High Holiday Poetry & Prayers


Prayer For The World - Judd Maltin, Board Member

We are the threads.

The threads between heaven and Earth.

We are the threads which are prayers become words become habits become reality become culture.

Let us help each other in our failings. Listen without speaking, and the pain of wanting to interject rises and subsides. We will split our hearts in two with compassion.

Love is the safest refuge, and the heartiest armor. Go to battle, armored with compassion and armed with patience. Flash the mighty sword of respect and fearlessness of difference and strangeness. Then strangers no more. The monsters of fear, rejection, and indifference lay slaughtered in our hearts.

We pull on the tassels of the robes of majesty, like children begging for candy. The Queen of Creation bids her King to open his hand to us, to turn his face to us, and smile at us. The love shines and pours from his eyes. In his hands, sweet apples and honey from the garden. We can still hear the bees buzzing, smell the loam of Earth from which our clay bodies were formed, and taste the nourishing sweetness.

Apples are brown in just a few moments, but honey is fresh for all time. We embrace these apple moments, as the eternal honey sticks to our lips.

LET US Take the threads of prayer into our hands. In our hearts we must gather and untangle the threads of fear and worry.  We must knit and weave them.  We must raise up on the walls of the castles of our culture the great tapestry of our time.

Let it be known that we are here. And the heavens shine upon us.


Prayer For Peace - Susie Kaufman

Holy One of Being thank you for this day. Thank you for the red glow that drops below the western hills, the rain that fell and the sun that rose this morning, here in gentle, wildflower-covered New England and everywhere your light shines, the same sun that bakes the Jewish and Palestinian olive groves alike.

Dear One, our prayers for peace stick in our throats. We look to the East and we see so much suffering on all sides that we hardly know where to begin. We hardly know how to pray. Pain and confusion overwhelm us. Our Torah teaches us to remember that we were slaves in Egypt. Yet, we continue to be at war with the Other and, in so doing, enslave ourselves to a cramped, airless struggle for power. Year after year, yontiff after yontiff, the bloodletting in the ancient lands continues. Isaac still feels himself bound on the altar. Ishmael remains banished in the wilderness. It is a bleak, arid landscape, littered with bodies. Hope seems like a mirage, fleeting and insubstantial, flickering like the end of a burning chanukah candle on its way to going out.

Holy One of Being, Help me, help us, Jews in the Diaspora and all the peoples rocked in the cradle of civilization, irrigated by the primal waters of the Jordan and, not far away, the Tigris and the Euphrates. Help us to bear compassionate witness to the new Diaspora desperately seeking safe haven in Europe. Help us to plead for the strength to resist despair and to fight for hope. Let our hope not die that Ishmael and Isaac, sons of Abraham Avinu, our Father, come together in peace like Jacob and Esau. May we all be blessed with the awareness that when we see the face of the Other we are seeing your face, Dear One, the face of God. 


Prayer For Us And For The Earth - Chief Seattle

Teach your children what we have taught our children - that the Earth is our Mother. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons and daughters of the Earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know. The Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood that unites one family. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons and daughters of the Earth. We did not weave the web of life; We are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the Web, We do to ourselves.

May we live by these words, take them deep into our consciousness so that this is the truth we speak and the truth we live.



Pope Francis - Laudato Si - Prayer for Earth

All-powerful God,
you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor, help us to rescue
the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.


I Know The Way You Can Get
From I Heard God Laughing - Renderings of Hafiz , trans. Daniel Ladinsky

I know the way you can get
When you have not had a drink of Love:

Your face hardens,
Your sweet muscles cramp.
Children become concerned
About a strange look that appears in your eyes
Which even begins to worry your own mirror
And nose.

Squirrels and birds sense your sadness
And call an important conference in a tall tree.
They decide which secret code to chant
To help your mind and soul.

Even angels fear that brand of madness
That arrays itself against the world
And throws sharp stones and spears into
The innocent
And into one's self.

O I know the way you can get
If you have not been drinking Love:

You might rip apart
Every sentence your friends and teachers say,
Looking for hidden clauses.

You might weigh every word on a scale
Like a dead fish.

You might pull out a ruler to measure
From every angle in your darkness
The beautiful dimensions of a heart you once

I know the way you can get
If you have not had a drink from Love's

That is why all the Great Ones speak of
The vital need
To keep remembering God,
So you will come to know and see Him
As being so Playful
And Wanting,
Just Wanting to help.

That is why Hafiz says:
Bring your cup near me.
For all I care about
Is quenching your thirst for freedom!

All a Sane man can ever care about
Is giving Love!


