Shabbat Poetry Project

Written by: OneTable Team

Shabbat Poetry Project

“…poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought.” — Audre Lorde, On Poetry

Sometimes it’s hard to find the right words. Fortunately, there is so much beautiful poetry in the world that can help us express how we are feeling and can help us set the tone for our Shabbat experiences.

From elevating your dinner description to inspiring a gathering to opening or closing your dinner with intention, here are some of our favorite poems to deepen your Shabbat practice. We hope you find one that feels right for you.

For when you need hope or reassurance…

“I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.”

– The Peace of Wild Things, Wendell Berry

Keep exploring…

Holding the Light, Stuart Kestenbaum

Still I Rise, Maya Angelou

For when you’re sharing with a friend…

“may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that.”

– blessing the boats, Lucielle Clifton

Keep exploring…

In Defense of Our Overgrown Garden, Matthea Harvey

You Reading This, Be Ready, William Stafford


For when you desire a walk in the woods…

“a creek babbling childishly over pebbles,
a small bridge with rough-hewn railings—
this is my little park.”

– Today is Forever, Malka Heifetz Tussman

Keep exploring…

Worms, Carl Dennis

Just as the Calendar Began to Say Summer, Mary Oliver

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost


For when you want to elevate your dining experience…

“The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live…”

– Perhaps the World Ends Here, Joy Harjo

Keep exploring…

From Blossoms, Li Young-Lee

Onions, William Matthews

My Species, Jane Hirshfield


For when you’re dreaming of justice…

“When you inhale and when you exhale
breathe the possibility of another world
into the 37.2 trillion cells of your body
until it shines with hope.
Then imagine more.”

– V’ahavta, Aurora Levins Morales

Keep exploring…

The African Burial Ground, Yusef Komunyakaa

An Old Story, Tracy K. Smith


For when it’s a holiday…

Rosh Hashanah — The birthday of the world, Marge Piercy

Yom Kippur — The Real Work, Wendell Berry, and Wild Geese, Mary Oliver (Thank you to OneTable host, Clove, for suggesting this one.)

Sukkot — September Tomatoes, Karina Borowicz, and In Harvest, Sophie Jewett

Simchat Torah — Poem for Torah on Simchat Torah, Rabbi Jill Hausman

Hanukkah — Season of Skinny Candles, Marge Piercy

Thanksgiving — America, Richard Blanco

Birthday — On the Eve of a Birthday, Timothy Steele



This poetry project was written in collaboration with Natalie Bergner and Annie Prusky.