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Elul Blessings

There's something special about poetry. More than any other form of writing, it has the power to make us feel. Our Jewish tradition is full of evocative poems that express our gratitude, ask for help, communicate our love and mourn. 

During this time of deep preparation and reflection for the High Holidays, poetry can provide a portal into introspection. This collection features contemporary poets and liturgists as well as classic texts. We hope it inspires you. 

Elul Blessings
Source :

Listen Up, Y'all by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

"Listen up, y'all," says Shekhinah
who looks today like a teacher
in corduroy dress and sedate boots.

"Let the smartphone rest a bit,
or learn how to hear My voice
coming through its speaker.

Let your love for Me well up
like unexpected tears. Everyone serves
something: give your life to Me.

Let the channel of your heart open
and My abundance will pour through.
But if you prefer profit, if you pretend --

if you're not real with Me
your life will feel hollow
and your heart be embittered.

I won't punish you; I won't need to.
Your hollowness will be punishment enough,
and the world will suffer for it.

So let My words twine around your arm,
and shine like a headlamp
between your eyes to light your way.

Teach them to everyone you meet.
Write them at the end of your emails
and on your business cards.

Then you'll remember how to live
with the flow of all that is holy --
you'll have heaven right here on earth."

Find more High Holiday liturgy from Bayit at:

Elul Blessings
Source : Rachel Kann:

The Beginning
By Rachel Kann

If you can find stillness,
the jasmine will night-bloom in your direction
and the breeze
will carry its sacred exhalation of perfume
toward you.

the moon will cascade waves of radiance
drop her silver robes,

You will awaken,
overtaken by a love
that asks no permission,

golden particles rising
beneath your skin.

all of existence
longs to be an offering.
eternity is a constant whisper
wishing to be listened to.

This is the beginning.
This is only the beginning.
Let it in.

Elul Blessings
Source : Alden Solovy:

This Rosh Hashanah prayer was written by Alden Solovy in 2020 as a response to COVID-19. Since the reality of pandemic and plague struck our worlds, wildly unimaginable shifts have occurred in the way we live and, perhaps, the way we see life. One lesson of these unimaginable losses and changes is the possibility that there might also be wildly unimaginable blessings. The idea for this prayer came as I signed an email to musician Josh Nelson. I concluded: “For a year of wildly unimaginable blessings. Your friend, Alden.” So the idea for this prayer was born. 

Wildly Unimaginable Blessings
Let us dream
Wildly unimaginable blessings…
Blessings so unexpected,
Blessings so beyond our hopes for this world,
Blessings so unbelievable in this era,
That their very existence
Uplifts our vision of creation,
Our relationships to each other,
And our yearning for life itself.

Let us dream
Wildly unimaginable blessings…
A complete healing of mind, body, and spirit,
A complete healing for all,
The end of suffering and strife,
The end of plague and disease,
When kindness flows from the river of love,
When goodness flows from the river of grace,
Awakened in the spirit of all beings,
When G-d’s light,
Radiating holiness,
Is seen by everyone.

Let us pray —
With all our hearts —
For wildly unimaginable blessings,
So that G-d will hear the call
To open the gates of the Garden,
Seeing that we haven’t waited,
That we’ve already begun to repair the world,
In testimony to our faith in life,
Our faith in each other,
And our faith in the Holy One,
Blessed be G-d’s Name.

© 2020 Alden Solovy and All rights reserved. 

Elul Blessings
Source : Dane Kuttler:

And G!d says: “You think these are my office hours? That only in these precious days I can hear you? No! I walk with you through the valleys and the fields, gridlocked streets and riot blocks. It is YOU who hears ME in these coming days. It will be you who stops to listen. These gates are open for YOU.”


And G!d says: “Can you feel the turning? The sun is lower and the trees are beginning to burn; it is time, again. The time is coming. You will not be ready. Even if you have planned each menu for your vegan, gluten-free, macrobiotic Rosh Hashanah lunches. Even if you are expected to lead your community in prayer. Even if you remembered to buy local, organic honey, there is no readiness for the work to come. Only a willingness to show up and dive in.”


