The Binding: A Prayer for Rosh Chodesh and Women of the Wall

July 10, 2013Stacey Zisook Robinson, z"l

I was proud to have been at a Rosh Chodesh service yesterday morning in Chicago, IL. I was proud to have been asked to help lead the service, proud to don my tallit and stand before a congregation of people who had come together to pray, celebrate, and sing.

I was saddened to read the press release that we received shortly before the service started from Women of the Wall, which detailed  what had happened at the Western Wall earlier that day, when the group was led to a fenced in area of the Western Wall plaza rather than being permitted to pray at the Kotel. I do not understand the kind of hatred and fear that allows some people to act in such a senseless fashion. As a woman, as a Jew, I stand with community - with all of those who struggle to sing out to God, in joyful, prayerful ways. 

It struck me, as I stood before the congregation and gathered the tzitzit of my tallit yesterday morning: the idea, embodied by this tradition, as the rabbis teach, that we gather the tzitzit together as if gathering all of our people together from the four corners of the earth. Gathered as one, during that section of the service that is all about love - God's love for us, our love for God - so that we know that we are never alone.

The thought stayed with me all morning. This is what I wrote, in response to my Rosh Chodesh experience. I offer it as a way to say thank you to Women of the Wall: Thank you for your struggle, your voices, your hearts.

I was bound.
I took the fringes and wrapped them
around my fingers.

Fingers that had danced across
Your name,
Had caressed the delicate curve of
My child's face.
Fingers that had scrubbed and washed and cooked and mended
a broken dish--
a broken heart--
a broken world.

I was bound
and freed
by those bonds:
Achingly I chose them,
even as they chose me

And I lifted my eyes to the mountains.
And I lifted my voice to the heavens.
And I lifted my arms to wrap around Your word.
Arms to comfort,
And hold dear,
And hold safe
All that I hold dear--
All that You have commanded
(and then some)

I was bound
to the rhythm of the world,
Of suns and seas and moons:
A tidal pull to bind me.
An aching--
A stately--
An eternal dance.
And I was moved
And gloriously bound
To lift my voice
and my eyes
and sing praises to Your name,
Under a velvet sky
in the shadow of a holy Wall.

In the holiness of a moment,
i\In a sacred and tidal moment,
I wrapped the fringes around my fingers
and i lifted my arms
in the presence of Your light.

And I was bound.
And I was silenced.
And I was herded
and hated
and hobbled.

And still--
still I gathered those fringes,
frayed now
and tangled,
I gathered those fringes
Bound them to me
from corner to corner to
To the heart of it,
The heart of me,
And I lifted deft fingers
to dance along Your name,
And offered my wearied arms
to my sister
my child
my enemy
my God,
And I bowed
And so was bound.

And in my binding,
In my song,
In my center,
I was free

For all of us, eternally at the Wall
Rosh Chodesh Av

Stacey Zisook Robinson is a member of Beth Emet The Free Synagogue in Evanston, IL, and Congregation Hakafa in Glencoe, IL. She blogs at Stumbling towards meaning:  Stacey’s Blog, where this poem was originally posted.

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