Sunday, August 10, 2008

Thoughts on Tisha B' Av

The first time I heard Eicha (Lamentations) being read, it was by a man who had left Germany in 1938 as a young boy. There was a resonance to his reading. That generation is quickly aging. The arms I used to see with numbers on them grow rarer by the day. A tatoo slowly breaks down in the skin. I fear that the fading ink on trembling arms is a metaphorical picture of our collective fading memory.
I keep a beaten banknote in my closet. It is a Palestine one pound note issued by the British. When I press my hand to its worn surface, I feel sadness. I think of footsteps echoing in a Jerusalem alley, a bag of vegetables for an evening meal and thoughts of family far away. I think of Churchill on a radio in a dusty cafe in the midst of a knot of hushed listeners, some nodding, and some waiting anxiously for a translation.
That beaten banknote has traveled from Jew to Arab to British soldiers guarding the shores of the Holy Land. I think of a boat approaching the shore and bored watchmen tossing cigarettes in the sand. I think of British soldiers by the Western Wall, searching Jews for a shofar.
That beaten banknote saddens me . I touch it and reach out to the hands that once held it. It is a handshake through time.
That beaten banknote was half a day's wages. Those who held it have almost all gone to the next world. When I touch that old green banknote, it is a handshake in a darkened room from my world to the next.
Yet another year, we are reading from Lamentations. The words elude my understanding like a train passing a rickshaw. The melody is like conversation filtering through the wall of my room, specific meaning stripped from its skeletal tones like bones bleached in the sun.
Yet another year we are fasting. Yet another year we feel the pebbles beneath our thin slippers. I reach for the Kinot, the Book of Lamentations yet another year. It is a handshake across the generations in a darkened room, a saddened nod beneath dimmed lights without a greeting. Sphere: Related Content

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