And G!d says: “Awake! Awake! This is the time when nothing can hide, when the leaves are still outstretched on their branches, and even the cornhusks are opening to reveal their sweetness. So too, should be the ugliness of the world - if you have not known it before now, then rouse yourself. It is not too late. There is too much to do; you cannot sleep any more.”


And G!d says: “You, who are exhausted with the work already. You, with the asphalt-worn boots, with the house full of placards. You, who are always breathing in, preparing to shout, who sees the work everywhere and swallows the impossible sea of it: breathe out, weary ones. Prepare yourselves to go in, and to go in deep. Find the work inside: the work of self-kindness, the work of healing and repair. The work on the street will still be there when you re-enter. The world needs you whole.”


From Dane Kuttler's The G!d Wrestlers,  The Social Justice Warrior's Guide to the High Holy Days, Sept. 2015



Source : Caroline Rothstein

Holy On My Own by Caroline Rothstein 

Self-love is sobbing fetal position on the
brown wooden paneled floor of my bedroom

in Bushwick the night before I move out;

my torso prostrating back in on myself;

my body, the only G-d in sight.

Self-love is waking up at 5:00 a.m.
at my mother's cousins' in New Jersey

on the coldest day of winter and carrying

three duffle bags, 10 boxes, my hula-hoop,

three garment bags, and half a dozen crates

up 8 feet of stairs at Manhattan Mini Storage

by myself, on a weekday, in leather boots.

Self-love is the ocean. Is folding my blue jeans
on a rock. Is leaving my cell phone in a pocket.

Is soaking my bare soles in the sun tucked

sand. Is placing my right foot on the inner flesh

of my left thigh and opening my arms to the sky.

In my underwear. And a tank top. And saying,

holy Hallelujah, look at what I've found.

Self-love is moving to New Jersey. And
back to Manhattan. And to Sarah's couch in

Brooklyn after three landlords in Queens say

no. Because I'm an artist. Because I'm a single

woman. Because I freelance. Because I am

too sturdy to be knocked to the ground.

Self-love is moving everything out of storage
in my black platform wedges and Forever 21

dress mere hours before the first night of Pesach

and here is me, my own Moses, parting the Red Sea.

Self-love is two years later. Is two more dances
around the sun. Is too many more months than

anticipated wandering in the desert. Still in

Canaan. Still waiting for the tablets from Sinai.

Still waiting for the spies to tell me what

I'm too afraid to find within myself.

Self-love is being 32 and single. Is being 32
and single. Is being 32 and single and four

weddings in a row. And signing five ketubahs

And standing up and standing up and standing

up. And getting my period. And getting my

period. And standing up. And dancing the

hora. And signing a ketubah. And dancing

the hora. And signing a ketubah. And dancing

the hora. And standing up. And watching my

News Feed. And watching my News Feed.

And still waking up alone.

Self-love is tucking myself to sleep in
the middle of my queen-sized bed and

still knowing I am strong. Is waking up

in Harlem. Is remembering Brooklyn. Is

prostrating to my torso. Is prostrating to

my womb. Is knowing that possibility may,

in fact, be one hell of a magnificent God, but

oh, how that golden calf creates idols. How

too that burning bush is but a metaphor. How

the only way out of this exodus desert dance

is feeling whole, holy on my own.


Caroline Rothstein ( is a New York City-based award-winning writer, poet, performer and educator. Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, BuzzFeed, NYLON, Narratively, The Forward, Kveller, and elsewhere. She was a member of the 2010 Nuyorican Poets Cafe slam team, which placed second at the 2010 National Poetry Slam, and is a Youth Mentor at Urban Word NYC.

Source : Caroline Rothstein
Holy On My Own

Source : Rabbi Jen Gubitz

Hello, couch. Hello, kitchen table. Hello, backyard.
I look around my house and I greet these ordinary objects.
We have spent more time together these past months than usual. 

Thank you for being an oasis of comfort and safety.
You have worked so hard to hold me, day in and day out.
How can we allow you and me to rest and restore and return on this most sacred day?

