Weekly Meditations

London School of Jewish Studies and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Legacy Offer Torah on Violence in Name of God

TODAY (UK time):
  • Rabbi Alex Israel will speak about Cain, Abel and Rabbi Sacks’ thoughts on violence in the name of God (7.00 pm – 7.45 pm UK time).
  • Following that, we will be hearing reflections and words of Torah from some … educators who live in Israel (7.45 pm – 8.15 pm), including Rabbi Johnny Solomon, Dr Tanya White, Rabbanit Leah Herzog and Rabbanit Surale Rosen.
  • Register using this link (sign-up is free). Registration is required. LINK: https://www.lsjs.ac.uk/covenant-and-continuity-sefer-bereshit-the-book-of-genesis-1921.php

WAR between HAMAS and ISRAEL

LOCAL RESPONSE by Mt Washington Valley Chavurah

We are saddened and disheartened to see and hear what is happening in Israel. The situation there has long been complicated and we all have strong and often diverse opinions. However, the current acts of terrorism are outrageous.
We must express our horror that innocent civilians, young children, the elderly, members of the audience at a concert, citizens of a number of countries from around the world and others have been taken hostage. The images are brutal.
Today, we plead for an end to violence and our hope that a peaceful solution can quickly be negotiated so that all sides may live in a just and equitable world.
— SMWV Jewish Community’s Corresponding Secretary 

Note fom JCC: As local spiritual leaders share additional infomation or responses that might be meaningfl to our community, we will share these updates.



In the sky of the Old City
a kite
At the other end of the string,
a child
I can’t see
because of the wall.

—Yehuda Amichai (excerpt)

… UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) spokesperson James Elder said t… “When you listen to the testimonies coming out of Gaza, from children in Israel, it is consistent stories of fear, of suffering, of pain,” Mr. Elder said.
“We have to listen to those children of Gaza and of Israel who are very clearly and usually through tears saying, ‘Enough. Leave us alone.’” — UN News, full article: https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/10/1142097

Hamas and Israel are at Open War (excerpt)— Carl Scott Harker ©2023

Hamas and Israel are at open war

Israelis have been killed
And Palestinians have been killed
And I know this because
I have been reading comments
On a DK post

How reliable is your news source?
Evaluations of biases within different news outlets.

About TikTok as News Source (full article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2023/10/10/tiktok-hamas-israel-war-videos/)
… As the audience for traditional news outlets is shrinking, 20 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds say they use TikTok as a source for news, according to a recent report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism — up five percentage points from last year.
…  For news content creators who don’t want to take a side, the landscape can be fraught. Users want the people they follow for news to be overt and clear about their opinions and allegiances, and any effort to obfuscate or push a both-sides narrative about the conflict can be met with hostility, according to Jessica Yellin, a former chief White House correspondent for CNN who runs her own media brand and posts to TikTok …
People are taking sides in what seems to be a sporting event,” she said. “The emotional stuff gets accelerated over the information. People who report with emotion, passion, outrage and fear, their content explodes. If you’re calm and measured and you base your content in actual information, it doesn’t get pickup. I think it’s embedded in how these platforms and algorithms are designed.” Yellen said the discourse has been especially toxic on this issue, which has elicited an “intense rage and vitriol” from social media users.
But [Jamie Cohen, assistant professor of media studies at Queens College in the City University of New York] said that it’s that exact emotion and passion that’s leading so many more people to engage with news content. Young people want to be politically engaged in the world, he explained, and they don’t want to hear news from a dispassionate, imaginary middle ground. ###

Reflections on Exodus 3: Moses and the burning bush, I Am Who I Am

Aurora Leigh (excerpt – 1856)
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware….


— Nagarjuna, Precious Garland (cited by Dalai Lama)

May I always be an object of enjoyment
For all sentient beings according to their wish
And without interference, as are the earth,
Water, fire, wind, herbs, and wild forests.
May sentient beings be as dear to me as my own life,
And may they be dearer to me than myself.
May their ill deeds bear fruit for me,
And all my virtues bear fruit for them.
As long as any sentient being
Anywhere has not been liberated,
May I remain [in the world] for the sake of that being
Though I have attained highest enlightenment.

MOSES — Dr. Kirk Lewis

This was not his first
brush fire.
A careless ember from a campfire.
A lightning strike.
All it took in the arid wilderness
to start a fire.
He had no idea how this one started.

After 40 years in Midian,
Moses had seen his share of wildfires.
At first glance,
this one looked no different.

Weary from an endless day.
Leading his sheep to
greener pastures
Moses saw the fire as he crested the hill.
A quick assessment deemed it a
minimal threat.
He thought,
“A little sand.
Smother the fire.
Problem solved.”

Moses took a few steps toward the flame.
He stopped abruptly in his tracks.

For a long moment,
Moses stared intently into the
heart of the flame.

“Moses saw that,
though the bush was on fire,
it did not burn up.
So Moses thought,
‘I will go over and see this strange sight—
why the bush does not burn up.’

In that moment,
Once Moses saw something more
than a typical fire…
Only then,
did God call out,


Fire requires a balance between fuel, oxygen, and heat; this is the same for your spiritual walk. We have a responsibility to balance the elements that keep the fire going. — Curt Landry

Fire is another popular representation of the Holy Spirit. The fire that appeared on Pentecost was reminiscent of the burning bush on Mount Sinai from which God spoke to Moses. During the Exodus, the people of God were led by a pillar of fire at night. Fire calls attention to the strength and force of the Holy Spirit. — Loyola Press
An awake heart is like a sky that pours light. — Hafiz

The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory. That’s the essence of it. ― Vince Lombardi Jr.

