Friday, July 09, 2010

Don't chew on your mama's tefillin

I've always loved this poem by Merle Feld, We All Stood Together, and how it describes what the experience of standing at Sinai may have felt to the women there. Especially compared to the men's experience.

We All Stood Together

-by Merle Feld

My brother and I were at Sinai
He kept a journal
of what he saw
of what he heard
of what it all meant to him

I wish I had such a record
of what happened to me there

It seems like every time I want to write
I can’t
I’m always holding a baby
one of my own
or one for a friend
always holding a baby
so my hands are never free
to write things down

And then
As time passes
the particulars
the hard data
the who what when where why
slip away from me
and all I'm left with is
the feeling

But feelings are just sounds
The vowel barking of a mute
my brother is so sure of what he heard
after all he's got a record of it
consonant after consonant after consonant

If we remembered it together
we could recreate holy time
sparks flying

Times have changed...but they haven't. Judaism -- or some strands of Judaism -- are more inclusive of women, but there are still those pesky verses of the bible or of prayers that, even with interpretation, are hard to swallow. That's why I was thrilled that Rachel Barenblat -- the Velveteen Rabbi - wrote a poem that is what I consider to be a corrective to Feld's piece. Read, and enjoy.

Another mother psalm: bringing the baby to morning prayer

-by Rachel Barenblat

Don't chew on your mama's tefillin
I say, dislodging the leather
from your damp and eager grasp.
We play peekaboo beneath my tallit,
hiding your face and revealing it
the way God is sometimes present
sometimes not. You like the drums,
the fiddle and clarinet.
You bang your rattle on the floor.
As we sing "Praise God,
all you elders and young children"
you bellow and and we laugh.
During silent prayer your yearning
opens my floodgates.
When the Torah is carried around
I waltz you in my arms, my own scroll.
All my prayers are written
in your open face.

(click here to link back to Barenblat's blog)

1 comment:

rbarenblat said...

Chiming in belatedly to say that I too love that Merle Feld poem, and I'm honored to be in her company!