Lowe explores her own Jewishness by consulting the Torah in this collection of poems and prose.
For a decade, the author has written divrei Torah (commentaries about the Torah) for her conservative Jewish congregation in Tucson, Arizona. She collects them here for the first time to share them with a wider audience: “My main objective is to make Torah alive today, to find something that resonates in our modern world,” she writes in the preface. Alongside the commentaries, Lowe includes poems, midrashim (biblical exegesis), and personal essays that explore some of the same ideas as the divrei Torah in different formats. She divides the book into five sections, based on the book of the Torah under discussion, and another (“A Bissel of This and a Bissel of That”) for odds and ends. Each includes a mix of poetry and prose that’s interpretive and personal. For example, the section on the book of Genesis begins with two divrei—one about the color blue and one about the possibility of boredom in paradise. These are followed by the poem “Eve’s Bite,” concerning Eve’s famous tasting of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, which begins: “As she took that first tentative bite of the beckoning fruit, Eve tasted / regret; / remorse; / guilt; and, / surprisingly, a touch of exhilaration.” Another poem, “Simchat Torah Jellied-Apple Memories,” tells of candied-apple treats that the author would eat as a shul student. Lowe is a thoughtful, warm writer in both her prose and poems. Her verse ranges from the serious to the light, the latter of which is on effective display in her apple poem: “Translucent red coats of tooth-chipping ability, / Who cared at all for enamel’s fragility?” Her accessible discussions of the Torah will sound familiar to anyone who’s been to Judeo-Christian services, as she finds ways to relate the ancient words to modern experience. The final section—which includes more personal poems and essays as well as a recipe for kosher pickled green tomatoes—is particularly charming, if idiosyncratic. Those looking for lighter Torah-related fare may find comforting wisdom here.
A pleasant collection of essays and verse about the Torah.