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Don’t Half-A*s It – A poem for Parsha Ki Tavo

and you will observe and fulfill them with all your heart and with all your soul.
-Deuteronomy 26:16

and to make you supreme, above all the nations that He made,
-Deuteronomy 26:19

There’s a choice to be made here.
I could write a poem called Don’t Half-A*s It
in which I give details of past experiences

in which I took shortcuts that I shouldn’t have.
Not literal shortcuts, but metaphorical ones.
The kind when you don’t do something exactly right

and, as usually happens in these situations
you end up having to do the whole thing over
because your time saving measure didn’t work.

I’d have to call this poem Don’t Half-A*s It
as that’s the first thing I came up with and I’m
already so excited about it (plus a big believer

in Ginsberg’s first thought, best thought ideology.)
I’m not sure the people who typically read my poems
want to see the word a*s all over them, even if I

censor it a little by replacing one of the letters
with an asterisk. The other option is to write a poem
in which I express my discomfort (again)

with the concept of being a people, supposedly,
made supreme, above all the nations. Look,
I want to always be an example of having done

what I was supposed to do, but I stop short of
wanting to be a light to the nations. I’d settle for
lighting up my own hallway. But this is the kind

of thought that disappoints the more traditionally inclined
who look at the words of the Torah as given by
the brightest source of light possible.

So when I come along and say hey, I’m not into that
they’ll say things like more drivel from another non-believer.
I’m paraphrasing, but what is interpretation of Torah

if not the greatest exercise in paraphrasing?
I stand in the shadow of the greatest paraphrasers –
Rashi, Maimonides, Hillel, Nachson. Feinstein, Wolpe.

I run into the forest screaming my discordant ideas.
I toss punctuation around like a linguist’s nightmare.
I pray to God they’ll print any of it.


God Wrestler: a poem for every Torah Portion by Rick LupertLos Angeles poet Rick Lupert created the Poetry Super Highway (an online publication and resource for poets), and hosted the Cobalt Cafe weekly poetry reading for almost 21 years. He’s authored 26 collections of poetry, including “God Wrestler: A Poem for Every Torah Portion“, “I’m a Jew, Are You” (Jewish themed poems) and “Feeding Holy Cats” (Poetry written while a staff member on the first Birthright Israel trip), and most recently “I Am Not Writing a Book of Poems in Hawaii” (Poems written in Hawaii – Ain’t Got No Press, August 2022) and edited the anthologies “Ekphrastia Gone Wild”, “A Poet’s Haggadah”, and “The Night Goes on All Night.” He writes the daily web comic “Cat and Banana” with fellow Los Angeles poet Brendan Constantine. He’s widely published and reads his poetry wherever they let him.

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