On this Fall Friday, I find myself at once empty and full, the echo of those words still resonating from our High Holiday services. I am so full of gratitude to be the rabbi of this community, a community that cares so deeply about our spiritual lives, about holiness, about pursuing wholeness. For most of the Neilah service, I just closed my eyes and listened to all of us singing together, to the fullness of our final shema. It was such a nourishing experience. Thank you for making it so.
And I also feel emptied out. There are no longer any words, there are no longer any promises. Lucky for us, our amazing Music Director, Rabbi Mónica Gomery, has much to say about the power of poetry in this week's parsha, Ha'azinu, and published a dvar Torah about it this week on Hebrew College's blog.
"In this week's parsha, Moshe's book-length speech switches genres--from prose oration to a shira, an epic poem--and Moshe takes up the project of poetic un-truth. In the first verse, he begins to twist our sense of what is real, proclaiming 'הַאֲזִינוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם, וַאֲדַבֵּרָה וְתִשְׁמַע הָאָרֶץ, אִמְרֵי-פִי' 'Listen, heavens, and I will speak. And let the earth hear the words of my mouth.' Even if we could say that the heavens contain the ears of God, Moshe here describes the land and soil itself as bearing witness by listening - consciously, actively. Newly a poet, and one verse in, Moshe teaches us, the Israelites gathered before him, to listen for something other than logic, to stop making sense.
God is a rock, Moshe tells us, God is a warrior. My words are dew, my words are rain. You are a blemish, you are God's child. God is an eagle, God is a mother. God wounds, God heals. God's wrath is fire, arrows, pestilence. God fed you honey from stone, God fed you the cream of a cow. The litany goes on...
...The journey through the un-truth of poetry can take us to the truth of it all, to the bright face of the shamayim that Moshe calls upon in the opening verse of Ha'azinu, to the color of the sky. As we stand, or perhaps scramble and tremble, as we march, as we build resilient communities, as we live into this foreboding new reality, let's remember to take along with us the illogical, the emotional, the intuitive and figurative--the truth that lives beyond truth, the poetry of our tradition and the poetry of our lives. Just as the Israelites stood hearing Moshe's final poem, shimmering with possibility, and transformation, becoming something new."
As you prepare for Shabbat, I invite you to read her beautiful dvar Torah in its entirety here.
In the wake of the utterly terrifying shooting in Germany on Yom Kippur, we will continue to pray for peace and safety for all of Yisrael, for all of Yishmael, and for all who dwell on earth.
Shabbat Shalom, May it be so.
Rabbi Ari Lev
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Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.