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BTC Poetry

Raisins with Almonds

Rozhinkes mit mandlen, my dear Zaidy used to sing,

I didn’t understand it all, but thought it a pretty thing.

A classic Yiddish lullaby, it’s often on my mind

As a sweet reminder of someone who was kind.

But is there  a deeper meaning beyond this simple treat?

Almonds  -- hard and bitter, raisins-- soft and sweet.

Each on its own has merits, but when juxtaposed

The end result is just like life, or that’s what I suppose.

Some days are full of happiness, love, success and light

Other times are difficult, we struggle, cry and fight.

Without a taste of sadness, we can’t fully appreciate

The joyful moments when they come: it’s the contrast that makes them great.

Sweet raisins, bitter almonds: happiness and strife—

Was it a simple lullaby, or a metaphor for life?

Rozhinkes mit mandlen, my Zaidy used to sing,

And may we all appreciate whatever life may bring.


Parsha Shelach: Obstacles or Opportunity?

Obstacles or opportunity?

When you look to the future, what do you see?

Do you have faith that all will be well,

Do you believe that you’ll prevail?

Or forgetting all the good in your life

Do you only see the struggles and strife?

Moses sent his spies ahead

And most returned with tales of dread:

Giant people! Fierce and strong!

Trying to fight them would be so wrong!

We are mere grasshoppers, and they are giants

We haven’t the strength to be defiant!

Surely they’d swallow us all alive

Let’s not proceed! We won’t survive!

At this, the people quivered with fear,

Questioning what they were  doing here!

Despite all the miracles, all they had received,

They were too eager to be deceived.

Obstacles or opportunity?

How soon they’d forgotten the parting Red Sea!

But Caleb and Joshua stood their ground

Knowing that God’s protection was sound.

Obstacles or opportunity?

Slaves in the desert, or a nation that’s free?

After Egypt, obstacles did appear,

But God removed them; there was no need to fear.

So those who forgot the gifts from God’s hand

Never reached the Promised Land.


Obstacles or opportunity?

It’s up to us to decide what we see.


Shavuoth 5778/2018

Cheesecake and blintzes with sour cream,

Shavuot’s a dairy-lover’s dream,

But before you nosh on your 4-cheese pizza,

Or partake in an ice-cream feast-a,

Take a moment to understand

The holiday’s meaning; it’s deep and it’s grand:

Thunder boomed, lightning lit up the sky

And awoke the people asleep nearby.

The mountain top was obscured by a cloud

And a shofar’s blast was shrill and loud.

The people trembled with awe and fear,

Overcome with what was occurring here.

Then from Mount Sinai a Voice was heard,

With holy wisdom in every word.

Words to cherish, a way of life

For a peaceful world and an end to strife.

It was their duty to hear and obey,

As it is for us, to this very day.

So stay up and study, keep learning all night

About the way to re-kindle the light;

Stay up and study, don’t sleep and don’t dream

There’s more to Shavuot than cheese and ice cream.

It’s a time for prayer and contemplation,

As well as a reason for great celebration.




A Poem for Yom Yerushalayim

City of beauty, city of peace,
City disputed, it seems, without cease,
City that’s central to so many prayers,
Ancient yet modern, a city of layers.
Home to our Temple that we all revere
Its one standing wall holds our notes and our tears.
City we turn to each time that we pray,
City we long for each night and each day.
A city that tourists appreciate:
Synagogues, churches, the old Jaffa Gate,
And not to forget its markets and treats—
Falafel, shawarma, dates, honey, and sweets.
Ancient sites, the Knesset, museums,
There’s not enough time to properly see them.
As we pause to admire its fine walls of stone,
Our hearts are so full, because this is our home.    
Jerusalem, city of temperate weather,
Jerusalem, I will forget thee never.



Second Chances

So many of our laws are absolute,

So many commandments, beyond refute,

But Pesach Sheni is one exception,

A second chance for our redemption.

In ancient days all were told to appear

At the Temple for Pesach, though it may not be near.

But sometimes due to circumstance,

Some people needed a second chance:

If, for some  unforeseen reason,

They couldn’t appear at the right season,

The people asked for a second date

Declared so they could celebrate.

So Moses petitioned, and God agreed,

For a later observance, so it was decreed.

So what about us, and those in our lives?

Our children, our friends? Our husbands and wives?

Do we always demand from them perfection?

Allow no excuses, and grant no exceptions?

And as for ourselves, when we struggle or falter

Do we give ourselves room to re-try, to alter?

What prevents us? Stubbornness? Pride?

Why can’t we forgive, and let some things slide?

If God has granted us Pesach Sheni,

And shown understanding, then why can’t we?

Pesach Sheni, it’s to be observed,

Because second chances, they’re well-deserved.


North York, April 23

There is no answer to the question “why?”

Why did innocent people have to die?
Just taking a walk on a sunny spring day

Unaware that tragedy was on its way.

Colleagues, neighbours, workers, friends--

Why this sad, untimely end?

There is no answer to the question “why?”

Though we ask it when we mourn and cry.

Why here, why now, why them, why not  me?

Why in this fine place where we felt safe and free?



We can’t turn back the hands of time

To a moment when everything was still fine.

There is no answer to the question “why?”

We can only move forward, or at least we can try.

Neighbours and strangers have all come together

To mark this sad day they’ll remember forever,

With a candle, a message, a long, sad embrace,

Disregarding each other’s religion or race.

At a time when we’re touched by this tragedy,

We realize we’re all one family.

There is no answer to the question “why?”

But together, we’ll heal, or at least we will try.


Yom Ha’atzmaut

The Colours of Israel


Jerusalem, holy city of gold,

Beautiful, beloved, magical, old.

Green: IDF uniforms worn with pride

By soldiers serving side by side.

Orange: sweet fruit of the same name,

Jaffa’s juicy claim to fame.

Brown: braided challah, soft and sweet

Freshly-baked, a Shabbat treat.

The Shrine of the Book, a building of white

For ancient scrolls, an amazing sight.

Red: the Sea of our Exodus

Its waters were parted just for us.

Pink: Sunset on the Galilee

A lovelier sight you’ll never see.

Two bars and David’s star of blue,

Proudly flying for me and you.



A Poem for Yom HaShoah

 A Moment of Silence

A moment of silence, is that all we owe

To those who were murdered not that long ago?

A moment of silence, does that pay our debt?

A moment of silence, is that all they get?

A moment of silence, is that all they’re owed --

Those innocent children who never grew old?

No, in fact, we owe so much more

To those poor slaughtered victims of hatred and war.

The world MUST remember their terrible pain

So these cruel, evil deeds never happen again.

And to those brave survivors, what is our debt?

After they’re gone, will the world just forget?

No, we must tell their stories, long after they’re gone.

It’s our duty to ensure the remembrance goes on.

And when people deny their horrible plight,

We all must stand up, be vocal and fight.

Denial is evil, it’s twisted and wrong.

We MUST fight against it, be truthful and strong.

A moment of silence, and prayers we will give

But we WILL ensure too that their stories will live.

Their stories are painful, but they must endure,

The world must remember, of that we are sure.

A moment of silence, is that all we owe

To the murdered six million? The answer is NO!

Sharron Elkouby 5778/2018

Poet in Residence, Beth Torah Congregation

Thu, 18 July 2019 15 Tammuz 5779