Usually I am Above

a poem by Rabbi Emma GottliebRabbi Emma Gottlieb

Usually I am above,
_____looking down
I avert my eyes as they descend
and then connect with them to say the prayers
_____to share the joy
_____to complete the process
_____to witness

I am the rabbi
I lead
I accompany
I affirm, confirm, and reaffirm
I am the guide
I am with them
_____But apart
A part
_____of their experience
but my own experience is secondary
(as it should be in such moments)

How nice
to return to this place for my own purposes
_____for me
_____for my soul
_____for my spirit

It is I who descend this time
I, who am embraced by God’s warm and welcoming waters
I, who get to immerse
and emerge

with God and the water
and the words on the page

renewing my spirit
repairing my soul
preparing for the year ahead

I know what I look like,
a body
_____distorted as I submerge
_____hair floating around me
_____as the splashes echo
I can see myself as I have seen so many others
I know I am glowing as I come out from the water
I know I am walking straighter
head held higher
_____by the waters of God

Usually I am looking down
But today I immersed
and I looked up
_____through those beautiful windows
_____through light streaming in
and God was my witness
and the waters, my rebirth

Rabbi Emma Gottlieb serves at Temple Beth David of the South Shore. She has previously served at Temple Beth Israel in Plattsburgh, NY where she introduced many programs, such as a Torah Tots curriculum, Tot Shabbat, Mishkan T’filah, and Music & Meditation on Yom Kippur. Rabbi Gottlieb was ordained at the Hebrew Union College, New York Campus in 2010. Prior to that she also studied in the HUC Debbie Friedman Sacred School of Music for three years. Rabbi Gottlieb obtained a Dual Degree in Religious Studies and Vocal Music from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.  Rabbi Gottlieb grew up in Toronto, Canada but feels very at home in the Boston area.


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