This week is Shabbat Shabbaton, the Grand Final of all Shabbatot. It is the only fast that is allowed to occur on Shabbat and in fact occurs regularly on Shabbat. Its stringencies surpass those of regular shabbat, with restrictions on what we wear and what we consume. It is the culmination of the days of Awe.
I recently read a poem by Yehuda Amichai where he talks about Jerusalem. It seems to me, and perhaps to many of us, that Jerusalem may be a symbol for the trials and tribulations of life. This poem has particular power around this time.
Jerusalem is a Spinning Carousel
Jerusalem is a carousel spinning round and round
from the Old City through every neighborhood and back to the Old.
And you can’t get off. If you jump you’re risking your life
and if you step off when it stops you must pay again
to get back on for more turns that never will end.
Instead of painted elephants and horses to ride
religions go up, down and around on their axes
to unctuous melodies from the houses of prayer.
Jerusalem is a seesaw: Sometimes I go down,
to past generations and sometimes up, into the sky,
then like a child dangling on high, legs swinging, I cry
I want to get down, Daddy, Daddy, I want to get down,
Daddy, get me down.
And like that, all the saints go up into the sky.
They’re like children screaming, Daddy, I want to stay high,
Daddy don’t bring me down, Our Father Our King,
leave me on high, Our Father Our King!
Translated from Hebrew by Vivian Eden; published with permission of Hanna Amichai.
This poem is eery. It talks of (provided we are consistent with the metaphor of Jerusalem) the impossibility and inevitability of life and its difficulties. It talks of turning to our divine father and appealing to his power to elevate us, to free us, to guide us.
Yom Kippur will force us to face our own mortality, we face God clothed only in our deeds and in our character, we are on show. But we pray to our father in heaven to elevate us, to forigve us and to redeems us.
Shabbat shalom and easy fast to all