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[Page 82 - Hebrew]

Poems

Translated from Hebrew by Jerrold Landau

 

You Cheated Us, Oh Messiah

by Elchanan Indelman

You cheated us, oh Messiah
With the false sounds of the redemption
With the wars of Gog and Magog[1],
With storming rivers of blood,
With the tabernacle of peace for the nations,
With the trumpet calls of the Hebrew legion
And with the renewed crown of the Kingdom of the House of David
You cheated us,
And our hearts are as stormy as the ocean
And our souls are disgraced.

Indeed, I know, oh Messiah
My brethren who are delaying the end of days have frightened you,
They who eat their bread in the calmness of their fate
And rue the destruction of the Temple
With a mouth full of sweetness
My brethren who deny their nation
And tie its glory upon their heads have frightened you
Oh Messiah!

Outside they call out
Rejoice, oh Daughter of Zion
For your sun has risen
And your glory is returned to you!
Woe to the ears who have heard such,
And woe to the heart which was delighted over the news
And did not hearken to the sound of the shofar of the Messiah.

Therefore I have adjured you,
If you answer them
When they call to you from far off, and from freedom,
Only descend to the poor of my nation,
To my starving and oppressed brethren
And hearken to their voice:
They do not want the crown of royalty
Nor the exultation of Hebrew songs
But only bread,
Oh Messiah.

 

[Page 83 - Hebrew]

Father Sings Kol Nidre

by Elchanan Indelman

Father sings Kol Nidre with quivering bones,
He intones all bans, oaths and vows,
And as he shouts out icharatna behon (I regret them)
He casts his remorseful soul
Before the Seat of Glory.

The ear of Above has never heard
Such a remorseful shout
From the time of the inception of the Kol Nidre prayer.
The holy congregation in a small town of Poland has never expressed
Such heartfelt remorse, from the time of its inception.

Suddenly the sills of our synagogue move
And its walls were lowered and bowed down;
Above, in its colorful windows
The holy birds called out with their noisy chirping
And my heart trembled, like a young bird in its nest,
A silent fear.

Icharatna behon – today is still etched
In my heart the voice of Father.

 

Picture

by Elchanan Indelman

In the home of my brother in Forest Hills
There hung a picture of our town in Poland:
On a summer day, close to its end.
Colorful cows return from the meadows
To their evening rest in the cowshed
With the peace of simplicity and with a long mooing sound

And on the street – the wall of the church
Strong, heavy and dark
Awaking a mysterious trembling

My brother would often look at the picture
And saw himself – as a child with a long, dark cloak,
A black hat like a pail over his head,
A large and heavy volume of Gemara under his arm,
Going to greet the tallness of morning and lowness of evening
Of “Rabba said, Abaye said”[2],

And now, at a time that is neither day nor night,
My brother descends from the comfort[3] of his seat
To look at the picture that he loves.

 

[Page 84 - Hebrew]

The Messiah Has Still Not Come

by Elchanan Indelman

The Messiah has still not come.
We still await him, we still hope
That he will come on a white horse
With a golden shofar in his hand

We await him day and night
At every road and path
If he tarries or delays,
The sweet dream is not concealed.

Dress me in shrouds
And place a staff in my hand
And at the crossroads
I will wait for him forever.

 

I Take a Stone for Myself

by Elchanan Indelman

From the ghetto wall, I will take a stone for myself
And build a house for myself in the beautiful eastern landscape.

I build myself a large house, light and bright,
I place this stone upon it to complete the layer.

And there is a dripping of grief from the sea of bereavement
In the splendor of the house – a memorial to yesterday.

And there is a gloomy whisper from the darkness of night,
The whisper of the grief of the ghetto in the habitation of Israel.

 

[Page 85 - Hebrew]

Pumbedita [4]

by Elchanan Indelman

In memory of my rabbi, Reb Yitzchak David of blessed memory

My childhood friend Matityahu
A native of my hometown of Zuromin,
Found a rabbi in the Land,
And he invited me there as well.

To live in the homeland, let us go up,
It is calling to you: “Arise and inherit it!”
Come, dear friend, come here
And let us reestablish the covenant of youth.

There is a street, and its name is Pumbedita,
In the Hebrew city of Tel Aviv.
I look upon it like a volume of the Talmud
Its appearance is so dear to me.

I remember our studies in the cheder
In the pure landscape of our past,
Discussions in Pumbedita in Adar[5]
From where did those days come?...

Come, my friend, to Pumbedita Street
It is as if we are walking in the midst of the Gemara
Our rabbi, the spirit of the dutiful man,
Will peer down from heaven and rejoice…


Translator's footnotes

  1. The Jewish term for the pre-Messianic wars of Armageddon. Return
  2. Rabba and Abaye are two Talmudic sages. Return
  3. Literally “the height of his seat”. Return
  4. There is a footnote in the text here, as follows: A large city in Babylonia in which a Yeshiva, famed for its scholars, existed from the year 261 until 1038. Return
  5. Adar is the month before Passover, one of the two months of the year, (the other being Elul before Rosh Hashanah), when laymen would flock to the Babylonian Yeshivas for a monthlong spiritual infusion. These months were known as “Yarchei Kallah”. Return

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