pesach. Are we ready to leave the complacency of our old lives and plunge into something new?


Daily April poem: for #blogExodus


BlogexodusWhy is this night different from all other nights?
    Don't we know the answer to that already?
Why are they called "the four questions"
    when it's really one question with four answers?

Do you believe we were slaves to a Pharaoh in Egypt?
    That we cried out to God and God heard us?

That the Holy Blessed One lifted us out of there
    with that mighty hand and outstretched arm?
Does the archaeological record support any of this?
    Wouldn't we know if Hebrews had built the pyramids?
If the Angel of Death passed over the bloody lintels
    why didn't the Egyptians just imitate the Hebrews?

Does it matter if the Exodus actually happened?
    Does it matter to whom? Who's asking?
Is the story untrue if it isn't history?
    If I say I love you, is that true or false?
Why do we keep repeating this narrative?
    What does that say about who we think we are?

Today's #blogExodus prompt is "Ask." So today's daily poem takes the form of a series of questions. Some of them are questions I've actually been asked -- including a few by Hebrew school students this very week.

This post is part of #blogExodus, a daily carnival of posts / tweets / status updates relating to themes of Passover and Exodus, created by ImaBima. Find other posts via the #blogExodus hashtag.


Daily April poem: a Pesach sestina for #blogExodus


BlogexodusIt's time to unearth the haggadot again.
Scour the countertops before the night
we'll gather around the table, all
ears to hear the story our people tell:
once were slaves, now we're free -- that's why
the songs and foods and prayers: come and learn.

The sages say there's always more to learn
even if you're wise, discerning, have studied again
the details of the Exodus, even why
Akiva and his fellows stayed up all night.
Explain matzah, maror, paschal lamb. Tell
your children on that day, our ancestors all

were lifted up, and not them alone, but all
the generations to come, including ours. Learn
the lessons this tale comes to teach. Tell
yourself: if you're in that narrow place again
there's always hope for better. Tonight
we sing the story that makes us who we are, why

this night is different: why matzah, why
we recline, eat bitter, dip parsley in tears, all
the customs of the seder night.
The orange on the plate, to help us learn
all have a seat at the table. Now again
we make the tale our own, tell

old truths in new metaphors. It's a tell:
do you feel for the Wicked Son? (Why
does he get the bad rap for asking, again?)
Or the Good Son, memorizing all
the halakhot of Pesach: will you learn
with love as he did? Or maybe tonight

you feel like the Simple Son: "this night,
why is it special?" And you shall tell
your child on that night -- listen and learn,
the "you" is feminine, mama's job to explain why --
it's because of what God did for me, for all
of us, bringing us out of slavery again.

Seder night with One Who doesn't yet ask why:
tell that child what you cherish, all
the stories we learn, transform, repeat again.

Today's #blogExodus prompt is "learn." I thought it would be fun to write a sestina about the themes of learning, repetition, asking and telling which are so integral to Pesach.

The poem references a number of things which are in the traditional haggadah, among them the story of Akiva and his fellows staying up all night until the bedtime shema, the Four Sons, "we were slaves to a Pharaoh in Egypt," "You shall tell your child on that day..." and "even if we were all wise, discerning, learned, scholars of Torah..." -- the passage which reminds us that no matter how much we think we know about Pesach and the story of the Exodus there's always more to learn.