Sunday, August 23, 2009

A great-grandmother's prayer

Yom rishon, 3 Elul 5769.

A very elderly woman gave me this poem, and asked me to publish it.  "But," she instructed, with a fearsome gleam in her intaglio eyes, "you may not, must not, use my name."

Now that I am old, I can tell it.

I dared not, when they were young, when I might bring an ayin hara by even mentioning my fear.

When I was young, we came to Eretz Yisrael.
I was a young wife, with children.

The first night, we spent in a kibbutz cabin.  As the trees scratched on the roof like mujahideen, trying to find a way inside, I was afraid.  I did not sleep at first; and then I told myself that the Holy One, Blessed Be He, decides who lives and who dies.  Not the mujahideen.

If He decreed that we would die, my sleepless fear would not save us.  If He decreed we should live, no Arab could harm us.

I slept.

I never told the children I was afraid, for fear captivates.

When we moved to the moshav in the shtachim, I was afraid, as I walked the path between our small kfar and the barbed wire, behind which were rocks and trees hiding them, with their rocks and knives and axes and guns.

And I held my head high and straight as I walked.  I was a daughter of the Holy One, Blessed Be He.  And if He decreed I would die, lowering my head would not save my life.  And if He decreed I should live, no Arab could harm me.

I walked.

I never told the children I was afraid, for fear incapacitates.

When my sons went off to war, one by one, I was afraid.  I knew too many mothers, better women than I, who had lost sons; and I did not think I had the strength to be among them.

And I sent my sons to the Army, with small packets of food and warm hats and love.  I gave them brave brachot, and reminded them that they were fighting on behalf of the Holy One, Blessed Be He.  And if He decreed that they would die, my tears would not save their lives.  And if He decreed that they should live long lives, with wives and children of their own, no Arab could harm them.

I smiled, proudly.

I never told these brave men that I was afraid, for fear emasculates.

When my daughters moved to the cities and traveled on buses, I was afraid.  I was hearing too many stories of bombings in cafes and in the places they shopped for baby clothes.  And then I remembered that they, too, were daughters of the Holy One, Blessed Be He, doing the holy work of raising the next generation.  And if He decreed that they would die, my warnings would not save them.  And if He decreed that they should live long lives, with grandchildren on their knees, no Arab could harm them.

I crocheted, and knitted, and enjoyed their joy.

I never told my daughters that I was afraid, for fear only believes in fate.

Now I am old.  I thought I could tell of my fears, proud to at last share honestly that I am no different from the others, save for my faith in Him.

But now I have grandsons, who yet must go to war...

I pray, privately, silently, with hands that will no longer make strong fists, raised to the Holy One, Blessed Be He.

"Keep them, Borei Olam, as you kept me.  Bring an end to the need for silent, hidden fear.  Save your holy children."

Amen.  Hashem keeps providing me with meetings with amazing people, who continue to give me strength.  May we all have her faith, for many long, healthy years.

Haveil Havalim #231, The Rav Kook Memorial Edition, is up at Esser Agaroth, in honor of HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook's 74th yahrzeit.


Rona Michelson said...

Amazing! Thanks.

Miriam said...

What a beautiful posting. Please thank this gracious lady for sharing her 'poem and fears' with us and thank-you for posting it.Many a mother has had the same fears, but the Hand of Hashem watches over all his children.
Would you mind if I pass this blog around?


bataliyah said...

Another reason I love Israel - the place itself seems to nurture emunah like this. The most amazing Jews in the world live in Israel. Thank you for introducing me to another one.

Shalomis said...

Wow...incredible. What a role model of strength, emuna and holiness. Thanks for bringing her wisdom and inspiration into my life. Her powerful, indelible story makes me proud to be a Jewish woman.

Unknown said...

Oh! For the love of heaven -- where the heck is your kleenex alert?!

Thanks for this inspiring dose of chizuk!

Mrs. S. said...

Thank you so much for sharing this stunningly beautiful poem! {written with tears in my eyes}

elana said...

what i strive for every day.
(and part of the reason for my new sabra's name).
what an incredibly inspiring woman.
thanks for sharing her words.

westbankmama said...

This woman is the embodiment of the words "nashim tzidkaniot". Thank you so much for sharing it!

Unknown said...


sparrow said...

I'm with Zahava, we need kleenex alerts! This is fantastic and humbling. May this lady's example inspire faith and hope in those of us who are timid in heart (I suspect most of us). Blessings be upon her head. Please hug her for me. She sounds like a terrific woman.

Jack Steiner said...

Very nice.

rutimizrachi said...

Thanks for the beautiful comments, everyone. I will surely pass them along. Miriam, I am sure she would be happy for you to pass along her words. Rafuah, I knew somebody would mention that! (The expression goes back to my doll-making days.) Just look up the word, and imagine "crossing" anybody with eyes like that. I think you would not do it. What she says, goes.

Baila said...

Just beautiful