Never lose a holy curiosity. — Albert Einstein

“Reflecting his glory” means that God is taking  the shards of the world and our broken lives and restoring his glory to them. We become a place of intersection where people can meet God as he makes us holy … We may be broken but we are recreatable. — Kevin Scott, Recreatable: How God Heals the Brokenness of Life 

The thing about light is that it really isn’t yours; it’s what you gather and shine back. And it gets more power from reflectiveness; if you sit still and take it in, it fills your cup, and then you can give it off yourself. — Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things. Every single creature is full of God and a book about God. Every creature is a word of God. — Meister Eckhart

On FIRE, but not BURNED  Exodus poems 5 Andrea Skevington

Do angels speak
from every bush?
Whispering in the
rustle of leaves,
the low hum of insects –
or louder, clearer,
more insistent.
Was that holy fire
for one place,
one purpose,
or might it
happen –
could it happen –

The bush on the hill
of Horeb was aflame,
we read of it –
worth turning aside
from the work of tending
sheep, or finding water,
turning aside to see.

But I glimpse, too, a deeper
peeling back an ordinary
moment to reveal
depth, and warmth,
and truth.

I catch a glimpse,
a hope, of
each living thing
with a heart of life-fire,
not of burning,
not of perishing,
but of God-fire growing,
giving, sustaining, all.

Maybe, angels still speak,
louder, clearer,
telling us
to take off our shoes,
for the very earth is holy.

Telling us
of a God who has talked
with our ancestors,
those who walk behind us
speaking old wisdom
we tend to forget.

But most of all
these living flames
speak of affliction,
they spark forth
in suffering,
roused by
the pain of all things,
of a suffering people,
they call to the work of

the body of one
who will listen to
this voice,
who will turn aside
to gaze on
holy flames.

BLESSING at the BURNING BUSH — Jan Richardson

You will have to decide
if you want this—
want the blessing
that comes to you
on an ordinary day
when you are minding
your own path,
bent on the task before you
that you have done
a hundred times,
a thousand.

You will have to choose
for yourself
whether you will attend
to the signs,
whether you will open your eyes
to the searing light, the heat,
whether you will open
your ears, your heart
to the voice
that knows your name,
that tells you this place
where you stand—
this ground so familiar
and therefore unregarded—
is, in fact,

You will have to discern
whether you have
defenses enough
to rebuff the call,
excuses sufficient
to withstand the pull
of what blazes before you;
whether you will
hide your face,
will turn away
back toward—
what, exactly?

No path from here
could ever be
ordinary again,
could ever become
unstrange to you
whose seeing
has been scorched
beyond all salving.

You will know your path
not by how it shines
before you
but by how it burns
within you,
leaving you whole
as you go from here
blazing with
your inarticulate,
your inescapable

Commentary on the NAME of GOD: I am who I am

YAHWEH. I AM WHO AM. I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE. I AM WHO I AM The God of our ancestors, of Sarah, Abraham, Hagar, of Moses and Miriam. Who in the wilderness sent manna, the bread of heaven. The God of our ancestors. The God of Mary and Joseph, the God of Jesus of Nazareth, the God of the disciples, the apostles, Peter and Paul, Mary and Joanna, Eunice and Lois, Thomas and John, Mary and Martha, Persila and Aquilla, “I AM the bread of life. Jesus explained to them, I am the bread of life, no one who comes to me will ever be hungry: no one who believes in me will be thirsty.
The God of our mothers and fathers. “Teacher” they said, “Give us this bread from now on.” Jesus explained to them, “I am the bread of life, No one who comes to me will ever be hungry: no one who believes in me will be thirsty.”
YAHWEH: I AM WHO I AM. … we can be heard to cry, “Who is God?” A legitimate question. Big Bang. Stardust, DNA. Evolution. Expanding universes. Quantum leaps. Higgs Boson. Expanding consciousness. String theory. Black holes. 14 or 26 dimensions of space and time. Metaphysics. Metamorphosis. Meta-literal. YAHWEH: I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE. Who is this God? I AM the bread of life. Give us this bread. — Rev Dawn Hutchings

Finally … the self-naming of God in Scripture is “I AM WHO I AM”—a name without gender. I suspect that’s because, though God is a person, God is not a human being like us. The people of Israel received a strong warning from God about this in Deuteronomy 4:15-17: “You saw no form of any kind the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air…”— Rachel Held Evans, full article: https://rachelheldevans.com/blog/god-man-owen-strachan-heretic

… the freedom of the children of God (Romans 8:21, Galatians 5:1). … I am who I am. I have nothing to prove or to project to make you think I am anything more than who I am. … sees religion as the fingers that merely point to the moon. And now I am sitting on the moon! …
There is no need … to appear to be anything other than who you really are … fully non-dual, fully detached from self-image, and are living in God’s full image of you—which includes and loves both the good and the bad parts of you (Matthew 22:10). This is total non-duality. You are living in God’s gaze: I am who I am in God’s eyes, nothing more and nothing less. This is the serenity and the freedom of the saints.
Maybe this is what Jesus meant when he said it is “those who become like little children who will enter the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3) … you return to that early little child that you once were—running naked into the room of life. I am who I am who I am. God has accepted me in that naked being, and I can happily give myself back to God exactly as I am. I am ready for death, because I have done it now many times, and it has only led me into Larger Worlds. — Fr. Richard Rohr