Rosh Hashanah - Belle Fox-Martin, U.C.C. Licensed minister
for L.J.F.

The drapes hung heavy
from  the corner of the ceiling
fluting down onto the floor
-  a small tide suspended  in time -
Their  pitchy velvet hazed with age,
keeps  secrets, remembered and forgotten
in its folds, keeps chards of music,
chatter, longing  days and passionate nights.
Keeps cherished lies and wordless prayers,
keeps the downbeats of hearts,
Keeps laughter, lost blessings, desires and defeat.
The book is open. This is my offering,
what I can bring, what I know and can’t  remember,
The all of the irreconcilable me,
not the ‘to be better/  do better’  me. 
Just the one and only  ‘love better’  me.
The window is opened. I wait for the swell
of Your wind to meet  my weave and webbing,
my essence and grain. I wait for the drapes to stir. 


Tired of Speaking Sweetly - From The Gift, Trans. Daniel Ladinsky

Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.

If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By your hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That bring you no joy.

Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly
And wants to rip to shreds
All your erroneous notions of truth

That make you fight within yourself, dear one,
And with others,

Causing the world to weep
On too many fine days.

God wants to manhandle us,
Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself
And practice His dropkick.

The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:

Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.

But when we hear
He is in such a "playful drunken mood"
Most everyone I know
Quickly packs their bags and hightails it
Out of town.

The Metered Life - Stuart Kestenbaum, House of Thanksgiving

The moment you slide into the back seat of the taxi
you know life is measured, the dollars

on the meter already, and then every quarter mile,
half mile, every extended wait bumper-to-bumper

adding to the fare. You can look at the driver’s
registration, his photo, learn what your rights are,

look at Manhattan blur on either side, but
your eyes are fixed on the red numbers,

the bill you’re running up. Other parts
of your life, you never see the cost as

directly. Here you’re driven a mile, you spend
money, watch it go by yard by yard. But why

only taxis? Why not the metered life
for everything, the digital read out

on your phone telling you those minutes
with your mother are costing you, and why not

one above the television, one attached to
the plumber’s back like a scorecard,

or one on each shoe letting you know
each step has a price. How about a meter for

the paint wearing off your house, or one on each
child letting you know what it costs to raise them.

Wouldn’t that keep your life in line, knowing what
each day costs, and you could reach into your pocket
at nightfall and settle up. Now in some places
like Washington, DC the cabs don’t have meters,

you drive through mysterious zones that only
the driver knows and he lets you know the total.

There’s some trust involved there, waiting until the end to find out
what you owe, fumbling with your wallet as the traffic hums by.


House of Prayer - Stuart Kestenbaum

Inside the house of prayer the ancient ones
rock slowly back and forth,
they have been praying since just after time began,
when the sun, new itself, rose on the first day

after humans were created. Even way back then
there were fervent wishes. The path to the house
is worn and rutted, outside the barn
are two silos full of prayers,

a satellite dish with channels upon channels
for sending and receiving.
Bales of old prayers bank the foundation for winter.
Over time the broken and the restless make pilgrimages,

each with their own hearts to pray for.
Inside it is nearly silent, except for the faint
sound of lips moving and an occasional moan
of sorrow or remembrance.

And then there are the prayers
that get jumbled, like leaving the right phone message
on the wrong answering machine,
only you don’t know it and can’t take it back.

This is what has happened throughout time.
It gives us what sympathy we have.
Don’t search for your own prayer
with your name sewn in the back,

don’t try to find the pure thought
that danced from your lips.
Think of the person who wanted what you’ve gotten.
Think of healthy children, plentiful food.

Think of a man in another country,
who can finally weep,
who is watching the sun rise
on the only day there is.


Jane Hirschfield, from The Beauty

In My Wallet I Carry a Card
In my wallet I carry a card
which declares I have the power to marry.
In my wallet I carry a card
which declares I may drive.
In my wallet I carry a card
that says to a merchant I may be trusted to pay her.
In my wallet I carry a card
that states I can borrow a book in the town where I
In my wallet I carry a card.
Its lines declare I am cardless, carless,
stateless, and have no money.
It is buoyant and edgeless.
It names me one of the Order of All Who Will Die.

Jane Hirschfield, from The Beauty

Zero Plus Anything Is a World

Four less one is three.

Three less two is one.

One less three
is what, is who,

The first cell that learned to divide
learned to subtract.

add salt to hunger.

add time to trees.

Zero plus anything
as a world.

This one,
and no other,
by each breath changed.

add death to life.

love without swerve what this will bring.

Sister, father, mother, husband, daughter.

Like a cello
forgiving one note as it goes,
then another.