The happiness of the Torah, or: Feh!

A Choka

festive holiday
Jews dance with the Torah scroll
I stand to the side
when I attend on my own
else remain at home
some literally kiss the scroll
blissful faces shine
concentric circles of Jews
expressions of love
how to encourage my child
to love traditions
I find alienating
ancient traditions
tie our people together
through both space and time
hands arms elbows shoulders linked
blur around the scroll
generations kick skywards
up into my groin
feeling repelled brings heartache
my past pulls me in
my future draws me forward
my present revolts
I attend with my daughter
never again on my own


The most intricate Japanese Poetry form is the Choka, or Long Poem. The early form consisted of a series of katauta joined together. This gives a choice of form structures of 5/7/5/5/7/7โ€ฆ etc., or: 5/7/7/5/7โ€ฆ etc.

The Choka could be any total line length and indeed many exceeded 100 lines. Looking at this, it is easy to see why Poetic Historians believe the katauta is the original basic unit of Japanese poetry using either the 17 or 19 unit onji.

Simchat Torah holiday?

The Jewish High Holy Day season is nearly at an end (thank friggin’ goodness!). In Israel, the final holiday, which, this year, we are celebrating from sunset on Sunday to sunset on Monday, is known as ‘Simchat Torah’.

During the holiday of Simchat Torah (which literally means: “The happiness of the Torah”), Jews will be dancing energetically around in circles with Torah scrolls in their communities following their evening and morning synagogue services, in celebration of the Torah (Five Books of Moses).

I have scheduled this post in advance to be published during ‘Simchat Torah’, as I don’t blog on the Jewish Sabbath or festival holidays.

Let’s write poetry together!

When it comes to partnership, some humans can make their lives alone – it’s possible. But creatively, it’s more like painting: you can’t just use the same colours in every painting. It’s just not an option. You can’t take the same photograph every time and live with art forms with no differences.

Ben Harper (b. 1969)

Would you like to create poetry with me and have a completed poem of yours featured here at the Skeptic’s Kaddish? I am very excited to have launched the ‘Poetry Partners’ initiative and am looking forward to meeting and creating with you… Check it out!

25 thoughts on “The happiness of the Torah, or: Feh!”

  1. I love your honest poem David…
    I’d be curious what she thinks?
    She’s a poet… maybe you do a collab in privacy of course. Just an idea.

    I got to the point at church when the hugs came at the end of holding hands in “let there be peace on earth” that I just sat down…. ๐Ÿ™€ … it’s what my soul needed.
    Now I just stay home and pray etc.


    “how to encourage my child
    to love traditions
    I find alienating”

    “my past pulls me in
    my future draws me forward
    my present revolts”

  2. I’ve always admired the traditions of the old religious world.
    I am neither catholic, nor anglican
    I’ve be reared with a lot of protestant in me
    So I do understand some of the stops in this amazing choko this morning
    At times I wish I was more catholic
    I just loved their work in the field of education, health and social work.
    But of course I had to toe the protestant line, which nearly choked me up.
    That aloof moments flow vividly in front of me…more the feeling
    Gentle with my children. Loved doing the tradition thing with them.
    Stern, sombre and authority I threw to the wind
    And today I enjoy their independent love for the Almighty and the traditions they up hold.

    As for me
    I am a recluse to all

    Hope you don’t mind this long sharing, your story told in you 5/7/5/7…right?

    1. thanks so much for sharing, โค Abi โค

      yes, a choka is 5/7/5/7… etc…. etc… but the final two lines must be 7/7

      regarding the religious stuff, it's important for me that my daughter feel herself connected to Jewish community, and Jewish communities that last have always been centered around synagogues – that's what our history has shown.

      1. I’m glad to share David, thank youโค
        Ok, I didn’t pick that up with the last two lines. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Yes this is special about the Jewish community. I pray she grows with precious memories.

  3. I’m glad you are exposing your daughter to her culture/religion/traditions. You express the division you feel in this poem very clearly. I do hope the holidays bring you some joy… if not for the religious aspects then the time you get to spend with your family!

  4. The awkwardness of ancient traditions, I understand. I am a Catholic and the rituals performed in the Church seem strange sometimes to me too.

  5. I’ve been wanting to ask a question, I haven’t been able to find on my own – or recall well enough to search well – hope you don’t mind me answering here, even as you rebel and are drawn back to the traditions into which you were born/raised….

    Here goes – Long ago, in an episode of the tv series, The West Wing – Toby, the Communications Director of the plot/series, and Jewish, spoke to another about the holidays in the late fall/early winter that rather happen long before Christian Christmas time does – About a day where one does Atonement/Reparations for one’s wrongs against their fellow man and ask for forgiveness – BEFORE they celebrate the day of going before God to ask forgiveness/make Atonement – etc.

    I probably got it all mixed around in my head or missed the message – and series not available to me on my low cost/no cost/shared costs for ‘entertainment’ options I have available to me – and too miserly to buy the entire DVD set or pay for premium cable/satellite TV just in hopes I can binge watch all of them and try to find more to go on –

    But if you know, what I’m referring to? Would love to hear about it – if not – that’s okay too – now that my two friends moved away, who are of that faith, I just don’t have anyone to ask and I can’t remember enough or find threads to it in sites/books on the faith – try as I have for a few years now –

    But it stuck with me – even if I don’t remember the correct name for it –

    Thanks in advance –

    1. โค Tamrah Jo โค ~

      The way it works is this: "Yom Kippur" is the Jewish Day of Atonement, which is in the autumn.

      However, according to Jewish religious law, God will not forgive one's sins against other human beings unless one first asks for those people's forgiveness up to three times.

      If one's apology is rejected three times, God will "forgive" the sin, but one needs to make the attempt to sincerely request human forgiveness first.

      Does that help?


      1. YES! Thank you! I thought there was a special day with words to differentiate it from the Day of Atonement – but YES! and, just for my part, an outsider? I LOVE THIS religious law – not certain I would have the stamina to ask three times – I’m sorta of the personality of ‘ya don’t have to tell me twice’ – LOL – BUT still – I think it so important a concept – that should not be excluded from any spiritual practice – the asking of forgiveness of our ‘here, now, mortal kin’ – first – before going before the Universal Bar of Justice to ask for forgiveness (or blanket pardon) there – I have run across a couple sub-sects (oh – there are ever so many!) of Protestant based Christian religions that have within them ways to ask for forgiveness from those who have passed or to work through those we think we harmed, or know it is so and yet, failed to see it/ask while they were living – I found it intriguing, but sadly, for me, so much other in their dogma/theology was so far from what I was able to embrace – I had to walk away from in person talks and continue my education elsewhere – through online, documentaries, open classes from colleges – where often – it seems, some of the more granular ‘options/procedures’ aren’t really discussed – sigh –

        Thank you EVER SO MUCH for educating me on this!!! Appreciated!!!!

  6. David, I can almost hear your daughter, age 27, discussing with a Jewish psychiatrist ‘why did my dad get me to be excited about those traditions he found abhorrent’. Have you thought about creating your own festivities and reasons to take her places you find interesting – such as a museum of quantum physics on Einstein’s birthday (I am making this up, but you know what I mean.) Or Neve Shalom on that holiday of reconciliation… don’t listen to me though, listen to your heart –

    1. โค Barbara โค ~ the thing is that it's not merely about the traditions- it's also about community, which I value greatly. Judaism is not intended to be practiced exclusively at home – it is a communal religion, and I want my daughter to be part of a community.

      And – in the modern world, for better or mostly worse, lasting Jewish communities center around synagogues.

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