Poetry for the Rosh Hashanah Meal

Eating the New Year

The ram’s head,
My great times great grandfather would eat,
To welcome the new year with words
“May we be the head and not the tail!”

But you, my son,
Dip apples into honey,
And did you remember to say
“To make for us a good and sweet year?”

At first we wished for abundance.
Your great times great-great grandfathers
tillers of soil,
(that was our side of the curse)
greeted the new year with
pumpkins and beans
and made poetic blessings from the names of each vegetable
and they added figs and pomegranate,
Meditating on the seeds, saying,
“Prosper! Prosper!”

Your great times great times great great grandfather,
When he was a boy,
Would climb the date palm, crush the sweet dates into a paste.
Feed them to your great times great times great times great grandfather with a spoon made of olive wood.
Old man saying:
May it be a sweet one.
Last year of his life.

Apples we discovered. And we slathered our date honey on them and said:
“Could there ever be anything sweeter together?”

And when we didn’t have date honey, we dipped them in sugar, and when not in sugar, into bee honey. “For a sweet new year.”

These waxed apples, this honey
so processed it looks like apple juice
those fingers which have hardly touched the earth
you, my son, are inheriting a world that is but a shadow of what once was…

But still you make a blessing,
Still you do with eyes closed,
and think of great times great grandfathers,
their eyes closed too, their eyes closed too.  

- Daniel S. Brenner


High Holiday Poetry? Alternative readings? Look no further!

To my friends in the rabbinic world and those amazing souls who are not rabbis but are preparing for the high holidays, I'm going to be posting the many poems I've penned for those alternative readings at a new blog...


Enjoy! And drop me a line if you use one in your service!


Gratitude to Dan Epstein of Dan Epstein Photography for sharing with me this photo of the Simchas Torah party at B'nai Keshet back in 2010. I'm digging the heavy shtetl vibe.


A Parable for Rosh Hashanah

This is an adaptation of a parable from the Maggid of Dubno (Rabbi Jacob Kranz)

“Once there was a wealthy man who wanted to protect his fortune so he hid his wealth in different places in his house. He died before telling his young son where he had hidden the money. After the father's death, the son lived in the home but he had no work and he had little to eat. He grew increasingly desperate and one day was counting out his last few silver coins when one of the coins dropped, and he crawled on the dirty floor to find it. He searched all over but he couldn't find his coin. In desperation he pulled up the floorboards and found one of the sacks of golden coins his father had hidden. He opened the sack and was amazed at his fortune. He searched all through the house and found more and more sacks of gold but he never found his original, lost silver coin.”

I'm not sure what the Maggid of Dubno intended to convey with this story, but I love the juxtaposition of the two ideas: the house (the world) is filled with hidden treasure but the silver coin (youth? innocence? simplicity? the father?) is never found again. The parable also speaks to the idea of "looking for one thing but finding another" - a theme that runs back to Yacov's "G-d is in this place and I, I did not know" moment. It is also a story about searching - what causes us to search, what we find and what we do not find. 

The parable also has a message for us for the coming year: Keep looking, don't give up hope - the next floorboard you pull up will reveal great treasures.



Exclusive: New Rosh Hashanah song for 2013 5744

Judgment Day
Words and Music by Daniel S. Brenner

With wishes to all for a sweet and healthy new year.