VII. From Sabbath to Sabbath

 As the Twilight Comes


May your fragmenting words find their necessary home 


Do not be sure we’ve come from the sea

Or deserted our inherited altar


To grasp the instant before conception

Of who beside mother and father

Prepared you for birth


Look Dick  

Look Jane

This body

is a clod of clay


With the first breath

Of our first hour 

Our time on earth

Lasts hardly a fleeting sound

To answer it’s worth the trouble


With twilight on the sixth day

Ceasing from our rushing habits

From all the making of things

Spreading a cloth to sit

At our never deserted table

Awaiting our presence by the Shechinah 

                                                   —Reizel Polak



the challenge


Bodies are born and shed.  A chrysalis

     blooms, unpetals and falls.

But to a chrysalis, its opening is

     the time its being fails.

Pure rhythm pulses in the brittle shell,

     then hammers on the sky

a brutal song with urgent wings.  And all

     is noise, or destiny.

                                     —JB Mulligan



fragments of answers


The cricket.  The field.  The ember-glow

of a nearby town.  The rush of stars

for fourteen billion years above...

this is all that whatever God

is does....  In churches down the road,

in white florescent light of labs

up on the hill, the fractured answers

leak and emit uncertain power.

The weary wanderer sits in a car

waiting for the light to change,

singing along with the radio

perhaps.  The high beams sweep across

a tangle of trees.  The cricket rasps.

We stay for a bit.  We move.  We’re gone.

The cricket and the stars stay on.

                                     —JB Mulligan



the common grave


We lived, imprisoned in each circumstance,

taking no more than we needed

and without ever taking a whiff of a chance.

If we’d failed more, we might have succeeded.


As each sun melted in the common grave

daylight faded, leaving little

to display that we’d been alight and alive...

But a small win still—there’s the riddle.


The chain that binds us to the wall of years

links us to the drab unfamous

through unending march of hard labors—

which, praising mildly, can’t shame us.

                                              —JB Mulligan




                        for Rav Avraham Halpern


Where he sets his feet three times a day

and stands bent at his shtender


leaning forward on his hands, the weight

of his prayer over sixty years


has worn two holes

in the linoleum.

—Steven (Shlomo) Sher


*Place (Hebr.); “HaMakom (the Place)” is sometimes used as a term for G-d.

felt tongue 232


space is not believable

& is not

in our hands.

we’re getting nothing

out of the thievery here.

the point becomes

a dime with mercury

spilling all over

a silver coat.


asleep in the apple

orchard among empty

crates, the sun

sprinkles down

thru the trees.


the man in white

becomes the first

number rolled out

of a lot

full of tires.

it is winter

& we must

add zeros,

counting the growth

on one hand.

                                —Guy Beining



felt tongue 489


my day & night

with pincers, placing slivers

of those gone

into filaments

of a silver tide,

a brush stroke



the needle

of April.





celan did not

slip, he sprang

as a poet

fastened to a linage,

unwrapping text

as prayer without

it being defined.

—Guy Beining





Don’t speak. Just listen.

Listen to your heart.


Now the sound, perennial

like some trees, now


the words, fresh and clear

like crystalline water.


Do you hear? If you

don’t, try to be still, quieter.


I’m sure you will hear

sooner or later.


Having lived in this

world for so many years,


one loses the silence

of being alone.


Wait and then listen

again. The reassuring,


healing sound and words

will be with you. Here.

—Bibhu Padhi





I do not really know if that anger

was righteous, but it raised itself up

spontaneously, without fear of

who was listening to my voice.


It was no assassination though;

I cannot murder even myself.

Perhaps, the harsh mid-afternoon

Indian sun was the source of what I said.


Today, a day later, it is morning.

Summer morning and heat

and a feeling of belonging to

no one quietly haunts me.


I do not know why anger is

given to us at all, to what

purpose, if it does nothing else

but hurts. I’m afraid no one knows.


Why did it come upon me only

yesterday, when the object it could

have been directed at might have been

enjoying his comforts miles away?


I know, generations change to

turn younger, as if things that

happened to us would never happen

to them or their children, and a feeling


that the world above it is ignorant,

garrulous. I never thought so about my

father, although he died too young for me

to know him a little further, but even then


I guess he had his anger too, but I

do not remember. From whatever little

of him remains with me now, I suppose

I should have loved him a lot more.

—Bibhu Padhi






Which is your god,

the monk or the bawd?

But I would not be me


without the two,

nor you be you.

So which divinity


should we apply,

and which, deny,

the lower or the higher?

Oh dash it all,

am I crooning to Baal

or preaching to a choir?

                                             —James B. Nicola






when she sat in the chair

with the prayer in her head\

eyes closed

remembering the words

suddenly she decided to wear earrings

and jumped up

—Lois Michal Unger




20/20 Hindsight


From the viewpoint of Now,

the Past divulges insight,

and if history repeats,

foresight comes forth.


No thought is an island.

Time connects ideas

to each other, to souls,

to paths forward and back.


Patterns may appear

with post-event perspective.

A bird’s-eye view clarifies

the exit from a maze,

while we remain gravity-bound

behind walls, tied to the Present.


Mortals can only dream of

sharing the realm outside of time,

where omnipresent fingers fold

and poke the universe,

letting the Future dimple

into the Past.

