It is nearing the end –
Many years this is the end –)
Of the desert journey.
We have come far
(Not so much in miles as
We have come close
(Not so much to a place as
It is nearing the end of the fourth book:
The Holy Land on the horizon;
A sun and dream dawning –
Brilliant rays turning the dark
Shadows of night into the
Radiant smiles of day…
O, how near we are.
But, even as these inks dry, blood
And tears flow down its cheeks
And streets, pooling in pockmarks
And potholes, reflecting bitterness
And scar-struck skins; black smokes
Of chimneys once skylights bellow
An acrid testament – destroyed is all
That which was constructive; broken
That which was complete – trapped
Between the confines is the vagabond
Prince living in a cardboard box, lips
Suckling a paper bag, his crown long
Pawned at a shop under the tracks.
The journey has taken us from Egypt
To the Mountain to the threshold of
The Promised Land; but look again
And we have long been exiled from
Our Land, back to Egypt – only now
It’s worse –
You see, today we think we’re free.
Moshe spoke to the
Heads of the tribes
Of the Children of Israel
A sticky situation;
A tree grows on high:
Let us call it the Source.
It reaches out. Branches
The freshly cut are weaker:
Green and moist, the life source
Still runs through them and they
Haven’t adapted an existence
All their own; one would never
Use these to build anything.
They don’t even really burn.
Then there are the seasoned
Wooden sticks, once supple
Now totally dry, independent
They don’t bend, never yielding
To another force but standing
Strong and proud (if a bit hard-
Headed and insensitive); sticking
To their guns, these logs and sticks
Would build a sound structure.
The Source, the tree on high, is
Heaven from which we come;
The branches, the sticks are we
The sons of heaven and the men
Moshe spoke to… the tribes
In English, the word Tribe is simple.
In the Holy Tongue, Tribe comes in
Shevet and mateh:
Shevet: a fresh twig still running with the
Life of its source.
Mateh: a stick whose life source
Is completely removed.
When we are tribes (matot) hard and removed from our source,
With destruction and dried woods all around us, if we reach
Deep inside we will find the deepest strength; at these times
We can build the strongest, greatest things. We may seem like
Different, hardened tribes – sticks – that are disconnected but
In truth we all come from the same tree, and when we build with
That, our life source never fades.
We can be sticks in the mud or
We can stick together
It is nearing the end –
The end of the desert
And the beginning of
The Promised Land
Mendel Jacobson is a writer, poet and journalist living in Brooklyn. His weekly poetry can be seen at jakeyology.blogspot.com
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.