…Unter Yideles vigele,
shteyt a klor-vays tsigele,
dos tsigele iz geforn handlen.
Dos vet zayn dayn baruf-
rozhinkes mit mandlen.
Shlof-zhe, Yidele, shlof…” (Rozhinkes mit mandlen, Abraham Goldfaden)
To my little one’s cradle in the night,
Comes a little goat snowy and white,
The goat will trot to the market,
Bringing back raisins and almonds,\
That will be your calling
Sleep my little one sleep.
It was early morning. The dawn of the day, the fading of the night. The time of dreaminess, of mysteries. The time of awaiting, of stillness and peacefulness. When gray turns to peach, and a sliver of light attempts to lighten the darkness. The time of hope for a better day.
And I heard the voice of my father(z’l) singing.
The sound of a bird chirping blended with the sound of the song… a dog barking added his voice, and for a few minutes, for a very long few minutes, I was lost in a sea of calmness. Entering a dream, or leaving it…. Entering the day, or leaving it?
While you sleep, the goat has gone to market, returning with life’s sweets. When you awake, life will be sweeter, more beautiful…
It is the month of Av. Soon it will be the part of the month known as “Menachem Av”.
The month in which, as a father, God comforts us, consoles us.
The word Av is comprised of the first two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In every sorrow, in every time of difficulty, there lies a new beginning. In the dark, a small sliver of light provides us with a bright ray of hope.
The Book of Lamentations, which we will read on Tisha B’Av, is poetically structured according to the alphabet. The first two and last two chapters are structured as acrostics. Each verse begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet, starting with aleph and proceeding in order. The third chapter is built on triplets of the alphabet. In this manner, the prophecy itself is structured so as to emphasize the importance of the alphabet, of words .
According to tradition, the Book of Lamentations was written by the prophet Jeremiah, who prophesied the destruction of the Second Temple.
“Then the Lord put forth His hand, and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: ‘Behold, I have put My words in your mouth….Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see?’ And I said, ’I see a branch of an almond tree’. Then the Lord said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I watch over My word to perform it’. (Jeremiah 1:9-12)
Just as the almond tree blossoms quickly, so will the Word of God be speedily actualized. As it was in the Creation of the world.
God spoke, and the world came into being.
“…And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw the light that it was good.
…And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation…And the earth gave forth vegetation….and God saw that it was good.” (Genesis1: 3-12)
In the world of the Divine, apparently intention, word and creation are one. The word and its actualization are the same.
Perhaps in preparation for the month of Av, the Torah readings on the preceding Shabatot remind us of the the significance of speech.
In the Haftorah of Pinchas, God speaks to Elijah in a Still Small Voice, and asks him a question, an existential question, which reverberates within us until today. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19: 12-13)
In Parshat Matot we also read about the importance of speech. “Moses said to the heads of the tribes of Israel: ‘If a man vows a vow to God, or takes an oath to bind his soul with a bond, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” (Numbers 30:2)
This is a Divine attribute. “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)
But can we, Man, hold ourselves to this standard?
Sometimes we speak, and our words are meaningless, or unintentional, or even with the reverse intent. We use language both to reveal and to disclose, to promise and to betray, to affirm and to deny.
In a word, one’s world may be damaged, destroyed. In a word, one’s world may be built and rebuilt, life infused with hope, sunshine and joy.
The magical ability, the transforming potential of language. Are the words of our mouth aligned with the intentions of our hearts?
May we remember, that our voice, even the still small voice, is heard.
It may even reverberate, its echoes heard in the future.
Perhaps in a dream. In which life for our children, for the just born, for the yet-unborn, will be beautiful, peaceful, filled with sweetness, with kindness, with raisins and almonds.
For, although this month we are presented with a foretelling of destruction, we are also told: ”But this do I call to mind, therefore I have hope. The kindness of the Lord has not ended, His mercies are not spent. They are renewed every morning…” (Lamentations 3:21-23)
Will we awake to a better world? What is our calling?
May the dreams, aspirations expressed in our words be worthy of fulfillment.
May the fruits of our words, the product of our actions, be for Good.
May we listen in the silence of the night, to the still small voice of our heart.
“May you remember this melody,
raisins and almonds,
This will be your calling…”
Dr. Devorah Ungaris an American-born scientist and musician.who moved to Israel 30 years ago.