Click image to order
Never miss a post
Your email address:*
Please enter all required fields
Correct invalid entries


« Maxine Sullivan welcomes the new year | Main | Happy birthday, David Shapiro, author of "January" »

January 01, 2023


Terrific poem & picture!

I wait all week to see what Terence has cooked up for us in verse and visual. And I'm never disappointed.
I always knew tom as the luckiest of men, married to Beth, but now I see his spirit.
Shabbat Shalom

Thanks, David & Grace....

Happy New Year, poetry -- can't wait to hear more from you.

Thank you, Grace. It's a good new year with you in it.

Always today!

Thanks for posting this, Terence -- I just checked & it's still today!

Always today! Perfect New Year’s Day poem. I love the rabbinic wit and the promise (if we keep it)

I had a performance artist friend in LA named david zasloff who talked about practicing zen judaism, tom's poem could be the core text

Beautiful poem.

Wise words from a true poet!

To hearken to the Lord's voice does indeed demand care. The psalm alludes to the days of Massa and Meribah. There the Levites were blessed for slaughtering their own relatives who worshipped the golden calf (Deut.33:8-9). But in our psalm, the punishment is softened somewhat to a wandering in the desert for 40 years till the sinners died off. Listening today is likely to bring a greater message, one of mercy and even kindness.

"it’s always today, / and never for long." A beautiful enigmatic note to close the poem on and launch this new year. For some mysterious reason "never for long" sounds hopeful, reassuring. I admire the social and intellectual qualities of these words, and Tom's adapting scripture to our times. Reminds me of Jabes but has its own spirit and form. Thanks for choosing it Terence.

Don:  Thank you, my friend. And Happy New Year!

Thanks, Kit, Bill, Clarinda, (Michael - I presume) lally, Peter, Don - & anyone my eyes have missed while scanning the page above.

In the original Talmudic tale, it's not a rabbi & his student. Rather, one of the rabbis encounters Elijah (whom Jews presume to be alive still & to move freely & frequently between our world & Pardes) & asks him the question about Mosheach -- when will he arrive?

Writing my version, I decided to give Elijah the day off.

As Terence Winch’s e-mailing of Tom Mandel’s poem aptly pointed out, it’s a “beautiful rendering of an old rabbinic tale from the Talmud.” Tom’s masterful poem is not about indoctrination but instillment. The poem as a whole and the quote of Psalm 95:7 beckon us to a realization: the moment we ask “when” is often the same moment lost to us, perhaps irretrievably. Reaction is the beat beyond action. The moment is now or today, because “it’s / always today, /and never for long.” Tom’s poem reminds me of another old rabbinic tale from the Talmud, recounted in a voice-over ending the 1981 movie THE CHOSEN, based on Chaim Potok’s 1967 novel of the same title. The tale is about a son estranged from his father, a king, who eventually sends a messenger to summon him back to the kingdom. The forlorn son sends the messenger back to inform his father, the king, that he cannot return. Undaunted, the king sends the messenger back to his son with this message: “Return as far as you can, and I will come the rest of the way.”

Thanks, Earle. Always good to get your take.

Thanks for the comment, Dr. Hitchner --

Btw, the wonderful tale you quote is not from the Talmud, but a 9th century collection of Midrashic Haggadah, Pes'iqta Rabbati.

Of course, its sources are much older (see e.g. the parable of the prodigal son in the gospel of Luke, wch shares some features with this tale).

I love the use of midrash (and anecdote) in verse and prose -- as you do so well here. Do more! See this, too:

Thanks, David -- here's one for you. In this case, it's my adaptation (not much more than a transcription, really) of the Hasidic tale with which Chantal Akerman began her great film, Histoires d'Amerique:

A Chasidic Tale
(from Chantal Akerman’s 1989 film, Histoires d'Amérique.)

A Rabbi always passed through a certain village to get to the forest where, at the foot of a tree (always the same one), he prayed – and God heard him.

The Rabbi’s son too passed through the village on his way to the forest. But, not knowing which tree was his Father’s, he prayed at the foot of of the first tree he saw – and God heard him.

The grandson of the Rabbi no longer knew how to find the tree or the forest. So he prayed in the village – and God heard him.

His great grandson did not know the whereabouts of the village or the forest. He prayed in his house – and God heard him.

The Rabbi’s great great grandson did not know where the village or the forest were located. He did not even know the words of the prayer. But he knew this story and told it to his children – and God heard him.

Thanks, Tom, for the gentle correction of sourcing for the tale I recounted from the voiceover conclusion of the movie THE CHOSEN. Accurate ascription matters.

Thank you a second time, Tom.

Once again saved by a poem. With gratitude

Jody -- wow!

Keep in mind that every time we move we are moving towards a horizon. Stay on the march....

Beautiful version——and timely poem, Tom.

Thanks, Joey -- thanks to all who decide to post here.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

click image to order your copy
That Ship Has Sailed
Click image to order
BAP ad
"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


  • StatCounter