The great struggle of the Christian life is to take God’s name for us, to believe we are beloved and to believe that is enough. ― Rachel Held Evans

Here lies the mystery of “I am who I am.” In my younger days, this reminded me of Popeye (“I am what I am”). Nowadays, this reminds me of the phrase, “It is what it is” (which I still do not fully comprehend). Within biblical times, the name was deemed too holy to pronounce, so it was read as adonai or “Lord.” The JPS finds this name untranslatable and merely transliterates the Hebrew into “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh.” Some just transliterate the letters as YHWH. Whatever the precise understanding, the answer “I am who I am” is not just a declaration of a name, but assurance of God’s presence in the call. — Roger Nam

The Tetragrammaton  … is the four-letter Hebrew … יהוה‎ transliterated as YHWH or YHVH), the name of God in the Hebrew Bible. The four letters, written and read from right to left (in Hebrew), are yodh, he, waw, and he. The name may be derived from a verb that means “to be”, “to exist”, “to cause to become”, or “to come to pass”.  While there is no consensus about the structure and etymology of the name, the form Yahweh is now accepted almost universally, though the vocalization Jehovah continues to have wide usage.
…. Observant Jews and those who follow Talmudic Jewish traditions do not pronounce יהוה‎ nor do they read aloud proposed transcription forms such as Yahweh or Yehovak; instead they replace it with a different term, whether in addressing or referring to the God of Israel. Common substitutions in Hebrew are אֲדֹנָי (Adonai, …or Elohim…in prayer, or HaShem (“The Name”) in everyday speech.— wikipedia.com

Collected on blog of Rachel Held Evans (full article: https://rachelheldevans.com/blog/four-views-exodus)

“Serve” and “worship” are the same word in Hebrew, `avad. THE question in exodus plays off of this double meaning: will Israel `avad (“serve”) Pharaoh and his gods as slaves or will Israel `avad (“worship”) Yahweh as his people on Mt. Sinai. — Peter Enns, biblical scholar, author, teaches Old and New Testament, Eastern University

As a kid, the Exodus story was a feel-good story of liberation that provided the backdrop for a riveting dramatic film and for my pastor’s equally captivating sermons. As an adult, I now interpret it as a story of oppressed becoming oppressors. God hears the cry of the Israelites but not the Canaanites and other peoples in the what the Israelites regard as their “Promised Land.” As well, I no longer understand the Exodus as a story of liberation for African-Americans. Emancipation did not bring about an end to lynchings, segregation, and racial discrimination. For African Americans, there was no deliverance from their oppressors, and there was no Promised Land. Despite significant gains, for African Americans in the 21st century, in some ways, little has changed. — Nyasha Junior, Assistant Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, Howard University School of Divinity.… Simply looking at a map shows us the journey from the Egypt to Israel is not a long one. Scholars estimate it would take about 3 weeks or so to walk it. Why does it take the Jewish people 40 years?
Jewish folk wisdom gives us a memorable answer: “It took 4 days to take Israel out of Egypt. It took 40 years to take Egypt out of Israel.” The Israelites had been slaves for 400 years. They could not become a free people overnight.
History is littered with examples of people trying and failing to become free. Look at France after 1789 Revolution. After a few years of chaos, tyranny returned in the form of Napoleon. Look at Egypt after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarek. After some confusion and an election, the army reasserted control.
Freedom takes time. Before they had freedom, the Jewish people had to learn responsibility. They had to build community. They had to create new institutions. In other words, they had to undergo what Nelson Mandela would later call “The Long Walk to Freedom.”
True freedom is discovered not in the absence of responsibility. It is found when we embrace it. For Jews the symbol of embracing responsibility is accepting the Torah from God at Mount Sinai. That is the most important part of the Exodus: not the plagues, not the splitting of the red sea, not even Moses saying to Pharaoh “Let me people go.” Freedom begins in responsibility. — Rabbi Evan, author and rabbi for Congregation Solel, Chicago

The truth is that there would be no Moses, no crossing of the Red Sea and no grand tale of liberation if it weren’t for the women woven throughout Exodus. These women on both sides of the Nile River exhibited a subversive strength that pushed back against Pharaoh’s edict of death, saving one boy who went on to save an entire people.
The midwives were clever and courageous in the face of a tyrant. Jochabed, Moses’ mother, practiced wild hope as she placed her baby on a raft of reeds, sending him across the waters of the Nile. An adolescent Miriam showed bravery beyond her years, approaching an Egyptian elite on behalf of her brother. Bithiah, Pharaoh’s daughter, enacted a bit of restitution with the audacious adoption of a Hebrew boy she drew from the water. These women, separately and in solidarity with one another, made Moses possible.
A mother who nursed him on lullabies and stories of old, the plaintive laments of bereft mothers, the songs yearning for freedom rising from the brickyards – they all shaped him. Moses followed in the wake of these women as he went toe-to-toe with Pharaoh. Their example and even their songs raised a revolutionary liberator.
Exodus women took risks, harnessed their intelligence and gathered their resources to enact justice in many small ways that overturned an empire. Moses, in the company of such women, liberated and led the Hebrews. Miriam became a prophet and partner to her brother for years to come. They are the unsung heroes, Exodus strong, singing freedom. — Kelley Nikondeha, Communities of Hope

Yom Kippur 2023

Yom Kippur 2023 began on the evening of Sun, Sept 24 and ends on the evening of Mon, Sept 25.

