Friday, October 10, 2008

Sabbath of Sabbaths and Rhyme Royal

Services were exquisite. They were an emotional journey after which I truly feel cleansed and renewed. They were a conversation between me and the community, the community and the infinite, the choir and the soloist, the tradition and the future, sleep and wakefulness, strength and weakness, life and death, joy and sorrow. I felt as though I was guided by strong and knowing hands through a fearsome and draining path toward deeper knowledge of self and a deeper sense of meaning, and then brought back again gently to a place of joy and relief. I am left in awe and bewilderment at the rainbow of my experiences over the holiday - the joy and grief, the longing and hope, the fear, faith, skepticism, desire, thankfulness.
Often I find the final moments of Yom Kippur the most moving, those moments when I want so badly for it all to be over, but want so badly for it to last forever, when I feel so holy and so desperate for holiness, my body weak and dizzy, somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, even between life and death. It is then that I believe in the infinite most, when I can feel the presence of infinity leaving and prodding me back into myself. It is such a bittersweet marraige when my soul cleaves to my body and the community scatters into separate individuals and I am myself once more - how glad I am to return, and how sorry I am to leave. I often don't consider myself a spiritual person and it is often hard for me to reach a state of spirituality but on Yom Kippur I am taken there, and especially this year I feel that, accross a vast chasm, I glimpsed the divine.
So, of course, I wrote you a GRE review poem about it. It's in rhyme royal, which means that it's in seven-line iambic pentameter stanzas rhyming ababbcc. Rhyme royal was first used by Chaucer, but probably got its name because James I of Scotland also wrote using this verse form. It hasn't really been used since the Restoration.

We stand as one, an army afraid of the fight
Our voices joined, we breathe out our souls in song
The spirit drains as day fades into night
And we yearn for a home where our bodies don’t belong
The end grows near, and still the wait is long
Our words are fervent and yet the chasm grows wide
Our deaths and and lives grasp hands across the divide

We fear we may fall in the swelling rift – unsure,
Dizzy, and week, we step forward toward the abyss
And cry forgive us pardon us make us pure
Together in song but separate in thought we kiss
The edge of the tallis that wraps the world and this
Is the day of atonement, this is the time
When we return to ourselves and so doing become sublime

The clouds are tufts of pink in the evening sky
Our eyes turn to royal blue heavens that deepen toward night
It soon will be over, in these last moments we try
To promise to change, to grow to be good and upright
Transforming our conscience, absorbing these last shards of light
Through parched lips swallowing promise of hope and peace
And begging that in days to come our joys will increase

The iron gates slowly fold closed to shut out our pleas
To prod us back to our lives from this brush with the end
But surely, couldn’t I reach in my hand and squeeze
Out just a piece of that magic so I can extend
This teary-eyed, awe-filled prayer and transcend
My life all the days of the year? The shofar sounds
I let go of sublime as the harsh- holy call resounds

After Kol Nidre, we went on a walk to Emek Refaim, where the whole neighborhood wandered the streets, greeting friends and neighbors to apologize for the wrongdoing of the year. It was a sight to see, like a street fair without the bouncy castles or loud music. Swarms of people gathered in the road, children riding bicycles, clusters of friends chatting, strolling, people watching. We ran into someone who worked for UVA Hillel two years ago, and were excited to chat with her a little. She's living in Jerusalem and hopefully we'll have an opportunity to see her again before the year is through.

I hope you all had an easy and meaningful fast, and are looking forward to Sukkot, the season of our joy.

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