Azazel, Piyyutim, and Avodah

September 29, 2013
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Is made of lead and nails of Azazel, receiver of the second goat. Sin builds us, while enlightened vision frees our souls - but the apple still tastes sweet.

As a poet, finding hidden connections between my heart and my heritage always seems to bring light - a subtle hope that who I am is always who I should have been. There is a soft place, a wide-eyed child inside that seems to be always hoping, always dreaming about what may-be on that next page, in that next room, eagerly seeking whose heart is beating in that next forest glade illuminated by prayers long ago spoken to an infinite universe, deep within.

Yom Kippur brings it out, perhaps more than any other experience. There’s a deep thread, linking me to the rest of Jewish history, to the people that raised and gave me life, and it’s tugged on with undeniable clarity during this time, the end of a long red string held gently in the left hand of a child, gazing upon a Bimah, long ago. This is a time to go deep, the source of poetry, the essence of what separates life from death, the forgoing of fear, the gift of forgiveness. I do.


Wanders in the desert, lost and wondering, why? Dice have landed me here, awaiting, but what? A teacher, who taught us to bare fruit.

There is a story, of Azazel, the deceiver, teacher, snake, that gave us knowledge. It’s a biblical tale, about one who gave us fire, metal, adornment, industry, and tools of war. Some say that the scapegoat, the second of two in lots drawn on Yom Kippur, is sent to a deserted ravine to be plucked by this Sin Bearer, for according to, 1 Enoch 10:8, “The whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azazel: to him ascribe all sin.”

The first goat is only marginally luckier, as it is to be sacrificed to holiness, purity, light; while the other walks in darkness; both will bleed red, both die in the name of sin. We entreat both, on the holiest of holy days, facing darkness and light, and both require sacrifice, as there is no day without night. This is the work, the service, the gift.


Is a Piyyut, acrostic of my name, because when words are enough, this is how I pray.

Letting go of what not needs, my soul
Enough, I hope, to scales in my favor weigh
Only if I’ve done my due,
Renewing, forgiving, all who ask, we may

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Lee Frankel-Goldwater is a professional environmental educator, writer, and social good project developer as well as a recent graduate of NYU's Environmental Conservation Education masters program. Lee has also studied at the Center for Creative Ecology on Kibbutz Lotan, Israel and at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. Currently he has been leading development of the Global Action Classroom, an Earth Child Institute initiative focused on global youth environmental cooperation and helping to create the Global Sustainability Fellows, a program of The Sustainability Laboratory seeking to design a new and innovative, international sustainability masters program. Other projects include: developing mobile applications for encouraging social action, mixed media video design, leading peace and environmental education workshops, and doing his best to live a life in connection with the Earth while helping others to do the same. At heart Lee is a poet, traveler, musician, and philosopher with a deep curiosity for new experiences, unfamiliar cultures, learning languages, and often dancing to the beat of a different drummer. As student of yoga, meditation, and spiritual arts, Lee aims to connect the inner journey with the outer one, hoping, as he can, to share what is learned along the way, enjoying the journey.

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