—Connie S. Tettenborn



Soft Lines


The gray cloud folds back like a blanket to reveal a sleepy sun

it begins until it ends and the day is filled

with clouds, some stark but few straight lines

a fine fuzziness to amuse in fact

I cannot think when I have ever walked

a straight path

that didn’t turn or curve or send me up another hill


So we can’t sum up the day saying

Ah I went there when the going was so tumbled and strained

that you really landed

somewhere else

the back of the beyond, the back, the beyond, or somewhere near it

but night is folding on a soft black line 

curved like a sweater dropped by the bed.

—Susan Oleferuk



Decisions, Decisions


I used to have the emuna, the faith and trust to see

I make a choice using my mind, and then Hashem helps me

To actualize, achieve success or, sometimes, maybe not

Either way, G-d actions it, controlling the upshot


Yet, things did not go seamlessly, a flow would not ensue

The difficulty seemed to stem, in part, from my worldview

Admittedly, I recognised Divine Will and His power

Yet, this Truth was clear to me only in “Action Hour”


Unfortunately, I presumed that I was head in charge

Of reasoning, of rationale, and policy at large

Assuming judge and jury role, I always found it hard

I wore sole authority... oh, is that why things were marred?


One day that penny, it did drop, it landed right on me

Omnipotent, He does not just control results we see

He’s willing and available to help our thoughts as well

If only we do draw Him in, then He can make them gel!


The intellect, though exalted, is physical and mine

Being mortal, it is limited, it’s human not Divine

But when I let go of logic, and open up my heart

I usher in my neshama, my inner G-dly part



The openness, the easiness, simplicity, the grace

I do not move a muscle, yet…I win the human race!

                                —Chaiya D.





“Once there was a master of prayer, who was constantly engaged in prayer, and  in singing songs and praises to God…”

— from “The Master of Prayer” by Rabbi Nachman of Braslav


If only we could find the master of prayer

Who would instruct us how, and when, to pray;

Where has he gone?  If only he were here!


How common is the wish to pray; how rare

The man of grace who understands the way.

If only we could find the master of prayer.


If he were here with us, he would repair

The flute of faith that prophets used to play;

Where has he gone?  If only he were here!


He’d know which melodies we should revere,

Which blessings to recite, which words to say;

If only we could find the master of prayer.


He’d make the sacred letters shine, aware

Of countless lights, while we see only gray;

Where has he gone?  If only he were here!


Where haven’t we searched or looked for him, near

And far, night after night, day after day?

If only we could find the master of prayer. 

Where has he gone?  If only he were here!

—Yakov Azriel





“Once there was a king who had six sons and one daughter.  This daughter was very precious to him, and he loved her deeply… One morning she was gone …”

— from “The Losing of the King’s Daughter” by Rabbi Nachman of Braslav


How can we find the daughter of the king,

Lost on a distant peak of ice and stone?

How can we hope to hear the princess sing?


Stripped of her crown, stripped of her signet ring,

Stripped of the purple robe she used to own,

How can we find the daughter of the king?


Even in dreams we see the princess cling

To her sighs, her stifled cry, her muffled moan;

How can we hope to hear the princess sing?


Without a diadem, without a string

Of pearls, her face unnamed, her name unknown,

How can we find the daughter of the king?


Adrift amidst strong winds and storms, no wing

With which to fly, abducted and alone,

How can we hope to hear the princess sing?


Write on your kerchief with tears, how to bring

You home again, to your father and your throne.

How can we find the daughter of the king?

How can we hope to hear the princess sing?

—Yakov Azriel





“O God, do not keep silence; do not be still, do not be mute, God!” (Psalm 83:2)


Is Your silence gray, God?—  winter’s gray

That freezes both our hearing and our sight,

Preventing us from glimpsing heaven’s light

Or listening to prayers our children say.

Is Your silence black, God?—A runaway,

Ferocious blackness prowling in the night,

A dark-furred beast that does not fear to bite

Our eyes and ears when pouncing on its prey.


Is Your silence white, God?—An opaque cloud

Enveloping the sinner and the saint,

Both those who feast and those who have no bread.

If only You would speak to us out loud

In all the colors, tints and shades You paint

From ultraviolet, Lord, to infrared. 

—Yakov Azriel



Friday Night Setting Sun 

“The sun sets below the trees, it departs

as we watch, the angels offer peace,

Welcome, oh Sabbath Queen, welcome oh Sabbath Queen . . . “  (Bialik)



The routine of Creation closes out

as from the window, the sun sets

and a band of angels gathers about


spreads a gentle canopy, they caress . . .

the Sabbath Queen arrives, she comes, “Peace,

rest from your labors, this is a time to bless,


reflect upon the venues you’ve begun.” We never cease

to wonder, our minds traverse, look up, our eyes

see what’s yet to see beyond, yet to be released,


another soul comes down, its flickers, rise,

a candle fills a special space.  All aglow,

she shows us the World to Come, tantalize


here, a taste of serenity for one day.  All of us, now

encapsulated, away, in this special place, we grow



a constellation we can’t imagine, elsewhere,

a sacred precinct sheds messages. Of signs

of holiness set off from the week, we share


the gifts, as we delight.  The evening sky reminds

us where we began, a universe we create

on this day that we usher in, here we’re bound,


the Sabbath Queen leaves us for the others who await

her, to offer her kindness, she commences her path

where we rest, in between, we sate


our souls.  Take the lessons, the pleasures that swath

of supplications engages our hearts.  We sing

into the evening, our aspirations and watch


the Divine that descends upon us.  It brings

a sense of warmth, a shower of compassion rings

—Zev Davis