In the black night / the river runs cold / slowly passing me by / over formerly sharp edged stones / worn smooth by centuries of churning  / as if through earthy veins / and I Jacob, alone / shiver and wait / to meet my brother / and daylight.

Will there be war? / And will the angels carry my soul / up the ladder / leaving my blood / to soak the ground?

A presence!? / And I struggle / as if in my mother’s womb / and my dreams.

We played together as children / my brother Esau and me / as innocents / and I confess tonight / how I wronged him / and wrenched from him his birthright / as this Being has done to me / between my thighs.

I was so young / driven by ego and need / blinded by ambition / my mother’s dreams / and my father’s silence.

I so craved to be first born / adored by my father / to assume his place when he died / that my name be remembered / and define a people.

How Esau suffered and wailed / and I didn’t care; / Whatever his dreams / they were nothing to me / my heart was hard / his life be damned!

I’ve learned that Esau and I / each alone / is a palga gufa / half a soul / without the other / torn away / as two souls separated at creation / seeking reunification in a great spiritual sea / the yin missing the yang / the dark and light never touching / the mind divorced from body / the soul in exile / without a beating bleating heart / and no access to the thirty-two paths / to carry us up the ladder / and through the spheres.

It’s come to this / To struggle again / To live or die.

Tonight / I’m ready for death / or submission.

Compassionate One / protect Esau and your servant / my brother and me / as one  / and return us to each other.

El na r’fa na lanu! / Grant us peace and rest / I’m very tired.


This poem was composed by Rabbi John L. Rosove and was originally published in the CCAR Journal: Reform Jewish Quarterly, Spring, 2010, pages 113-115