Things Overheard in the Synagogue
Ira Bedzow
Urim Publications (Penina Press) / 151 pp.

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:

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.

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