Esther Bitya Cameron


a minidrama


And their father blessed them, saying, Yehudah my son, I liken you to Yehudah the son of Jacob, who was compared to a lion.

Shimon my son, I liken you to Shimon son of Jacob who slew the inhabitants of Shechem.

Yochanan my son, I liken you to Avner the son of Ner, leader of the army of Israel.

Yonatan my son, I liken you to Yonatan the son of Shaul who killed the Philistines.

Elazar my son, I liken you to Pinchas the son of Elazar who was zealous for his G-d and saved the Israelites.

The Scroll of Antiochos


And now, if you live good lives, I’ll see if you can save them.  And I tell you… that if you do not save them the corruption of that state will harm you also.

                                                Rabbi Nachman, “The Tale of the Seven Beggars”


Dramatis personae


Matityahu the Kohen







The Poet


Poet (in front of the curtain)

Chanukah’s coming.  We’ll light the candles, sing,

Spin the top and make the children rich

With chocolate ducats; and we shall remember

Those days, the heroism and the victory.

Shall we thus silence all the grief and insult

Of present days, where no solution’s seen?

Alas! I am a poet and cannot

Be silent.  What I cannot utter, chokes me.

This isn’t going to be light entertainment,

Rather a battle with despair and fear

And what it has to say may not please all.

From the struggle with darkness may a little light

Spring forth! May those who hear fight side by side

With me for hope, and from the depths may counsel

And comradeship arise! (And Understanding

Whatever circumstance it contemplate,

Contains within itself a certain gladness.)


The curtain rises.  A street.  Twilight.  Matityahu and his sons Yehudah, Shim’on, Yochanan, Yonatan, and Elazar, and their sister Chanah.


Matityahu.  Well, here we are.  Our holiday’s already

Begun.  In front of every door

Along the street, menorahs are set up,

And here and there the first night’s candle glimmers.

Yochanan. A national-religious neighborhood –

Modest, yet well kept up.

Matityahu.  Indeed, my son.

Yochanan.  And comfortable.  Perhaps too comfortable.

Father, what is it we are seeking here?

Matityahu.  Souls, my son, souls.  And hearts prepared for struggle.

Yochanan. All quiet hereabouts.  If there’s a war on,

I wonder where’s the front.

 Yehudah.  In many places.

Where Israel borders Lebanon and Gaza,

At the fence around each hilltop settlement,

Between the neighborhoods of mingled cities,

In the Old City’s heart, and somewhere too

In cyberspace where Israel and Iran

Are locked in battles that no eye can see.

Yonatan:  And in those offices, those lecture halls,

Those restaurants, in which the politicians

And diplomats and bureaucrats and who knows

What other agents congregate and dicker

Over the fates of this and other nations. 

Shim’on:  And on the campuses of universities

Funded by grants from nations not our friends

That influence the professorial mind,

While in the student body circulate

Those who stir hatred up and call it justice.

 Yochanan.  Yes, and in writers’, scholars’ conferences

Where it’s imprudent to speak well of us,

And on the news and on the social networks

Where the crimes of those that hate us go unmentioned

And we’re the only sinners.  And not only

Bribery proves persuasive, but the threat

Raised against anyone who dares to trace

The violence to its source – to that envenomed

Root which the lord of all false prophets planted

In the Arabian waste, to propagate

Ever more rapidly its poisonous shoots

To all the settlements of humankind.

Shim’on.  And even into many a heart among us

That venom seeps, making the eye grow dim

At the sight of the enemy, obscuring

That sight with a mirage of peace, suggesting

Accusations against those who stand firm

In defense of those who blame them!  Till some managed

To give the reins of rule to those that hate them,

Like puppets worked by a destroyer’s hand! 

Elazar.  Yet not the poison of that root alone

Assails us, O my brothers.  Not alone

That so-called God whose power is only Force

And lust for domination and for blood,

Whips up its mobs against us, but the thirst

For profit, organized in corporations,

Machines made out of human beings stripped

Of conscience, molded to a mighty golem

That has no loyalties, no conscious aim,

No consciousness indeed, yet a relentless

Tendency to undermine free will

With ever more ingenious temptations

And change the human mind, with all its talents,

Its aspirations, its capacity

For judgment, love, and loyalty, to a lone

Body in a cubicle, riveted

To screens, with all its needs and whims supplied

Without recourse to any fellow-human –

Refashioned in the image of the machine.

