Teshuvah poems by Rachel Barenblat

From Rabbi Diane Elliot:

Teshuvah poems by Rachel Barenblat


How to make it new:
each year the same missing
of the same marks,
the same petitions
and apologies.

We were impatient, unkind.
We let ego rule the day
and forgot to be thankful.
We allowed our fears
to distance us.
But every year
the ascent through Elul
does its magic,
shakes old bitterness
from our hands and hearts.

We sit awake, itemizing
ways we want to change.
We try not to mind
that this year’s list
looks just like last.

The conversation gets
easier as we limber up.
Soon we can stretch farther
than we ever imagined.
We breathe deeper.

By the time we reach the top
we’ve forgotten
how nervous we were
that repeating the climb
wasn’t worth the work.

Creation gleams before us.
The view from here matters
not because it’s different
from last year
but because we are

and the way to reach God
is one breath at a time,
one step, one word,
every second a chance
to reorient, repeat, return.



What matters isn't?
who I am on retreat,
singing the day into being,

but who I am
when I've come home
to the cat and the bills,
to-do list as long
as the yoga mat
I too rarely unfurl.

The real work
is living my intentions
at my desk, the laptop open;

in a slow-moving line
at the grocery store
past screaming tabloids;

when someone I love
loses a job or a partner
or a body that works.

Elul, this moon
cycling its phases
before the days of awe,

is a string on my finger
tefillin on my arm
a winding reminder

that I don't need
the addictions of ego
or self-importance.

Every instant
is a new year, a new chance
to bear again in mind
that every sunrise
is the light of creation
in sweet reprise

and every moment
is a prayer I'm blessed
to be able to recite.