Words that Quake: A Prayer for Tisha B’av

אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים

Eleh Ha’dvarim

These are the words. 

The words that brought us here. 

The words that shaped this hard place

We have come to know and yet, in this place 

Words escape us.

בְּעֵבֶר, הַיַּרְדֵּן:  בַּמִּדְבָּר בָּעֲרָבָה מוֹל סוּף בֵּין-פָּארָן 

וּבֵין-תֹּפֶל, וְלָבָן וַחֲצֵרֹת–וְדִי זָהָב. 

 ב אַחַד עָשָׂר יוֹם מֵחֹרֵב, דֶּרֶךְ הַר-שֵׂעִיר, עַד, קָדֵשׁ בַּרְנֵעַ.

…beyond the Jordan; in the wilderness, in the Arabah, over against Suph, between Paran and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Di-zahab. 2 It is eleven days journey from Horeb unto Kadesh-barnea by the way of mount Seir.

Place names.

Thumbtacks on the map.

Moments of sojourning. 

Encounters with struggle 

And redemption. 

Where are we standing?

Where have we traveled?

Where are we heading?

And what will carry us there?

רַב-לָכֶם שֶׁבֶת, בָּהָר הַזֶּה

פְּנוּ וּסְעוּ לָכֶם

You see you are stuck

The quicksand holding you, rooting you

In a place familiar and

Yet you are too long in this same terrain.

The weight of this place, this mountain

Is growing too heavy to bear.

The mountain’s shadow is

Keeping you in the dark.


Pull your feet from their habitual treads

And step

Forward on a new path

And leave the broken places 

Behind you.

The walls came down and left our temple bare

Vulnerable and open to assault

We return to those ruins 

And look again at what the walls protected

And what is now exposed

We step into the places of destruction

Search for shafts 

Of light and 





“What is the recurring disaster in our life? What is the unresolved element that keeps bringing us back to this same moment, over and over again? What is it that we keep getting wrong? What is it that we precisely refuse to look at, fail to see? The walls come down and suddenly we can see, suddenly we recognize the nature of our estrangement from God, and this recognition is the beginning of reconciliation… ” Rabbi Alan Lew


The map in your pocket 

Marks the routes you have traveled, the ones

You know

But know that the way ahead

May stray from the course

That is familiar.

It may demand that you hack your way through

The thorns and brambles.

Eleh Ha’dvarim

These are the words.

“We die.

That may be the meaning of life.

But we do language.

That may be the measure of our lives.”

 ~ Toni Morrison

Return to the words.

For words shake and sculpt

The world

We dare to build. 

The contours of

The letters

Of compassionate words

Will pave our way 

Toward righteousness

And will

Please God

Extinguish the flames of this burning palace with

The soothing waters of love.

 מָוֶת וְחַיִּים, בְּיַד-לָשׁוֹן

“Life and death are in the hands of the tongue” ~Proverbs 18:21

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