Monthly Archives: October 2016



This poem for the end of Yom Kippur observances (Ne’ilah Yizkor service) was written by Tzedek Chicago’s rabbinical intern Jay Stanton. Original post and more of Jay’s musings here. He does a great job molding people willing to stand at the intersections of “intimacy and intimidation” into community.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

#OccupyHeaven: A Poem for Ne’ilah 5777

United not by common language or experience

but by action, by clapping, using our hands

to give voice to our rising power

transcendent heartbeat of our collective will, we say


petaj lanu sha’ar b’et ne’ilat sha’ar ki fanah yom

hayom yifneh hashemesh yavo veyifneh navoah sh’arekha

Keep the gate open for us when the day turns to night!

As surely as the closing bell sounds, we will rush the gates!

The word ne’ilah means closing time, buildings locked, gates bolted, alarms set

so no intruders can infringe on God’s spare time He spends like spare change

Ne’ilah means our time is up, you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here

If God didn’t get to you today, you should have showed up earlier

Forced to participate in this frustrating process of penitence

God’s yearly performance review of humankind

all denied food and water for the last twenty-four hours

some denied food and water each and every twenty-four hours

we convene today for protest’s sake

as the sun sets on this Day of Atonement

The Day of Judgment

when even the Hosts of Heaven are judged

God thinks if management has to do this too that we won’t notice

the glorified injustice of the pinnacle of our calendar year

So we’re here ready to make some noise – our voices will be heard

We will make God listen; that’s what we’re here to do, to insist on

to insist on not being ignored, to insist on disrupting God’s dinner party

“No humans allowed” except the help; be sure to use the service entrance

If you are a veteran of actions like these, great.  If this is your first, even better.

Let’s start with refreshing our memory at why we’re here

God says He seeks our repentance, not perfection

God says this is all He desires, as soon was we repent, He will forgive

Adonai adonai el rajum vejanun

erech apayim verav jesed ve-emet

notzer jesed la-alafim

nose avon vafesha  vejata-a venakeh

My Lord, My Lord, God is merciful and gracious

endlessly patient overflowing with kindness and truth
bestowing kindness to the thousandth generation,

forgiving wrongdoing, sins of commission and omission and granting pardon

What a load of –

oh right, no cursing – there are children present – yeah, right

You may not know yet but we have the full text of that quote about God’s kindness

it’s taken out of context and when you play the tape all the way to the end

He’s actually talking about how He won’t forgive

and instead He’ll punish people to the third and fourth generation – at least

God and His cronies don’t want us to know He seeks revenge and calls it justice

God and His cronies don’t want us to know the Messiah is ready to come tomorrow

if police lay down their weapons and superintendents reopen closed schools

if we tear down separation walls and throw welcome home parties for refugees

as they come back to the properties whose deeds they have safeguarded for generations

if we abolish prisons and establish a justice system that respects even the cockroach

and one that never treats humans like roaches – but that would destroy God’s master plan

Hypocrite on High – we see through Your empty rhetoric

this was the year that God increased, not decreased, extrajudicial execution of Black boys

this was the year that dancing in your queer Brown body became punishable by death on Shavuot

that going to mosque in Queens became a capital crime for Imam Alauddin Akonjee

On Tisha B’av.  This was the year God further punished poverty

and humiliated and killed transgender women of Color

this was the year God sanctioned the scapegoating of Muslims for violence

even though God gave us violence millenia before the life of the Prophet

that’s why we’re here to #occupyHeaven, here for the immigrant, for the beggar, for the refugee

for the orphan and the child soldier, for the domestic workers, the sex workers, and ourselves

here to negotiate a new covenant, here to strike if needed

God and His cronies don’t want us to know we can throw off their yoke

But now is the time

we #occupyHeaven

Now is the time

we deem God an unsuitable negotiation partner

Now is the time

we hold out for a better offer
Now is the time!

Now is the time

               we say no más to deportation

Now is the time

we make the sun stand still over Jericho and Silwan and Susiya

declaring #existenceisresistance against God’s weaponized bulldozers

until Jacob and Esau once again embrace

This is the year, the poet says, this is the year the squatters evict landlords

the year we refuse to go home until everyone has housing

the year we refuse to be satisfied with forgiveness until all are forgiven

the year we tell God not to make foolish promises, the year we abolish not only prisons but sin

The sun hasn’t set yet, the gates are still open.  So here’s what we’ll do

even the worst sinners and those whose guilt weighs heavily though they are blameless

we’re going to join hands and enter the open gates. Our chant starts simply:

Hear our voices!  Hear our voices!  Hear our voices! Hear our voices!


Read Jay’s Rosh Hashanah remarks. And then Rabbi Brant’s sermon from the next day. Our congregation is dedicated to Judaism and social justice. It is neither assimilationist nor Zionist. We seek to block oppression, build solutions, and be present to  what arises. My remarks (beginning at 1:20:03) here.