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Auf Wiedersehn Waldorf

In 2004, Steve, Janie-sue, Ben and Bekah Wertheim visited Germany together as a family to see where their family had come from…

A sleepy town in the middle of farm country, boy tending
His sheep in the hills nearby—sees the storm
Approaching, running back to the village, leaving his sheep.
My father was a bread baker at No. 23 in Waldorf.
Your father ran the market across the cobblestone street.
We used to sit and toast our glasses of milk together
Trying to be grown up before our time, celebrating
Another day of absolutely nothing. But there was no
Raising of glasses or cake eating that afternoon.
Gears grinding in the distance it comes, a metal monstrosity,
Men in iron hats, the dark clouds of diesel smoke,
And war
Loom overhead.

A cow grazes by the Weir River and I can hear
Their boots pounding a timpani in unison. The boy
Runs in screaming and I run to dad and hide but it's no use.
The wooden front door now shards;
Broken hinge on the floor. They storm in
Grabbing my father's collar, dragging him to the street,
Kicking his side, and punching his face
Until warm blood oozes from the crumpled heap.
My father weakly turns, spitting three teeth onto the
cobblestone
And I curse with all my 12-year-old fury from the crack
In the wooden slat of our street-level storeroom.
They force him to stand
And lead him away.

It's 2004 now, early fall once more. The hills and valleys
Are in bloom. The sun shines through the trees, a cow
Lazes by the river of this still sleepy town, and I wonder
Why any army would come here; to this booming metropolis
Of farmers and bakers.
They would have had to call it, The Pitchfork Rebellion"
If it ever happened…
But it never did.

Your blood only a memory in front of No. 23.

Articles tagged

Resurrection

Trojan horse triumph of history
Innocence murdered to end tyranny
Living Word silenced without a remark
Sunlight extinguished to kindle a spark
Freedom sold to end slavery
Man fed to Death to set mankind free
Lamb bred for slaughter; Babe born to die
Devourer poisoned by Bread of Life.

Articles tagged

Seasonal Figure

Peering down at the burden she's enfolding
With timorous tenderness and love—
A mother now, a very young one—
Rejoicing that His will be done,
Almost afraid to breathe, to move,
For fear she may find it's a dream
she's holding.

It is no dream, Israeli maiden,
Or rather, it's a dream come true,
Far older than your great decision,
Older by far than your nine-month visiion.

Articles tagged

Night in Jerusalem

Painting of Jerusalem at Night

A cool canopy stretches the rim of the earth,
-from the four corners
drive the four winds of heaven;
like caravans laden with splendor of Kings
they bear perfume,
clouds of spice
and weave them with
the Night in Jerusalem.
The hot afternoon has flown, the dusk
settles slowly,
-dying shades of daylight
stain the Western Wall;
like the smoke of incense here
once bloomed climbing Jacob's Ladder,
so the righteous
send up prayers
this Night in Jerusalem.
(so wakes the adder
so wakes the eagle.)
Peace beneath the sure eyes of the lion,
-tears of sorrow,
and of joy
still flow through your streets
forever mingled with the sweet wine
that drips from off the hills
warm and dark
like this Night in Jerusalem.
(so sleeps the adder,
so sleeps the eagle.)
oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem.

 

Not for Poetry Lovers Only

Selected Poems of Jehudah Halevi, edited by Heinrich Brody, translated by Nina Salaman. ?1924 and 1952 by The Jewish Publication Society of America: Philadelphia, pp. 192.

The Selected Poems of Jehudah Halevi is not new, but perhaps the idea of reading such a book is new to some of the mishpochah. This book, compiled nearly seven decades ago from 11th century writings, is definitely worth reviewing. For how can we consider the future if we lose touch with the past?

The book is multifaceted and is not for poetry lovers only. Like a finely cut jewel, it reflects beauty and light on a myriad of planes. If among the subjects of travel, geography, history, the Hebrew language, Scripture and a heartfelt love for God you can find something of interest, then perhaps this book is for you. Oh yes, those who love poetry will also find it worthwhile!

Jehudah ben Samuel Halevi was born in Toledo, Spain in 1806. Physician, philosopher and poet, Halevi left his profession at about the age of 50 in order to fulfill his dream of seeing the Promised Land. His poems are filled with the love, hope and adventure of that dream:

Can bodies of clay
Be prison-houses
For hearts bound fast
To Eagles' wings—
For a man life-weary
Whose whole desire
Is to lay his face
In the chosen dust?
Yet he feared and trembled
With falling tears,
To cast Spain from him
And seek shores beyond;

excerpt from p. 39

Halevi's journey from Spain to Alexandria is documented; his steps can also be traced up the Nile to Cairo and Damietta, and there were reports of his visits to Tyre and Damascus. Once he reached his goal the documentation of his travel ceased, but according to tradition he was slain by an Arab horseman.

Problems always arise in the translating of literature, but particularly when shifting poetry from one language to another. The imagery painted by words in one language does not necessarily have a counterpart in the colors of another culture's palette. Yet, even in English, the poems of Jehudah Halevi are songs which soar beyond constraints of language.

The Hebrew, side by side with English, provides the reader who is proficient in hebrew the opportunity to read Halevi's poems as they were penned. For the learner, the side by side translation provides an opportunity to expand his or her knowledge and use of the Hebrew language.

Likewise, Halevi's extensive use of Scripture enhances our appreciation of its poetic beauty. It deepens our awareness that we can so saturate ourselves with the Word of God that our deepest longings are expressed in its promises and replete with its references to our heritage and our hope.

"Glory Unto Egypt" contains three Scripture references. Can you find them?

