Extempore Effusions on the Completion of Masechet Rosh Hashanah

King Koresh was on the decline
We know it because of this sign:
When he sat on his throne
He was never alone:
There beside him, his pet dog drank wine.

If a man brings his sacrifice late,
Then his wife will not die; that’s the fate
Of a man who can’t pay
Up his debts, for they say
Such a man will be left with no mate.

On the new year of the jubilee
All the Israelite slaves are set free
Then for ten days they feast
Wearing crowns, so at least,
By Yom KIPpur they leave joyfully.

All righteous men die on the dates
They were born, as the Torah relates:
“I will fill out your days”
This is reason to praise
He Who sits doling out human fates.

The Deluge brought great devastation
Wreaked by He-Whose-Above-Exaltation
And when nothing was dry
One who looked to the sky
Would see Kimah, a bright constellation.

Is an etrog a veggie or fruit?
Does it blossom or does it take root?
It grows ripe on a tree
But most sensitively
Don’t you touch it now! Don’t be a brute!

Total sinners are sent down to hell
Where they’re judged for twelve months (just as well)
When their souls start to burn
Unto ash, they return
At the feet of the righteous to dwell.

Blurya the convert once asked
Does God show His face, or stay masked?
With a sin against man
God will not understand
‘Til the sinner is brought to the task.

The end of Adar brought good news
Though the Romans had said we must lose
Out on Torah, we went
To a matron who sent
Us to protest, and that saved the Jews.

Ulla came to relate Israel’s ways:
“They give Elul a full thirty days
Lest the vegetables waste
Or the bodies with haste
Not be buried. I trust them – it pays!”

Yehoshua ben Levi related:
Whereas a month’s length is not fated,
We know of a trick
That will end the month quick:
Let each witness be intimidated.

May a witness be brought in his bed
Or come riding a donkey instead?
May he bring food to eat
Or a weapon to beat?
Yes! It’s written, “These dates must be read.”

The mind of the scholar is fertile
He should poke out his head like a turtle
He can learn, but must teach
He can read, but must preach
If he doesn’t, he’s like desert myrtle.

Coral is brought from the sea
(It does not grow on a coral tree)
With a diver and ship
And some long flax to dip
One can bring it up most carefully.

To announce the new month, take a torch
And stand with it out on your porch
As you wave it around,
Your diaspora town
Will light up (and, with God’s help, not scorch).

On Shabbat every Jew must stay put
He canNOT travel too far on foot
Unless saving a baby
Or fighting fires, maybe —
We don’t want the whole town in soot!

“You’ve glimpsed at the moon but which part?”
Said RabBAN Gamliel. “It’s an art
To be he who’s proCLAIMing
Its waxing or waning
Compare it to my moon-shapes chart.”

“Rav YeHUdah, you’re wearing a ring
With the face of a man or a king.
You with teeth of big size
You must gouge out its eyes
For it’s quite an idolatrous thing!”

To say “That’s the moon!” then say “Not!”
Is surely to lie quite a lot
Can a lady give birth
Then gain even more girth?!
Put that witness who lies on the spot.

“It’s the new moon!” they cried. He desired
To prove them wrong. He never tired
To show them his scorn;
He decided to mourn
For Ben ZAza’s poor mom, who’d expired.

The golden calf story tells how
The people were wayward — and how!
But the substance of sin
Can’t atone for what’s been;
Thus a shofar can’t come from a cow.

The sound of the shofar may last
For the time that it takes to walk past
A synagogue; still
If it wasn’t his will
To have heard it, he needs to re-blast.

If a shofar blast sounds in a pit
Then the shofar blast may be unfit
For one cannot fufill
This great mitzvah until
He hears not just the echo, but it.

A man may not serve his guests bread,
Unless he plans too to be fed
He can’t just stand serving
(Which might be unnerving)
The host should join with them instead.

Can Moses’s hands win a war?
Is THAT what he lifted them for?
No! The people would see
And pray dutifully:
“Please God, do not let Amalek score!”

If the witnesses tarry too long
The Levites will get it all wrong:
“Barchi nafshi,” they’ll say
On a normal weekday
That’s the “kilkul” they did to the song.

I’ve never been one for condoning
Those who say that “t’ruah” means moaning –
If you’d heard Sisera’s mom
You’d know she was not calm—
No, that lady was loud! She was groaning!

Rav Yehudah did not like to pray
He preferred to learn Torah and say:
“You can call my soul dirty
But one day in thirty
Is better than three times a day.”

My Gemara is closed with a sigh
But for now it’s hadran, not goodbye
Since it’s been such a “blast”
We’ll return to it fast
As the new moon returns to the sky.

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