Kislev, on the way to Hevron

The three patriarchs are evoked by the sight of the olive harvest which occurs in the month of Kislev, with allusions to the Alter Rebbe's liberation and Rav Moshe Tzvi Neriya's yahrzeit.

Eliaz Cohen, | updated: 12:00

Eliaz Cohen
Eliaz Cohen
צילום: INN:EC

Kislev is the Hebrew month corresponding approximately to December. During Kislev the portions of the Torah relating the stories of the Hebrew Patriarchs who spent their days in the Mount Hevron region are read in the synagogue. The poet, who lives in this region as well, sees the image of the three Patriarchs in the lives of his Arab neighbors, especially during the olive harvest which takes place during Kislev: Abraham who set his tent in Hevron, Yitschak whose eyes were dim, Yaakov who limped after fighting the angel.

The 19th of Kislev is celebrated in Hassidic circles as the Festival of the Liberation of the Hassidic Master Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi from prison. He was incarcerated for fifty-three days after being falsely accused of treason.

It is also the anniversary of the death of the founder of the Kfar Haroeh Bnai Akiva Yeshiva High School and nationwide yeshiva  high school network, Rabbi and poet Moshe Zvi Neriah, who would wake his students in the morning (Eliaz Cohen among them) with the "Yidelach" song.

On the way to Hevron we stopped

at a cave

the vines on the terrace above lay scattered and bare

and we took cover from the wicked wind

that passed over the land now

it was the harvest season then

and the old man was loading sack after sack of olives

black ones and green ones dripping bitter oil,

I was that night, craving.

In the mornings we would gather golden mushrooms

among the pines, advancing a bit,

we climbed the ancient trees sometimes

how many adventures they have had, we

too became branches

again at night harvested to

the olive press, in the cave.

A second old man, dim-eyed, groping with a carob tree stick

sat with us for

days, or a decade, I knew not how long

until he disappeared

Day by day, adorned with worn tefillin at sunrise

we would advance one step, and

retreat two

seeing figures of old men in the waxing moon

God is setting and rising again

the next day.

“Where are you, God” – we shouted

and echoes rolled through all the ravines.

At night we would go prophesying.

At times we felt very close to Him.

On the 19th of Kislev redeemed we circled

the cave

dancing we hovered detaching hard wet feet from

the rocks.

At night we were swallowed into the nooks of the cave

we slept so deeply when

at dawn winds sang to us in our ears

“Yidelach, yidelach, rise to serve your creator”

and we knew that our Rabbi

taught the winds to sing too

the land is deserted for lack of labor, and our mid-day loving

we did

in the ruined watchmen’s huts.

The oaks wept to us when we approached

the city

a third old man came into view

limping toward us

we saw him

and behold his skin was smooth as a young girl’s

and he was playing a reed flute carved from cane

and the sheep

were scattered in the wadi

like poteria.

Even when he came close to us

we could not explain how

the flute landed on our heads

releasing from each of us swarms,

swarms bearing a shofar and torches

we came

to conquer the inner palace and the temples.

Translation from the Hebrew: Larry Barak






 

The 19th of Kislev is celebrated in Hassidic circles as the Festival of the Liberation of the Hassidic Master Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi from prison. He was incarcerated for fifty-three days after being falsely accused of treason. It is also the anniversary of the death of the Rabbi and poet Moshe Zvi Neriah, who would wake his students in the morning (Eliaz Cohen among them) with the "Yidelach" song.



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