An Absence of Color and Light

By Student Rabbi Stacey Robinson

We sat among the willows,
and we wept,
there by the river
that flowed
clear and cold and swift,
–branches dancing,
barely dancing–
as they swayed
and swept the ground.

We stood among the weeping trees,
Prayers mixed with
visions of ash.
and smoke
that rose and billowed,
Black against purple-stained blue
— the blue of periwinkles
and royalty–
and a sky smudged with soot and
an absence of color
and Light,
and the altars we had left behind.

How can we sing
with no stone walls
adorned with lapis and gold:
— the blue of royalty
and the blaze of the sun–
How,
before that pillar of fire,
that billowing smoke
that is empty of God
and absent of Light?
That raged in a fiery, metallic storm,
licking at loose rubble,
that once was strong walls,
that once was adorned with
the presence of God?

We wept,
and did not sing,
and found no music
in our unstrung lyres
and broken harps.
We wept,
for how could we sing?

And after the weeping
and the fire
and the absent,
Empty,
broken altars–
Pale morning.
and skies of purple-stained blue
shot through with scarlet and gold.
Mist tangled in those willows,
their branches dancing–
barely dancing–
barely skimming the swiftly flowing waters.

A moment–
A breathless,
silent
sacred moment.
that was a psalm,
A hymn of color,
and holiness
Made anew.
And there was no absence.
And there was light.

And there,
among the willows
by that swiftly flowing river,
We found a new prayer
And sang.

 

For Tisha B’Av

 

Jacob Dreamed of Ladders & For Esau by Student Rabbi Stacey Robinson

Jacob Dreamed of Ladders

It is not the going up

that interests me,

not the view from Heaven

nor the view from Tuesday—

today is struggle enough.

And I am downright fearful

of going down,

with its trickster promise of return

and illusion of solid ground.

Down is done backwards, after all,

the last step always more question

than answer.

In truth I am terrified of ladders,

of their rickety rattling restless motion,

of the balance they require,

the perfection.

Easier—

infinitely easier—

to wrestle with myself

on the ground.

For Esau

Thief!

Liar and thief!

Despite all you stole,

I loved you still.

I would have given anything

if you’d asked.

Instead your shadow

smothered my birthright,

my heat.

Thief!

You stole the light of heaven,

the love of our mother,

even our father’s faulty eyes.

You took it all and left me—

what does one call a shadow

of a shadow?

Of betrayal you made a nation

numberless as the sand and stars.

Because you knew God,

you were blessed and cursed

and beloved.

You knew God,

but I learned forgiveness.

And so I bless you and curse you

and love you more still.