Manna, and More

Manna dropped softly on the harsh desert sands,
our daily portion of bread from heaven,
yes, we said, this would suffice!
but the generations of the leech cried out: Give, give,
ever sucking, never sated, always hungry.
We wanted more.

Next came the quails, those erring migrants,
nightfall’s stragglers entangled in our nets,
and yes we said, this could suffice!
and still the generations of the leech cried out: Give, give,
ever sucking, never sated, always hungry.
We wanted more.

A crimson cloud unfurled in the east,
dawn’s herald of life restored.

[“This would suffice” is from a Passover song of thanksgiving. The image of insatiable leeches is drawn from Proverbs 30:15.]

 Copyright © 2013, Jonathan Omer-Man






Betrothed, Again

Every weekday, in the early morning prayers, we make a passionate declaration of fidelity. Surprisingly, the imagery employed is not of a bond between sovereign and subject, as might be expected from the context, but rather a relationship between two human lovers, painted in language so tender that it has been incorporated in the traditional wedding ceremony.

“And I will betroth you for ever; yes, I will betroth you in righteousness, and in justice, and in lovingkindness, and in compassion. And I will betroth you in faithfulness. And you will know H.”

Nevertheless, the selection of this passage is troubling, for the bulk of the book of Hosea — from which it is drawn — is devoted to the life of a prophet whose wife betrayed him repeatedly. The story of their dreadful marriage is generally understood as an allegory of the fractured covenant between God and Israel, of the rupture between the Divine and the individual. Read as such, the words seem to be more a ritual of mending that which is broken than the celebration of a fresh, new love.

We, like the wayward bride, often drift away from the singular, straight path, distracted by all the gaudy sideshows, and fail to note the insistent, beckoning call.

Betroth us again, H’! Lead us to that portal where past and future embrace, to a Now so brilliant that we can truly exclaim: You can know H’!

וְיָדַֽעַתְּ אֶת יְיָ

 Copyright © 2012, Jonathan Omer-Man

Dig That Well

And Isaac dug again the wells from the days of Abraham his father;
for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham…
And Isaac’s servants dug in the valley, and found there the Well of Living Waters.
(Gen. 26:18)

Shall we sip once again the waters of innocence, drink deep from the pool of wonderment?

That won’t be easy, because the wells are sealed now. The Philistines did it, after father Abraham died They filled them up with their commentaries, then with commentaries on their commentaries, then with commentaries on commentaries on their commentaries. And after that, sorry, total stoppage.

Help us, servants of father Isaac, lead us to the valley where lies the Well of Living Waters; there we shall sing and dance and reach for the sky unencumbered, there we will pause and pray and plumb the depths without terror.

Copyright © 2012, Jonathan Omer-Man

Portcullis Eyes

שְׂאוּ שְׁעָרִים, רָאשֵׁיכֶם,  והִנָּשְׂאוּ, פִּתְחֵי עוֹלָם וְיָבוֹא, מֶלֶךְ הַכָּבוֹד

Lift up your heads, O ye gates, … that the King of Glory may enter (Psalm 24:7)

raise up your lids gateways of my soul,
watch the heralds of our king draw close
with flags and banners and coats of many colors.
they would enter, so attend them well, prepare a feast
open wide gateways of my soul,  and look
at the heavy white clouds towering  up in the west
a rose-quartz crystal perched on the window ledge
and ripe yellow lemons drooping in the yard beyond
oh my soul, wait no more, the glory is here
go out into the blustery drenching rain
peer at the lights within an ancient rock
and firmly squeeze a zesty sour fruit


Day of Awe

Morning: Preludes

First and last, who towers above all,
may we sculpt your silence with a new song?
Who hovers low over the ocean swell,
may we ripple your stillness with whispered entreaties?
Who lies buried under fields of forgotten dreams,
may we rekindle your joy with praying lips?

Afternoon: The Breaking of the Vessels

The smoldering mountain moves, it roars, shudders,
shaking off unwanted pious courtesies.
A hard northwesterly chops the wintry seas,
and sharks scent their prey, a drowning man.
Forked lightning strikes a once-sacred oak,
its bole is split, its branches burnt and scattered.

Evening: Closures

A new year has dawned, you have pardoned all sins,
Now gather us H’, take us under your wings.

@2012 Jonathan Omer-Man

Law of Eternal Return

השִׁיבֵנוּ יְהֹוָה אֵלֶיךָ וְנָשׁוּבָה
“Bring us back to you, H’, and we will return”*

Yes, we shall return, yes, we will come back,
though  a checkpoint stands before us,
an interrogation booth, the place of close examination.

Who would confess sins without certainty of forgiveness?
Who would face shame without expectation of forgiveness?
Who would discard masks of virtue without  assurance of forgiveness?

Cover our iniquities
wash away the stains
offer us the life realigned.

Show us a sign, and we shall return.
Strengthen our faith, and with no sign at all
we will come back.