I transform you with my desire for the change I wish to see in myself.
You, dear couch, table, backyard, you are now my sacred space—my  mikdash m’at,  
a sanctuary where I will allow myself to become present to my breath,
to turn down the noise of the world
and turn up the volume of my prayers.

Shanah tovah, dear couch,  Good Yuntif, dear kitchen table,  G’mar Tov, dear backyard!
In this holy space that is my home, I pursue my desire to become whole.

Source : Deanna Neil

Poem for the Disappointed by Deanna Neil

For those who worked for years
for a moment
a culmination
that passed and deflated before their eyes
an alveolus wheezing
a balloon sputtering
wailing grossly from its untied belly button
until an even more frightening

For when the whole word reached out for a hug
and the only thing to grasp was thin air
For when the calendar postponed
but time marched on, sweating in our living rooms
For when we tried to run away from our bodies
but needed them to get where we were going

for the humility you felt when your plans shook away
like a simple etch-a-sketch
(how you thought the lines had looked so permanent)

for when you were too embarrassed to admit,
while standing over a virtual casket,
how much that job meant to you

for when you were afraid and hoarding chocolates in your nightstand
scanning the internet for the local gun store
pale, trembling, deep inside your lungs,
considering that your dreams never meant anything
that nothing ever meant anything
and understanding in brief, hot flashes
that you are infinitely, endemically interconnected
to everything

for when we saw ourselves
close a chapter we were in the middle of writing
but still, shaking, held the pen

There was a passionate answer
a deep knowing
that this time would come
a communal winter
when the greased machine would get arthritis
when the hot world would exact revenge

A bright stop sign on our road to purpose.

And this is when we reminded each other
that the conversation we have with loss
is perennial
and must be endured
while solitary

In a confined closet
accessible by outer space

Like a cosmic cure in your underpants
Like an epiphany that has no alphabet

Source : Jewish Grandparents Network

In This New Year By Lee Hendler

In this new year:
I promise to work harder at being the best me I know I can be.
I pray for the strength to be reliable and fair,
A good listener and kind friend,
A person who thinks before she speaks,
Helps before he is asked.
I promise to work harder at holding back my anger
And unleashing my joy.

In this new year:
I pray for the strength to turn away from old habits
That fit me like my favorite old gym sneakers.
My mother doesn’t like the way they look but they feel so good to me.
My sister can’t stand the way they smell—she says they make her gag.
And my dog likes to chew on the laces even though that’s not good for him.
It’s hard to give up things I’ve lived with for such a long time.

In this new year:
I pray for the courage to act
When I know an injustice has taken place,
And all around me others are choosing not to act.
I pray for the wisdom to choose action
That will make a good difference
And may persuade others to act too.

In this new year:
I pray that I can remember to remember what I promised.
I promise a lot because it is easier to say yes than no.
Then I end up saying no to my yeses.
I hope this will be the year I learn to say no and make my yeses
The promises that I can remember.

In this new year:
I pray for patience with myself and all my loved ones.
The long span of history suggests that in difficult times
Hope does more for us than despair.
I choose to be hopeful about our future
And to act based on that choice.
I will be more than content with what I have.
I will rejoice in my fullness and work to assure that others have that same privilege.
I will watch less news and see more life, listen to fewer podcasts and talk to more family members.
I will make a new friend.
I will renew an old friendship.
I will get involved in a new cause.
I will learn one new thing every day.
I will tell someone who has never heard it from me that I love them.

Source : Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman:
Coming Home

Coming Home by Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman


1. Tekia! (One long blast)
My toddler cuddles in my lap, shy in the backyard of new friends.
“Look Abraham!” I say. “Look, who is this tree?”
He peeks out and his face breaks into a smile.“Ah-buh-VI-tay!” 
“And who is this, with the sharp needles?”
“Spooce!” he says.
Shyness forgotten under the branches of old friends, 
Abraham squirms off my lap and explores the sandbox.