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year, when we are closest to G‑d and to the essence of our souls. Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement,” as the verse states, “For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before  G-d.” — chabad.org

May our time … today enable each of us to order our souls and release what needs releasing, to savor the journey we are on singly and together, to delve deep into the layers of who we are and who we have been and who we hope to become, and to trust, and embrace, the changes which are coming. — Rabbi Rachel Barenbat

Our lives are finite, but when we try to do right by each other and by our world we align ourselves with the flow of spirit and love. And our tradition teaches: that flow of spirit and love is eternal. More eternal even than plastic. When we transmit memory to the generations that will follow, we become part of something that is forever. And when we commit to deeds of justice and righteousness in memory of those who are gone, we uplift the best of who we can be. — Rabbi Rachel Barenbat


ASHMANU (confession as part of Viddui prayer on Yom Kippur):


Yom Kippur 1984 — Adrienne Rich

I drew solitude over me, on the long shore. —Robinson Jeffers, “Prelude”  

For whoever does not afflict his soul through this day, shall be
cut off from his people.  —Leviticus 23:29

What is a Jew in solitude?

What would it mean not to feel lonely or afraid

far from your own or those you have called your own?

What is a woman in solitude:   a queer woman or man?

In the empty street, on the empty beach, in the desert

what in this world as it is can solitude mean?


The glassy, concrete octagon suspended from the cliffs

with its electric gate, its perfected privacy

is not what I mean

the pick-up with a gun parked at a turn-out in Utah or the Golan Heights

is not what I mean

the poet’s tower facing the western ocean, acres of forest planted to the east, the woman reading in the cabin, her attack dog suddenly risen

is not what I mean


Three thousand miles from what I once called home

I open a book searching for some lines I remember

about flowers, something to bind me to this coast as lilacs in the dooryard once

bound me back there—yes, lupines on a burnt mountainside,

something that bloomed and faded and was written down

in the poet’s book, forever:

Opening the poet’s book

I find the hatred in the poet’s heart: . . . the hateful-eyed

and human-bodied are all about me: you that love multitude may have them


Robinson Jeffers, multitude

is the blur flung by distinct forms against these landward valleys

and the farms that run down to the sea; the lupines

are multitude, and the torched poppies, the grey Pacific unrolling its scrolls of surf,

and the separate persons, stooped

over sewing machines in denim dust, bent under the shattering skies of harvest

who sleep by shifts in never-empty beds have their various dreams

Hands that pick, pack, steam, stitch, strip, stuff, shell, scrape, scour, belong to a brain like no other

Must I argue the love of multitude in the blur or defend

a solitude of barbed-wire and searchlights, the survivalist’s final solution, have I a choice?


To wander far from your own or those you have called your own

to hear strangeness calling you from far away

and walk in that direction, long and far, not calculating risk

to go to meet the Stranger without fear or weapon, protection nowhere on your mind

(the Jew on the icy, rutted road on Christmas Eve prays for another Jew

the woman in the ungainly twisting shadows of the street:   Make those be a woman’s footsteps; as if she could believe in a woman’s god)


Find someone like yourself.   Find others.

Agree you will never desert each other.

Understand that any rift among you

means power to those who want to do you in.

Close to the center, safety; toward the edges, danger.

But I have a nightmare to tell:   I am trying to say

that to be with my people is my dearest wish

but that I also love strangers

that I crave separateness

I hear myself stuttering these words

to my worst friends and my best enemies

who watch for my mistakes in grammar

my mistakes in love.

This is the day of atonement; but do my people forgive me?

If a cloud knew loneliness and fear, I would be that cloud.


To love the Stranger, to love solitude—am I writing merely about privilege

about drifting from the center, drawn to edges,

a privilege we can’t afford in the world that is,

who are hated as being of our kind: faggot kicked into the icy river, woman dragged from her stalled car

into the mist-struck mountains, used and hacked to death

young scholar shot at the university gates on a summer evening walk, his prizes and studies nothing, nothing availing his Blackness

Jew deluded that she’s escaped the tribe, the laws of her exclusion, the men too holy to touch her hand;   Jew who has turned her back

on midrash and mitzvah (yet wears the chai on a thong between her breasts) hiking alone

found with a swastika carved in her back at the foot of the cliffs (did she die as queer or as Jew?)


Solitude, O taboo, endangered species

on the mist-struck spur of the mountain, I want a gun to defend you

In the desert, on the deserted street, I want what I can’t have:

your elder sister, Justice, her great peasant’s hand outspread

her eye, half-hooded, sharp and true


And I ask myself, have I thrown courage away?

have I traded off something I don’t name?

To what extreme will I go to meet the extremist?

What will I do to defend my want or anyone’s want to search for her spirit-vision

far from the protection of those she has called her own?

Will I find O solitude

your plumes, your breasts, your hair

against my face, as in childhood, your voice like the mockingbird’s

singing Yes, you are loved, why else this song?

in the old places, anywhere?


What is a Jew in solitude?

What is a woman in solitude, a queer woman or man?

