Thursday, August 28, 2014

Reflections at a time of war

I led davvening last Shabbat Re'eh 8/23/14 and for the alternative musaf  I responded to the ongoing conflict in Israel/Gaza (now fortunately having a ceasefire.) 
I shared two poems. One "Sukkot 2001" by Julie Pelc  was written shortly after the 9/11 attacks.  (This poem is in the URJ Women's Torah Commentary on page.1140)
The second poem is one that I wrote during the Yom Kippur war,  "GiveYourself Up Not."
I re-discovered it in a box a week or two ago.   After services, a number of people responded positively and said they would like to see a copy.
I concluded the alternative musaf with Mosh Ben-Ari's song, "Od yavo shalom aleinu...salam...."

Give Yourself Up Not

          (for my friends in Israel: Malka, David, Marlene, Peggy, Michael, Judy—October, 1973)

When the hours of insanity
intrude upon
and shatter the day of introspection
and unholy convoys
again roll
through the rocky hillsides,
carefully cultivated valleys
and wilderness sands,
give yourself up not
to the maelstroms of destructions.
When the land
teems with the tense pressure
of absent faces,
of uncertain radio announcements
of yet another death
give yourself up not
to the passions of certainty.
When the work in tomato fields
or hospital corridors
gathers you up
in its daily currents
leaving exhaustion
and solidarity,
give yourself up not
to unanswered self doubts
clouded pictures of hindsight
or blacked out windows of fear.
And when the gunfire
once again slackens
and dirty teenagers
whose nostrils have smelled
things one would wish on no one
again frequent King George and Dizengoff,
when the last new graves
on Har Herzl are closed
and some semblance of normality
(hastily assembled)
returns again to Jerusalem and Rosh Pina
to Damascus and Port Sa’id
give yourself not up
to once secure illusions,
but give up not
your quest for peace,
your longing for justice
for you and your cousins,
your vision of a tomorrow
and your duty
--perhaps a bit like Yirmiyahu—
to speak words
(that lead to deeds)
that others may not wish to hear.

--Bob Tabak

Written during the 1973 Yom Kippur War by Bob Tabak, then a young rabbinical student,  thinking of his friends in Israel.  This poem was published twice: one in the Reconstructionist journal late in 1973 and about a year later in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent (Oct. 25, 1974).

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