2. T’ru’ah! (Three wailing blasts)
When I commit myself fully to the personhood all around me -
the agency and the uniqueness of trees, especially -
a pervasive loneliness lifts, and I am folded back into Her
with a welcome as warm as sunlight in July.
So I encourage my son’s love of trees and we learn their names
like kids learn the names of trucks or dinosaurs
because I believe it will save his soul - and mine.
To crawl out of the loneliness of humans-are-the-only-people 
takes intention. 
It takes tolerating the heartbreak
of what is happening to other kinds of people.
It takes bearing the ecstatic joy of belonging again.

3. Sh’evarim! (nine staccato blasts)
I leave behind the pronoun it and never give the burden to my son,
instead massaging English into a new grammar that I hope will be his native tongue.
She has grown new buds. He is giving us shade. Who smells so good in the garden?
We leave it behind in the wreckage of the industrial age
And pick up she, he, they, someone, and who like smooth stones 
To hold in our pockets on the long hike towards a new paradigm.

4. Tekia G’dola! (One very long blast)
In Hebrew the word for God is used as a noun
But is really a verb that means is, was and will be all at once.
In Potawatomi there is a unique verb that means to be a tree
And another verb like it for every natural thing
Because we are not things but beings,
conjugations of a living God.

5. A Still, Small Voice
“Mama, what dis tree called?”
Abraham reaches for the beech’s branch on our walk.
“Mama, I wanna hold his hand.”


Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman is a mother, wife, daughter, sister and aunt. She serves as the Director of Professional Development at Hebrew College in Newton, MA. Find her blog, music and more at  Photo printed with permission of author.



Source : Rachel Kann:

By Rachel Kann

Forgive me,
I have done it all wrong.
In every way that I hoped not to act,
I have failed.

Forgive me,
I love you beyond logic
Where the loudest blossoms shout yellow, pink.
Listen to the fragrance of bloom.
Inhale the whisper of nature.
My lips part for your kiss only.
You know my mouth’s deep intimacy.

This is my long-form farewell tour.
I am but a bank of buttons and knobs
Laid plain for you to press up against.

This is past chest-pounding,
This is specific,
Forgive me
For whispering in symbols while
I watch stars dance between palm fronds.


Source :

We Remember Them
by Sylvan Kamens & Rabbi Jack Riemer

At the rising sun and at its going down; We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter; We remember them.
At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring; We remember them.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer; We remember them.
At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of the autumn; We remember them.
At the beginning of the year and when it ends; We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as We remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength; We remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart; We remember them.
When we have decisions that are difficult to make; We remember them.
When we have joy we crave to share; We remember them.
When we have achievements that are based on theirs; We remember them.
For as long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as, We remember them.

Source : Alden Solovy:

This three-stanza prayer/poem from liturgist and poet Alden Solovy reflects the spiritual journey of   t’shuva, repentance and return. The first stanza represents the month of Elul, when we are literally called to introspection by the sound of the shofar. The second stanza represents Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment that also heralds the joy and hope of a new heart and another chance to live a life of holiness. The third stanza represents Yom Kippur, when, after 40 days of introspection and one intense day of prayer and fasting, our spirits are renewed. Our hearts stir throughout these 40 days, but differently as the progression of themes and emotions lead us to new awareness, new behavior and new relationships with ourselves, with the world and with G-d.

Let Your Heart Stir
Breathe in the sound of the shofar.
Let the trumpet of our people
Be the voice of your heart.
For your soul knows the call.
Let your heart stir
And your eyes open, anew.

Taste the sweetness of the new year.
The delight of healing,
The joy of possibilities,
The pleasure of being.
Let your heart stir
And your eyes open, anew.

Exalt in the triumph of forgiveness.
Let the glory of repentance
Be the light of your days,
For your spirit knows the way home.
Let your heart stir
And your eyes open, anew.

© 2013 Alden Solovy and All rights reserved.

Source : Dane Kuttler:

And G!d says: "And you shall make sure that every time you list the litany of your ugly, and your rotten and your wicked, you end the litany with a prescription for how to move on from it - through reflection, reparation and repair - so that you do not get stuck in the ugly, which is mighty and sticky and will close your ears to the shofar and keep you asleep and in despair.”

