III. Now, Israel


Jacob with his staff,
alone in the camp.
All that is dear to him,
wives, children, flocks,
all he brought from Haran,
across the river.

He stands gazing
at the other side,
all he loved are there,

his father’s home,
his mother,
in his mind he saw them,
his twin — his brother,
his strong, red-haired brother.

he saw the tent,
blind Isaac at death’s door,
he felt the goat skin
rough and raw,
bloody cuffs and collar.

He struggled with God
and with self and

Now, Israel.
                    — Michael E. Stone



It was so long ago
Only a few do truly know
what happened in this place
here where ironic flowers grow
fed by the stench of death
killed by the Master Race
It was so long ago
Only a few do truly know.

Books and monuments stand erect
Their footnotes can dissect the pain
and walls of stone themselves will weep
The oldest who do yet remain
will never get a full night’s sleep.
Their nightmares still dismember
those bodies in a heap.

The years have quickly gone
The sun and snow have followed them
where bones can still condemn
and violence with its tears can stun.

It was so long ago
Only a few do truly know
what happened in this place
where here ironic flowers grow
fed by the stench of death
killed by the Master Race
it was so long ago
Only a few do truly know.
                                       — Estelle Gershgoren Novak



Surviving, Orpheus knew returning alone
from flesh-fueled fires to a deaf, dissonant earth
that the calling sea, wind whispering trees, a stone’s
silence, a child’s cry — no songs could soothe

the hard truth known — nothing would sound the same.
The rhythms of hope, listening skies, once blue—
all harmony was lost. We perished name-
less — how could he turn away? On fiery wings we flew,

bodies of ash — our sparks filled the burning night.
Sealed in airless cattle cars, lives torn apart—
no songs nor screams could survive the fires. Our weight-
less dead, silenced chambers of despair seized our hearts.

All whom we loved, heartrent last breaths, all hope
held perished. Oh who will hear the whirlwind weep?

                                                                              — Amos Neufeld



According to historians, the Jew
left his homeland, being three times exiled:
Assyria, Babylon, Rome. (A few
remained throughout the centuries.) Reviled

or tolerated, strangers in strange lands,
settling, wandering again, as new kings
conquered their new homes, issued new commands.
(They’d conquered tribes themselves and knew these things

could be expected.) My family found
themselves in England, in all appearance
like other citizens, felt safe and sound;
but in the Thirties, my British parents

heard neighbors yell at them, ”You dirty Yid,
Go back to Palestine!” And so, I did.
                                                      — David Shaffer


Jerusalem, 2012

The future was a long time coming
not quietly from out of the blue
but with dirt and dust and grime
curses and cries and woe,
and hopelessly behind schedule.
The artist’s rendition was a joke—
nothing but empty promises
and we were angry for the suffering.

Then one cloudless morning we awoke
and the future appeared,
straight as an arrow, silver as a bullet
sleek and shining as a leviathan
riding a wave from out of the deep,
powerful and fast along invisible tracks,
yet hardly above the sound of a hum,
without a blemish on the cold, clean metal,
pristine and glistening in the sun.

Sliding between the old stone buildings,
mocking the cracked pavement, the faded
green awnings, the tired store fronts,
the racks of second hand clothes,
the litter of coffee cups, yesterday’s newsprint—
it was cocky and defiant and terribly new
and so effortlessly beautiful.

We marveled at this miracle,
pronouncing it ”phenomenal” and ”incredible”
feeling ourselves a little bit shabby, not so graceful,
too bitter and heavy hearted, too weary and cynical.
Perhaps it was time we parted from the past,
the burden of that sad sack of regrets
weighing us down, holding us back
that we insist on dragging behind us.

