Jill Hammer


Hannah Returns to Shiloh

The heart that wants
doesn’t know what it is to have.

That’s my excuse
for having promised to leave
my firstborn, child of my soul,

among strangers—with the man
who once called me drunkard.
I thought having a son would be enough,
but it’s having every day with him that matters.

This is my prayer:
let me watch him run on the hills,
chastise the stray goat
chewing on the edges of his robe
with his stern little temper.
Let me stroll to the village well
with him eagerly pulling me forward 
just one more time.

O Samuel, you are dearer to me
than the ten sons I once imagined.
I cannot break my vow,
but the God who answered me at Shiloh
now breaks my heart
worse than when I was fruitless
and abandoned.

We come to the holy place,
the altar where I once prayed:
“Look upon my suffering.”
The robe I made 
is a bit large for him;
he will grow into it.

My hand, empty of his,
emptier now than my womb ever was,
reaches after him as he vanishes,
curly-haired and small,
through the untouchable door.  




Rabbi Jill Hammer, PhD, author, ritualist, scholar, poet, and dreamworker, is the Director of Spiritual Education at the Academy for Jewish Religion (www.ajrsem.org), and co-founder of the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute (www.kohenet.org). Her new book on Jewish mysticism is titled Return to the Place: The Magic, Meditation, and Mystery of Sefer Yetzirah.  Rabbi Hammer is also the author of other books including The Hebrew Priestess: Ancient and New Visions of Jewish Women’s Spiritual Leadership (with Taya Shere), The Jewish Book of Days: A Companion for all SeasonsSisters at Sinai: New Tales of Biblical Women, and The Book of Earth and Other Mysteries.  She lives in Manhattan with her wife and daughter.