Mishna Berachot 1-5 in Haiku

Last week we had an exam in Mishna class and the essay question gave us the opportunity to delineate the differences in approach between Sh’ma and Amidah, as discussed in the Mishna. For reasons I can’t quite fathom, I decided to write it in haiku. This post is probably not for everyone but for those few people who traverse the intersection of Mishna and Japanese poetry, this is your moment.

Click here for the original mishnayot.

Sh’ma and Amidah
How to do community?
Mishnayot differ.

You might also ask
Is the structure fixed or loose?
Depends what you pray.

When to say the Sh’ma?
If you go out late at night
Say it before dawn.

When the day arrives
Say it now, pray before nine
If your dad’s a king

Don’t take foolish risks
In your home or on your way
Just to make a point.

While the frame is loose
Structure holds the thing in place.
Do your chatimot!

When we pray the Sh’ma
Boundaries are fluid here.
Hi   [I’m scared]   Oh, hi?

What if I mess up?
Or I cannot hear myself?
In Sh’ma that’s OK.

When you get married
Maybe skip Sh’ma, just this once
Maybe, maybe not.

Sometimes people choose
Things that don’t check every box
Sh’ma is flexible.

When you’re on a wall
Or atop a terebinth
Praying Sh’ma’s OK.

Unlike with the Sh’ma
When you pray the Amidah —
The stakes are higher.

Saying Amidah
We hold the community.
Leadership matters.

You should take your time
Getting in the proper mood
Even one hour

Fewer options here
Time of prayer is fairly clear
(Maybe not Musaf)

Rabbi Akiva:
Every day say Amidah
Do the best you can.

Improvisation?
Keep community in mind
Preserve the remnants

Birkat Kohanim
If you are the only priest
Do not lose your place

In the Amidah
We hold one another up
Even when we can’t.

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