Tech support, or: Emet (compiled)

A mystical Rabbi from Prague 
Taught philosophy weekly by vlog; 
'Twas recorded by Golem, 
Who managed the forum 
From the back of Old-New Synagogue

The great Sage, in slow, measured breaths 
Gave new meanings to old Shibboleths 
But this so flustered Golem 
That none could control him 
And the truth thus became Golem's death

Came the wild hordes of Gog and Magog, 
Cheering Golem's destruction in Prague; 
Death had come of God's truth 
When self-doubt conquered youth; 
Redemption- could emerge from Man's fog

From below, Golem heard the great war, 
Grasping then that the truth was much more 
Than a threat to forfend, 
But a gift to defend, 
He arose from the ground and the gore

Thus was Golem's resurrection - 
For he was, like men true, a good son; 
He thwarted God's plan 
By safeguarding Man, 
Thus achieving his own redemption

d’Verse

Open link night

OLN means we can choose any one poem to post today – no specific prompt, form, rhyme scheme, or length.

As usual, I am sharing an old poem of mine, which I wrote nearly one year ago when I first created this blog. It’s a narrative of my own creation, based upon Jewish mythology. The two stories that inspired this piece are the myths of Golem and the War of Gog and Magog.

This poem was originally written as a series of limericks, which were each posted separately.

Theology, or: Perspective

My 2nd Clogyrnach

A narrative poem

My God's far beyond my beyond
But to his presence I respond
Oft He shows His love
Light streams from above
My beloved
I'm so fond

He drops flakes of manna for me
Showering generosity
Towards them I swim
Towards the Great Rim
My tears brim
So meekly

He defies imagination
Gills quiver with adoration
He knows ev'rything
Accepts all I bring
My Sea King
You're the One

d’Verse

Poetics: Exploring the Narrative Voice

This poem is my response to the most recent d’Verse prompt, which encourages us to write a poem in the voice of a fictional character. It can be any character you like, and you can introduce it in your own voice if you choose, but the main body of the poem must be in the voice of your character. If you wish, you can write a dramatic monologue; or create a spirit voice through whom your poem speaks. The choice is yours: experiment with fiction in your poetry.

Impersonal, or: God

First matters too much, I -  
Second, too intimate, 
    You - 
Third
like the rest, 
        that 
    aged bearded Jew -
like those before, doesn't even
like all that are
like him in
        that 
    way including -
no - just
he, him, third 
person is impersonal 
        enough for -
    for - description

Right, God? Right?
        Right? All just -
    just - characters 
in 
Your play - second -
Your mind - intimate -
Your imagination 
so why -
        why - why - make it
    personal? why
        make it
    first
person? He - 
him - different only
    insofar as every person 
is
different only
    from every other

Make it 
        matter
    Make it 
        matter 
all just - 
he's just -
      - matter
Right, God? 
    Right? Right? Like
all the rest,
        that
    aged bearded Jew -
Graying, withering, wondering
        whether words fray too 
        like the sinews of his - His -
        Torah
    for he is matter 
    for unto matter
        he shall return
like those before 
like all that are
like Him

d’Verse

‘Open link night’

For the most recent ‘open link night’ I have decided to share a poem that I wrote nearly one year ago (in early June), not longer after I created this blog. In general, I don’t feel particularly comfortable writing free verse, and this was one of my earliest attempts at it.

Possibility

I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility that existence has its own reason for being, which is precisely why I cannot call myself an atheist. It is why I occasionally recite the appropriate Jewish blessings before eating and am jealous of those who believe in supernatural forces that imbue their lives with purpose. It is why, in part, I was driven to recite the Orphan’s Kaddish daily during the year following Papa’s death. After all, who the heck knows? I sure don’t.

I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility that existence has its own reason for being, but I wish I could know the unknowable truth, one way or another. Is the universe ordered? Do our lives have meaning? Is suffering purposeful? I have not personally experienced anything to suggest that any of these possibilities are true; but would that they were…


d’Verse

It’s prosery time at d’Verse. The rules are simple:

  1. Use an assigned line in the body of your prose. You may change the punctuation and capitalization, but you are not allowed to insert any words within the line itself. You can add words at the beginning and/or at the end of the line; but the line itself must remain intact.
  2. Your prose can be either flash fiction, nonfiction, or creative nonfiction. YOU CAN NOT WRITE A POEM for this prompt. AND, your prose should be no longer than 144 words, sans title. It does not have to be exactly 144 words. But it can be no longer than 144 words.

The assigned line was:

I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility that existence has its own reason for being.

Wisława Szymborska (1923-2012), ‘Possibilities’

A quick note:

Usually I respond to d’Verse prosery prompts with pieces of fiction, but the assigned line from Szymborska’s poem spoke directly to my heart, and I had been wanting to write a short piece like this regardless.

HaShem, or: Elohim

She deserves a poem true 
Her faithfulness confuses
me
    Just yesterday after pre-
school
I'd picked her 
up 
    -my pup- 
    she spoke with such indignity
about a friend -a six-year-
old- who wrote God's name 
and 
    "put an 'X'"
"Do you mean she crossed it out?"
"Yes and said her fam-
ily
    does not believe, nor she
    but that's not why she doesn't"
"Which name did she 
write? was it 'HaShem'?" "No
    she crossed out 'Elohim'
    and showed her friends"
"So what do you think about that?"
"How can she-
    we must respect-
    our teachers and our parents 
are
    in charge
but God is the most 
powerful he's in charge 
    of every-
thing"
Why is my child 
    so...
Where does she get...
"Yes, that is what some 
    people 
think" "Well 
our teacher says that we should 
believe in God" At a 
    state-secular 
pre-
school! And -then- today 
before pre-
school: "If God can speak to any-
    one, that means He can speak
    all languages!"
"Well, yes..."
Perhaps this is a poem, 
for-
    perhaps it's faith 
that's
    po-
  et-
  ry-

Today, for d’Verse’s “Open Link Night”, I’d like to share a poem that I wrote last June, a couple of months after creating this blog.