And G!D says: "Rosh Hashanah has another name: Yom HaZikaron, the Day of Remembrance. And Yom Kippur is called the Day of Judgement. But on Yom Kippur, we cast aside all things that allow us to forget the horrors of the world. All our escape routes. All our distractions. We wake today to face the horrors head-on, so if you want to call Yom Kippur the Day of Staying Woke, that works, too."

And G!d says: “And on this day, you will not be able to turn to another for comfort or escape, but instead must hold yourself. You will surprise yourself with how much enough you are.”

And G!d says: "And lo, let us go. Go deep. Go in. You have done what you can. And now is the time to face yourself. Go with courage, for you are doing the work of the righteous. Go with comfort, for you have not given up. Go with trembling, for though you are small, you are an indispensable part of the greatness.  You are necessary. You are essential. You are here." 

And G!d says: "And on Yom Kippur, you shall pull away from the pleasures of music, food, drink, but most of all - touch. On this day, you may not lose yourself in another, must withdraw from the dizzying drama of the community, to be alone with yourself - and this is holy work. It is not selfishness. Ultimately, it will lead you out of loneliness."

And G!d says: "Why you remind yourself that your origin is dust, and your end is dust, and humans are but a flock of vanishing dreams: you can't do this work from high up. The work is to be done from your most vulnerable place ~ and what faster way to get vulnerable than go deep into mortality? Shine your lantern on the rotten, the ugly, the stinking guts of yourself, reeking with shame and bile. Bring it to the light. Then get to work."

And G!d says: "And when you have wrung yourself out, and it is the middle of the afternoon, and you are together wailing, take a break. Go outside and smell the garden herbs, go to the couch and rest. Do not do Torah Yoga, for that is an abomination and appropriative as all get-out. But stretch your beaten, hungry body, and give it what care you are permitted on Yom Kippur. To find self-kindness in the midst of atonement - that is the holiest part of the day."

And G!d says: "And when you face the ugly, you will do so with your fist upon your chest, beating at the place where your heart hides, in the hope that you will crack yourself open and let the light in."

And G!d says: "That when you cannot face the ugly because it is too hard and you hurt too much, that's why we have a book full of prayers, idiot. To give yourself a scaffolding through the process of acknowledgment and repentance. So open it and find something that resonates, because otherwise you might get stuck feeling guilty instead of moving towards healing. Keep moving, even when you're not doing it perfectly. Perfection is the enemy of t'shuvah"

From Dane Kuttler's The G!d Wrestlers,  The Social Justice Warrior's Guide to the High Holy Days, Sept. 2015

Source : Many Winters: Poetry and Prose of the Pueblos, by Nancy C. Wood, Doubleday, 1974

Hold onto what is good
Even if it is a handful of earth.

Hold onto what you believe
Even if it is a tree that stands by itself.

Hold onto what you must do
Even if it is a long way from here.

Hold onto life
Even if it seems easier to let go.

Hold onto my hand
Even if I have gone away from you.

Source : Kohenet Keshira HaLev Fife 

And We Return
By Kohenet Keshira HaLev Fife 

And We Return...

And we return, and we move on

Let go the past, and greet the dawn

We cycle and we circle and we spiral and return

To love ourselves and be the ones for which Becoming yearns

And we return, and we move on

Let go the past, and greet the dawn

We cycle and we circle and we spiral and release

To align ourselves with our hearts so that we can live in peace.


When I Am Among the Trees by Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”



Source : Julia Knobloch

These poems are from a series on  slicha  (forgiveness) and  geulah  (redemption) by poet Julia Knobloch
Click here for the companion pieces on  slicha .  