And how should such a creature muster courage

To fight for the good things it has already

Relinquished gradually, bit by bit

In exchange for comforts and addictive pleasures?

For what sake could it fight, and with what faith? 

Shim’on.  And those who turn the dials of the machine

See in the call to rest one day in seven

Only an obstacle to power and profit;

Nor can they sympathise with those who cling

To something dear to them for its own sake

And not convertible to currency –

The family, say, or some tract of earth

Promised to them by G-d, on Whose existence

Their system of causality casts doubt. 

Yehudah.  Doubt… yes, I see the hand of Yavan here.

 Matityahu.  You see aright, my son.  Does not all flow

From the retreat of faith before the worship

Of human reason, limited indeed,

Yet capable of finding explanations

For all the miracles of G-d’s Creation,

For all the good that G-d saw fit to bless!

Till at last all they see is particles.

Indeed the snake deceived us, and the fruits

He tempted us to eat have turned the world

To ash, and us, who thought to be as gods,

Into the servants of our own devices! 

Chanah.  And yet for all that, in this place there is faith.

Look, here a candle’s lit, and there another…

These are the homes of those that love the land,

Fathers of families who study Torah,

Youths to whose hands the Torah teaches battle

Yet also deeds of kindness, while the women

Are clothed in strength and dignity, learned in Torah,

And for their kindness worthy of renown. 

Yehudah.  It’s truth they study Torah and support

Their families and generously assist

The needy; but their sustenance derives,

In the end, from that same great machine whose ways

They do not study how to rectify.

They exercise in study halls their reason

On laws of sacrifice, not on the laws

Of the state in which they live, and which they claim

To see as the beginning of redemption!

They sacrifice the blind, the lame, the sick

On the altars of a temple which is not

Built in their generation, nor is it planned.

Elazar:  And they too dance the dance of marketing

Whereby the individual’s desire

Is served, and not that passion of the whole

That springs from an eternal Will that wills

The good of the whole, in which the good of each

Is held implicit.  Nor can they escape

Wholly the taint of a surrounding culture

Which labors to profane each sacred thing.

Observe their daughters: how the necklines creep

Downward each year, while the hemlines creep upward!

Or listen to that pandemonium,

Bad for the ears, with which youth celebrates

The covenant of marriage, or the attainment

Of that age when the boy or girl assumes

Manhood or womanhood and the obligation

To hear the Lord’s command!  And if no outcry

Is raised against the damage to our hearing,

How shall our conscience fortify itself

Against the pressure to grant tolerance

To everything, until the heart is deafened

To the weeping of the victims of a creed

Of cruelty – and of the golem’s message

Of G-dlessness that justifies whatever

Can undermine the covenant between

The two halves of G-d’s image, and the home –

Foundation of our life, nest of our future –

Which founders when that covenant is broken.

No one now counts the tears of the forsaken,

Of the child whose future hangs upon a whim –

And those whose longings turn toward their own sex

Demand not tolerance and understanding

Alone, but all the encouragement and honor

With which the love of bride and groom is crowned –

Nay, we are asked to praise their pride, as if

Pride were not warned against by all our teachers,

Nor are they satisfied till they have wrested

Approval of the gelding of mere children

Persuaded by a media-craze to fancy

Themselves not of the sex which G-d assigned them! 

Shim’on.  Be careful, Elazar! Don’t get yourself

Reincarnated in this generation:

With such opinions you’d be banned and shunned,

Or at least cause discomfort to your hearers,

Which comes to much the same thing nowadays. 

Yochanan:  Alas!  I see how the two enemies

Of us and of all humankind converge –

Though it would seem that not much love is lost

Between a fanatic creed that knows no mercy

And an unlimited greed that has no values –

To work against us.  For the media

Make pets of the unrighteously indignant,

And if the desecration of G-d’s image

Provokes no outcry, how can much resistance

Be roused against encroachment on the land?

Woe’s me!  Before my mind’s eye pass processions

Of those who walk and weep, nor do I know

If these are visions of the past – or future! 

