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Stacey Zisook Robinson

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Image of a sea parting

In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat B’shalach, the Israelite slaves, with Pharaoh’s army fast on their heels, cross the Red Sea to freedom. Once on the other side, “[W]hen Israel saw the wondrous power which the Eternal had wielded against the Egyptians, the people feared the Eternal; they had faith in the Eternal and in God’s servant Moses” (Exodus 14:31).

In gratitude and thanksgiving, Moses and the Israelites sang Shirat HaYam (Song of the Sea), which inspired this poem.

Perhaps I am Free

I have never seen such forever water. I hear its incessant burbling, a chant,...

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Lighted candle flickering in total darkness

 

Stars littered the ground Crystal fire Shards of ice Glass

The smoke of a thousand thousand years Ascended Coiling upwards, twisted With the memory of a People Chosen once in light Chosen again In darkness In ashes and in blood

Pounding rhythms shout out Felt through soles Driving forward, driving onward Faster and faster and faster, and pulled forward Pulled ever onward In a rush, at a run, rippling in shadow It invades your blood, That rhythm, That pulse, That pull and push That wraps ‘round your heart In pounding and pulsing rhymes That cradle your source Your...

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See from behind: woman in shorts standing in thigh-high flood water

Nachshon, the Rabbis tell us in several midrashim (biblical commentary), was the first of us to walk into the water after we fled Egypt. Standing on the shores of the Sea, Moses told the Children of Israel that they need not be afraid – just walk into the Sea and God will part the waters so they could escape Pharaoh and his chariots. The Israelites all stared at the lapping waves, until Nachshon decided to have a little faith. The rest, they say, is history.

This poem uses that midrash as its base – but with a twist, written in the destructive wakes of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma....

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Grainy image of the Warsaw Ghetto in flames during the Warsaw Uprising

There is so much sky. Funny, but I never knew. It's beautiful, and many hued; perhaps this is what Jacob knew when he ordered that coat, the one that tore apart his sons, made them think of murder, of slavery, and lies.

Joseph said, "It's OK. God put me here, so that i might serve and forgive (tho let's not forget that cup),

Did God put me here in this crush of people and hunger and never enough?

What do I serve? Whom shall I forgive in this fetid place that once was home? Is there a plan for me to raise me up? To raise us all? To let us rise?

There is so...

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Two little girls holding hands in a Syrian refugee camp

Tuesday, June 20, marks the United Nations’ World Refugee Day, which “honors the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homeland under threat of persecution, conflict and violence.” The title of this poem, which I wrote at the height of the Syrian refugee crisis, comes from Torah. “Strange fire” is what killed Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Abihu, in an exceedingly dark episode in Torah. My poem, like the struggles of refugees in today’s world, is similarly dark.

"Strange Fire"

The world is on fire. I feel the flames licking along the...

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