The Days Between: Bless­ings, Poems, and Direc­tions of the Heart for the Jew­ish High Hol­i­day Season

  • Review
May 22, 2014

Mar­cia Falk (The Book of Bless­ings, The Song of Songs: Love Lyrics from the Bible) pro­vides read­ers with a deeply spir­i­tu­al and aes­thet­i­cal­ly pleas­ing expe­ri­ence in her new guide­book to the High Holy Days, writ­ten thanks to grants from The Hadas­sah-Bran­deis Insti­tute. Focus­ing on the con­cept of t’shuvah as turn­ing the heart” in the broad­est sense — or as she says, meet­ing one­self face-to-face, open­ing the heart to change” — Falk focus­es atten­tion not on God (a word she avoids using) but the High Holy Days, sacred in a per­son­al way, and ways of ren­der­ing the world. Mov­ing from spir­i­tu­al prepa­ra­tions for Rosh Hashanah through the clos­ing of the gates at the end of Yom Kip­pur, she offers poems of her own along­side Bib­li­cal vers­es to focus the read­er at each step of the process. 

Her themes are three­fold. First is Sho­farot (Calls), awak­en­ing the self and gen­uine­ly hear­ing oth­ers, fol­lowed by Zikhronot (Recall­ing) of mem­o­ries and rela­tion­ships. Last is Malkhuy­ot (Call­ings), a reaf­fir­ma­tion of sacred val­ues, ground­ed in the She­ma. Hear, O Israel — /​The divine abounds everywhere/​and dwells in everything/​Its faces are infinite/​Its source suf­fus­es all/​The many are one.”

Every sec­tion of The Days Between con­tains glim­mers of true wis­dom. In her poem Endur­ing,” Falk writes of Yizkor: Time, though imperfect/​is dili­gent, and wres­tles down grief./and…all things are born small/​and grow large – /​except grief, which is born large/​and grows small.” In Anoth­er View,” she beau­ti­ful­ly evokes just how such diminu­tion of grief begins: Then you stop think­ing of cold/​and won­der where the day is going/​and how much of your­self will go along.” In the sec­tion on Kol Nidre, Falk describes unkept promis­es as wounds that can­not heal with­out the balm of God’s absolution.

In her clos­ing essay, Falk talks about the deep­er mean­ings of words — such as the verb to con­tem­plate,” which she points out comes from the Latin tem­plum,” also the source of the word tem­ple.” Viewed this way, thoughts and sacred space are one, and it is our oblig­a­tion as human beings to use the mind well and for the pur­pos­es intend­ed by God, or the uni­verse, or what­ev­er pow­er one feels to be at the root of things. Though this remark­able book is intend­ed for use dur­ing the High Holy Days, its val­ue as a guide for the soul extends through­out the year.

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