Guide for times we seek presence of mind and heart
Review by Bonnie Maurer
Blessing The Days Between: Blessings, Poems, and Directions of the Heart. By Marcia Falk. Brandeis University Press. 2014. Pages 260. $24.95.
If you are new to Marcia Falk’s book for the Jewish High Holiday Season, you may find as I have, that it will be your inseparable guide to an insightful life, one more engaged and present in mind and heart.
In fact, Marcia Falk, poet and scholar, claims her book is a companion for all of us “seeking to participate in Jewish civilization and culture without compromising intellectual and spiritual integrity.” Falk focuses on core elements in the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services recasting them in fresh and accessible versions. There is no mention of “God” in her pages, but every page evokes the sacred. In each of the four sections, she explains the service and provides a basis and understanding of her re-visioning. Her blessings, hymns and poems are translated into Hebrew, as well.
My favorite poem in the Rosh Hashanah service is her abecedarian, a popular form of liturgical poetry composed for the High Holidays. “May It Be So” is Falk’s version. In her poem, her blessings express optimism: “May the year bring… beauty, creativity, delight…” She continues with hope for the future: “May we be infused with joy.//May we know intimacy and kindness,…’’ “May we be inspired with vision and wonder…” And for the world: “May we find peace within ourselves//and help peace emerge in the world…” This abecedarian is one we can read for inspiration, not just on Rosh Hashanah, but with our morning orange juice every day. The poem offers a boost to our better selves, to a life well–intentioned. She ends: “May we merit these blessings// and may they come to be. May it be so.”
Falk revisions the Tashlikh ritual. Instead of asking God to purge us of our sins, Falk encourages us to “free ourselves from whatever impedes our journey into the new year with clarity, lightness and hope.”
Part Two: “Window, Bird, Sky” is the section where Falk offers daily psalms and meditations of the heart to augment our contemplation during those ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. These thoughtful pieces filled with the universal language of nature can (and should be) read and discussed any time and especially with our families to support feelings, from sadness to gratitude, from silence to celebration.
Section 3: Yom Kippur contains even more thoughtful and provocative direction. The traditional confession of sins, for example, is replaced by a “call to self-accounting.” As Falk escorts us through the Yizkor service, she offers “”Passageways of Grieving” and encourages remembering shared “moments in the current of time—.” Falk acknowledges that this service can also be used as a memorial ceremony other times of the year.
Throughout this sacred time of the High Holidays, Falk’s goal seems to be for each of us to accept our mortality and find a deeper sense of self in the “greater whole.” Her
modern approach provides a guide for this time and for the many times in our lives we seek enrichment and presence of mind and heart.
Falk ‘s hope is for this book to be used in the synagogue seat, on a hike, at the dining room table or at the kitchen window. May it be so.
Bonnie Maurer earned an MFA in poetry from IU. She is the author of four small-press chapbooks: The Reconfigured Goddess,Finishing Line Press, 2009, poems of a breast cancer survivor” (currently for sale, contact Maurer’s email below); Ms Lily Jane Babbitt before the Ten O’clock Bus from Memphis Ran Over Her, Raintree Press and Ink Press, 2nd edition; Old 37: The Mason Cows, Barnwood Press; and Bloodletting: A Ritual Poem for Women’s Voices, Ink Press.
She has conducted creative writing/healing workshops for the homeless in recovery, for the HIV+/AIDS affected/infected population, for The Cancer Support Community and for “Honoring the Sacred Feminine” conferences, celebrating women’s wisdom and spirituality.
Maurer grew up in Indianapolis where she continues to live and work as a poet for Arts for Learning, as a copy editor for the Indianapolis Business Journal and as an Ai Chi (aquatic flowing energy) instructor at the JCC. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.