Deep calls to deep
at the thunder of your cataracts;
all your waves and your billows
have gone over me.
– Psalm 42:7
New Revised Standard Version
If there’s justice—let it come now!
But if it should come after I’ve been
blotted out beneath the sky,
let its throne be cast down.
Let the heavens rot in evil everlasting,
and you, with your cruelty,
go in your iniquity
and live and bathe in your blood.
And cursed be he who cries out: Revenge!
Vengeance like this, for the blood of a child,
Satan has yet to devise.
Let the blood fill the abyss!
Let it pierce the blackest depths
and devour the darkness
and eat away and reach
the rotting foundations of the earth.
– Hayim Nahman Bialik. excerpt from On the Slaughter
translated by Peter Cole
And when you sit this way by the
and its gold plays over your inclined
the light drizzles through your fingers,
and in the mirror of your black silk
the flame’s splendour dances.
Apples on your table glow in the
a wealth of golden grapes overflows
and blessing gives off its ripe scent.
The forest thunders and roars
and sweet is its song
from within the stillness
of your precious corner.
– Avraham Ben Yitzhak. excerpt from I Scarcely Knew Myself
translated by Robert Alter
Blessed are they who sow and do not reap —
they shall wander in extremity.
Blessed are the generous
whose glory in youth has enhanced the extravagant
brightness of days —
who shed their accoutrements at the crossroads.
Blessed are the proud whose pride overflows
the banks of their souls
to become the modesty of whiteness
in the wake of a rainbow’s ascent through a cloud.
Blessed are they who know
their hearts will cry out from the wilderness
and that quiet will blossom from their lips.
Blessed are these
for they will be gathered to the heart of the world,
wrapped in the mantle of oblivion
— their destiny’s offering unuttered to the end.
– Avraham Ben Yitzhak. Blessed are They Who Sow and Do Not Reap
translated by Peter Cole
Spirit splits in its asking,
soul in its wanting is balked—
and the body, fattened, is vital
its previous being uneasy. …
So the modest man
walks on earth,
his thoughts drawn toward sky.
What good is the pulse of man’s flesh
and its favors
when the mind is in pain?
And the friends who fray me,
their fine physiques
and slender thinking,
thinking it’s ease or gain
that drives me,
pitching from place to place,
my hair wild, my eyes,
charcoaled with night—
and not a one speaks wisely,
their souls blunted, or blurred,
Should someone unguilty
hold back from
longing toward heights like the moon?
Should he wait,
binding its wings to his waist—
like a man winding his sash about him—
till he acts and they hear of his action,
as he adds and then adds like the sea
to his fame?
By God and God’s faithful—
and I keep my oaths—
I’ll climb cliffs
and descend to the innermost pit,
and sew the edge of desert to desert,
and split the sea,
and every gorge,
and sail in mountainous ascent,
until the word “forever” makes sense to me,
and my enemies fear me,
and my friends in that fear
then free men will turn
their faces toward mine,
as I face theirs,
and soul will save us,
as it trips our obstructors.
The beds of our friendship are rich with it,
planted by the river of affection,
and fixed like a seal in wax,
like graven gold
in the windowed dome of the Temple.
May YAH be with you as you love,
and your soul which He loves be delivered,
and the God who sends salvation shield you
till the sun and the moon are no more.
translated by Peter Cole *