Geulah/Redemption I

They say that when we move in silence
from the blessing for redemption into the standing prayer
without pause, precise, at sunrise
we do as the pious would (although we’re not required to)
I was driven out into these copper sands
by restlessness and shame, not my intention to juxtapose
the blessing for redemption
with the plea for open lips and dew drops
Time was running out, I was not silent
Please, hear and understand me
I have no ancestors to bless, I will die without descendants
Spread your wing and hold me until the break of dawn

Geulah/Redemption II

Let me say again, lovers can be
vessels of redemption 
Remember us
Let us
remember us
for good
for the sake of our names
for the sake of our hands
for the sake of making old days new and new days holy

Source : Dane Kuttler:

And G!d says: “After you are all wrung out from that amends making and accountability-having, go out into your backyard and build yourself a fort. And be sure to invite all your friends to join you in your backyard fort for food and merriment because that is how you make the community continue after all that hard work."

And G!d says: “And make your fort enclosed enough to feel cozy, but keep one side open, so that all who pass by know that they are welcome. Even the roof must be thin enough to invite the evening sky to dine with you, the openings in the branches that cover you wide enough for stars to fall through. There  are too many among us who are made unwelcome - not just in the inhospitable corners of the world, but in our own towns, our own neighborhoods, on our own blocks. You may even know their names. Invite them.”

Ritual for Sukkot

Find one person with whom you made repairs over the ten days. Invite them to your fort, if you made one - to your house, if you didn’t. Prepare a meal for them, with your own hands, in whatever form that takes - digging the potatoes yourself, or opening the box. Serve your guest. Offer them the best you have. Say: welcome. Say: thank you. Say: this is only the beginning. Celebrate the work of connection and repair. 

And G!d says: But nothing holds forever. The branches over your head will wither; grass under your feet will die of thirst and cold; you will unbolt these frames and fold the canvas walls. Even the bedrock beneath you holds molten memories of liquidity. Bottle the warmth of these cooling nights, of friends around the table, of candlelight, of wine, woodsmoke and holy tunes. You will need to drink from it soon enough.


From Dane Kuttler's The G!d Wrestlers,  The Social Justice Warrior's Guide to the High Holy Days, Sept. 2015

Source :

We Dance Around The Shul
By Trisha Arlin

Our Torah is old.
The blue velvet cover
And the silver plate that hangs over the velvet
Are both covered in names
Of donors long gone,
And their honored loved ones, gone even longer.
These names mean nothing to us:
We ignore them
On Shabbat
When we dance around the shul.

On Selichot we put aside the old velvet
And dressed our Torah in fresh white covers,  
only a year old,
Donated by a beloved member,
She died this year, four days before Rosh HaShanah.
Tonight it’s Simkhat Torah.
So we now take off Amina’s white cover
And put on the old one,
Blue, embroidered with strangers' names. 
Then we will dance around the shul.

We will think of Amina every year at this time 
From now on 
Until none of us are around,
Until there is no one who remembers her, 
Or us.
Then others will carry this scroll with the white cover
Donated by a Jew they never knew,
While they dance around the shul.

We give thanks for the ancient traditions, 
Telling the story even when we can’t, 
Keeping our loved ones’ memories 

And giving us Torah from the beginning, every year.

Source : Dane Kuttler:

And G!d says: "And when you have made the repairs, when you have lessened the distance between yourself and others, when you have forgiven yourself, when you have built your fort and welcomed your community into it for a whole week - then you can throw a party. A big one, with singing and dancing. And you can say it's because you finished reading the Torah because that's convenient but also you DID IT. You did so much healing. You did so much work. And there is always more to do, and you know that. But you get this. You get to dance. Because if you can't dance, who's gonna want your revolution?"

And G!d says: 


Dance in ever-winding circles -

Dance with your history-

Dance with your scars-

dance with the smell of lambswool on your shoulders -

Dance with the torah, cradled in your arms -

dance with the clarinet, the drum and flute - 

dance with the rabbi - 

dance with the children running sugar wild--whirl them weightless -

dance with the elders - 

dance with the person setting the food out and the one with the mop - 

dance with the teenagers, slouched against the wall  - 

dance with your enemy - 

dance in the center of the circle - your head flung back - 

dance with the loves that hold you - 

dance with the friends that buoy you - 

dance with the struggle - the fight - the invisible night-wrestler -

dance with your triumph - you made it! you did!


From Dane Kuttler's The G!d Wrestlers,   The Social Justice Warrior's Guide to the High Holy Days, Sept. 2015