He-Goats and Ephas and Hins (Oh, My) – A Poem for Haftarah Vayikra

These poems are offered free for your enjoyment. If you use them as part of an event, meeting, educational or liturgical setting, please consider tipping the author.

Share this poem:

Oh, ancient text, a new month is coming
and you have special things to tell me.
Special things, with words so smart
I’ll have to look them up.

Words like ephah, which spell-check
doesn’t like, but which dictionary.com
assures me exists. Same with hin.
It seems spell-check is not ready for

ancient Hebrew units of measure
and honestly, I’m not sure I am either.
As a Jewish American, I still freeze
any time someone tells me a temperature

in celsius. Not literally freeze, as in
the water has solidified, but freeze, as in
my body has stopped moving while
my brain catches up.

Let us not even mention metric,
which I hear is better than whatever
it is we are using, but which the
Anglican kings never got on board with.

Oh, ancient text, I struggle every week
to find a common language to filter your
lessons into my twenty-first century sensibility.
I understand the words new month

but wonder why they come up in
the middle of March. There’s a different
Jewish way for everything. I want the
lunar calendar to kiss the sun on the lips.

Honestly, I’d prefer not to kill any
lambs, or he-goats, or bulls. You may
have a different word for bushel, but
I’ve got a different way to atone for my sins.

Nothing is set on fire and I may exit the
holy tent through the same door I entered.
Blasphemy! Oh holy text, I hope you
don’t mind that I address you directly.

I’m not giving up on you yet.