Earth Etude for Elul 8: Not What I Want

by Rabbi Benjamin Weiner

On the road

to the farmstore

in my electric car,

the baby starting

to doze in her safety

seat, and the man

in his cold British

tones, explaining

to the listeners

an inexorable future

of unmanageable heat,

and the hostess says:

I’m sorry, but

that’s all the time

we have, and

she moves on to

the new war

in Afghanistan.


In the mornings,

when I wake

too early, and hear

the sound of cars

on the highway

by my door, I

lie as still as

possible, willing

the fixity I can

no longer uncover

in the outer world

to sink into my bones.


When the baby

comes in, I hold

her with vague

arms, and stroke

the softness of

her skin, and run

my fingers through

her red-black hair

like a comb, and

say a little prayer

in my head to

ward away the

pleasure that will

only hurt me

in the end.


I go downstairs

and, for a brief

moment, cower in

the beauty of my

bursting son, then

outside to a grey

rainless sky,

the garden in bloom,

no longer by divine

right, but accident,

the maple, tall

and proud like

a grandfather who

doesn’t know

he’s dying, and—


when it isn’t the panic,

it’s just the dull

relentless ache

of nothing certain

but mortal change,

and things not being

what I want.

Benjamin Weiner is the spiritual leader of the Jewish Community of Amherst.  He lives with his wife and two children on their three-acre homestead farm in Western Massachusetts.

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