Tag Archives: Yom Kippur

Poem and Direction of the Heart for the Tenth Day of T’shuvah

By Marcia Falk (Berkeley, CA)

In her new book, The Days Between: Blessings, Poems, and Directions of the Heart for the Jewish High Holiday Season, renowned poet Marcia Falk re-creates key prayers and rituals in poetic forms from a contemporary perspective for those in search of a contemplative approach to the High Holidays. Here is an excerpt:

What Do You Have?

Not this earth, not even dust—
Not yours, caw invisible crows
like doors swinging shut.

Not your memories, rising
and burning in the air
like leaf-dew in sun.

Not your thoughts, poking in
and darting out
like hummingbirds in the blossoms.

Only this bit of time (like clouds unforming)—
even as you point to it,
gone.

Nothing

Nothing. You began as nothing and you will end as nothing. And in between—everything, and nothing. In between—joy and sorrow, beauty and decay. Everything yours to partake of, yours to bear. Yours to see, to know, to give birth to—and to let go. None of it yours to have.

Not even you are yours to have. You belong to a wholeness so great you cannot even conceive of it.

No, it is not a belonging; nothing owns you. You are simply part of it. You came out of it and you will return to it. You do not ever leave it, you are part of it forever.

And this is your moment to be alive.

Marcia Falk was born in New York City and raised on Long Island in a Conservative Jewish home. She received a B.A. in philosophy magna cum laude from Brandeis University and a Ph.D. in English and comparative literature from Stanford.  A university professor for fifteen years, she taught Hebrew and English literature, Jewish studies, Bible, and creative writing at Stanford, the State University of New York at Binghamton, and the Claremont Colleges. Her classic verse translation of the biblical Song of Songs was released in 2004 in a new edition, The Song of Songs: Love Lyrics from the Bible (Brandeis University Press).

For more information about her work, visit: http://marciafalk.com/

The material posted here is excerpted from The Days Between: Blessings, Poems, and Directions of the Heart for the Jewish High Holiday Season By Marcia Falk (HBI Series on Jewish Women, Brandeis University Press) and reprinted with permission of the author and publisher.

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I Can’t Promise

by Natalie Zellat Dyen (Huntington Valley, PA)

I can’t promise that people will be kind.

But I can show you a reservoir of kindness
where anyone can dip their cup.

I can’t promise you happiness every day of your life.
But I can plant seedlings in your garden
that burst with joy in springtime.

I can’t promise you undying friendship.
But I can give you the words
to mend shattered bonds.

I can’t promise there’s a world to come.
But I can give you the tools you need
to fix the world that is.

I can’t promise that those you love will love you back.
But I can give you an open heart
to receive love when it comes.

And if you can’t promise to use all your gifts
At least you can promise to try.

Natalie Zellat Dyen is a freelance writer and photographer living in Huntingdon Valley, PA. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia Stories, The Willow Review, Global Woman Magazine, Intercom Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Schuylkill Valley Journal, and other newspapers and journals. Links to Natalie’s published work are available atwww.nataliewrites.com.

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Why Fast?

by Mel Glenn (Brooklyn, NY)

Good question for a self-doubting Jew.
Me, who counts the number of pages left in the service,
me, who counts the numbers of lights above the ark,
me, who now gets up and sits down more slowly.
What is my one day fasting
compared to a Muslim’s thirty,
a dieter’s holy grail,
a third world child’s daily necessity?
Does my fast count for extra credit
when the signed and sealed decision is made?
I fast for reasons that hover
just outside the borders of precise definition.
I fast for reasons that have little to do
with the poor education forced on me.
I fast for reasons that mark my tenuous connection
to a congregation of people I know once a year,
to a congregation of six million I never knew.
Finally, I fast to ask forgiveness for sins,
real and imagined, deliberate and accidental.
And while that hefty number is being tallied,
I try to convince myself  that fasting
will let me hear the voice of God,
establishing a one-to-one connection I need to make.

