Jewish Prayers From the Heart and Pen of Alden Solovy

The Temple

IMG_0656Sundown brings the fast of the 17th of Tammuz, commemorating the breach of the outer walls of Jerusalem prior to the destruction of the Second Temple. Throughout the ages, Jews have prayed for Jerusalem to be rebuilt. For some, rebuilding Jerusalem is symbolic for a coming age of justice and righteousness, not a return to sacrificial rites. For others, a retun to the sacrificial cult is necessary for G-d’s glory to dwell among us.

This may be the most controversial piece I’ve written. It turns our mourning for the loss of the Temple into a new metaphor: the Temple mourning for our inability to hear G-d’s Voice, the priests mourning for a divided House of Israel and the sacrifices mourning for those who have forgotten G-d’s call to service. Perhaps this will be heretical to some and challenging to others, while it will resonate for those who believe that blood offerings are no longer our path to G-d nor G-d’s path to us.

The Temple (Written 17 Tammuz 5771)
Do not mourn
For the Temple Mount.
The stones mourn for you.
They mourn for you who have forgotten
That G-d’s Voice
Can still be heard in the hills.
The stones mourn for you
Who have forgotten
That G-d’s Voice can still be heard in the valleys,
In the forests and deserts,
In the waters and skies.

Do not mourn
For the lost priests.
The tribes mourn for you.
They mourn for you who have forgotten
That G-d’s people are one.
Ephraim and Judah,
The Levites and the daughters of Zelophehad,
Ask why we still divide the House of Israel,
Why we still cast judgment,
Why we spurn each other with anger.
The tribes mourn for you who have
Forsaken your brothers
And rejected your sisters,
Closing your minds and hardening your hearts.

Do not mourn
For the lost sacrifices.
The yearling without blemish,
The ephah of fine flour and the hin of oil,
Mourn for you.
They mourn for you who have forgotten
That G-d requires your love and your power,
Your hope and your deeds.
The yearling, the flour and the oil mourn for you
Who have forgotten
That G-d wants the blood that flows through you,
The strength of your days,
Your song and your laughter,
Your wisdom and healing.

Tear your clothes
And sit in ashes
If you must.
Then, rise up!
Rise up and listen to G-d’s call:

Love My People Israel,
Love all of My People Israel.
Then, you will know the depth of My righteousness
And will drink from the well of My compassion.
Give them your heart.
Give them your days in service,
With joy and thanksgiving,
So that My Glory will dwell among you,
And that your days are long on this earth.

© 2012 Alden Solovy and http://www.tobendlight.com. All rights reserved.

Postscript: I wrote this a year ago on the 17th of Tammuz and edited it in the past week. I considered changing the phrase “Do not mourn for…” to “When you mourn for…” The idea was to make the prayer a bit less of a threat so that more people might be able to hear the message. I decided to leave the introductory lines to each stanza as originally written, choosing to challenge our relationship to the Temple and to each other head on, without pulling the punch. Here’s a link to another prayer/metaphor that uses preparing to say the Shema as a dream/vision of the ingathering of Jews to our land. And here’s a prayer called “Season of Sorrow.”

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Photo Source: Alden Solovy

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6 Responses to “The Temple”

  1. faithfulwhistler

    Really love this one, it feels a bit raw, honest! Top 3 favorites.

    Reply
    • tobendlight

      Thanks. Yes, there is rawness and perhaps roughness to this one. I’m glad you like it. I use a variety of “voices” in my work, for which I have names, among them the “Liturgist,” the “Spiritual Traveler,” the “Poet,” the “Admonishing Prophet” and the “Enlightened Man.” Those voices tie to the message and the mood of each piece: prayer, poem, meditation, song. The end of this piece uses the “Admonishing Prophet” as a way to bring home the message. It’s an important voice that I use with extreme care.

      Reply
  2. Reva

    I admire your courage in posting this – I read it both ways – the way you wrote it “Don’t mourn” and the way you thought about editing it to “When you mourn” – As an artist myself, I know that there are many times when I think to change something in my art so that the viewer will better understand my art piece – but always leave the original because I’ve come to believe that my art is G-d speaking through me – and sometimes the controversial voice is the one that gets people’s attention and gives them the opportunity to agree or disagree or have some emotion that they might not have had if I had made my art more likable or made it the way I think the viewer might want to see it – So your poem which expresses such deep meaning and a desire for the Jewish people to join together instead of continuing to be divided is perfect as written – my deepest prayers are for all of my Jewish brothers & sisters to join together – step out of judgement of each other – (I have personally experienced the disdain and hatred by other Jews in Israel and in Los Angeles for being a Reform Jew) – I pray for those Jews who are not yet connected to G-d to be able to open their hearts and realize that G-d was there all the time – We are all one people – so thanks for having the courage to express your thoughts from your heart!

    Reply
    • tobendlight

      Reva, I’m glad this touched a chord for you and appreciate your experiences. I am a Reform Jew who is an oleh chadash, in Israel for six weeks. I have a lot more to learn about what that means here.

      Reply
  3. Norman Sider

    I very much appreciate how this poem offers a way for those of us who don’t yearn for the restoration of the Temple to still find meaning in Tisha B’av. After re-reading the last verse I suggest that one small addition, a comma in the second line after “People”, would make it clearer that our love should extend beyond the Jewish People.

    Reply
    • tobendlight

      Thanks for your kind words about this prayer/poem. The comma that you suggest, as small as it is, would redirect the intention of this prayer. While I absolutely agree with you that G-d’s requirement is to love all of creation, to love every human being, this work is aimed directly and specifically at the internal divisions among our people, practices and beliefs. Yes, we should extend our love beyond the Jewish People. That is a different prayer. And it will be tough to achieve until we learn to love and respect each other.

      Reply

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