Monday, April 14, 2014

A Seder Prayer in the aftermath of the Kansas City Tragedy

Our God and God of our ancestors. 
You who watch and weep at the death of your innocent children
On this eve of Passover, as we tell our story/Your story, help us to find a safe place for our fear, our grief, our anger. 

"In every generation there are those who rise up against us."
This week ugly truth has once again raised its head. 

"In every generation we are required to view ourselves as though we, individually, went forth out of Egypt."
This week, we taste the dust and feel the degradation  of our ancestors. 

Tonight, as we gather around our tables; as we open our books and see the crumbs from seder's past spilling into our fingers; as we count the wine-stains on our pages and remember how our cup is always lessened with human suffering, help us to find perspective, strength and faith. 

We pray for the victims of violence in Overland Park and everywhere hatred bursts forth from the barrel of a gun. We hold them and their loved ones in our outstretched arms. 

There will be empty seats around our tables this year. We remember them. 
There will be old nemeses stopping by as well: uninvited, unwelcome, but part of us nonetheless - our past present and future. *(see below) 

When we open Elijah's door, who will be on the other side?  Hope? Futility? Dream or nightmare?

May our worship, our laughter, our tears and our stories bring to fruition the ancient hope of peace. May violence and hatred be drowned out in a final Halleluyah as we sing from our hearts. 

We will never be defined by brutality. We will always be defined by our vision of a better world. 

L'shanah Haba-ah B'yirushalayim. Next year in Jerusalem.   AMEN
Rabbi Joseph Black - Denver, CO

*Some say that t

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Gribbines- A Poem for Passover.

I wrote this poem about about 7 years ago.  It was published as part of an essay on Parashat Bo I submitted for the Men's Torah commentary (Jewish light's Press- Jeff Salkin, Ed.) I like to bring it out around Pesach time- especially if I'm making chicken soup.  Enjoy. 

Gribbenes (parashat Bo)
© Joe Black -  Pesach, 5768

This year, on Pesach, I ate my father’s food:
Gribbenes, Gehachte Leber, and Gefilte Fish*
My Doctor tells me it hardens my arteries
But I think it softens my soul.

I wonder if Pharaoh ate gribbenes?
His heart hardened, melted, hardened, melted –
Like schmaltz
Floating on the surface
With each successive reconstitution --
Thawing, cooling, thickening, slickening
Until, finally
It merges into the mixed multitude
of shredded leeks, onions, bones and flesh that gather
On the bottom of the pot.

Pharaoh, after some prodding, hardened his own heart.
It was he who chilled his veins, sinews and arteries.
It was he who refused to open his eyes to the greasy truth
That haunted him with each successive plague:

Night after sleepless night – he felt them:  
The shortness of breath
The sharp pain that radiated
From the back of his neck to the tips of his fingers…..

If only, godlike, he could have seen the blockage
If only hearing, seeing, welcoming freedom’s cry
Could somehow miraculously have melted away his stubbornness
Flowing effortlessly into the banks of the Nile.

But then, of course,
We would have no story.

*  Gribbenes is rendered chicken fat.  Gehachte Leber is chopped liver, and Gefilte Fish is….Gefilte Fish…..