June 19, 2024
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Take ‘A Stroll for the Soul’ With Efrat Malachi

Reviewing: “A Stroll for the Soul:
A Book of Jewish Poems” by Efrat Malachi. Independently published. 2021. English. Paperback. 148 pages. ISBN-13:
979-8526900256.

Deep, meaningful conversations are the province of seminary girls in their dorms late at night, friends meeting for coffee, and sometimes spouses snatching some quiet time together. But when you want to have a DMC with yourself, and with Hashem, you need alone time.

In “A Stroll for the Soul: A Book of Jewish Poems,” Efrat Malachi takes a poetic journey through the garden of her inner and outer life, and invites you to do the same, with her lyrical words as your guide. She shows you how to stop and smell the roses in your life, pull out weeds and accept the thorns so you can learn to navigate around them. She writes about the beliefs, rituals and holidays that make Jewish life special, and captures the emotion of how it feels to celebrate them, sometimes with a whimsical eye but always with love. She confronts pain—bereavement, tragedy, history—and shows you how to emerge with renewed faith.

In her introduction, Malachi explains that the five sections of “A Stroll for the Soul” correspond to the five books of the Torah. The chapters are labeled “Character,” “Holiness,” “Affection,” “Injury” and “Mind”—an acronym for CHAIM, life. Within each section are poems and musings inspired by Tehillim but with a down-to-earth, contemporary sensibility. In “The WhatsApp Chat,” Efrat describes the status of her davening on any given day as a series of text messages and perceived responses from Hashem. The poem is illustrated by a phone with “Hashem” on the top line as the respondent, with a few blank chat bubbles. In “Soul Sisters,” Efrat compares fonts, the style of printed words, to the bond of Jewish women throughout the world. In “Sincerely,” she writes a letter to Hashem, a plaintive call to express her thanks while also asking Him to show her how to achieve a successful life and perform miracles for her as he did for our ancestors.

Malachi takes on the entirety of Jewish experience, but don’t mistake her for a weary veteran of this world. She is a recent Stern College graduate who is brimming with enthusiasm for Judaism, art, literature and film. She was raised in Borough Park by Modern Orthodox Israeli parents with Yemenite ancestry, and educated in Jewish schools. “I am grateful to my parents for supporting me in becoming who I am,” she said. “Without their support, none of this would be possible.”

Poetry articulates the duality Malachi grapples with: affinity with Judaism and the secular world. “I find myself going back and forth between my two sides—Jewish and human, emotional and logical.” In “S.B.Y (Soon By You),” she writes about the real shidduch crisis—how two people can come together “not as two halves but two wholes.”

“I’m very independent but also passionate,” she said. “Sometimes I try to imagine scenes of how I’ll fit as an individual and as part of a couple.” There is also raw emotion in poems about talking to God and contemplating the conflicts among the Jewish people. “It’s a fight somehow, but a fulfilling fight going towards redemption.”

Malachi fused her love of secular poetry with her love of Judaism to create a style she hadn’t seen anywhere else. She taught herself how to use Amazon Self-Publishing and collaborated with a college friend, Rebecca Kerzner, who was beginning her career as a graphic designer, to create the book’s illustrations. She began organizing the book in 2020, at the height of COVID, while still a student.

“It was so exciting to work on the book; a reason to push through my studies to get to do what I loved as a reward,” Malachi said. The poems were already written; the challenge was to give it a structure. “I wanted to give it breadth; make it holy while using humor, and not be repetitive. The CHAIM format made it work.”

The title, “A Stroll for the Soul,” implies a mindful exploration of one’s own nature and relationship with Hashem. “It’s a helpful meditation about going on a walk with yourself while immersed with the world,” Malachi explained. “It’s all about slowing down, just trying to be, with whatever you’re going through.” While the purpose is for individual reflection, the book is also a way for people to connect in their shared struggle for meaning and purpose. “I want to help people personalize their Judaism, not be robotic, and use my struggles and triumphs as a guide. I want people to read my book so we can celebrate our wins and losses together.” The reviews are starting to appear on Amazon and clearly, Malachi is succeeding:

“This book encapsulates the essence of Judaism in the most relatable ways. Efrat’s ability to take a simple idea and infuse it with depth and thoughtfulness transforms ideas into genius poetic verses. Highly recommend.” … “The author’s poems are easy to navigate, yet provoke the reader to take a deeper look within themselves. Malachi combines emotion, linguistic ability and religious motifs to look at life’s situations through a unique lens. I highly recommend this poetry compilation to anyone looking to add a little boost to their day and gain some life insights along the way.” … “I suggest you sit on a bench at a park, grab a cup of coffee and open this awesome book. I was instantly able to connect to the words, which made my mind explore things I never thought of before.”

To purchase “A Stroll for the Soul,” visit https://amzn.to/3NRuml5

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