When the winter flood-tides wrench the tower from the rock, crumble the prophet’s headland, and the farms slide into the sea

when leviathan is endangered and Jonah becomes revenger

when center and edges are crushed together, the extremities crushed together on which the world was founded

when our souls crash together, Arab and Jew, howling our loneliness within the tribes

when the refugee child and the exile’s child re-open the blasted and forbidden city

when we who refuse to be women and men as women and men are chartered, tell our stories of solitude spent in multitude

in that world as it may be, newborn and haunted, what will solitude mean?


The first thing I thought of this morning

Was coffee, café au lait in a

Blue ceramic bowl, a slice of toast

Still warm in my hand. I didn’t even

Remember today was Yom Kippur.

I say I’m not observant, which sounds

Like I have poor eyesight but really

Means that when God and I have a chat

All I hear is a dial tone at

The other end of the line. I’m tired

Of imagining what doesn’t have

An image. There’re no burning bushes

In my backyard, just history that

Can’t be changed, redeemed, or atoned for.

God, I have too many images

In my head today, videos of

Villages captured and recaptured,

Reporters asking, “Can you tell us

Where the bodies are buried?” Someone

Points to a field, fresh-turned dirt not far

From a road. Eighty-one years ago,

They were the bodies of Jews in a

Ravine in Kyiv, now Ukrainians.

When can we say atoning doesn’t

Work? The Earth is full of graves, mass and

Singular. Trees send out roots to thread

Ribcages that insects and worms have

Already hollowed. Each year, the ground

Sinks a little. In the history

Of the world, no one ever went broke

Selling shovels. God, there is something

Wrong with people, and thousands of years

Of fasting hasn’t fixed it. Neither

Has prayer or the sacrifice of

Unblemished cattle or first-born sons.

The sun will set soon, and the day will

Be over. I was taught the gates of

Heaven swing closed then: no more prayers.

The ones who haven’t repented yet

Aren’t going to. Another year’s passed.

Men put on their jackets and walk home.

The LAYERS — Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned campsites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

August Rain, After Haying — Jane Kenyon

Through sere trees and beheaded
grasses the slow rain falls.
Hay fills the barn; only the rake
and one empty wagon are left
in the field. In the ditches
goldenrod bends to the ground.

Even at noon the house is dark.
In my room under the eaves
I hear the steady benevolence
of water washing dust
raised by the haying
from porch and car and garden
chair. We are shorn
and purified, as if tonsured.

The grass resolves to grow again,
receiving the rain to that end,
but my disordered soul thirsts
after something it cannot name.

YOM KIPPUR: The Holiest Day of the Year in Jewish Religious Life


HISTORY of Yom Kippur — chabad.org (full article: https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/177886/jewish/What-Is-Yom-Kippur.htm#What)

Just months after the people of Israel left Egypt in the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE), they sinned by worshipping a golden calf. Moses ascended Mount Sinai and prayed to G‑d to forgive them. After two 40-day stints on the mountain, full Divine favor was obtained. The day Moses came down the mountain (the 10th of Tishrei) was to be known forevermore as the Day of Atonement—Yom Kippur.

That year, the people built the Tabernacle, a portable home for G‑d. The Tabernacle was a center for prayers and sacrificial offerings. The service in the Tabernacle climaxed on Yom Kippur, when the High Priest would perform a specially prescribed service. Highlights of this service included offering incense in the Holy of Holies (where the ark was housed) and the lottery with two goats—one of which was brought as a sacrifice, the other being sent out to the wilderness (Azazel).

While the High Priest generally wore ornate golden clothing, on Yom Kippur, he would immerse in a mikvah and don plain white garments to perform this service.

This practice continued for hundreds of years, throughout the time of the first Temple in Jerusalem, which was built by Solomon, and the second Temple, which was built by Ezra. Jews from all over would gather in the Temple to experience the sacred sight of the High Priest performing his service, obtaining forgiveness for all of Israel.

When the second Temple was destroyed in the year 3830 from creation (70 CE), the Yom Kippur service continued. Instead of a High Priest bringing the sacrifices in Jerusalem, every single Jew performs the Yom Kippur service in the temple of his or her heart.

YOM KIPPUR— history.com (full article: https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/yom-kippur-history).

According to tradition, the first Yom Kippur took place after the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt and arrival at Mount Sinai, where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Descending from the mountain, Moses caught his people worshipping a golden calf and shattered the sacred tablets in anger. Because the Israelites atoned for their idolatry, God forgave their sins and offered Moses a second set of tablets…

… God judges all creatures during the 10 Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, deciding whether they will live or die in the coming year.Jewish law teaches that God inscribes the names of the righteous in the “book of life” and condemns the wicked to death on Rosh Hashanah; people who fall between the two categories have until Yom Kippur to perform “teshuvah,” or repentance. As a result, observant Jews consider Yom Kippur and the days leading up to it a time for prayer, good deeds, reflecting on past mistakes and making amends with others….

Yom Kippur is Judaism’s most sacred day of the year; it is sometimes referred to as the “Sabbath of Sabbaths.” For this reason, even Jews who do not observe other traditions refrain from work, which is forbidden during the holiday, and participate in religious services on Yom Kippur…

The Torah commands all Jewish adults (apart from the sick, the elderly and women who have just given birth) to abstain from eating and drinking between sundown on the evening before Yom Kippur and nightfall the next day. The fast is believed to cleanse the body and spirit, not to serve as a punishment….

