Dear Jael, Wife of Heber the Kenite

Two a.m. here. How are you? How’s Heber? Any wars? In South Carolina, the neighborhood sleeps. I am in my tent browsing the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. I look for the entry on “disability poetics.” Maybe it is called something else. Like what? I find deep image and dolce stil nuovo and ecopoetics. The Psalmist went blind. They could start there.

No, I’m not angry. The Torah anesthetized me long ago. Back before I could drink wine, it broke my heart to read Leviticus. “No man who has any defect may come near.” I am twice expelled. We were not allowed in temples. Why should we be allowed to write poems? Oh, the poems they write about us! Their poems are worse than the Song of Deborah. At least she called you “most blessed of tent-dwelling women.”

So why bother you about it? Honestly, I tried to find a disabled woman in the Torah. But none have names. Try addressing a letter without a name. Twice a year, somebody will come at me with the Apostle Paul. “Didn’t he have a thorn in his side?” Right, right, the ole thorn-in-side metaphor. File that under “ecopoetics.”

I am writing to you because you are powerful and dangerous. You stuck a spike through a man’s head. There was peace for forty years. You are memorialized in a poem. Do you want to speak for yourself? Please advise. Should I write the editors of the Princeton Encyclopedia and demand they name “disability poetics”? Or let it go?

Yours faithfully,
Jillian Weise


(This web-only article is part of a special series associated with Tikkun’s Fall 2014 print issueDisability Justice and Politics. Subscribe now to read these subscriber-only articles online, and sign up for our free email newsletter to receive links to future web-only articles on this topic, as well! Visit to read the other web-only articles associated with this issue.)



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