In the black night
the river runs cold
slowly passing me by
over formerly sharp-edged stones
worn smooth by centuries of churning
as if through earthy veins
and I Jacob, alone
shiver and wait
to meet my brother
and daylight.

Will there be war?
Will the angels carry my soul
up the ladder
leaving my blood
to soak the ground?

A presence!?
And I struggle
as if in my mother’s womb
and my dreams.

We played together as children
my brother Esau and me
as innocents
and I confess tonight
how I wronged him
and wrenched from him his birthright
as this Being has done to me
between my thighs.

I was so young
driven by ego and need
blinded by ambition
my mother’s dreams
and my father’s silence.

I so craved to be first born
adored by my father
to assume his place when he died
that my name be remembered
and define a people.

How Esau suffered and wailed
and I didn’t care;
Whatever his dreams
they were nothing to me
my heart was hard
his life be damned!

I’ve learned that Esau and I
each alone
is a palga gufa/half a soul
without the other
torn away
as two souls separated at creation
seeking reunification
in a great spiritual sea
the yin missing the yang
the dark and light never touching
the mind divorced from body
the soul in exile
without a beating bleating heart
and no access to the thirty-two paths
to carry us up the ladder
and through the spheres.

It’s come to this
To struggle again
To live or die.

Tonight
I’m ready for death
or submission.

Compassionate One
protect Esau and your servant
my brother and me
as one
and return us to each other.

El na r’fa na lanu!
Grant us peace and rest
I’m very tired.

Poem by Rabbi John Rosove originally was published in the CCAR Journal: Reform Jewish Quarterly, Spring, 2010, pages 113-115

 

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