Because the High Holy Day prayer services include special liturgical texts, songs and customs, rabbis and their congregations read from a special prayer book known as the machzor during both Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. Five distinct prayer services take place on Yom Kippur, the first on the eve of the holiday and the last before sunset on the following day. One of the most important prayers specific to Yom Kippur describes the atonement ritual performed by high priests during ancient times. The blowing of the shofar—a trumpet made from a ram’s horn—is an essential and emblematic part of both High Holy Days. On Yom Kippur, a single long blast is sounded at the end of the final service to mark the conclusion of the fast…..

Pre-Yom Kippur feast: On the eve of Yom Kippur, families and friends gather for a bountiful feast that must be finished before sunset. The idea is to gather strength for 25 hours of fasting.

Breaking of the fast: After the final Yom Kippur service, many people return home for a festive meal. It traditionally consists of breakfast-like comfort foods such as blintzes, noodle pudding and baked goods.

Wearing white: It is customary for religious Jews to dress in white—a symbol of purity—on Yom Kippur. Some married men wear kittels, which are white burial shrouds, to signify repentance.

Charity: Some Jews make donations or volunteer their time in the days leading up to Yom Kippur….

Reflections from Genesis 32… wrestling with God, being blessed in our woundedness, holding on until we receive what we need

I see in it [Genesis 32] an invitation to wrestle with the unknown. — Victoria Emily Jones

Everything you want is on the other side of fear. — Unatrtibuted

The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing. — Marcus Aurelius

Every day, I turned a “you can’t” into a “you can.” — Rulon Gardner about wrestling

The angel is free because of his knowledge, the beast because of his ignorance. Between the two remains the son of man to struggle. — Rumi


by Marc Chagall

WrestlingLouisa S. Bevington

Our oneness is the wrestlers’, fierce and close,
Thrusting and thrust;
One life in dual effort for one prize,—
We fight, and must;
For soul with soul does battle evermore
Till love be trust.
Our distance is love’s severance; sense divides,
Each is but each;
Never the very hidden spirit of thee
My life doth reach;
Twain! Since love athwart the gulf that needs
Kisses and speech.
Ah! wrestle closelier! we draw nearer so
Than any bliss
Can bring twain souls who would be whole and one,
Too near to kiss:
To be one thought, one voice before we die,—
Wrestle for this.

by Walter Habdank

Come, O thou Traveler unknownCharles Wesley

Come, O thou Traveler unknown,
Whom still I hold but cannot see!
My company before is gone,
And I am left alone with Thee;
With Thee all night I mean to stay,
And wrestle till the break of day.

I need not tell Thee who I am,
My misery and sin declare;
Thyself hast called me by my name,
Look on Thy hands, and read it there;
But who, I ask Thee, who art Thou?
Tell me Thy name, and tell me now.

In vain Thou strugglest to get free,
I never will unloose my hold!
Art Thou the Man that died for me?
The secret of Thy love unfold;
Wrestling, I will not let Thee go,
Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.

Wilt Thou not yet to me reveal
Thy new, unutterable Name?
Tell me, I still beseech Thee, tell;
To know it now resolved I am;
Wrestling, I will not let Thee go,
Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know.

’Tis all in vain to hold Thy tongue
Or touch the hollow of my thigh;
Though every sinew be unstrung,
Out of my arms Thou shalt not fly;
Wrestling I will not let Thee go
Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.

What though my shrinking flesh complain,
And murmur to contend so long?
I rise superior to my pain,
When I am weak, then I am strong,
And when my all of strength shall fail,
I shall with the God-man prevail.

My strength is gone, my nature dies,
I sink beneath Thy weighty hand,
Faint to revive, and fall to rise;
I fall, and yet by faith I stand;
I stand and will not let Thee go
Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know.

Yield to me now, for I am weak,
But confident in self-despair;
Speak to my heart, in blessings speak,
Be conquered by my instant prayer;
Speak, or Thou never hence shalt move,
And tell me if Thy Name is Love.

’Tis Love! ’tis Love! Thou diedst for me!
I hear Thy whisper in my heart;
The morning breaks, the shadows flee,
Pure, universal love Thou art;
To me, to all, Thy bowels move;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

My prayer hath power with God; the grace
Unspeakable I now receive;
Through faith I see Thee face to face,
I see Thee face to face, and live!
In vain I have not wept and strove;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

I know Thee, Savior, who Thou art.
Jesus, the feeble sinner’s friend;
Nor wilt Thou with the night depart.
But stay and love me to the end,
Thy mercies never shall remove;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

The Sun of righteousness on me
Hath rose with healing in His wings,
Withered my nature’s strength; from Thee
My soul its life and succor brings;
My help is all laid up above;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

Contented now upon my thigh
I halt, till life’s short journey end;
All helplessness, all weakness, I
On Thee alone for strength depend;
Nor have I power from Thee to move:
Thy nature, and Thy name is Love.

Lame as I am, I take the prey,
Hell, earth, and sin, with ease o’ercome;
I leap for joy, pursue my way,
And as a bounding hart fly home,
Through all eternity to prove
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.


  • Light a candle to remember Christ’s presence with you.
  • Sit five to fifteen minutes in silence bringing your attention to the Breath.
  • Like Jacob, we wrestle with God.
  • Notice how your body desires to wrestle with God today.
  • What words come to you in the struggle?
  • Which joint is out of socket for you?
  • Allow your attention to go to this disjointed place.
  • What does this disjointed place need to say?
  • How do you wish to respond and connect to the conversation with this disjointed place?
  • Invite God’s healing into this place.
  • What blessing do you receive?
  • What is your message from God?
  • Give thanks to God for this time in prayer and for any new insights you have received.

