Feminist Haftarah, Rosh HaShanah Second Day
Kol B’Ramah nishmah
A voice is heard in Ramah
lamentation and bitter weeping
Rachel weeping for her children,
she refuses to be comforted*
Rachel defends her children against the judgment of the holy one:
I am but a mortal human being,
and you are the Master of the Universe.
It is well known
before your blessed holy name
that right before the wedding
for the protection of my sister’s dignity,
I taught her the secret signs
Jacob and I invented on each other's ribs
when we traded kisses for riddles.
If I could forgive them
and set aside my personal joy,
surely you, source of all compassion,
can forgive your poor children
for turning to other paths.
You were away
and they missed you
and they didn't know when you'd be back.
The k’doshah b’ruchah hi responds:
You have defended them well.**
Rachel refuses to be comforted:
Blind and lame
exiled and longing
to come home,
I bring them all to you
for your love.
Look at this baby --
she has a cleft palate,
but isn't she cute?
And this baby --
shaking off drugs already,
hard to hold close --
doesn't your heart open to him?
Gently, I bring them close for your inspection,
awakening your love with the sweet aroma
of their baby skin, soft and downy.
See this one --
in order to survive,
he has fouled his own nest --
can't you see he didn't know?
And this one --
choked on filth,
raging storms --
couldn't you love her anyway,
and take her home to be your very own?
The holy one responds:
I will become a father
I will bring them all home to me,
I will hold them in my arms
rock all my babies to sleep,
I will become a mother,
shelter them with my fierce everlasting love.
I will breathe in all the sorrow
and send it back into the world as love.
after I finish offering you all the babies,
slick with their mother's juices,
howling at their separation from their watery home,
I have nothing left to offer but myself,
my own tear-stained neshameleh,
ripped and faded,
a remnant of its original glory.
I lay my head
on your altar
for your sweet touch
on my cool forehead.
Reba Connell 2007
*Traditional Haftarah, Rosh HaShanah Second Day (Jeremiah 31:2-20)
**Traditional midrash on Lamentations in Eichah Rabah, cited by Rashi and by Tamar Frankiel, “Our Mother of Sorrows,” in Beginning Anew: A Woman’s Companion to the High Holy Days, Ed. Gail Twersky Reimer and Judith A. Kates, and by the rebbetzin Mistress Sarah Rebecca Rachel Leah in “Tkhine of the Matriarchs,” translated by Chava Weissler, in Four Centuries of Jewish Women’s Spirituality, Ed. Ellen Umansky and Dianne Ashton, and by Judith Antonelli, In the Image of God: A Feminist Commentary on the Torah