Of poetry and prayers

Ahead of Rosh Hashanah, some superb reading.

‘Shacharit in quarantine,’ by Leah Raab (photo credit: LEAH RAAB)
‘Shacharit in quarantine,’ by Leah Raab
(photo credit: LEAH RAAB)

I recently received this poem from Roberta Chester, a Jerusalemite originally from Maine who authored Light Years, a wonderful collection of poetry.

In Those Days

In those days the city lost its voice.

The quiet rushed onto the roads and streets finding each crevice and alley, pressing

against the stones

and filling the vacuum that Nature abhors, its silence weighing heavily on us inside, and in all the outdoors.

In those days when the city lost its voice, masked and gloved we sidestepped each

other past

the shuttered stores, remembering the

whistles and bells

the steel scraping the concrete,

the screech of tires against the curb,

the wheels on the pavement

the insistent shouts and cries calling back and forth

each to each, the give and take of our

public lives,

the blaring, impatient horns and

the brakes –

all the cacophonous hum and raucous

din of life.

Those days I wondered

when later the real displaces the surreal, and we are relieved to dwell on our usual familiar fears,

will we ignore being pushed and shoved,

so grateful to heal

we could forgive the oblivious, rude

invasion of our space.

Will that noise that used to grate

against my ears all day and half the night be, when it returns, a cause to rejoice – as sitting as close on the bus and in the café as we wish –

we will speak to each other while the city speaks.

Although this powerful poem doesn’t mention COVID-19, its message is compelling. We all yearn for the time now referred to as B.C. (Before Coronavirus) and pray for an end to the pandemic. It reminded me of a Yiddishe ditty I had penned, channeling my late father Hilyer Linde, just before Passover in April: A Pessadik Poem

Oy vay, I’m okay

I hope you are too

Don’t sit on shpilkes and don’t shvitz Be as busy as life permits

COVID-19 struck with contempt

Making humanity feel farklempt

We survived Ramses No. 2?

Nu, this plague will pass too!

The world will weather the crisis

Of farkakteh coronavirus

Let’s pray it’ll all be over

By NEXT Passover!

Ahead of Rosh Hashanah, I was sent two superb stories – one on praying in Jerusalem during the pandemic by Robert Hersowitz, and the second on prayers to end the plague by Joel Rappel (both of which appear in this issue) – together with marvelous illustrations of Jewish prayers during corona by Ra’anana artist Leah Raab, whose works are on exhibition at the Leonardo Gallery, 13 Leonardo Da Vinci Street, Tel Aviv (www.LeahRaab.com). In the spirit of the Jewish new year, we apologize to readers and ask for forgiveness if we have offended you in any way in our reporting and writing, commentary and cartoons.