“…To photosynthesize,/The chlorophyll of Torah/Will grant you a gardener’s green thumb,/So that whatever you touch/Grows sacred green.” Yakov Azriel has crafted a uniquely inspired, sacred set of poetic meditations on individual verses and stories from the book of Genesis. Azriel describes the creation of a human soul in “Recipe: How to Make a Human,” “…In Jewish cuisine, ingredients must melt, merge, blend — /A Shabbat challah./Most important, add just before serving/The breath of God — a human soul./Final result:/An Isaiah, a Shakespeare, a Rembrandt./You.” Yet the poet does not shrink from acknowledging the separation from the divine of which humankind is capable, as in Cain’s murder of Abel or Eve’s treachery which poignantly connects to the Holocaust, “…Why did you talk to the serpent? Don’t you know that even then he was planning the gas chambers,/ Blueprinting the crematoria?/How can a mother be so naïve?/Snakes devour/Dust, like the cinder/Of children belched from the chimneys./Lucky you — only one son will be murdered.” “The Reunion Between Joseph and Jacob” parallels the prayer threading through the splendor of each poem herein, “Let me gaze into your eyes,/Let me hold you tighter./Never send me away again, Father,/Never abandon me again.” Readers seeking a powerful, potent source of spiritual growth will treasure this creative collection of poems.
Deborah Schoeneman, is a former English teacher/Writing Across the Curriculum Center Coordinator at North Shore Hebrew Academy High School and coeditor of Modern American Literature: A Library of Literary Criticism, Vol. VI, published in 1997.