I decided to share this poem because recently I’ve been writing a lot about my daughter on this blog. She is now 6-years-old. When this was written, she was 5⅓-years-old… and to this day, she maintains her fascination with the concept of God and insists that she believes everything that is written in the Torah. Suffice it to say that she doesn’t get such ideas from me.

Belief chooses you

You don’t choose what to believe. Belief chooses you.

Steven Galloway (1975-)

This particular quote is one that speaks to me at a deep level.

I often find myself both amazed by and impressed with those who hold earnest beliefs in supernatural and/or divine forces. When I reflect upon those with true faith, I find myself torn between jealousy and bafflement. It would be profoundly comforting and lovely to believe that humankind’s existence has some inherent purpose, but I don’t.

Having dedicated years of my life to studying Judaism, I had opportunity to explore various spiritual practices and related ancient texts; but ultimately, upon serious reflection, I remain more compelled by my secular Papa’s perspective than any other. It bears noting that Papa was by far one of the most honorable and ethical people that I have ever known, regardless of his faith or lack thereof.

Absent supernatural forces, the notion of a big bang makes little sense to me, but nothing has led me to believe that any supernatural force is involved in or even interested in our lives.

Ultimately, it is my understanding that some people are simply more “wired” for faith than others – we do not choose our beliefs. Inclination towards belief is merely one of sundry character traits that one could possess.

Keyboard Judaism

When I discovered Orthodox Judaism at the age of eighteen, I experienced it as the meaningful vision for religious Judaism that I had never thought to imagine. Through many of the years that followed, even when I wasn’t a practicing Jew, I aspired only to Orthodoxy. I judged myself and others by the standards and positions of the mainstream Orthodox community.

Although there was deep dissonance for me between the ideals of the extended Orthodox community and the modern society I inhabited, I pushed it out of my mind. The confidence in Orthodoxy’s voice lent it credibility with me, and, like most that pass through this uncertain world, I found solace in certainty.

For me today, there lies elusive but enticing comfort in the unlikely possibility that the lives of individuals have purpose, and there also exists a second, concomitant comfort for me in the existence of my people. For complicated reasons, some indiscernible even to myself, I find great meaning in being a Jew. This lends me some sense of purpose, therefore I am invested in my nation’s continuity.

Either way, I must acknowledge to myself that I am done with Orthodoxy, but: ending this particular train of thought here would miss the point.

* * *

Being done with Orthodoxy in a world of limited communal options is a fairly meaningless sentiment if the remaining alternatives are lacking for me; and communities, as far as I am concerned, are the Jewish nation’s largest building blocks. With due respect to God, to the extent that I can muster it (a failing of mine), I find Judaism without community nearly meaningless.

While my thinking has evolved from Orthodoxy to Heterodoxy, and I have developed sincere respect for people’s personal agencies and choices, as well as a deep appreciation for the historical contexts and worldviews of the non-Orthodox denominations, I retain a concern about non-Orthodoxy, which hasn’t abated over the years.

Simply put, I believe that the greatest failing of non-Orthodoxy is the relative ignorance that the great majority of its adherents have of Judaism, including ignorance of Jewish history, language, theology, literature… you name it.

One need not follow Jewish religious law (halakhah) in an Orthodox way, nor follow it at all, but I cannot wrap my mind around the notion of a meaningful Jewish identity empty of Jewish substance. There is much to laud in non-Orthodoxy, and I am happy to do so, but non-Orthodoxy around the world seems to be moving increasingly towards human universalism, away from national particularism.

At some point, universalism does cease to be Judaism, but: ending this particular train of thought here would miss the point.

* * *

A serious, developing problem of mine is that I am increasingly creating my own religious experience, apart from Jewish community of any sort… and the developing of one’s own, private Judaism is distinctly a heterodox undertaking.

I recently wrote, regarding my kaddish blogging following Papa’s death:

… I was successfully constructing a powerful, personalized religious experience… Even today, more than a year after completing my year of mourning for Papa, I’m still living off of my kaddish’s fumes.

– Me, ‘Resting on Religious Laurels’, Sept. 11, 2020

Thinking on this further, I realize that I’m doing much more than ‘living off my kaddish’s fumes’. On this website, I have been, in fact, throwing endless words atop my spiritual pyre. Yes, true, I attended synagogue every single day for an entire year following Papa’s death; and, true, I recited the traditional orphan’s kaddish in his memory every day… but it was my thinking and writing, which imbued my kaddish experience with real meaning.

Now, having returned to writing some two-thirds of a year after completing my kaddish odyssey, I realize how much purpose this process continues to provide me with. While I think that Judaism without community is pointless, it would seem that the essence of my own Judaism is being actualized in the chair before my keyboard.

COVID-19 lockdowns have certainly limited my access to community during this last half year and more, but… I haven’t been desperately clawing for any opportunities for communal engagement (which yet exist), nor tearing at the gates of my synagogue to return to daily communal prayer.

Instead, I’ve been writing.

And now I wonder: is my Judaism without community any more Jewishly substantive than a Judaism without Jewish substance?