Happy New Year 9/12/10
September 9 was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. I mostly wanted to say happy new year to all. I have always liked the Jewish new year because it is a pretty different holiday than the January 1 new year. Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the Jewish high holy days, a time when self-reflection is encouraged. Instead of mindless hoopla and an essentially fake sense of celebration, the enphasis is on thinking about our failings individually and collectively so we can do better in the future. There seems to me to be a lot to atone for this year.
It occurs to me that being in Anchorage has put me further from any Jewish community than I have ever experienced. I know there is a reform temple on Eastern Northern Lights Blvd but i confess that the closest I have gotten to it is a bar on Northern Lights named Don Jose’s where they have good margharitas. So, clearly, I can do much better too. In honor of Rosh Hashanah, I wanted to share a poem written by Yehuda Amichai.
The Jews are like photos in a display window,
All of them together, short and tall, alive and dead,
Brides and grooms, bar mitzvah boys and babies.
Some are restored from old yellowed photographs.
Sometimes people come and break the window
And burn the pictures. And then they start
Photographing and developing all over again
And displaying them again, sad and smiling.
Rembrandt painted them wearing Turkish
Turbans with beautiful burnished gold.
Chagall painted them hovering in the air,
And I paint them like my father and my mother.
The Jews are an eternal forest preserve
Where the trees stand dense, and even the dead
Cannot lie down. They stand upright, leaning on the living,
And you cannot tell them apart. Just that fire
Burns the dead faster.
And what about God? God lingered
Like the scent of a beautiful woman who once
Faced them in passing and they didn’t see her face,
Only her fragrance remained, kinds of perfumes,
Blessed be the Creator of kinds of perfumes.
A Jewish man remembers the sukkah in his grandfather’s home.
And the sukkah remembers for him
The wandering in the desert that remembers
The grace of youth and the Tablets of the Ten Commandments
And the gold of the Golden Calf and the thirst and the hunger
That remembers Egypt.
And what about God? According to the settlement
Of divorce from the Garden of Eden and from the Temple,
God sees his children only once
A year, on Yom Kippur.
The Jews are not a historical people
And not even an archeological people, the Jews
Are a geological people with rifts
And collapses and strata and fiery lava.
Their history must be measured
On a different scale.
The Jews are buffed by suffering and polished by torments
Like pebbles on the seashore.
The Jews are distinguished only in their death
As pebbles among other stones;
When the mighty hand flings them,
They skip two times, or three,
On the surface of the water before they drown.
Some time ago, I met a beautiful woman
Whose grandfather performed my circumcision
Long before she was born. I told her,
You don’t know me and I don’t know you
But we are the Jewish people,
Your dead grandfather and I the circumcised and you the beautiful grand-
With golden hair: we are the Jewish people.
And what about God? Once we sang
“There is no God like ours,” now we sing, “There is no God of ours”
But we sing. We still sing.