In Memory of Ali Saad Dawabsha, z"l

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Like something left behind
A passport
A sweater
A child’s
Toy worn and loved
And lost
Tears and sweat
In the memory of the fabric
Supposed to be here
But not
In your icy panic
Who could you call
To find it
Bring it
Back?
Shabbat candles are
For burning
Two arms
Reaching to heaven
In petition supplication the
Wax turning to warmth
A portal to heaven
A mother’s prayer that
Her children…
Her children.
But a house is not for burning
Not two not one
Not one single house
Nor a mother nor
Chas vShalom
Her children…
Her children.
On sweaty cobblestones
In Kiev and Minsk and Lviv
Hoofbeat heartstop torches
Came for Jewish houses
Arms raised reaching to heaven then too
But rising from Hell
And now the torches
Of the wicked
Are raised by
Jewish hands?
Cursed is the match
That consumed
Ali Saad Dawabsha
Ali
The elevated one
A demented Aliya
Embered arms rising to heaven
On vultures’ wings
On the burnt cinders of
Jewish dreams
To be a free people
But not a people free
Of love of humanity
Of memory of
Hushed panting in stifled closets
When the torches came.
That nightmare was not
Could not
Be our dream.
No.
Something must have been
Lost
Left behind
The soul of a people
Abandoned on an
Empty platform
Swept up at
End of day
Forgotten
Under the bed
Of a wailing child
Waiting to be
Revived.

Rabbi Michael Rothbaum is a Jewish educator, speaker, author, and social justice advocate. He and his husband, Yiddish singer Anthony Russell, live in Oakland.