When I Pray

I go to shul twice a week,
And sit in wooden pews,
Clutching a book,
And laughing at the irony of it all.
Why is it, I ask myself,
That I come here to pray,
And yet end up talking instead.
Why is it, I wonder,
That my greatest prayers,
My most heartfelt pleas,
Were not said in shuls-
Not even on Yom Kippur-
But on antiseptic blue chairs,
By hospital bedsides,
Or as I sat on soft carpet,
Weeping at the unfairness of life.
Why is it,
That standing in G-d’s dwelling place,
I only say the words in the book,
And not those in my heart?
Is it fear?
Fear of crying, fear of ruining my mascara,
Fear of Looking Silly?
Is it exhaustion?
At the end of a long week,
Too tired to plumb the depths of my heart?
Is it something else?
Something I can’t name-
Something about being surrounded by people.
Back home,
I clutch the blue Siddur,
With tattered pages,
Remnants of tears,
The evidence of a hundred heartbreaks.
And I resolve,
From now on, when I pray,
I will be this honest always.


I am a Shlucha


When I was younger
I wanted to be-
Needed to be-
One of the women in this picture.
A fighter,
A shining star,
A blessing,
A shlucha.
I was going to be a woman who helped others,
A woman who changed the world,
One Shabbes meal at a time.
I was going to bring peace by lighting candles,
And battle the darkness which befell us.
I was going to be a shlucha.
Now I’m twenty,
No children,
No chabad house to my name.
I’ve never handed out candles,
On a busy London street,
And I rely on others,
When I should be hosting them.
And yet I am a shlucha.
I am a fighter.
A warrior.
Here against all odds,
Jewish despite the obstacles,
And I have faith at times when I can’t work out why.
Each night,
When I open my siddur and thank G-d,
For the gift of another day,
I know I have helped others.
I’ve forgiven when I want to hold a grudge,
Loved when I wanted to hate,
Given when I wanted to take.
I am like the women in this picture.
I always was,
I always will be,
And you are too,
For each kind act you do.

The Queen

Darkness falls
It’s Friday night
I can almost see
The Shabbes Queen.
The flickering candles
The murmur of prayer
The rustle of velvet and silk.
Salt on the chollah
A blessing said aloud
And joy all around me
Dancing and singing –
Come, greet the Queen-
Come with me,
My beloved friend-
I call but nobody answers.
Every week
I say the same words
Please G-d, this week,
Let my dreams come true.
Please G-d, this week
Let me greet the Queen
In joy and peace
Good health and happiness
And not alone.

G-d Guides My Steps

I feel lost.
I feel broken.
I feel wounded by the world,
Forgotten by the One I love,
Withered like the grass,
Shattered like my heart.
On a cold day like today,
When hopelessness hangs over me
Like a dark cloud of misery,
I turn to Your wisdom,
And I try my hardest to trust.
Guide my steps, G-d,
And I’ll guide my heart.
Guide my soul, G-d,
And I’ll guide my mind.
Just please don’t let go,
Like the others did before You.


Today, I Forgave

Today, I forgave.
Before I was hurting,
Hurting myself,
Hurting those around me,
Hurting You.
Now I feel free-
Now I realise
That maybe I had been wrong
All along
And even if I wasn’t,
Who cares?
Maybe life is about more
Than right and wrong
Grudges and bitterness
Curses and harsh words.
Maybe it’s no good
My saying you were wrong
Because G-d won’t accept that
When He asks me why I hurt you.
Today I forgave
Not for you
Not for practicality
Not for the sake of it
But for me.
Because the feather on the arrow
I shot at you
Came from the wings of my dreams
The dreams I cast aside
In my haste to show my anger.
At last, I can dream,
With the wind beneath my wings.
At last, we can sit,
And talk of old times.
At last, we are together,
Like one big family.
Today, I forgave,
And now, I am free.

Forever and Ever

The Day after I told myself I’d stopped believing,
I put on my magen Dovid and davened on the train.
If I didn’t believe,
Why was I risking so much?
Why was I showing my devotion,
In a place where Jews keep Quiet?
Why did I keep on fighting,
After I’d told myself to stop?
As I finished my prayers I said aloud
Two words which gave me all the answers:
L’Olom Voed,
Forever and ever,
Long after my mind had stopped believing,
My soul still cleaved to G-d.
The train rattled forwards,
I closed my siddur,
But I kept my mind open.
I am a Jew. I will always be a Jew-
L’Olom Voed.

I Turned To You

Soft light creeping
Through a crack in a curtain;
A ticking clock
Sitting in the corner-
A sense of blackness,
And so I turned to You.
Waves washing up
On a sandy beach
Warm air flowing,
Flies buzzing,
A sense of wholeness,
And so I turned to You.
I turn to you with thanks and praise;
Cries and tears;
Sorrow and fear;
I push You away,
I scream at You,
I turn my back,
And yet-
You are always there.
When I return,
Head bowed,
You are always there.
And so, tonight, I turn to You,
Knowing You are there.
I turn to You like a child,
On the verge of Tears,
Longing for Your embrace.
Harsh words forgotten,
Just memories now,
I can always turn back to You.

Some Days

Some days, I almost lose my faith,
Stumbling through a world,
Where covered necklines are deemed wrong,
Otherworldly, making me The Other.
Some days, it hurts to open my siddur,
The pages cut my fingers,
And the words sting at my eyes,
On a bus where half the people would want to kill me,
If they knew what I was reading.
Some days, Kashrus eats away at me,
As I sit alone, watching, waiting,
Starving, dying,
And others eat the food of contentment.
Some days, I don’t think G-d hears me,
When I cry at night
And call out by day.
Some days, I feel like Giving Up-
When Chanukah is over,
And the candles are no more,
Cups of oil packed away,
And menorahs set aside.
For another year, I must make my own light.
Some days, I don’t think I can do this,
But today, I know I can:
For within me, burns the Ner Tamid.

Sparks In The Sky

I truly believe that all art forms can honour Hashem and capture an essence of His glory in some small way. This includes music, paintings, and, of course, poetry. I’m always looking for meaningful Jewish poetry, and the other day, I found myself inspired by Ester Kazinik’s beautiful and talented poem, which she has kindly allowed me to share here…

She twirls the fire
Dances the drum beats
Her wings against the star
Filled sky and dies
Buried face up so she won’t miss the falling
Stars or fallen soldiers
Wings outstretched taut
She taught them all to fly with wings
She molded from warmed clay
Her nails scratching, etching marks down backs
Of hills- the mud slid towards bare trees
It was winter and white like snow
She glowed in the dark
Sparks from the bonfire
Danced up to the sky
She danced hard
Beating the earth with her feet
Hair wild in the wind
She whipped the colors against
Stretched leathers
Feathers in her hair declared
The rare beauty she had become
A crow and owl in one
Her talons aching for new flesh
Inhaling pungent smoke she choked and
Lay back on grass and willow
She danced spinning circles of light and energy
Altering the present and fluctuating time
Skirts spinning like a dervish a fervor
She stood still


Today I stood, watching snowflakes fall,
Soft kisses from the sky above,
And as each one touched my skin,
I was taken back to a different time.
Far-off, oh so far away,
A time from before I encountered You,
A static memory of snowballs and frost-
Yes, it took me right back.
So I stopped counting snowflakes,
And started counting blessings,
But that didn’t last long either.
For the blessings in my life
Are too numerous to count,
Falling faster than the flakes of snow.
When I stopped counting blessings,
I fell to the ground,
Got up, and counted again,
And as I walked,
Counting my blessings,
I could barely feel the cold.