Light of Lights–A Poem to Illuminate Your Prayers

082313_jews_prayer_lgthe light that is every day
what is it really
its true nature?

there is light from the sun
the moon, from stars
comets and meteors

lightning, auroras, and solar flares
rainbows, sprites
and of course sunsets and sunrises

from lantern fish
at the bottom of the sea—
an eerie green light—

glow worms
and some mushrooms

light reflected
from between the eyes of spiders
so we can see them in the dark

phosphorescent diatoms that sparkle
in the waves and sand
during red tides

rocks that glow
green and purple
in the dark

watch dials, television sets
flashlights, fiber-optic cables
cell phones and computers

there also is light in the eyes of children
lovers’ eyes
the unbearable lightness of being

and let us not forget spiritual lights
the guiding light of wisdom
light around the body, auras

enlightenment, the clear light
and who can forget the zohar
the book of radiance

but however much we learn
from science, literature, philosophy
or personal experience

about the light we see
and the light concealed
in the places we do not see

however much we read
meditate or experiment
however much we think we know

light is still a mystery
for we really
do not know

the beauty of sight
the existence of light
in all its varieties

is a mystery
pure and simple
beyond understanding

all we can do is be grateful
for this bounty and our ability
to perceive and distinguish it

c 2015 Henry Rasof

This Jewish liturgical poem, or piyyut, is a me’ora (“light”) and is meant to be inserted before the first benediction/blessing preceding the shema, which reads: “Praised are You, O Lord, Creator of lights” (Baruch ata Adonai, Yotzer ha-meorot). However, I think that placement is somewhat flexible. In addition, piyyutim (plural of piyyut) can stand on their own. Although the morning weekday service contains some poems (other than psalms) or prayers incorporating poetic features (for example, the third and fourth paragraphs after the yotzer or, the first benediction before the kriyat shema), piyyutim are usually reserved for shabbat and holidays, because of weekday time constraints.

About Henry Rasof z"l

I have been writing poetry for over fifty years. During this time, I have worked as a musician, chef, book acquisitions editor, and creative-writing instructor.

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