Review of Things Overheard in the Synagogue

By Rabbi Ari Enkin

I’ve never read poetry in my life before, and frankly, I have no interest in it. But I grabbed the opportunity to examine “religious poetry.” I know of no other work of Torah poetry in the orthodox world.

Ira Bedzow’s new book “Things Overheard in the Synagogue” is a beautiful and quaint collection of over seventy pieces of poetry reflecting his thoughts and emotions and many different issues in the Jewish world in general, and the synagogue world in particular. It’s a work where the author “gets things off his chest.” There are also a number of pieces where the author uses poetry as a springboard for Talmudic and Midrashic commentary. There are also about twenty short essays in the section “Remarks and Reflections.”

Here’s a sample:

RegretsThings Overheard in the Synagogue

Upon a cliff on Mount Nebo

out to the east, north, south, and west,

I see a place I’ll never go

even though it’s been my life’s quest

because I failed in one small test.

I hit the rock and did not tell

it, “Give water on God’s behest.”

I will not enter Israel.

If asked some forty years ago

would I still have given my best

if I knew then what I now know,

I probably would have in jest

said this result I could have guessed

and then to the man I would tell

that by the service I was blessed.

I will not enter Israel.

The idea has just been impressed

upon my heart deep in my chest

as I stand on this precipice.

I will not enter Israel.

Even one such as myself who doesn’t appreciate poetry (at all!) is able to benefit from Bedzow’s personal and compelling commentary on the Jewish world today. And if you do like poetry, I’m sure you’ll really enjoy this work.

This review originally appears on Torah Book Reviews.

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