RH Second Day Feminist Haftarah

B’Ramah nishmah


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,

rising tides,

melting ice,

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.

Rachel responds:

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

Elul 5767

*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