The author of twelve books for young adults, Mel Glenn has lived nearly all his life in Brooklyn, NY, where he taught English at A. Lincoln High School for thirty-one years.  Lately, he’s been writing poetry, and you can find his most recent poems in a new YA anthology, This Family Is Driving Me Crazy,  edited by M. Jerry Weiss.

If you’d like to learn more about his work, visit: http://www.melglenn.com/

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Silent Meditation

by Natalie Zellat Dyen (Huntington Valley, PA)

The earth spins
Through hours and days and seasons
To a time of stillness
When the shofar sounds
And we reflect on the dark nights
Of angry words and stricken souls
Of broken bodies and broken promises
Of empty spaces left by those who are no more
And we reflect on the bright days
Of birth and breath
Of music and miracles
Of kind acts and loving arms
And the gravity that keeps us firmly grounded
As the earth spins.

So we reflect
And repent
And look ahead
And promise to do better
And give more
And love more
As the shofar sounds
And we turn to face the new year
And the earth spins
And we go round again.

Natalie Zellat Dyen is a freelance writer and photographer living in Huntingdon Valley, PA. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia Stories, The Willow Review, Global Woman Magazine, Intercom Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and other newspapers and journals. Links to Natalie’s published work are available atwww.nataliewrites.com.

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A Miracle In Rhodes

by Helene Kroll Gupp (Sarasota, FL)

It was September, after Rosh Hashanah, and we were on the island of Rhodes searching for a synagogue to spend the most sacred of all our holidays–Yom Kippur.

Along with another couple, we had flown to Athens, then to Mykonos, and now we were in hot and blindingly sunny Rhodes.  Somehow, we had located an old synagogue, down a dusty street, practically hidden from view.  Through a series of disjointed verbal expressions and elaborate hand illustrations, we got our message across to some local townspeople that we wanted to pray at the synagogue.

We were directed to the synagogue’s caretaker, an elderly woman with numbers on her arm.  She instructed us to come back the next day for services at 9 a.m.  Obediently, we did just that.  But 9 a.m. Greek time means “whenever!”

The synagogue had a strong Moorish feel to its architecture and an even stronger odor of dust and mold.  When my husband and our friend, Arnie, each put on a tallis belonging to the synagogue, they kept sniffing until they realized that the scent encompassing them was one of layers and layers of dust.  Obviously, a tallis was used but once a year!

Slowly, a few people started drifting into the synagogue.

A young woman, employed by a cruise ship docked at the port, told me she was Jewish on her father’s side but that in her heart she felt Jewish and wanted to be part of this holiday.

A few tourists rudely rushed in, snapped some pictures of the bimah, and ran out as quickly as they came.

Then three Israeli soldiers on holiday strode in.  Young and vibrant, they filled the synagogue with their exuberance.

Since it was an Orthodox service, the women sat on one side.  And because the young men were also Orthodox, they would not consider including women in the minyan that was required to hold a proper service.

One of the soldiers offered to act as rabbi and hazzan, and patiently waited with us for a quorum of ten.

All in all, there were nine men present; not enough for a minyan.  We all sat around in that stuffy synagogue, waiting to start the service.

Suddenly, a tourist, dressed uncomfortably in a suit and tie, rushed into the ancient building and breathlessly asked, “What time does the service start?”

“Now,” we all exclaimed.

He was our tenth man!

In that moment, thousands of miles away from our home and our temple of three thousand people, ten men and four women celebrated Yom Kippur.  We had our minyan. And for another year the Day of Atonement was observed anew in Rhodes.

I will never forget that holiday in Greece.  It taught me how important every Jew is.

Of all the High Holidays I have spent in my hometown synagogue, none will equal that experience of being part of the continuation of an ancient tradition.

And I will always remember that little synagogue and the miracle I witnessed there: the miracle of one minyan that preserved Yom Kippur for another year on the island of Rhodes.

Helene Kroll Gupp came to Sarasota in 1994 from her hometown of Rochester, New York where she enjoyed a thirty-two year career in public relations and development, including stints with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, State of Israel Bonds, Jewish Home and Infirmary, and lastly, Jewish Family Service. A life member of Hadassah, she is active in Women’s American ORT, Gulfside Chapter.

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