Bessarabia, Galicia, 1913-1939 Pronouncements by Boris Khersonsky, translated by Valzhyna Mort

Boris Khersonsky, translated by Valzhyna Mort
Bessarabia, Galicia, 1913-1939


And rabbi Yitzchak Levi said:

“People and trees share this –
roots in the earth.”

And rabbi Shraga Mendlowitz said:

“This observation is inexact
for the roots of trees are whole and quenched, even as the earth is dry,
while our roots –
our roots
are withered and torn.”

And rabbi Yitzchak Steinmacher said:

“This difference is nonessential
for, whether living or dead: all roots still nurture.”

And rabbi Shlomo ben Yehuda said:

“It’s not up to us to say whether our roots are alive:
for we have a Helper,
who promised us eternal life –
and is true to his promise.”

And rabbi Yitzchak Steinmacher said:

“Listening to you
I cannot help but think of a genealogical tree. We picture its trunk ascending,
its branches –
mighty and wide; the name of our ancestor is a fruit
that’s ripe.
In truth: a genealogical tree
into the earth. Verily, not only its roots are in the earth
but so are its trunk
and branches.
As for us: we are the ignorant leaves
under the sun of Torah,
what do we say to each other?”

And rabbi Shraga Mendlowitz said:

It grieves me to think of a tree
that grows into its death,
that descends into the earth.
There might be a subtle deception
in this image:
for our roots are in the Earth,
while this earth is not the Earth,
but a desert of wandering. “

And raising his voice,
rabbi Shraga went on:

“Verily I say unto Thou:
if somebody dares
to sift in the finest of sieves through the sand of Sinai
in order to find the remains
of those traveling from Egypt, he’d find nothing,

for our roots are in the Earth,
and this earth – is not the Earth.

And all four of them said:

“Blessed be the tree growing into the Earth,
submerged into the Earth.
Blessed be You, Who
has this tree shaking
in awe,
shuddering end to end, from its thinnest twig to its root.
For this shudder,
for the chance
to know terror and to shudder from fear and pain,
is exactly
the proof of life.”


Much later, in the 70ies,
after the Six-Day War,
archeologists attempted an excavation
in the Sinai desert
in search of what they call
material evidence of forty-years of wandering
in the desert.

And they found? Nothing.

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