A Praise Song for Passover

On various Jewish holidays, Hallel (“praise”) is recited. [For word nerds, hallel gives us hallelujah, or “praise Yahweh.” Many years ago I learned a short blessing in Arabic which includes what I assume is a cognate: Alhamdulillah, “praise Allah.”]

At Passover several psalms are read, among them Psalm 136, praising God for creation, for saving the Jewish people, and also for slaughtering lots of other people. One of the lines in that psalm is “[give thanks] to him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever.” I find that just a tad creepy, to say the least. So I wrote my own Hallel, which is included in my Haggadah (still available at Aunt Lute Books, or at St. Johns Booksellers if you are in Portland):

dance of joy

Praise earth with all your being,
caress her with your dancing,
with your nakedness stretched full length
against black loam or hot sand
praise the wind with each breath
fill your lungs with the exhalations of trees
and insects and infants and murderers,
the same air that Moses and Pharaoh breathed,
that your enemy breathes, is yours,
you can’t avoid it
get drunk on every lime-green leaf
or iridescent feather or
oil slick in the gutter
let every sense embrace the world
let your soul be transparent, let praise
pour through you like sunlight:

whoever loves the earth is forever
in the presence of the beloved
will never be bored by her
never betrayed
never be lonely.

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