GENESIS OF BLESSINGS AND CURSES
My poetry collection BLESSINGS AND CURSES was born out of a wish to make poetry out of everyday life—mine and other people’s. I no longer remember whether the first poem I wrote in the series was a Blessing or a Curse.
The subsequent Blessings and Curses are numbered in consecutive order of their composition. At the outset I didn’t intend to make a series, but suddenly there it was. With each poem, I asked myself, Is this a Blessing or a Curse?
As long as I could answer, I could keep the series going. It may sound strange, but there were times when I wasn’t quite sure if the poem in question was a Blessing or a Curse, even though I knew it was one thing or the other. In other words, some of the Blessings are decidedly mixed, and some of the Curses have silver linings.
I had been writing the series for about a year when I wrote what became the title poem. I grew up in Reform Judaism, where the parasha Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9-30:19) is substituted for the traditional parasha at the Yom Kippur service, and I am in agreement with the rabbis and teachers who see Nitzavim as a key Jewish text. It also happened that Nitzavim was to be my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah parasha, traditionally read the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah. In the months of preparation before the Bat Mitzvah, we all had the opportunity to reflect on this parasha’s meanings, and out of these reflections, the poem was born.
To me it seems significant that God asked Moses to make His teachings into a song. In other words, God’s words were translated into human art—to make them more memorable perhaps? more meaningful? more acceptable?
The Torah tells us that this song came to Moses instantly. What artist doesn’t wish for perfect ease of creation? I haven’t experienced it often, but when I have, it is a compensation for when creation is laborious and difficult.
The title poem expresses the religious ideals I grew up with and the traditional belief that art is divinely inspired. God’s message is the power of human beings to choose good over evil and stresses the importance of intentions, good behavior and proper speech over worship that is symbolic display. This emphasis has always been and continues to be one of my favorite qualities of Judaism.
Here is the poem:
BLESSINGS AND CURSES
Moses says to his people,
Through Moses, God speaks directly,
Afterwards, God returns
Moses is as mysterious
When Moses died, he left us