Look on the cities and consider the villages
Which Israel held in possession;
And give glory unto Egypt, and lighten
Thy steps; nay, tread thou not heavily
Upon the streets where the Divine
Presence passed through
To seek the blood of the covenant
upon the doorposts,
And the pillar of fire and the
pillars of cloud,
And the eyes of all watching them
and beholding!
From thence were hewn the
masters of God's covenant,
And thence were carven the
corner stones of the people of the
Lord.

"Glory Unto Egypt" p. 32

Scripture references (and extra-biblical writings) are clearly marked in the margins and occasional footnotes are also supplied for some helpful background information. An appendix of endnotes—for those interested in the intricacies of literary style and its translation—can be found in the back of the book.

This book provides the kind of enrichment we need as we consider our Jewish heritage and hold fast to our birthright. So think about a trip to the library or a browse through your bookstore to find Selected Poems of Jehudah Halevi. It's not for poetry lovers only!

Where was God When the Six Million Died?

God was mourning over the dead, the persecuted, those whose minds were scrambled with the lust for power.

God was suffering along with every humiliation and each act of violence.

God was weeping over the lost souls who were hurled namelessly into eternity.

WHY DID GOD JUST SIT BACK AND LET IT HAPPEN? WHY DIDN'T HE STOP IT?

WHY? The answer to the question is not snappy, nor is it smug and self-satisfied. It is hard to explain and hard to understand. But it has to do with love that is really LOVE.

God created man to be loved by HIM and to be able to give love in return. Love must always be a choice.

God made man to have the power to choose Peace, to choose Humility and Righteousness…

But man has chosen Hatred, War and Pride.

GOD MOURNS OVER OUR POOR CHOICES, BUT HE WILL NEVER VIOLATE OUR RIGHT TO DECIDE.

In the world that we, mankind, have collectively chosen to live in, it was a set of historical decisions that permitted the Third Reich to prosper. Decisions to Play dumb"…to "not care"…decisions to look upon the misery of fellow human beings as "someone else's business" and not our own.

LIKE CAIN, WE HAVE SHRUGGED AND RETORTED, AM I MY BROTHER'S KEEPER?

We have responded to the privilege of decision-making, with a timeline full of irresponsible choices. And we ask,

WHERE WAS GOD?

Without Jews

Without Jews there is no Jewish God.
If we leave this world
The light will go out in your tent.
Since Abraham knew you in a cloud,
You have burned in every Jewish face,
You have glowed in every Jewish eye,
And we made you in our image.
In each city, each land,
The Jewish God
Was also a stranger.
A broken Jewish head
Is a fragment of divinity.
We, your radiant vessel,
A palpable sign of your miracle.

Now the lifeless skulls
Add up into millions.
The stars are going out around you.
The memory of you is dimming,
Your kingdom will soon be over.
Jewish seed and flower
Are embers.
The dew cries in the dead grass!

The Jewish dream and reality are ravished,
They die together.
Your witnesses are sleeping:
Infants, women,
Young men, old.
Even the Thirty-six,
Your saints, Pillars of your World,
Have fallen into a dead,
an everlasting sleep.

Who will dream you?
Who will remember you?
Who deny you?
Who yearn for you?
Who, on a lonely bridge,
Will leave you—in order to return?

The night is endless when a race is dead.
Earth and heaven are wiped bare.
The light is fading in your shabby tent.
The Jewish hour is guttering.
Jewish God!
You are almost gone.

A Promise

There was a voice burning in the desert.
A promise.
And today my people build tabernacles
in a foreign land
and glance through their roofs
at the stars,
dust in their faces, their beards,
their fists.
Where is Messiah? A stone of stumbling to my people.

There is a land flooded in war.
A promise?
The shadows of the night are deepening,
and the tears of my people cover the land
in which my love is rooted. What heroes are these on this battlefield?
People longing for a home.

There is a first-born Son weeping on the hillside.
My people, can you no longer recognize
your Father's house?


Articles tagged

What's It To Me?

So enough already, I don't want to hear. They say you've got answers, well, I just don't care.

You talk about love, forgiveness and faith but what have you done to stop all the hate?

What of the sorrow, the pain all around? What have you done to make laughter sound?

What about fighting and wars in your name? Is this what you brought, is this why you came?

You haven't caused change, so why should I pray? You're not for me, I'll go my own way.

I'll find my own answers to suffering and strife, The meaning of death, the value of life.

The rabbis reject you, so why shouldn't I? What's it to me if you lived or died?

They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son." (Zechariah 12:10.)
Articles tagged

I Remember

Birth
I remember sitting on daddy's lap
my pretty one" he used to say
"give daddy a nice big kiss"
I'd smile, put my chubby arms
around his neck real tight
then plant a big messy kiss on his rough cheek
I remember the first day of
school, boy was I scared
we lined up in the schoolyard
I was the shortest so I stood in front
was everyone looking at the hole in my sweater?
I hoped not
I remember when mommy had a baby
It cried and cried all the time
but that was all right
after all,
hadn't it been locked in mommy's stomach
for a long time?
I remember Betsy
she was my very best friend
we did our homework together
and talked about things
like the time when we would be wearing lipstick
and going out on dates

Death
I remember thinking life wasn't fun anymore
daddy dying, mommy always crying
it just wasn't fair
I remember being alone a lot
thinking about what happens when you die
about how lonely that must be
but the rabbi said "daddy's in heaven"
no, he was just saying that to make me feel better
I remember thinking I'd never be happy again

Rebirth
I remember the next few years were filled
with attempts at happiness
join a club! get politically involved!
like to try some grass?
sex means I love you…no,
therapy's the answer
join the movement!
find meaningful relationships?
I remember being confused
unsure of this enigma called happiness
and I remember the day that confusion ended
the day I met the Holy One of Israel.

Articles tagged

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