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IN THE BLACK NIGHT - A Poem for Parashat Vayishlach

by Rabbi John Rosove

November 14, 2013 | 4:38 pm

In the black night
the river runs cold
slowly passing me by
over formerly sharp-edged stones
worn smooth by centuries of churning, 
as if through earthy veins -
and I Jacob, alone,
shiver and wait
to meet my brother
and daylight.

Will there be war?
And will the angels carry my soul
up the rungs of the ladder
leaving my blood
to soak the earthy crust?

A presence!?
And I struggle yet again
as if in my mother’s womb
and in my dreams.

We played together as children once,
my brother Esau and me
as innocents,
and I confess tonight
how I wronged him
and wrenched from him his birthright
as this Being has done to me
between my thighs.

I was so young
driven by ego and need,
blinded by ambition,
my mother’s dreams
and my father’s silence.

I so craved to be first born
adored by my father,
to assume his place when he died
that my name be remembered
and define a people.

How Esau suffered and wailed
and I didn’t care.
Whatever his dreams
they were nothing to me –
my heart was hard –
his life be damned!

But, after all these years
I’ve learned that Esau and I
each alone is
a palga gufa – a half-soul
without the other -
torn away
as two souls separated at creation
seeking reunification
in a sea of souls –
the yin missing the yang
the dark and light never to touch –
the mind divorced from body –
the soul in exile –
without a beating bleating heart
to witness –
and no access to the thirty-two paths
to carry us together
up the ladder
and through the spheres. 

It’s come to this!
To struggle again –
To live or die.

Tonight
I’m ready for death
or submission.

Compassionate One:
protect Esau and your servant -
my brother and me
as one –
and return us to each other. 

El na r’fa na lanu!
Grant us peace and rest!
I’m very tired!

 

Originally published in the CCAR Journal: Reform Jewish Quarterly, Spring, 2010, pages 113-115

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Rabbi John L. Rosove assumed his duties as Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood in November 1988. A native of Los Angeles, he earned a BA in Art History from UC Berkeley...

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