Jewish Poems


Jewish Poems


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My Jewish World

by Natalia Zaretsky


I Want to Belong

In Yom Kippur, every year
we, Jews, reassert our belonging to a tribe.
Other ancients disappeared from the face of the earth,
but we survive holding onto The Book
that prescribes the laws what, when, how.
I know little, I do little, but nevertheless,
I want to belong to that family,
scattered among countries and cultures.

This day of repentance not sad or grievous,
we fast from sunset to sunset (without a drop of water!)
In this autumn day I walk from house to house
asking forgiveness for bad things I have done.
My shoes are tight and I have a blister on my sole,
but I continue up the hill to the synagogue to make
the Ecclesiastic affirmation that it is time
for patience and arguments, for love and war.

Now the hardest of all is to ask God. How could
I ask him to forgive me, ignoramus, un-religious?
I carry out only a few tiny duties out of 613
that we have been chosen to fulfill.
In this Holy day we search for two goats.
One is without a blemish - for our goodness,
another a scapegoat, carrying our sins,
to be sent to the wilderness to the wicked Azazel.

Probably we are not very righteous
we do it every year.

* * * * *


The Jewish Troubled Past through
the Prism of My Contemporary Eyes.

A joke in Stalins time:
Jews were amassed on the Red Square
for an announcement:
Tomorrow you all will be hung
a small voice came from the crowd:
Should we bring our own rope?

God gave Jews resilience, humility, smarts
and thick skin to ease the pain of our souls
souls of bowing sheepish victims.

For forty years great Moses shepherded us
through the wilderness into the Promised Land
a thoughtless, complaining, passive crowd.

In another time, Esther, queen of Persia,
saved us from Hamman, the kings vizier
who conspired to bring about our annihilation.

In the Old Russian shtetle a rabbi, whose
little daughter was raped, couldnt forgive
the youth who killed her rapist.

It was against the teachings, rabbi knew,
revenge wasnt appropriate to a pious
only acceptance of Gods will.

Six silent million were vanished into black death.
In the Ukraine Nazis herded thousands of us,
voiceless clutching to our petty possessions,

to a chasm of Babi Yar on the outskirts of Kiev.
In 1953, according to Stalins plan trains
stood ready to transport two million of us

to Siberias already built barracks. Undoubtedly,
we would obediently follow the orders,
if it had not been for his death in the night of Purim.

God busied our minds and souls with the Torah
and our hearts with beliefs in destiny, but the Land
demands our strong hands for plowshares and rifles.

For the whole world it is much easier
to feel sorry for us, than to accept us as fighters.
We say Kadish for those who perished and
assure God that we will never be like sheep again.


from the October 2003 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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