All Souls

Come, my beloved, let’s greet the source of blessing.[1]

I recognized you during the fifth stanza.

Your neck flushed red, and the hairs on mine

tingled as I heard your voice distinct

above the effervescent chorus

singing, “Arouse yourself!  Arouse!”

I’d been staring at your knitted

black kippah[2] and the fringes dangling

from your belted, narrow waist,

embarrassed to be thrilling to the image:

you patrolling some yeshiva in Judea

with your Uzi, trusting in my heart

that that was long ago, nevermore. 

Yours was not a settler’s neck!

Bursting left and right, anticipating

you sighting my back as we turned

around to welcome the Sabbath Bride,

the memory blushed like the pink pastel

of the Galilean sunset:  the two of us,

dressed in whites, jostling down

the dusty road to the city gate

pretending that our bumps and humps

were accidental, as if we hadn’t

longed all week for this parade,

through our all-day text parsing,

through our late night shuckling,

alone, inseparable in the study hall,

as if we were the only two kabbalists

in Safed for whom Queen Sabbath,

bless her, was our beard.

Five centuries ago, ecstatically

dancing her back to the prayer hall,

the Master the Lion waiting entranced,

we never thought to long for a day

when lovers could embrace on the same side

of the gender divide.  Come my beloved,

we have sat in the valley of tears oh so long,

arouse yourself, the light bursts forth,

the Holy Presence shines from us!

[1] Lekhah Dodi, composed by the kabbalists in sixteenth-century Safed, sung on Friday at sunset to usher in the Sabbath.

[2] skull cap

First Published in Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction 26/4 (December 2020).

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