You and I with our palpable sadness—
felt suddenly blessed with an instant of forgetfulness,
all of us feeling a little bit smart, a little less old,
a little bit proud, impatient to press ahead,
our eyes opened wide, our ticket in hand,
amazed to be along for the ride,
as we take the step up, and go on.
                                                  — Roberta Chester



Ancient trees and moss-covered stones
mark the battlegrounds and graves,
Here the heroes, the brave Maccabees
Stood, fought, fell, stood again,
united in their faith and loyal
in life and death to the living tree, the Torah,
with arrows and boulders, soil and bones, they
speak to us of rededication
in the rock-filled fields of old Modi’in

Clusters of grapes, vines and leaves
carved in caves and lintel stones,
in Sanhedriyah and Yerushalayim,
ancient springs, Gihon and Shiloach,
plow paths through streets of stone,
above, on the holy Temple Mount,
still echoes the steps, hidden flame,
where Avraham walked and worshipped
on the high places of Har Moriah
                                                — Brenda Appelbaum-Golani
                                                    19 October 2021



You lived across the sea
In die alte haim, the Old Country,
In a kingdom that is no more.
Come to my country
To teach me the lieder, the songs
You once sang
And the niggunim, the tunes
Your clarinetists and your violinists used to play.

Speak to me, Yiddish,
I fear I am becoming as mute as you,
Another Bontshe Schveig, Bontshe the Silent.
Look, I have brought you a buttered roll,
I have brought you raisins and almonds
And a little white goat to sleep under your bed.
Yiddish, mein tei'ereh, my precious one,
Light your Shabbos candles
And let me hear your voice.

And dance with me, Yiddish, we shall dance together
Like a chasan and kolleh, a bridegroom and bride,
With only a handkerchief between us,
Gelibte meine, my beloved one.

Zog mir, tell me, please —
What light in the night-sky will the world know
And who shall pull its tides
Without the levoneh, the moon, of a Yiddish word?
I wander in a castle's unweeded garden,
In an untended orchard, in a forest,
And cannot find my way.
Perhaps you can be my guide,
Shaine Yiddish, die bas-melech,
Beautiful Yiddish, princess —
For I am lost,
Lost in translation.
                           —Yakov Azriel
For Avrom Sutzkever’s poem ”Yiddish,” see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTPHGZdA8fw



The beauty of your longing
To the delight of the soles of His feet
Upon the earth that you are
On your living body
In the light of the breathing land
You the earth absorbing
The feet of God
The dew of heaven
The passion of the reviving people
                                                     — Imri Perel
translation from Hebrew: EC, Sarita Perel



Valley of grain and grove of olives
Valley of wheat the color of unbleached linen
And Gadi and Zvi in the splendor of their courage
After all we're bound to meet again, without battle and fire
We shall yet return to Dothan Valley
           — Dalia Ravikovich, ”Dothan Valley”

Runner running in Dothan Valley
Toward the dreams in the pits what are you seeking
A Bach prelude
In the pit of the pump
A convoy of half-track for the evacuation approaches
And we shall all return
And enter like an opening prayer into the world of Egypt
And hard labor
And a cry for help
Playing heavenward
On the banks of the valley
(Gadi and Zvi in the splendor of their courage)

When the preludes
Grow weary and the energies
Softly overflow
Even Joseph and his brothers and the pit
That dreams
That weeps
                    — Yoram Nissinovitch
                         translated from Hebrew by EC and Tirtsa Posklinsky-Shehori



Until that Sabbath holy day,
I was ignorant of the story of the boy,
Josiah, eight years of age, escorted
upon the death of a father, ruthless, vain,
crowned king to advance a regime heartless
for certain citizens’ lives, made unbearable.

In time a servant of the new king knows
to retrieve a parchment concealed until now
in the King’s Temple. With courage, he presents
the sacred script to the king, grown in years,
who reads what plainly shocks, opens his eyes
to grasp the scale of his father’s unjust laws

carried into his own sovereign rule—
cruelest of all treatment of the Jews.
Not until that hour would he know
that he too is a Jew—grandson of the righteous
Hezekiah. Overtaken, shaken in mind,
his heart seized, soiled to the core. Whereon

he rises, commands the restoration of his kingdom.
Burning the idols, figures craven to the Baal,
and its degenerative politic. You, too,
may rejoice as I did in this tale
of hand-me-down wickedness, father-to-son,
duly healing in time, on the Plains of Kidron

by a king, who merits his name, Josiah . . .
                                                                 — Reizel Polak



There is, let’s say,
all at once
about the ankles
the merest whispered
air of elsewhere
to suggest a door
left open in another
room, some subtle
violation of the house,
its bolted barriers
breached, its dearly
harvested warmth
escaping into the night.

