In the Shadow of a Burning Bush is Yakov Azriel’s second volume of Torah-themed poetry. In this new volume, Azriel, a transplanted New Yorker living in Israel since the 1970’s, has created a poetic commentary on the Book of Exodus. Despite their common theme, the poems in this collection vary significantly in style, ranging from sonnet to free verse to haiku. The poems all begin with a selection of text from Exodus, and some also contain text from sources like the Haggadah, Rabbi Nachman of Braslav, or other biblical verses. The voice of the poems changes throughout the collection as well. Some poems, like “Parents,” feel very autobiographical even while connected to the Exodus text. Some, like “The Angel of Death Does Not Pass over Us,” relate more to the collective Jewish experience of history, in this case, the Holocaust, while others, like “Yigdal,” focus on a relationship with God. There are some poems here that work too hard to make a point. Despite that, this collection has much to offer. This volume would be a worthy component of a selection of creative resources for Torah study. There are also some poems here, like “Four Daughters and Their Mother” or “Egyptian Haikus,” which lend themselves to being read around the seder table.
Hara E. Person was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She is a writer and editor.