Multicolored Shards – Edna Garte

A man threw a stone at a synagogue window
and it turned into shards of multicolored glass.
Beyond them a lady had just lit a candle.
“So glad you’ll be coming,” she’d said.

“What does it mean to be Jewish?”
a friend wanted to know.

When I was a child my bedroom faced
the back of a synagogue.
Sometimes music came through open windows.
I saw young men on a stairway carrying books.
A few spoke in hushed voices.
I felt they were in a mystery realm
though my parents disagreed
with religious ideas.

The light purple evening sky looked like God
— of whom I’d heard from others.
When it got darker I thought he might be angry.
Not at me – I felt he stood up for children
but I liked a lighter sky better.

So what does it mean to be Jewish?
History my other friends don’t know?
Candle flames with purple light between them?
A few jokes and tales?
Goodness at the center of life?
Chicken soup with noodles and carrots?

I could say to the man with the stone
I know you had a reason for throwing it.
Maybe a girl said ‘No’?
It’s lucky that no one was hurt this time.

But what does it mean to be Jewish?
A synagogue website shows fragments
of multicolored brightness
that come together to make a pattern.
It takes us above and beyond
and brings us home to earth.


Edna Garte is retired from teaching cross-cultural introductions to art, music and literature on the college level.  Her previously published work has included poetry, songs, memoir and non-fiction about the arts.  She is currently a member of Kol Halev, Baltimore, a Reconstructionist congregation.