Or there is perhaps
only the memory
of remembering
but no precise recollection
of that three-bar melody
from maybe JP Sweelink
or the late John Prine,
a simple air that hangs
like a wasp’s nest
abandoned in the brain,
or of the sound made
by the strange name
of that little village
just outside, was it
Taxco? or no,
perhaps Tashkent?

And there is
that sudden plosive
moan of a city bus
in the rainy street,
in each es gibt
of every here and now
and all the errant syllables
that surround you
in the breath, the breach,
the sigh, the song,
where all the whispered world
has found you.
                       — D.B. Jonas


BS”D, 29 Tishri 5782
Rabbi Elazar HaModai says ”and a layer of dew went up”
The words of prayer arose from our ancestors
Who lay like dew on the ground
— Mekhilta De-Rabbi Ishmael, Beshalah, Masekhta de-Vayissa 3

The rustle of willows waved in the wind, wave after wave
In a gentle movement the ends of their leaves were slightly folded
Dance steps of hush-murmur that took place just now
A thin singing dawned in a muted dampness
A tremor of encounter, now it is rising.

What is it, where is it from
The same that sprung from the note of the pleading heart
A new category enters the lexicon of man:
Who brings forth bread from the word.

Sate me with the dew of Your mercy
In the doors of my heart I shall wedge an opening
Day after day.
                        — Tziporah Faiga Lifshitz


to the memory of Emmanuel Levinas

Before the law, I am no rectitude.
I stand upright only by lacking
The capacity to fall.
Before the law, my native irresponsibility
Has no option
But to respond, and my response
Is neither acceptance nor refusal,
Not acquiescence, not surrender,
But simple consequence, pure substance,
An inescapable identity prior to all decision,
Older than being. It is the vestige, the urgency
Of a bygone commitment, a trysting place
Always forgotten, a time of assignation
Always just elapsed, depositing me
Alone in this specific place and time,
This investiture, concretion or vocation
That is the flesh and bone of me.

Before the law, I am cast out
From all home and hearth, exposed
To the ruthless demand
Of whatever is not me, of a disproportion
In things, in the imperious indigence
Of the mouth of another,
A proximity that is speaking,
Or maybe summoning,
An Other that I cannot refuse, an other
To which I am forever subject,
Yet will always manage to ignore,
Because ignorance is in my power.

Before the law, I am subject
To the ceaseless inspiration
Of ”someone in the proximity of someone,”
Solely responsible, yet ever oblivious
To the intimations of an impersonal intimacy,
The fugitive whisper of my recent displacement,
The ”creak of furniture in the quiet night.”

Before the law I am powerless,
For the law is itself powerless, and calls only
To that which is powerless in us,
Silently, urgently, demanding of us
Through a thousand thousand
Imperative acts of righteousness
Only that we love, and that we
Pause to hear the speaking of the world,
Pause to acknowledge irredeemable loss, and live
In celebration, outside all belief
And faith and certitude, renouncing
All nouns and fetishes, the graven images
That return me only
To myself. For the law demands only
The improbable, only the impossible,
Demands only this imperious,
This unreasonable
            — D.B. Jonas



