On Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day

Have mercy on Mother’s Day
for not everyone has a Hallmark life:

Some want with all their hearts to have a child to hold
and they can’t, just can’t.

Some yearn for the child who is gone
and their heart breaks over and over like clockwork every day.

Some ache for the children taken from them by politics
or murder, or a drunk driver, or bad luck.

Some gave a child up – it was “for the best” –
and now they wonder every day: where is she? What’s she doing?

Have mercy on Mother’s Day
because not everyone had a Hallmark life:

Their mom was sick or selfish
or she went missing one dark night and never came back
or she lived on her own private planet
perhaps some kind of hell.
Or it hurts even to be in the room with her
because she bites, like an injured mother cat
all claws and teeth.

Perhaps their mom was a child herself
Perhaps we’ll never know
They’ll never tell

Have mercy on Mother’s Day
Have mercy on all the mothers
All the children
Have mercy.

Shabbat: Accept (for Now)

Kinetic photography

Shabbat

is the day

when we sit with the world as it is.

We accept the Now.

I may notice

something needs fixing,

needs action

needs a letter to the editor but

on Shabbat I must sit

accept the unacceptable

for a few hours.

I must wait for the stars.

Then I may fly

like an arrow from the bow of Shabbat:

potential

unleashed.

 

         ——-

Image by theSmart77 some rights reserved

A Pile of Stones

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Somewhere in the sand

between the Sea and Sinai

there is a pile of rocks, a memorial.

Every year I stumble against it

trip over it

and the sharp stones hit a nerve.

I’ve only lately finished the matzah

only lately begun picking the soft white manna

from the grocery shelves again

enjoying my freedom

and then

wham!

I trip over those damned rocks again.

They recall all those souls, ground to gravel

Reduced to ash.

I cannot bear to think of them

And I cannot bear to forget them, either.

So I sit on the sand

aching

re-stacking the stones.

Image by Nick Brooks, some rights reserved

I will not forget (BaShallach)

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I will not forget the night that we left Egypt.
I remember clutching the baby, and the borrowed treasure,
And the screaming in the houses
As those people found their children.

I was not sorry, I was glad and terrified
Because I knew that when they made the connection
They’d be on our heels

We were on our way, through the dark
Night and day, following that cloud, that pillar of fire
It circled behind us, when the army came
We could hear the horses in the dark, hear the chariots grinding
All through the night

And the wind blew so hard I could not breathe.

We were caught between the fire and the shoreline knowing
That Pharaoh was just behind the fire, just behind
And we were trapped.

Moses kept waving towards the sea, hollering that we should go
And what, drown? but Nachshon waded out until
All we could see was his head, disappearing
And the sea, churned up by the wind, seemed to part before him

We rushed into the breach
on our way to the future.

Image by By Chenspec (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Passing the Torah

Rabbi Steve Chester passes the Torah to me (again) at ordination (5/18/08)
Rabbi Steve Chester passes the Torah to me (again) at ordination (5/18/08)

When I watch the passing of the Torah at a bar or bat mitzvah,

I wonder: Who passes the Torah to me?

My father was Irish Catholic,
and my mother a Catholic who was once a Presbyterian.
My name is Ruth bat Avraham v’Sarah
But Abraham and Sarah died a long time ago.
I have no family stories about Passover.
Like Ruth, I’m here only because I wanted to be.
Who passes the Torah to me?

When I approached a rabbi about conversion
He gently suggested we study together
And passed the Torah to me.

When my first Hebrew teacher patiently
guided me right to left through the aleph-bet
She passed the Torah to me.

When I shivered in the water of the mikveh
and the cantor led me through the blessings
She passed the Torah to me.

When I talked for an hour with the Beit Din
When the Torah study class showed me how Jews study Bible
When the Talmud group welcomed me for discussions and stories
When an Israeli acquaintance corrected my Hebrew
When my study partner clapped a kippah on my head
They passed the Torah to me.

When a little girl showed me how to tear the challah
When a woman offered me my first taste of a Hillel sandwich
When the guy at the bakery said, “Shabbat Shalom!”
When a committee chair said to me, “Here, you can do this.”
When friends shared recipes and stories and customs
They passed the Torah to me.

If it takes a village to raise a child
It takes a congregation to raise a convert:

We pass the Torah from hand to hand
and make sure all the Jews who want can hold it:
can write it on their hearts,
speak of it in their homes,
teach it to their children,
bind it on their hands,
hold it before their eyes,
and write it – in golden letters! –
on the doorposts of their gates.

– Rabbi Ruth Adar