Category poetry

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Unlikely Answers: At the Burning Bush with Durante, Mamie Smith, and Sherman Alexie

“Without impossible questions and unlikely answers, faith is only dust,” Sherman Alexie writes in a poem that finds Moses at the Burning Bush. Alexie reaches this mountaintop via a circuitous path that touches on roller coasters, obsessive worry about failing to turn off the stove, Jimmy Durante, Dante Alighieri, and another poet‘s obsession with the […]