In this collection of 146 poems designed to be read at home or at synagogue, privately or aloud, Janet Ruth Falon questions, grapples with, and sometimes turns concepts and rituals about the Jewish holidays inside out. Using down-to-earth language, Falon at times questions long-standing practices and beliefs, and shows how engaging with the particulars of each holiday can lead to new, lively connections and significance. Just as she searched for meaning by writing this poetry, readers can find their own meaning in her work, or perhaps be inspired to write their own responses to the holidays.
Finalist, 2019 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Poetry
Finalist, 2019 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Spirituality
Finalist, 2019 International Book Awards, Religion: General
THIS MONTH’S SAMPLES
Here I Am Again
Here I am again.
This same room. These same prayers.
The same hopes and intentions, mostly, that I bring every year.
And yet I keep coming back
for another chance, another opportunity,
another beginning, that maybe this year
will be the one that makes the difference,
that this will be the year when I’m finally able
to cross off the big things from my list,
that I’ll do the to-do’s
and stop the to-don’ts.
Some years it feels like nothing much is different,
that I’m still stuck on the same old stuff
so the year that’s ending must not have mattered.
But it did; if I’m honest with myself
and consider all I’ve done,
I have moved on, if only a bit.
The year mattered.
After all the High Holy Days I’ve been through,
I now know that change isn’t always big.
For most of us, change doesn’t come in neon colors, accompanied by an oompah band.
the changes I make are small enough to fit in my pocket.
But they’re mine,
and along with a candy wrapper and a quarter for the meter,
is full to overflowing.
Sarah, Barren, Bears Fruit
She is no longer a young woman.
Blood still flows, but less red, less rich,
and finally, she understands
and starts laughing.
As she opens her mouth
a branch issues forth
as if from her belly,
covered with little crackly leaves and blood-red apples,
firm, and imperfectly round and shiny
as if polished by hand.
She laughs, delighted, and looks down
and sees her legs become a pear-tree trunk
and when she wiggles her roots with joy
more than a minyan of fruit fall
unbruised, perfectly ripe.
She laughs, amazed,
and when she lifts her arms
they become branches of an orange tree,
laden, heavy, ready to be plucked.
And from the tips of her fingers spring clusters of grapes
more purple than red, with seeds.
She laughs, loving this change of life,
and from her belly button creep tomato vines
with oval plums
the perfect red
while her nipples burst
that she will gift to every child she knows.
and her fruit shakes like a windstorm.
When pieces fall
she is replenished,
and when she squats with her weight
she bears honeydew,
About Janet Ruth Falon
Janet Ruth Falon is an award-winning poet and journalist, and a writing teacher. A former newspaper reporter and magazine editor, she is the author of The Jewish Journaling Book and two books about gender respect. She has also written for The New York Times, The Philadelphia Zoo, WHYY television, etc.
Janet has taught a variety of writing classes at The University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, Gratz College, synagogues, businesses, churches, and art museums, and teaches expressive writing and journaling to people with cancer. She also leads a non-fiction writing group and works with people on an individual basis.
She lives in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Cary Mazer, daughter Hope Falon-Mazer, and their two cats, Mendel and Rifka.
“To see the Jewish festivals refracted through the eyes and ears of a spiritually drawn Jew who then gives them shape and color in playful, serious verse gives new life to them and to us.”
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, author of “Seasons of Our Joy,” “Down-to-Earth Judaism,” and “Godwrestling — Round 2.”
Arthur Ocean Waskow is an American author, political activist, and rabbi associated with the Jewish Renewal movement
I loved the poems: they are deceptively simple, with humor and poignance, very human. –Martha
Janet’s original poems provide a thought-provoking glimpse into her take on the meaning and significance of a Jewish way of life. Her unbridled creativity guides the reader through paths which frequently, and sometimes surprisingly, “rings a bell” of concurrence with the reader’s own views and experiences. –Ron
I am reading it slowly and savoring a few poems at a time. Each one is a little treasure and each one makes me think about something I didn’t think about before or say to myself, “Yes, I have felt the same way but never had the marvelous language to express it the way Janet does.” –Shelley
Your voice is universal, and such a gift. –Peggy
I devoured the glossary and contextual notes at the beginning of each chapter, appreciative of the fact that you have taken the time to invite me to this knowledge. Then, with a new understanding, I enter into your words and feel them dance and settle in my heart. –Alison
I came home from yesterday’s morning (Yom Kippur) service and thought I want to do something quiet and reflective. I went to my bookcase and pulled out In the Spirit of the Holidays. I read all of your Yom Kippur poems. It was exactly what I needed and wanted. –Carol
It was very helpful to peruse your book’s Yom Kippur writings yesterday afternoon as I was struggling to stay engaged with the day while at home. –Mark
My sister is delighted with the copy of In the Spirit of the Holidays I gave her and told me how she read from it at Pesach at her seder. –Jonathan
Post-pandemic events TBA
Also by Janet Ruth Falon
The Jewish Journaling Book
Janet Ruth Falon delves into the practical aspects of keeping a journal as well as how you can use your journal to nurture Jewish values and concerns. Using examples from her own writing, she demonstrates how journaling can unleash your creativity and reveal aspects of yourself that you may not have thought about before. She also includes 52 journaling tools that teach specific techniques to help you create and maintain a vital, living journal, from a Jewish perspective.
Inspiring and practical, this guided tour of journaling shows how yours can be used to better understand yourself and the world.