These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Written in the middle of applying for Rabbinical School

Posted on January 2, 2013 by Annie Matan Gilbert

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When I was applying for rabbinical school in 2011, I was inspired to write this poem:

I’m on a lifelong quest for wholeness.
Understanding, of course, that wholeness has broken edges,
that every circle is a shard of light
that every soul is a piece of God
that every shadow is a trick of the light
and every flame contains its black, undulating centre.
I am on a journey toward wholeness of self
toward mostness
with an understanding that the journey itself is the big picture.
That each twist and turn is leading me closer to my centre.
I forget myself sometimes
like in the winter
when cold makes me too stiff to dance
and bleak skies blunt my foresight
when the earth and my bedroom
begin to thaw
I suddenly see clearly again in the streaks of dusty sunlight
all the way across my room to my bookshelf
to my journal, to the texts that set me on fire.

What can I tell you about wholeness?
Or brokenness?
They are like God.
They are everything.
Wholeness, holeness, and holiness
likewise are easily confused but are truly all one
Shaddai, Shechina, Tzimtzumai
abundance and contraction held apart by
soft spread wings of comfort
wings under which all life is granted
and space is deceptively small considering its cavernous depths –
holding within them each and every blessing
for each and every breath
as it screams in
or sighs out of this world.

Shechina is no bird, no phoenix.
She is a large and many-breasted womb,
suckling and growing every being
through aeons of existence.
She is home, hearth, marriage bed, the willow, the crown, the rose, the wrath,
the earth and the heartbeat.
She is the ink flowing from my pen
and the grains and fibrous pulp
in the paper that holds my prayers and dreams.
She is the enveloping darkness that rises up,
filled with stars
or with the very beasts (her own paws and teeth with her own hot breath)
that scare us into stillness or flight.
She is the path, rough-hewn,
on which we struggle for purchase.
And she is the candle in the window,
Guiding us home.