Greek Orthodox icon of Jabo wrestling with angel


A lot of my intensity in wrestling was due to my mental preparation before the matches. I got myself into a different world. — Dan Gable

Victory goes to the wrestler who makes the next-to-last mistake. — Jackie Mason

Grappling with fate is like meeting an expert wrestler: to escape, you have to accept the fall when you are thrown. The only thing that counts is whether you get back up. — Deng Ming-Dao

No exercise brings into play all the muscles of the body in a more thorough manner, and none is more interesting than wrestling. He will find no other exercise more valuable in the cultivation of faculties that will help him to succeed in agility, strength, determination, coolness, and quick exercise of judgment. — Hugh Leonard

But it’s the wrestler who can put the fatigue out of his mind and break through the ‘wall’, like a marathon runner after 18 or 20 miles, who will survive. The key to that survival is in hard workouts that develop mental confidence to the point where you won’t submit to fatigue and pain descending upon you. — Lou Banach

Take a technical wrestler, get them tired, and they aren’t as technical. No matter what kind of wrestler get them tired, and they aren’t as technical. No matter what kind of wrestler, everyone is afraid of getting tired. It’s those who learn to perform when they’re tired that find success. — Jay Robinson

Wrestling is ballet with violence. — Jesse Ventura

Life is like a wrestling match: a lot of times, things are looking good, and then something happens, and you’re fighting from underneath. — Matt Hardy

by Chris Cook


Jacob called the place where he wrestled with God, Peniel — the face of God. He wrestled all night and survived.  God touched his hip and he was lame after this wrestling. He was also a changed man with a new name. God told him is name would no longer be Jacob which means deceiver or “man strives” but Israel or “God strives!” And whenever he limped, he remembered! — Grace Carol Bomer

Strange that there must be a shrinking of the sinew whenever we win the day. As if the Lord must teach us our littleness, our nothingness, in order to keep us within bounds. — Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Who would stick around to wrestle a dark angel all night long if there were any chance of escape? The only answer I can think of is this: someone in deep need of blessing; someone willing to limp forever for the blessing that follows the wound. — Barbara Brown Taylor

In the story of Jacob and the heavenly figure with whom he wrestles, we begin to see the elements of struggle and the unfolding, as well, of the gifts of the spirit that go with them. Jacob faces change, isolation, darkness, fear, powerlessness, vulnerability, exhaustion, and scarring. They are the price to be paid for becoming new. To struggle is to begin to see the world differently. It tests all the faith in the goodness of God that we have ever professed. It requires an audacity we did not know we had. It demands a commitment to the truth. It tests our purity of heart. It brings total metamorphosis of soul. If we are willing to persevere through the depths of struggle we can emerge with conversion, self-acceptance, endurance, faith, surrender, and a kind of personal growth that takes us beyond pain to understanding. What we see is the fullness of the self come to birth in the only way it really can: in labor and under trial. — Sr. Joan Chittister

Violence and intimacy.  The violence and intimacy of this wrestling match.  What did it sound like, how did it smell, the sweat of God and Jacob mingled in the dust?  Those who are willing to pursue God and his blessing with such force receive honor from me.  I don’t know what Jacob was thinking.  But I know I wish I had the guts to engage my God with such an intertwined closeness. — Jack Baumgartner

It seems as though I am in a struggle for at least a part of every day of my life; a wrestling match. I often feel like I’m wrestling with things like life, my health, poverty/justice issues, and most certainly, with God.
As a result, when I consider my life, I mainly think about the image in the book of Genesis of Jacob wrestling the angel. More than other stories in scripture, I resonate with this one the most…This is yet another one of those tensions in the Christian life.
Blessing and struggle.
Thanksgiving and complaining.
Comprehension and confusion.
Peace and frustration.
Joy and pain.
And because I recognize that God is in fact blessing me regularly, I also do my best to thank God even in the midst of complaining about the struggle. — Dion Oxford

This story is a profound mystery to me, but I love it because God made himself vulnerable for the sake of this man whom He loved.  — Jack Baumgartner

The Word calls us into a personal dialogue which, in many respects, is like Jacob’s wrestling with the angel (Genesis 32: 23-33). Only there, in that sort of personal involvement, do we come face-to-face with the mystery that is God. — Richard Rohr

… it happens at night when the world is dark and mysterious and the human mind is not controlled by the boundaries that usually constrain our imaginations. It is a far less peaceful encounter than the one at Bethel. It is basically a fight – some kind of spiritual wrestling match.
… It was a wounding fight and left Jacob with a limp; his inability to walk properly being a reminder of this encounter with the divine. But it was Jacob who was the better wrestler and it is the angelic visitor who asks to be released. But the tough old patriarch would not let the angel go just like that and asked for blessing.
It turns out that Jacob’s blessing was to have his name changed, a name change that recognized precisely his power and persistence as a fighter. Jacob responds to the experience as he did at Bethel by renaming the place. He called it ‘Peniel’. The final line perhaps reads as something of an anti-climax. Jacob says, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’ To summarise such a nocturnal scrap as seeing someone ‘face to face’ is to understate the physicality, intimacy and vulnerability of the encounter…
But the ancient scriptures are not polite or inwardly spiritual so much as raw and rough and basic and exploratory. Reading them we should be prompted to think that some of our more difficult, sustained and damaging life-struggles were in fact struggles with angels and that our encounters with God are evident not in the way we run, skip, jump or dance, but in the way we limp towards the future, wounded and yet strangely blessed by our encounters with God. — Stephen Cherry