*Lamentation 5:21, with special significance on the High Holidays
© 2012 Jonathan Omer-Man



אֶשָּׂא עֵינַי, אֶל-הֶהָרִים–    מֵאַיִן, יָבֹא עֶזְרִי
I shall lift up mine eyes unto the mountains: from whence shall come my help?
Psalm 121

You raise your eyes to the mountains, peering ever upwards, climbing, searching. You can’t see a thing.

You draw close to the summit. The sky is dazzling bright, and you are blinded by the glare. All is white. You see nothing.

Dear H’, is this the Awesome Nothingness? Is this the Infinite Aleph from which all things flow?

Wait, faint forms are emerging, shapes that grow sharper, first of clouds, then of craggy peaks and sculpted  valleys. Then below you see it all, everything: the silver birches and the yellowed oaks and dark pine forests and a sinuously winding river and busy towns  and all the industrious people with their loves and hates and hopes and fears, and yes, your own  broken heart  beats on there too. The scroll of heaven and earth is unrolled before your eyes.

Later that evening, back at your work-bench, grinding the pigments or pounding the clay, you look down at these things, you smell them and touch them, then you wipe clean your hands and bless the One that made them all.

[Most English versions of this psalm render the Hebrew word מֵאַיִן as “from whence.”  However, it can also be interpreted as “from the Nothingness,” or “from the Fullness of Being.” (Zohar)]
@2012 Jonathan Omer-Man

Incident On the Road to the Tree of Life

אָז יְרַנְּנוּ כָּל עֲצֵי יָעַר
Let all the trees of the forest sing for joy (Psalm 96)

Weary from the journey, he paused in a hillside grove — pines and juniper, black oaks and wild plums.

“Stay,” the trees  beckoned. “Stay, rest a while, and listen to our song.”

“I must go on,” he replied. “The summons is strong.”

“Touch our leaves, finger our needles,” they insisted. “Smell our scents, taste our fallen fruits.”

“My master calls,” he answered. “I can’t say no.”

“But you belong with us,” they whispered. “Blood and sap, sap and blood.”

“The fellowship of the other Tree awaits me,” he said.

“Beasts of the field dwell here, furry and scaled — foxes and turtles, squirrels and lizards.”

“But the seraphs, the cherubs! The cascades of light!”

“Take care, lest they unsheathe their sharp spinning swords.”

“And the embrace of angels!”

“Warmer winged ones nest among us here — thrushes and jays, sparrows and woodpeckers, and a lone great-horned owl. Tarry a while, sweet friend.”

“Very well, but only till the Sabbath.”

@2012 Jonathan Omer-Man


Double Vision

ועינינו תראינה מלכותך
“May our eyes may see your Kingdom.”

In its purely literal sense this prayer expresses a yearning that we may witness messianic redemption in our own days.  However, it can also be interpreted as relating not to anticipation of a future dispensation but to cultivating an ability to perceive the Kingdom as it exists now, in the present. For this purpose, the Source of all has blessed us with the gift of two inner eyes.

The gaze of the first inner eye can penetrate the veil of the unspirited world  in which we live, with its mixture of astonishing beauty and perverse iniquities, of loving gestures and horrid cruelties, and discover  a Promised Land in which justice rules untrammeled and relationships have been realigned. Emboldened by this vision we may toil actively to bring it into being, speedily, Amen

With the second inner eye we can look upon the Majesty as it is, as it was, and as it always will be, unchanging, eternal. Entering a world in which every moment is imbued with the totality of the Sabbath, we dwell in its resplendent glory, passively, in perfect stillness, Selah.

Grant us, H’, that we may join the company of those who wander through your creation with two (inner) eyes open.

@2012 Jonathan Omer-Man


Mountaintop Deliberations

1. Reflective Priests

מִי-יַעֲלֶה בְהַר-יְהוָה;    וּמִי-יָקוּם, בִּמְקוֹם קָדְשׁוֹ

Who shall ascend into the mountain of H’? and who shall stand in that holy place?
Only one who has clean hands, a pure heart, and has not taken the Name in vain.
(Psalm 24)

Hands now soft and gentle, his kind fingers turn the pages of sacred texts. But the stains remain. May he ascend that Mountain?

Voice now crisp and clear, her mellow tongue chants endless solemn hymns. But the slurs persist. May she stand in that Place?

Deeds now generous and loyal, our good names are praised throughout the land. But old wounds fester. May we go up?

2. Impulsive Prophets

Go up to the high mountain; raise your voice, be not afraid; Proclaim:’Behold your God!’
(from: Isaiah 40)

Commanded by an inner voice, his untutored mind still struggles for words. His doubts are strong. He must ascend that Mountain!

Passionate messenger of truth, her pagan loves live on. Her motives are unclear. She must stand in that Place!

Passing through a hall of many idols, our hammer-hands are still unsure. Our zeal is great. We must go up!

@2012 Jonathan Omer-Man