Matityahu. My children, you have rightly seen, and rightly

Lamented.  With your insight you have lit

The field of struggle, you have dissipated

Illusions, and marked the enemy’s positions.

You’ve diagnosed the illness; but we shall not

Do well, unless we also can propose

A strategy, and offer hope of cure.

Not to disseminate despair we came here.

Now, children, who’ll point out a source of hope?


A prolonged silence.  In the background a song by Naomi Shemer – “Mi yadlik ner atik (who will light an ancient candle)” – is heard.


Chanah. Despite all falsehood and all desecration,

On every human being the Divine

Image is stamped, and in each Jewish heart

Is hidden, like the jar of oil still pure,

The knowledge that our souls are truly part

Of G-d; and over all of us the spirit

Of Knesset Israel, our mother, hovers.

Will not some hand reach for that jar of oil

And strike a light?  Before my mind’s eye rises

The vision of a host that is all flames

Of souls recruited to defend the heart’s

Temple, the holy land of Israel

The hope of all the humans on this earth!

 Elazar.  If so, then it would seem the front is here:

In the heart of every one of Israel,

Wherever and whenever truth and falsehood

Come face to face.

Yochanan.  Who will recruit those souls? 

Who will supply weapons to them, and armor?

 Matityahu.  These shall be fashioned.  Though the guile of Greece,

Fruit of the tree of knowledge, has contrived

To weaken in the world the fear of G-d,

Removing some of its external props,

Within the heart the still small voice has never

Ceased to sound.  The soul still knows itself,

Can still bear witness to its own Creator

And recognize its foes.

 Chanah.  And it will surely

Rise up, tear off the veils of self-deception,

As I once tore my garments, and demand

Help from all powers of the human being

Against its desecration.  It will seize

The instrument of reason to illumine

All various fields of knowledge and of action

And show to every one his or her task,

So that the bnei binah, the sons and daughters

Of Understanding, may reveal themselves,

Here in this neighborhood, and in the dwellings

Of cousins, inlaws, friends throughout the land,

Until the hearts, wherever they may be,

Shall see and gather strength.

Matityahu.  May it be so.

May it be your will, Lord of all souls,

That in response to our arousal flow

From the highest Crown a power of wisdom,

Understanding, knowledge, magnanimity,

Strength, compassion, resolution, and

Acknowledgment, to fortify and guide us!

And you, my children, bearers of the light

That will not bow to darkness – go now, stand

Beside the Chanukah menorahs, as

Invisible ushpizin, whispering

Counsel and strategy to every one

According to their natures and their gifts!

And as on that day long ago I blessed

Each of you – now each of you bless them!

Yehudah.  I bless them with the legislator’s insight,

That they may sort and rectify the laws

Of this their present state, and afterward

Give to the nations laws in keeping with

That Justice upon whose eternal tablets

Jerusalem is inscribed, and no less deeply

The Sabbath, that keeps watch over us all.

Shim’on.  I bless them with the courage to recognize

Their enemies, and love whoever stands

Against them – never to disown, for instance,

Those youths who keep their vigil on the hills

Lest the complacent cities be besieged.

Yochanan.  I for my part bless them with the awareness

That they’re at war, and each one must join up,

Cease to rely on leaders chosen not

By them, but by the golem with its media –

That they must organize to find the leaders

Who’ll lead them on the path of life and strength. 

Yonatan.  I bless them with fidelity to friends,

With the courage to speak truth, the humility

To hear it, and with love that overcomes

All jealousy, and praises without stint

Whatever gifts G-d’s wisdom has bestowed

Upon a comrade, for the sake of all. 

Elazar.  I bless them with the courage to uphold

The covenant of love and loyalty

Between a man and woman, though it be

Not easy, and the bond of generations

Which rests on that foundation; and I bless

Whoever helps to make between those two

A true and loving peace. 

Chanah.                          And above all,

My brothers, let us bless them with an ear

And heart attuned to the beating of the heart

Of Knesset Israel, into whose keeping

Heaven gave the seed of hope for humankind.

 All (sing).  Once again our foes arise,

And seem as strong as ever:

Creed of force and corporate lies

To drive us out endeavor.

But our light won’t fail us,

Torah will avail us,

Firm we’ll stand

Till every land

For our truth will hail us.





























Back to The Deronda Review homepage