You do not hear much about God causing the chaos [in life], or even having a role in it. On the contrary, it is God’s job to make it stop. God is supposed to restore the status quo and help everyone feel comfortable again. Isn’t that how you know when God is present? When the danger has been avoided? When your heart stops pounding and you can breathe normal again? …It is an appealing idea, but unfortunately the Bible does not back it up. In that richly troubling book, much of God’s best work takes place in total chaos, with people scared half out of their wits: Elijah, trembling under his broom tree, pleading with God to take his life; Mary, listening to an angel’s ambitious plans for plunging her into scandal; Paul, lying flat on his belly on the Damascus road with all his lights put out. …No one in his or her right mind asks to be attacked, frightened, wounded. And yet that is how it comes, sometimes, the presence and blessing of God — Barbara Brown Taylor

Likewise, our sages ell us that Jacob’s wrestling match represented an inner struggle with his own identity. He wrestled with self-doubt and conflicting traits within himself. Was he ready and able to assume his role … We also wrestle with spiritual doubts and conflicts…
The Zohar teaches that the struggle with the angel would come to express Jacob’s … ongoing struggle between self and G‑d, between one’s ego and spirit. It symbolizes the victorious struggle to sublimate our will to that of our Creator’s will.
Contending with G‑d and man often initiates a personal search. Every great quest starts with a great question. What is G‑d, and what is G‑d not? It continues with refining and redefining one’s perception. Just as you’ve outgrown your childhood clothing, so, too, has your mind expanded its capacity for understanding. With greater maturity it becomes necessary to re-examine beliefs that have not been developed or clarified…
To reach or to exceed his personal and spiritual potentia … needs answers to fundamental questions. Why am I here and what is my purpose? How do I achieve it? What makes me different?…
Our sages teach us that G‑d communicates to us directly through our daily challenges. Life’s tests can help to refine our ability to actualize our inner potential. Adversity can be viewed as the vehicle through which we come to expand ourselves and, thereby, overcome our self-perceived limitations. The tough times can ultimately come to reveal our inner greatness. They serve to elevate us beyond what we thought we were capable of being. Conversely, we are equally tested through times of happiness and success. When things are going well, do we recognize the source of our abundance, or do we arrogantly attribute our good fortunes solely to our own efforts and skill?
Life’s tests are multidimensional; they elevate us and can heighten our vantage point to access the latent inner resources we all possess. The best criteria for evaluating an epiphany, however, are its long term effects. How much of the initial impact endures? Does it help you develop yourself to become more than you were?
Thus, “seeing G‑d face to face” is also a metaphor that illustrates how G‑d’s presence is revealed throughout life’s details… — Katia Bolotin

by Jack Baumgartner


Why struggle to open a door between us when the whole wall is an illusion? — Rumi

Life is one long struggle in the dark. — Lucretius

Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle. — Napoleon HillThe most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths. — Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. — Frederick Douglass

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. — Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds. — Orison Swett Marden

You don’t fight your anger, because your anger is you. Your anger is the wounded child in you. Why should you fight your anger? The method is entirely nonviolent: awareness, mindfulness, and tenderly holding your anger within you. — Thich Nhat Hanh

Where there is no struggle, there is no strength. — Oprah Winfrey

Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation. — Coretta Scott King

A lot of what is most beautiful about the world arises from struggle. —  Malcolm Gladwell

People are at their best when they are challenged. If we don’t challenge ourselves, nature has a way of giving us challenges anyway. There is great value in our struggles, and human nature has shown us that we only value the things we struggle to achieve. — Thomas Frey

by Sefira Lightstone

LEFT ME with a LIMP Rachel Held Evans (full posting about the Bible: https://rachelheldevans.com/blog/i-love-the-bible)

It is said that after Jacob wrestled with God, he walked with a limp… So it has been with the Bible and me. I have wrestled with the Bible, and it has left me with a limp… Those of us who have wrestled know we can be wrong. … I have finally surrendered to God’s stories.
God’s long, strange, beautiful stories.
We asked questions.
God told stories.
We demanded answers.
God told stories.
We argued theology.
God told stories.
And when those stories weren’t enough, when the words themselves would not suffice, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, laughed among us, wept among us, ate among us, told more stories among us, suffered among us, died among us, and rose among us. The Word entered our story and invited us into His. The Word became flesh and said, “Watch me. Follow me.  See how I do it. This is what I desire.”
And the Word loved—
Loved the poor,
Loved the rich,
Loved the sick,
Loved the hungry,
Loved the zealots,
Loved the tax-collectors,
Loved the lepers,
Loved the soldiers,
Loved the foreigners,
Loved the insiders,
Loved the slaves,
Loved the women,
Loved the untouchables,
Loved the religious,
Loved the favored,
Loved the forgotten.
Loved even the enemy.
When words were not enough, the Word took on flesh and became the story.
I love the Bible, but I love it best when I love it for what it is, not what I want it to be…when I live in the tension and walk with the limp—
The limp that slows me down,
The limp that delights my critics,
The limp I wouldn’t change for the world,
The limp that led me to God.

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