By | Nov 14, 2022

A praise poem like “Aliyah” is akin to (though distinguishable from) prayer in its manner of address. Whether the speaker is praising God or the Torah directly matters less than the rhapsodic description of rising toward the sacred—a realm from which we may see the world and our place in it anew.
Jody Bolz, Poetry Editor


Blessed are you, God our God, Sovereign of the World, who has
given us the Torah of truth, planting within us life everlasting.
—Prayer recited during an aliyah, “a going up” to read from the Torah.

Let me speak to you as the tree I climbed as a child,
the one in the far corner of my grandmother’s yard,
whose bark was a tapestry of rough diamonds.
Your first branch was low enough to leap to,
textured enough to hold me. And each branch after
placed as though to keep me climbing.
I paused only to press my ear to your trunk
and hear it: the heartbeat of water
moving toward the leaves, the conversation
between roots and sky. Climbing until my hair
twined your needles’ spines; until, anointed
by your green, you took root within me; so I speak
from the part of me who grows you, grows
with you, who will always live in your branches.
And in the boughs, so many there with me.
A vantage we could not have reached
on our own, a vision otherwise beyond us.
All of us, in that overstory, unalone.

Jessica Jacobs is the author of Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going; Pelvis with Distance; and the forthcoming unalone, a collection of poems in conversation with the Book of Genesis. Jacobs is the founder of Yetzirah, a nonprofit literary organization for Jewish poets.

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