A Story of the World (for the Avodah Service on Yom Kippur) by R’ Yonah Lavery-Yisraeli

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abyssal murmurs at the dawn of starlight[1]creation
as footsteps collect in sixes fours twos[2]animals
and the first person divides into lovers[3]Adam and Eve
knowledge parts the path between the sibilant species[4]people and snakes

a child’s blood learns the language of God[5]Cain and Abel
a child of a child finds the country of God[6]Ḥanokh
a child of a child of a child did all right[7]Noaḥ
in a time of heartless children
here sits the raven in the watery desert
nesting in his decaying raft
here flies the troubled dove whose foot
is refused landing

two are born who see through the spirits[8]Abraham and Sarah
and call the sun a sun and the humans people
make all these walls doors they say
as they peel back the skins of their tent

vision wraps and unwraps the mountain[9]Isaac (Aqeidah)
oil glints on the morning dolmen[10]Jacob (monument after ladder dream)
a box rattles a girl kicks[11]Dinah
colours muddy in a pit by the highway[12]Joseph

there is an us for dreams to lure[13]children of Rachel and Leah
to a civilised Egypt
and for a pestilent clarity
to wrench once more wildward

and from that crowd one leaves to bathe[14]Aaron at the mishkan
since knowing water is knowing blood
and knowing blood is knowing mercy
and mercy is the only door left open

This Yom Kipur, our congregation (Beth Jacob Synagogue in Hamilton) requested a reworking of the piyyut, “Amits Koaḥ” (text, audio) since the language is very tough and resists plain translation into English. I was also commissioned to write a poem describing the history of the world from a Jewish perspective, from scratch and in English, for use at the beginning of the Avodah service. It turned out to be just as obscure as the original so I put in a little column to the right with a little reference what I was talking about.

Notes   [ + ]

  1. creation
  2. animals
  3. Adam and Eve
  4. people and snakes
  5. Cain and Abel
  6. Ḥanokh
  7. Noaḥ
  8. Abraham and Sarah
  9. Isaac (Aqeidah)
  10. Jacob (monument after ladder dream)
  11. Dinah
  12. Joseph
  13. children of Rachel and Leah
  14. Aaron at the mishkan

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