Sea, or: Sky

Today marks the Jewish holiday of Purim, one major theme of which is the Hebrew phrase ‘nahafokh hu’ (נַהֲפוֹךְ הוּא), which, loosely translated, means ‘it was turned to the contrary’. This comes to us from a particular verse in the Book of Esther (9:1):

וּבִשְׁנֵים עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ הוּא-חֹדֶשׁ אֲדָר, בִּשְׁלוֹשָׁה עָשָׂר יוֹם בּוֹ, אֲשֶׁר הִגִּיעַ דְּבַר-הַמֶּלֶךְ וְדָתוֹ, לְהֵעָשׂוֹת: בַּיּוֹם, אֲשֶׁר שִׂבְּרוּ אֹיְבֵי הַיְּהוּדִים לִשְׁלוֹט בָּהֶם, וְנַהֲפוֹךְ הוּא, אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁלְטוּ הַיְּהוּדִים הֵמָּה בְּשֹׂנְאֵיהֶם. Now in the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s commandment and his decree drew near to be put in execution, in the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have rule over them; whereas it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them;

In short, the Persian king’s advisor Haman (the villain of the story) convinced him to establish a date (the 13th of Adar), upon which all who so wished could kill Jews with impunity, and the Jews would not be allowed to defend themselves.

Without getting into the story, suffice it to say that the king’s decree could not be repealed, for it had been issued with his seal. Rather, the decree was reversed such that the Jews would be allowed to defend themselves against their enemies, as we read on in the following verse in the Book of Esther (9:2):

נִקְהֲלוּ הַיְּהוּדִים בְּעָרֵיהֶם, בְּכָל-מְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ, לִשְׁלֹחַ יָד, בִּמְבַקְשֵׁי רָעָתָם; וְאִישׁ לֹא-עָמַד לִפְנֵיהֶם, כִּי-נָפַל פַּחְדָּם עַל-כָּל-הָעַמִּים. the Jews gathered themselves together in their cities throughout all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, to lay hand on such as sought their hurt; and no man could withstand them; for the fear of them was fallen upon all the peoples.

Now, ‘nahafokh hu’ is somewhat more precisely translated: ‘it was turned over’, and Purim has come to be the topsy-turvy Jewish holiday of reversals, in which everything is not what it seems, but rather its opposite. Purim represents the impossible becoming miraculously possible.

The Jerusalem winter skies

In Israel, the winter season is rainy, and the Jerusalem skies fill with clouds, which, in turn, produce some majestic sunsets.

Several weeks ago, my six-year-old and I were returning home from the store in the early evening and Jerusalem’s creamy clouds caught our attention. Not much for photography, I nonetheless put down the groceries and pulled out my smartphone to capture the moment.

The most fantastic aspect of those particular clouds in that particular sunset for me was what they looked like upside down. With a bit of fiddling in Microsoft Paint, I managed to flip the photograph upside down and zoom in on the clouds between the building and lamp post. To my eye, the picture looked just like the setting sun reflecting off of a foamy sea.

sun sparkles on clouds
sea foam glistens overhead
one need only see


Middles & Turns

The d’Verse prompt was to look to our [poems’] middles and see if we can build in dramatic turns, open a new window, pick a sonnet or a haiku, write in blank verse or pentameter, just show us your best turns.

72 thoughts on “Sea, or: Sky”

  1. That’s an interesting backdrop to the festivals. Do you have other festival too around revolts against bad empires and kings? I think Hanukkah also is centred around a revolt?

    That sunset looks majestic, it’s one of those glowing sunsets which you just have to capture, wherever you are. I have often pulled up my car on highways to try to photograph the glow of such a sunset.

    The zoomed and inverted photograph did initially look like a sunset across foamy waters 🙂

    1. You know, Deb, there’s a joke in Jewish circles that goes like this:

      Every Jewish holiday can be summarized as follows: 1) Our enemies tried to kill us, 2) God helped us defeat them, 3) Let’s eat!


  2. It looks like a giant bird’s wing. I remember as a child liking to turn myself upside down to see how different the world was. But I think things always contain their opposites. How to see them…that’s a different story. (K)

    1. Kerfe,

      I like that image also – a giant bird’s wing also fits the image, and I hadn’t thought of that at all. As for opposites, that a very interesing subject for discussion, and its a Purim theme for sure.


  3. David, the photo, as you manipulated it, is fascinating — and is perfectly expressed by your haiku. Excellent work! I had never read the details regarding Purim, thank you for sharing this — very intense situation.

  4. I love the book of Ester, as it shows that God’s hand of sovereignty designed each moment. And as your photo shows, it’s a matter of perspective that we see He walks among us-whether it be in the clouds or on the seas. Glory be to Him!

  5. This is indeed a turn. My first thought on seeing your second photo was that it was waves of water in sunset (or sunrise), not immediately making the association with the first photo.

    1. Yuvi, I do not have an eye for such things. Believe me when I say that the sky and clouds and sunset just jumped out at me. 99.99% of the time I just walk past such things.

      Thank you so much,

  6. Thank you David for such an informative post – and what a great response to the question of turns. The haibun, the photograph and the wise haiku – and of course the spectacular skies over Jerusalem themselves. Bravo.

    1. Peter – your prompt was so perfect for me! I had been planning on writing this haibun for the holiday of Purim anyway, and your prompt just fit amazingly. I was floored when I realized what your prompt was, which was after I had published this poem, TBH.


    1. It’s a crazy thing to say, but that is exactly how I felt – I even told my wife about it later… I had been planning on writing that haibun regardless of the prompt, believe it or not, Helen!


  7. how beautiful and faith-ful, non-scepti, David  🙂 am having problems accessing my wordpress account at the moment, so I am grateful for an old error of mine – asking posts I follow to be emailed to me. Curiously, this year at least Purim seems to coincide with what a local astrologer (secular Jewish) calls the snow moon – associated with miraculous healing and such like.Happy Purim and Shabbat Shalom.

    Kind regards,

    Barbara Schaefer MA, Director

    Beacon Social Care Ltd

    38 Northgate

    Business Centre


    NG24 1EZ

    resident – see Electoral Roll NG24

    phone nr – available on request

  8. “One need only see” is a good lesson for all the time. I take lots of reflection photos, and I’m fascinated by the upside down world seen in them.
    I’m going to have to remember “it was turned to the contrary.” Thank you. I baked lots of Hamentaschen, and drank a toast to Esther and booed Haman. 😀

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