Shaul Magid

On the Tigris and the Euphrates

On the Tigris and the Euphrates
We say, we sit, and cry,
The dream of Zion withered,
A messiah who can only lie.

But we do not sit,
And we rarely cry.
We “lie down and we get up” (ובשכבך ובקומך)
We “camp and we de-camp,” (ויסעו ויחנו)
Like angles, we run to and fro, (רצו ושוב)
We have not forgotten Zion,
Rather, long ago we have forgotten why we cry.
And so we cry for Zion instead,
An interesting solution,
To a problem of conscience.

A young girl carried her doll to the banks of the Tigris,
To dream about her groom.
And in her reverie, it slipped from her hands
And her doll, face down, began to float downstream.
And she sat down,
And she cried.
“Why do you cry?”, asked her future groom,
One day soon we will wed.
“I do not cry for the doll,” she said,
A doll is like stone,
“it may have eyes, but it cannot see,
It may have ears but it cannot hear…”
I cry for my mother’s chafed hands,
And broken nails.
She had a dream,
And sewed it into a doll.
And she’ll die before we wed.

Adam and Eve watched the sun set on the sixth day.
They found a large rock and sat
As the world ended as it began.
And they sat,
And they cried.
They did not cry because the birds will stop singing,
Or the sweet taste of berries will sour.
They cried because they thought
If they had one more day together,
They could understand one other.
But tonight they too must die,
And take leave with only a taste of the other’s flesh.

So they dug graves and lay down to sleep.
And just before they closed their eyes,
They sat down,
And one last time,
They cried,

The morning star rose and they heard a sound,
A small creature carrying a nut to her child.
Each awoke and said, “This must be heaven.”
Rising from their graves, they saw each other and knew,
This is not heaven but something called “another day.”
As the first rays of sun struck their backs
They sat down,
And they cried.

Poor Jeremiah,
The loneliest man.
As Rembrandt painted him,
Sitting with head in hand,
In the cleft of a rock,
Jerusalem burning behind.
There are no real words for unrequited love,
And tears can never contain enough salt
To match the bitter taste of emptiness.

Jeremiah sat alone,
Not because Jerusalem was burning,
But because no one cared to listen,
To their own hearts burning.
The Temple is like a doll floating in the Tigris.
Like stone, “it has eyes but it cannot see,
Ears but it cannot hear.”

Maybe it would have been better for them to stay in their graves,
Or for the girl to wed her bridegroom right there on the banks of the Tigris,
Or for poor Jeremiah to finally forget,
That hearts of stone can burn if the fire ignites from within.

So do not sit and cry for lifeless stone,
Or for some forgotten Zion,
But if you find the need to cry,
There are many who need your tears,
Like the chaffed hands of a mother,
Like the man in need of bread,
Like lovers who bury one another,
Like mourners who covet the dead.

Friday, July 12, 2014, Shabbat Hazon, the Shabbat before Tisha b’Av