Category Archives: Midrash

Heroes Who Limp

Jacob’s midnight assailant was surprised at his adversary’s great strength. He wondered if Jacob might be an angel like himself. Angels have no leg joints, the midrash teaches, so he touched Jacob at the hip to determine whether his opponent’s … Continue reading

Posted in Angels, Blessing, Midrash, Poetry, Torah | 4 Comments

Naming The Unimaginable

At the harrowing end, a ram replaced Yitzhak as the sacrifice; a narrow escape that came only after two divine interventions to divert father Abraham from his unimaginable mission. Generations of rabbinic storytellers imagined even narrower escapes for Yitzhak, placing … Continue reading

Posted in Midrash, Names, Parshat HaShavuah, Poetry, Torah | Leave a comment

Believe it—And Not

Noah was lacking in belief, taught the 3rd century teacher, Rabbi Yohanan. If not for the water reaching his ankles, he would not have entered the ark. Lacking in belief? Noah, who fulfilled the twin tasks of building the great … Continue reading

Posted in Midrash, Parshat HaShavuah, Torah | 4 Comments

Steps, Blessed Be They

God is steps, declared Yehuda Amichai. Such an outright assertion about God was unusual for the great Israeli poet. He was fond of similes that invited listeners closer to the mystery without violating the distance that mystery needs. Among his … Continue reading

Posted in Midrash, Poetry, Prayer, Torah | 1 Comment

How Deep? How High?

How much do I love you? I’ll tell you no lie. How deep is the ocean? How high is the sky? Irving Berlin wrote the song, How Deep Is the Ocean? in 1932. It consists mainly of rhetorical questions that point … Continue reading

Posted in Holidays, Midrash, Passover, Poetry, Torah | Leave a comment

The Walk Is Painful

The poet, Muriel Rukeyser, learned from her mother the family tradition that she was a direct descendant of Rabbi Akiba. Muriel carried that legacy into a life of vision and activism, beginning in the 1930’s when she wrote and spoke … Continue reading

Posted in Midrash, Poetry | 2 Comments

Created On The Second Day

When was love created? asked a modern Israeli poet. When were the angels made? an ancient sage inquired. Each question contains an essential quest: to read a detail of personal interest both into, and out of, the few verses of … Continue reading

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The Binding Of God

To my mind’s eye, Rabbi Berechiah appeared stoop-shouldered and mournful on Rosh Hashanah as he listened to the Torah reader recite Genesis 22, The Binding of Isaac. Berechiah, a 4th century sage of the land of Israel, was pained by … Continue reading

Posted in Days of Awe, Holidays, Midrash, Poetry, Torah | 1 Comment

Each Person’s Stamp and Seal

The end of the matter, all things being heard:  Revere God and observe his commandments, for this is the sum of human life. With this verse, the liturgical reading of Ecclesiastes comes to an end; the penultimate verse is repeated … Continue reading

Posted in Midrash, Poetry, Talmud | 3 Comments

Leavening On Our Shelves And In Ourselves

Every year, several weeks before Passover, my personal search for leaven begins in a way that is more symbolic than actual. I approach my bookshelves where there are many books that have served their rising, yeasty purposes and are now … Continue reading

Posted in Holidays, Midrash, Passover, Poetry | 1 Comment