Jewish Poems and Other Writings

Poems and prose I never thought I would write, connected with a religion I was born into and never thought I would become not only interested in but sometimes fanatical about–although I hope I am now more passionate than fanatical. However, my Jewish interests continue to develop in unexpected directions, from German and Austrian writers like Stefan Zweig and Lion Feuchtwanger, to planning trips to Brazil to try to find the grave of a great-uncle and to Portugal to learn about Portuguese Jews. The organization here is somewhat though not entirely  random.

Coiling the Serpent–an a-to-z miscellany of poetry/prose.

Here I Seek You: Jewish Poems for Shabbat, Holy Days, and Everydays–a print collection of liturgical poems that can accompany the prayer service or be read or recited on their own.

Here I Seek You: Jewish Poems for Shabbat, Holy Days, and Everydaysa .pdf version of the printed book published in 2016 showing the poems in the context of the prayers.

A Workshop on Tishah b’Av, the saddest day of the Jewish year, and its special
poetry, called kinot (singular, kinah). Click here for a sample kinah (plural, kinot).–my web site containing translations of poetry by different translators, “imaginessays” on the writers, photographs, a bibliography, links, and other information. Following is a link to the just the imaginessays–
essays that take liberties!

Medieval Hebrew Poets–Essays + Conversation–writings about Abraham Ibn Ezra, Yehudah Halevi, Solomon Ibn Gabirol, Moses Ibn Ezra, and Samuel Hanagid.

Everything Is Music–a recently discovered text from the Zohar, the Book of Radiance, this time explaining the mysteries of reincarnation, resurrection, and immortality. Click on Angels in Love to read the story referred to in this text.

The Forlorn Young Woman–a recently discovered fragment of the Zohar, the Book of Radiance, dealing with, among other things, the feminine presence of God, why the Torah seems to start off by asserting there were many gods at the Creation, and how to correctly interpret other apparent multiplicities.

The Forlorn Young Woman: Analysis, Interpretation, and Commentary–extensive explication of the recently discovered fragment of the Zohar, the Book of Radiance.

The Orchard: The Zohar on Talmud Tractate Hagigah 14b–a newly discovered and edited chapter of the Zohar (the Book of Radiance, or Splendor) that comments on the famous and somewhat enigmatic passage in the Babylonian Talmud in which four rabbis ascend to Paradise.

Addendum to Tikkunei Zohar–a newly discovered fragment of a seminal kabbalistic text.

The Wonderful Cholent: A Story of Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik of Volozhin
A Pursimspiel for 2017. You also can read this on the web site of the Boulder Jewish News, thanks to the BJN publishers, David and Cheryl Fellows.

Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend–Or Are They: The True Legend of Arle de Leon  A Spanish-Jewish Medieval Wise Woman. You also can read a somewhat older though not that much different version (trust me just this one time, I beg of you) of this on the web site of the Boulder Jewish News, thanks to David and Cheryl Fellows, the BJN publishers. To read last year’s Purimspiel, click on The Wonderful Cholent here or the links in the previous document, just above. But remember, this year’s story is definitely, emphatically, NOT a Purimspiel, whatever you may think. I am referring you to the real Purimspiel in case you didn’t read it last year or, if you did, may have forgotten some of the details and so, horror of horrors, might be totally, utterly lost reading this year’s story, which I am sorry to remind you so soon is NOT a Purimspiel, even if it sounds like one, and if you aren’t sure, you can read them both at the same time and see for yourself the difference and not just take my word for it. This work is dedicated to the memory of my late father, Bernard Rasof (1918-2017), an engineering professor who also was a poet specializing in playfully humorous verse. And by the way, he collected crank letters sent to CalTech, where he earned his PhD, and to UCLA, where he taught for a while. And, now, whatever you are thinking, crank letters, although they sometimes sound like Purimspiels, are meant to be taken seriously, even if the authors sound like–I will leave the rest of this sentence and thought to you, a discerning reader who can tell a faux Purimspiel from a real one and also a crank letter from a Purimspiel, faux or real, and a serious person from a misguided moron. Got that? In case you are confused, regardless of the business about Purimspiels, what you are reading at this very moment (these very words) is most definitely NOT a Purimspiel, even though you might be tempted to think otherwise. It also is not a crank letter, whatever you may think, since it was not written by a misguided moron–misguided, maybe (like most of the rest of humanity, other than you, of course), and sometimes a moron, yes, especially when it comes to love. But I will leave the decision of who’s who, who’s what, and what’s what to you, the highly intelligent, discerning reader–after all, you are able to read, even if your tv is on in the background or perhaps, God forbid, even the foreground–so that you can decide on your own. God help you if you can’t get through this sentence, which I got lost in too, so if you had a hard time, don’t feel too bad. This kind of sentence has a name, which I forgot, and was popular in England several hundred years ago in the writings of people Like Henry Fielding, who as you may recall wrote Tom Jones, which has nothing to do with anything here or, for that matter, anything anywhere. What it is, though, I will leave to you to decide. And by “it” I refer to the whole of life–the whole megillah of existence, if you will–not just Purimspiels, non-Purimspiels, crank letters, and misguided explanations. Good night. Oh–one more thing, if you don’t mind: Let all of this go or else you mostly definitely will need extra sessions with your shrink the morrow, even if you don’t think you will. Yes, “shrink” rhymes with “think,” even though it wasn’t intended, and like everything you have just read, has nothing to do with anything worth knowing or remembering, or just plain-old knowing or remembering, and since your memory may be flagging, it’s probably a good thing–about the remembering, that is, not the knowing–since there’s nothing here worth remembering anyway. Now, where was I? Saying “Good Night,” I think, having just reread the above ten times. So, “Good Night.”

Souls in the Garden:
Poems Inspired by My Travels in Medieval and Modern Jewish Spain–A manuscript awaiting discovery by a book publisher.

The Kamah Sukkah: A Complete Guide to Sex in the Sukkah, translated by the late (very late, actually) Anonymous Botch (or possibly Anonymous Blotch, since scholars aren’t sure). A little late for 2018 (5779) but in time for next year’s prep.

A True Legend of Father Jean and Rav Henri: From the Book of True Legends. Edited and translated in honor of the birthday of Jonathan Dash.