Author Archives: Janet Zimmern

About Janet Zimmern

Janet Zimmern, a psychotherapist in private practice, teaches adult education, helping people find the “interweave” between the text of their lives and the texts of Jewish tradition.

For the Shofar Blower

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The following poem is written from the point of view of a woman blowing the shofar (ram’s horn), but it can speak just as strongly to those listening to the shofar. Reference is made in the poem to the biblical figures Shifra and Puah, the Egyptian midwives who defied Pharaoh’s orders and did not kill the male Israelite children. The poet uses the terms hutzpadik, meaning "nervy," Emainu, meaning "our mother," Hayot Hakodesh, meaning "celestial beings," and the phrase B’or paneha yehalayhun, meaning "They walk in the light of Your countenance" (Psalms 89:16). The poem is reprinted with permission from Journey, a journal of Jewish feminism published by Ma’yan: The Jewish Women’s Project.

At this awesome season

pregnant

with all possibility we pray today:

By our choices and deeds,

with Divine Intervention,

Supernal Midwife of Israel

and of All Creation,

attend,

assist us

to birth as yet unknown wonders,

miracles of Life.

With an awesome fear of God,

I place this shofar to my lips.

May the breath

You breathe inside me momentarily,

now return to You

to be renewed and return again

to this world for Life, for Peace

May the birthcries of my shofar blasts

be pleasing to You,

as the words and deeds of Shifra

with fear of You, she

lovingly births Your People:

Freedom

to do Your Will.

Like Puah,

be hutzpadik

in Your advocacy

Encourage us toward Life

even when we ourselves may feel discouraged,

distressed in the midst

of life’s hard pangs.

Breathe life into us anew!

While others take us for dead.

Lest we face despair of lost hope,

even we,

may abandon ourselves.

In the name of Shifra, Puah,

Sara Emainu

Hana,

in the name of Rahel Emainu,

let her tears for her children,

be of gladness and joy.

In the name of God that is Birth,

let the joy of becoming, of hearing

sounds from this birthing shofar

overcome and become us all.

God, cleanse us of our sins

like the midwife

who cleanses the newborn infant.

Wrap us in the beautiful garments

of the Soul.

Bathe us in Your Light

so our Divine nature may shine

even as we walk joyously in Your Light -

B’or paneha yehalayhun!

May the breath of my being

blown into this shofar

hearken us

back to the shofar

that is Shifra

and the breath

that is Puah.

Deliver us from the narrows

of, God Forbid, an evil decree,

into the breadth of sound.

Signal in us an expansion.

Together God

may we birth this coming year!

God,

Supernal Midwife,

send me no angel, no seraph, not even

Be Thou my Midwife!

Be Thou my angel!

Be Thou My Self!

Birth me yet again anew,

renewed for this coming year.

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Music to Our Ears

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This article from the synagogue bulletin of K.A.M. Isaiah Israel Congregation in Chicago appears in Moments of Transcendence: Inspirational Readings for Rosh Hashanah, edited by Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins, (

Jason Aronson

).

Birth is noisy. Often it is a piercing, shrieking noise that announces the new. In various cultures, the sounds of the rhythm of life and its transitions are celebrated by the percussion of drum beating, horn blowing, cymbal clashing, the ringing of bells, organized cheering and chanting, firecrackers and firing of guns. Sharp and persistent noises heighten the human sense of drama, and facilitate communication with the power and awe of the supernatural. Recently, after 5 hours of climbing I stood at 13,000 feet in the cold, thin air and desolate, rock-strewn landscape atop a glacier covered peak in the Rocky Mountains. The enveloping sounds were incessant and deafening. It is an uncanny wind that blows at the top of the world.

shofar as musicThe shofar blows and we listen, not to think about a pattern of symbols, but rather to experience hearing one of the original and uncanny sounds of historical Jewish life. It is not a pretty sound, one that pleases genteel or even trained ears. To listen to this shrill blast disturbs our senses so that we might respond to deeply felt realities of admonition and warning. Jewish worship is expressed by the mouth and caught by the ear, not managed by the eye reading silently on the handheld page. Silent reading is only a little more than a century old.

Listen then to the noise of the shofar. Perceive the manual labor required to blow it, hear its messy pitch, and feel it speaking about the birth of our world.



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