R. Sonja Keren Pilz in From Narrow Places

Buy the book: yourbayit.org/narrow-places/

Rabbi Sonja Keren Pilz, PhD, a member of Bayit’s Liturgical Arts Working Group, earned her doctorate from the department of Rabbinic Literature at Potsdam University in Germany and holds Rabbinic Ordination from Abraham Geiger College in Germany. Prior to becoming the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Shalom, she worked for the Central Conference of American Rabbis as Editor of CCAR Press. She also taught Worship, Liturgy, and Ritual at HUC-JIR in New York and the School of Jewish Theology at Potsdam University, and served as a rabbinic intern, adjunct rabbi, and cantorial soloist for congregations in Germany, Switzerland, Israel, and the US. Not surprisingly, she loves to write poetry, midrashim, and prayers. Her work has been published in ERGON, Liturgy, Worship, the CCAR Journal, Ritual Well, and a number of anthologies. She lives with her husband and son in Bozeman, MT.

Here are some glimpses of her work from inside the book:


Second Calendar

There is a Jewish calendar for those who came late.

Until Tuesday afternoon,
One might prolong the shabbes
For all those still in need
Of a second soul.

On pessach sheni,
All those can access freedom
Who were too preoccupied with life
And therefore missed the first ten calls.

On each yom kippur katan,
All those of us who didn’t feel entirely
Pure and innocent
May commit themselves anew.

And then there is chanukah,
For all those who missed the initial party,
Who celebrate later,
Who are able to rejoice in joys postponed.

Time seems to welcome
The tired, slow, sick, and weary;
A tender, darker calendar,
For those who stayed behind. No

As if someone smuggled,
In the midst of darkness,
A spark of light into our homes:
A warm, growing glow.

Sonja Keren Pilz

Second calendar. Jewish tradition offers opportunities to “re-do.” Prolong the shabbes. If havdalah is not made on Saturday night, it can be made until the end of Tuesday. Pesach sheni. See Numbers 9:6, about one who was tamei and could not celebrate Pesach in its time. Yom Kippur katan. This “little Yom Kippur” is marked each month. Chanukah. This 8-day festival was an opportunity to “re-do” the Sukkot which had not been properly observed.



These days, I spend much time
Following with my eyes
the fine veins
On my baby’s forehead
They remind me of the riverbeds
I once saw rising
In an airplane
Back from Washington DC.
Back then those reminded me of the wild nets of tree roots
And branches
Exposed in colder landscapes
At coarser times.
Now those make me think of different rivers,
Higher mountains,
Animal markets,
Felling machines eating their ways into old growth.
My grandparents
Made furniture
But would have never imagined
The wounds we cut, every day,
Into worlds we don’t own.
“Connected,” I whisper, as my fingers caress the streams
Of his lifelines,
Flowing like rivers, merchants, meat, and fur;
Connected through wires,
Currencies, consumption, travel,
Business, air, disease, and time.
“Connected”—“In motion”—
Changing—no stopping—
Connected—no stopping—
Changing—in motion—
Connected—in motion—
Connected—No stop—

*Zoonosis: An infectious disease transmitted from a non-human animal to a human, such as HIV, Ebola, and COVID-19.

Sonja Keren Pilz


Hilchot Purim

Anoint yourself
Take baths and showers
Let no one you love come close
For twelve months
Or more

Turn the world upside down
Let inside become outside
Let outside disappear
For twelve months
Or more

Cover your face,
Stop whistling, kissing, and singing
Speak calmly
For twelve months
Or more.

Put ash on your head
Bend over in mourning
Demand justice, give names to the loss
For twelve months
Or more

Send support and care
Carefully packaged
By essential strangers
For twelve months
Or more

Drink, even drink too much
Forget your sorrow
At least sometimes
For twelve months
Or more

Sit down, eat, and rest,
Let the sunbeams find you
Let food be a comfort
For twelve months
Or more

Dare to step into the closed chambers
Guarded spaces of the inner palace
Dare to reach out and touch
After twelve months
Or more.

Remember that one day
The last day of the days before
Light a candle each year
For twelve months
Or more.

One day, some day,
We will make noise again
In the meanwhile, let’s change the world quietly
For twelve months
Or more.

Sonja Keren Pilz

Buy the book: yourbayit.org/narrow-places/


From Narrow Places: Liturgy, Poetry, and Art of the Pandemic Era was published this month by Bayit and features the collaborative work of our pluralist Liturgical Arts Working Group over the first eighteen months of the COVID-19 pandemic.