To return to The Deronda Review homepage, click here.


6 Shvat 5777/ February 2, 2017


Dear friends and fellow-poets,

                                                            we are now

in the month of Shvat.  There’s been a little rain. 

The almond trees are flowering; cyclamen,

anemone and asphodel come out

like stars on the Judean earth; soon now

on Tu (15th) of Shvat, at the full moon,

we’ll celebrate the New Year of the Trees—

an agricultural marker first recorded

in Second Temple times.  The day unfolded

a deeper meaning to the Kabbalists

who gathered in Safed: they kept the day

with feasts of ten fruits and four cups of wine

and evocations of the mystic Tree

of the Sfirot, the hidden infrastructure

of the complex creation that is Man.

Since the re-founding of our commonwealth

it has become a time to meditate

with deepened gratitude on our renewed

connection with the land our fathers tended;

and of late years this festival has brought

reflections on the natural world created

for our use, and entrusted to our care.

This year the day must bring intensified

prayers for regrowth upon the blackened slopes

where many trees once planted by the hands

of those who loved this land, went up in flames: may those who will again be out there planting

this Tu BiShvat, be seconded by rains!


November’s fires, thank G-d, spared human life

but claimed the homes of many, and the paintings

of one great artist—Yoram Raanan—

most of whose forty years’ work now is ashes

though images survive to give the sense

of a loss that will be felt through generations.

Out of that sense of loss we called for poems

that could reflect a little of the light

still visible, and constitute a prayer

for the renewal of the inspiration

that flashed these sights too briefly to the world.

From more than twenty poets came the tributes

that fill the first division of this issue

which also has to speak of other losses:

Gretti Izak and Sue Tourkin Komet,

whose voices, often heard here, now are silent;

Michael Mark, builder and visionary,

known through friends, a tree of life to many,

murdered upon the road outside his home

south of Hevron, where live some of our bravest

(there are no poems yet about Amona,

twice now uprooted by decree of those

whom heat of hate has turned against their own).

But where, more than on this disputed soil,

does life lift up its head and dare to flourish

all the more vividly against the glare?

So in this issue there was also room

for poems on the incidents of life

with its outcroppings of coincidence,

on fellow creatures and on natural forces,

on how form works in art and in the world,

on the ongoing struggle of the spirit.

This is the largest issue we have printed;

we hope you’ll sip it slowly, taste its fruits

at leisure. 

                    This year’s calendar would have it

that Tu Bishvat falls on Shabbat Shirah,

the Sabbath when we read in shul the song

that burst forth at the splitting of the sea,

when nature’s laws were overturned to save

the people upon whom was laid the task

of teaching the Creator’s laws and thus

keeping the world from going back to chaos.

This year, then, we are specially reminded

that all this world’s solid causality,

the basis of all rational calculations,

depends on an incalculable Will,

on a sustaining pulse from Otherwhere,

felt perhaps – sometimes – in the veins of song,

though mingled with the human heart’s desires.

And thus we pray that what we offer here

be heard as celebration of Creation

and prayer that in the world the sap may rise

of a new spring when humankind will flower

in the light of justice, toward the G-d of life.

                  Esther Cameron, Editor-in-chief

                    Mindy Aber Barad, Co-editor for Israel