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Henry Rasof

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.

Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend—Or Are They?

The Story of Arle de León, a Medieval Spanish-Jewish Wise Woman. Henry Rasof offers this not-Purimspeil, which may or may not be a continuation of last year's Purimspeil, or at least, includes some elements or references thereto. Enjoy!

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ALAS!–EICHAH!–You Sit Alone (An Elegy for Tishah b’Av)

On Tishah b'Av we lament the destruction of the two Temples, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, other Jewish national tragedies, and, if we wish, our own sorrows and tragedies. On this day we recite elegies and dirges called kinot, as we and our ancestors have done for thousands of years, in our own ritual way of expressing the deep grief common to all people in all cultures.

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Tishah b’Av and Its Poetry

Tishah b'Av--the 9th of Av--the day Jews remember calamities like the destruction of the Temples, is coming up soon, and for me there is no better way to learn about and get involved with this occasion is to read the special poetry composed for this day (and for other Jewish days of mourning), and better yet to write our own! In this presentation you will first learn a little about Tishah b'Av and about the poetry, and then be encouraged to write your own such poetry and perhaps recite it in your congregation, havurah, religious class, or home.

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Let’s Thank the Mystery of Life–A Shabbat Lovesong

Here is an ahavah poem thanking God for giving us the capacity to love. It fits with the liturgy and takes the form of a ghazal, a genre of poetry popular in India, Pakistan, and the Middle East. Ghazals are love poems to God that, like the Song of Songs, express this emotion in the language of human love.

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Yearning for More — A Poem to Enhance Your Evening Prayers

Evening signals a transition from day to night, bringing with it anticipation, excitement, and sometimes (or often, or even always) fear. This poem, however, celebrates light, in the form of celestial lights and inner lights. The reader is swept into the swirl of the cosmos in order to gain perspective on her or his life here on earth.

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The Mystery of Life–A Poem of Appreciation

Life is a beautiful mystery that is mysteriously beautiful! Who is like You, God, Who could create all of this and give us the ability to appreciate it-- even people who don't live near mountains and hills as we do in Boulder, Colorado!

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I Think of You: A Poem for Shabbat, for Every Day, for Every Moment

Called a zulat (after the Hebrew word meaning "but," "besides," "aside from," except," "other than"), this poem can be read on its own or preceding the line in the kriyat shema that goes "There is no God but [besides/aside from/except/other than] You"--Ayn Elohim zulatecha.

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Without Saying Why

"Without Saying Why" is a liturgical poem that asks the reader to contemplate the uniqueness of God in a way that makes room for the whole kaboodle of life: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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I Have Sought You

This Jewish liturgical poem is intended to be read or recited before the Shabbat-morning nishmat prayer and is in the tradition of such poems in which the poet searches for God early in the morning, perhaps even before sunrise, when only birds are out and about.

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Mi Chamocha? A Poem to Help Set Your Prayers in Motion

This poem decorates the traditional mi chamocha (Who is like You?) in the prayer service. If you have time, you could include it in any services; but time constraints during the week probably make its inclusion more practical on shabbat or festivals.

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Only You: A Poem to Deepen Your Prayer Experience

Called a zulat (after the Hebrew word meaning "but," "besides," "aside from," except," "other than"), this poem can be read on its own or preceding the line in the kriyat shema that goes "There is no God but [besides/aside from/except/other than] You"--Ayn Elohim zulatecha.

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Come and See: A Poem to Light Up Your Prayer Experience

Called a me'ora ("light"), this poem can be read on its own or just before the first benediction/blessing preceding the shema, which reads: "Praised are You, O Lord, Creator of lights" (Baruch ata Adonai, Yotzer ha-meorot). Enjoy!

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All Is Beautiful and Holy–A Poem to Expand Your Prayer Experience

This type of piyyut--Jewish liturgical poem--is an ofan (literally, "wheel") and is meant to be inserted into the kedusha blessing in the daily and shabbat morning prayer service (optionally--you normally won't see one).

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