I pray, but I didn’t used to call it praying
it is ritual, song, hope
each one of us together in the borrowed church
each one of us in our own body
each one of us alone with our thoughts
each one of us connected by our hearts
each one of our ancestors on our tongues.
Each one of my ancestors.
The only grandmother I knew became
a Communist, once she made it from Russia to America.
My father asked her, longingly, if he could getA writ of divorce. Traditionally, only a man can grant his wife a get. Liberal Jews have amended this tradition, making divorce more egalitarian.
it was never going to happen.
Did she laugh at religion, as a good Communist should?
Did I invent this phrase to tell the story?
Whose words on my tongue?
Each one of her ancestors on her tongue
she tells me about
her father, a lay-rabbi in Russia
so strict nothing could be cooked on ShabbatShabbat is the Sabbath day, the Day of Rest, and is observed from Friday night through Saturday night. Is set aside from the rest of the week both in honor of the fact that God rested on the seventh day after creating the world. On Shabbat, many Jews observe prohibitions from various activities designated as work. Shabbat is traditionally observed with festive meals, wine, challah, prayers, the reading and studying of Torah, conjugal relations, family time, and time with friends.
she and her sister, hungry in the middle of a Saturday
cooked two potatoes while he was out
just as they were about to eat
they saw him through the window
she and her sister put the potatoes down the toilet
she giggled when she told that story
(and she was not a giggler)
her sister Manya, my great-grandfather AbrahamAbraham is the first patriarch and the father of the Jewish people. He is the husband of Sarah and the father of Isaac and Ishmael. God's covenant - that we will be a great people and inherit the land of Israel - begins with Abraham and is marked by his circumcision, the first in Jewish history. His Hebrew name is Avraham.
on her tongue
but no boiled potatoes.
My tongue is comforted
that my Shabbat space holds more
than the bodies around me,
they struggle as I do with prayer with
beauty and ugliness with
boredom and fear,
in empty spaces
each one of our ancestors sits in pews,
looks at the open TorahThe Five Books of Moses, and the foundation of all of Jewish life and lore. The Torah is considered the heart and soul of the Jewish people, and study of the Torah is a high mitzvah. The Torah itself a scroll that is hand lettered on parchment, elaborately dressed and decorated, and stored in a decorative ark. It is chanted aloud on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbat, according to a yearly cycle. Sometimes "Torah" is used as a colloquial term for Jewish learning and narrative in general.
brushes our shoulders
wonders that women wear a tallisA four-cornered garment to which ritual fringes (tzitzit/tzitzi'ot) are affixed. The knots in the fringes represent the name of God and remind us of God's commandments. The tallit is worn during prayer and can also be drawn about oneself or around the bride and groom to symbolize divine protection.
whisper and murmur
their voices the faintest vibration
a buzzing on my tongue.