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A Most Traditional Denial

I wanted to wrap
my small arms
round the Torah
and parade with it
down every aisle
hugging the stories
of my past;
but you told me
that it was very heavy
and besides,
that was the Rabbi’s job.

And when
after the Sabbath meal
we’d start to stack dishes
in the candles’ honey glow
you’d insist
that I
quickly
blow
them
out.

Mother,
why did you want
me to be Jewish?
My
nine-year-old eyes
begged you
for a Bat-Mitzvah
for I remembered
my brother’s proud voice
chanting
in Hebrew
the secret words
of Torah.
Why did you tell me
that I needn’t bother?

I wanted to daven
with the men
in the silky white tallit
and sing psalms from
the deep center of my heart
I wanted to dance
in the warm circles
of the Hassidim
and later
study commentary
with scholars
under the trees.

Tonight
you stand by the windowsill
plucking out the
young
coleus
Mother, I speak to you of Leah,
Rebekah, Sara, and
Rachel, foremothers of
our tradition,
you smile with muddy fingers

and ask me for a
handtowel.

Devorah Harris is the Youth Director at Adath jeshurun Synagogue in Minneapolis, where the snow never stops giving her poetic inspiration. Devorah is a founding mother of Northwords Women, past board member for The Loft (A Place For Literature and The Arts), and she has published in many journals including: FallOut, Ragmag, Womanspirit, and in the National Council of Teachers of English publications.