The Phylacteries, a poem by Rabbi Alter Abelson (1931)

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The Phylacteries

In love of lawful liberty,
My head and arm I bind with glee,
With holy phylacteries, to tell
That slavery lost her snaky spell.

For freedom is a heavenly creed
Which all the centuries will heed.
Freedom from kings and masters proud,—
From tyrannies of court and crowd.—

Behold the leathern straps and case
With which my hand and arm I lace—
The case contains a parchment writ
With words which hearts and planets knit.

The words are rays of Honor’s sun;
God’s mandates which civilization won
And which will bring, with song, the good
And long-awaited brotherhood.

And so, I deck my hand and arm
With T’filin as we don a charm.
With hints of God before my eyes,
I rise through prayer to higher skies.

The Bible texts tucked in within
The case, are often shields from sin;
Reminders they to straying man
That Heaven is watching all we plan.

The verses, which our love increase,
Are amulets for human peace.
As trains need rails, as birds need wings,
So man needs law, a law that sings.

Oh, Ceremonies, thoughts which live,
Dynamic life to dreams you give.
You are live history anew;
We live what we believe through you.

Before my bread, my God I need.
My faith is life, and life my creed.

The poem “The Phylacteries” can be found in Alter Abelson’s collection of poetry, Sambatyon and other Poems, vol. 1 (New York: Ariel Publications, 1931), p. 149.

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The Phylacteries (Alter Abelson 1931)

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