I search for truth-
to know the essence of things
but life goes on and I never reach my goal.
It eludes me to grasp it in my mind
it seems that I pursue an infinite light.
I know logically that truth is near
it is an extension of fearing God
and following His ways.
Yet the thread of the story gets lost in translation
under my own interpretation
so near and yet I miss it
my inner soul knows me well
and it rings the tiny bell of the conscience
Yet I fight it with my emotions
make excuses and create gaps
pass over the gold and search shale for pyrite
What is real and clear is a guidance book
with the depth of written and oral Torah
As I drown in the tempest of my desires
I should but pray and reach out
to grasp the Tree of Life and survive.
                                                        — Hayim Abramson


inspired by Leonard Cohen's song ”It's Torn”

Beside the asphalt crowned with scars
I saw her fluttering
One wing upon the pavement drooped
the other wing — brightening

I remembered her far different,
Much purer, from days of old
Behind her the blue of youthful skies
Beneath her topaz, ruby and gold.

I remembered her sitting
on the cape of kings of yore,
Pulsating flames of prophecy.
Carrying in her claws a scroll of war

And beside the asphalt fluttering to death
I almost turned away from there
I wouldn't have known her without her cooing
if I hadn’t seen the seal on her

I remembered her singing, cooing lament
On the day of the darkened sun
In ruin, in fire, in the books of old
The whiteness of her beauty shone

I remembered her wandering
through mountain haze and desert sun
The fires of the kingdoms hunting her
She traded her feathers for a flaxen gown

I almost passed by her fluttering wings
I did not recognize her on the ground.
In this land beauty dwells in them all
But the pathways to love have still to be found

Beside the asphalt still she is screaming
As she dies and revives, dies and revives
The thousand songs and prayers of longing
That her beauty might shine for my eyes
                                                             — Imri Perel
                                                             translation from Hebrew: EC, Sarita Perel



On the eve of Mashiach
                                                    We are woken up tested and
We are alone
And surrounded
Our books – our friends
The sages of old
Typed pages
From the Rabbis of today
Our sofa –
Like our closest family

               Need metaphors!!
                          The mundane that ties us to life
                          Like chassidim eating at a shiur
                                        To keep their
                                        neshama in their bodies

The birds are free to fly
Call to one another
Meet and mingle on the branches
Of electric poles
Stop signs
Twitter across unseen borders
Politically free

Hashem is talking straight at me:
Pull away from what was
Go inside
Find yourself
Bring it all out
I am me

Without toys strewn all over the floor
Without something in the oven
Three pots simmering on the stove
Who will eat all this food?
No more background scenery
Malls, cafes
                                             Sweep away the distractions
                                             Once removed
                                             Is this mourning?
I remember to breathe
As I gaze at my
Burning bush
This could be it!

                                             Our conclusions
                                             Are now our starting points
                                             Our judgments
                                             We know, we finally do know
                                             That everyone is doing
                                             Their un-cliched best.

It starts with us
                             With me
In our hearts                                          In my heart
Where only we know the truth                I
We now recognize
That we may have been
Wrong                                                  right
There’s no going back

Have we changed?
Has anyone really changed

                                           — Mindy Aber Barad Golembo



He does not know this fact / who dwells serenely on the dry land
— The Seafarer

Sang we then our mountain canticles, brave threnodies
of whippoorwill, of chorused cricket, and sang
full loud the strong songs of cypress and the ash.
For we were lost a full three days within the fish.

It’s then we heard the vivid tongue and dreamed
a livid heaven, a flame that drove us onto burning sand
like sailors left to wander under shipwrecked skies.
For there we lay a full three days in the furnace of the fish.

We kindled too our candle in the blue light,
blue not like lapis, sky or sea but blue as sapphires are,
a temple-blue as of the anemone and raven’s wing.
For we sought sanctuary a full three days in the twilight of this fish.

The fish was larger than the world entire, his blue
a boundless firmament without foundation,
a north without south, a west without east,
where we lay dreaming many days within the bowel of the beast.

Awakened in the belly of the night we found
we’d lost our road forever in that heedless blue, forsaken
the people-purposed shore and every admonition of the flesh.
For we’d at long last found our sanctuary, cradled in that fish.
                                                                                           — D,B. Jonas

 To Section IV