Joshua Hammerman
Rabbi, award winning journalist, author of "Embracing Auschwitz" and "Mensch-Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi"

The storm before the calm

In light of the massive snowstorm afflicting Israel – and the nor’easter still pounding New England, I offer some reflections on Psalm 29, the storm psalm, as filtered through Yehuda Amichai. Stay warm, Jerusalem.

 The Storm Before the Calm

The Voice of the Eternal on the Waters, God in full glory thundering…
The Voice of Adonai smashing cedar forests on Mt. Lebanon…
Convulsing all the deer…stripping the forests…presiding over the cosmos…
Adonai’s force will be channeled to Israel, blessing God’s people Israel with peace.  – Psalm 29


Amichai the poet wrote:

“Now in the storm before the calm
I can tell you what
In the calm before the storm I didn’t say
Because they would have heard us and discovered our hiding place.”

It is in the storm we hear the cosmic cry
Wind whipping, rain smashing, thunder blasting away
At our false sense of security.
And illusions of immortality.

There is no hope of hiding
From fear
From doubt
From ourselves.

Everything comes into question in the storm
And everything falls into place
We hold tight onto those few things we cherish the most
And those people
And God.

Jerusalem is built high in the mountains.
So when the plumes of clouds swell with rain
They plummet to within inches of the holy soil
The rain slashes the earth, violently decanting,
Splashing the shrines; the gravestones sink in the mud.

The entire force of the storm is concentrated there,                             going not one inch beyond Scopus                                                        Into the arid wilderness.                                                                            In Jerusalem, the desert meets the sea.                                              There are no compromises.

But the storm does end.
The clouds depart quickly, and stay away for months.
Allowing hope to rise again.
And the illusion of calm,
Which swells and swells
Until the storm returns.

About the Author
Award-winning journalist, father, husband, son, friend, poodle-owner, Red Sox fan and rabbi of Temple Beth El in Stamford, CT. Author of Mensch-Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi – Wisdom for Untethered Times and "Embracing Auschwitz: Forging a Vibrant, Life-Affirming Judaism that Takes the Holocaust Seriously." His Substack column, One One Foot: A Rabbi's Journal, can be found at Rabbi Hammerman was a winner of the Simon Rockower award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism, for his 2008 columns on the Bernard Madoff case, which appeared first on his blog and then were discussed widely in the media. In 2019, he received first-prize from the Religion News Association, for excellence in commentary. Among his many published personal essays are several written for the New York Times Magazine and Washington Post. He has been featured as's Conservative representative in its "Ask the Rabbi" series and as "The Jewish Ethicist," fielding questions on the New York Jewish Week's website. Rabbi Hammerman is an avid fan of the Red Sox, Patriots and all things Boston; he also loves a good, Israeli hummus. He is an active alum of Brown University, often conducting alumni interviews of prospective students. He lives in Stamford with his wife, Dr. Mara Hammerman, a psychologist. They have two grown children, Ethan and Daniel, along with Cobie, Casey and Cassidy, three standard poodles. Contact Rabbi Hammerman: (203) 322-6901 x 307