Say Uncle for the High Holidays

I found the poetry collection, Say Uncle by Kay Ryan, at my local library and thought two of the pieces useful for the season of returning and repentance: “Failure 2” There could be nutrients in failure– deep amendments to the shallow soil of wishes. Think of the dark and bitter flavors of black ales and […]

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Rivka Miriam: at age 13 and 60+

A 13-year-old poet wrote one of the pieces recently enjoyed by the Hebrew Poetry group at Temple Micah (DC), I was surprised to learn. The poem “Still” opens the collection called These Mountains: Selected Poems of Rivka Miriam, and it was one of the first we discussed by this poet. This review excerpt includes lines […]

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Roads, Birds, and Distance: Amichai, Goldberg, and the Rambam

“Touch” [Hebrew: נָגַע] is a word-of-the-week, as my study partner and I plow slowly through Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed. This common verb, as it happens, is central to a Yehuda Amichai piece Temple Micah’s Hebrew Poetry group discussed this past Shabbat. The two explorations of touch shed a little extra light on one another […]

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Rivers of His Hands

“The rivers of his hands [נהרות ידיו] poured into his good deeds,” reads the Yehuda Amichai poem “My Father.” The Hebrew Poetry group at Temple Micah discussed this poem on Shabbat, and I later recalled some background which seems related. Rabbi Meir says in Pirkei Avot: Anyone who involves himself in Torah for its own […]

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Prayer in the Midst of Bullets and Bombs

Decades ago, Yehuda Amichai wrote about the diameter of a bomb — thirty centimeters, with circles of pain outward from its center. (English here). Similarly, every bullet leaves pain in circles rippling outward. We also know that kindness has a ripple effect, and many people think prayer works this way, too. The 20th Century rabbi […]

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The Picture, Part 2

In Bialik’s poem, the Matmid, there is both a collective of students and a “lonely voice,” chanting solo at night: His comrades three await him in his place, They, who have been his friends since first he came: The burning light, the desk, his Talmud text. — HaMatmid [The Talmud Student], Helena Frank, trans. See […]

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What’s Wrong with this Picture?

The Hebrew Poetry group at Temple Micah (DC) is exploring some works of Chaim Nachman Bialik (1873–1934; also: Haim or Hayim). So I have recently discovered “The Talmud Student,” one of his most famous poems. I find it fascinating and powerful. But it leaves me with one large question I’m hoping someone(s) can help me […]

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