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That Box [#poem]

That Box
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

I’m not ready to be here again,
yellowed papers in endless rows,
nothing has changed.

Texts are more than words,
more than parchment,
more than lifespans.

One year ago…
but I’m not ready to be here again.

We moved from our People’s geniza
into that room,
touched the holy texts
of poets and statesmen,
dreamers and pioneers…

,,,we moved on...

Suddenly (again)
my hands suddenly held death,
hard, cold, and demanding,
the end of the dream of immanent peace.

The pounding of missiles above and my heart within.

How can I walk back into that room?
How can that room even be?
How have we managed to endure our ragged history?

Those who forget the past
may be condemned to relive it.
But what of those who can’t forget?

I’m just a little boy in my family’s attic,
knowing that in that familiar corner is our dreams,
and in that other corner,
that wretched corner,
rests our nightmare,
an indelible stain
in the very fabric of our being.

The boxes go on
and on
and on.

I’m in the room again,
the one I can never escape,
hands and soul trembling.
I know what’s coming.
The same table,
same guide,
same documents...

...and that accursed box…

Al sfat Yam Kinneret /
On the shores of the Sea of Galilee,
the UN tally,
the very (re)birth of our Nation,
letters from Presidents and Prime Ministers,
dreams of prophets…
...and that box.

Today, my hand holds a pen,
but it is also - and always is -
holding that twisted thing,
that wrongness.

I sit, watching beloved friends
ooh and ahh at the beauty of each manuscript,
every scrap witness to to the staggering reality of our Story,
miracles and light.

And that box.

Fading photos, possible flags,
emerging language, testimony,
all of it: witness.

And: here I sit,
staring at that box.

On that hard day
one year ago,
that shocking sensation,
cold metal in my warm hands,
my cold paralyzed hands,
a precious friend reminding me,
gently guiding my hands to put it down,
to put the gun down.

My hands know what’s coming.

Their sounds,
their wonder,
their smiles,
as our journey unfolds
on this table, this altar,
upon which fiery sacrifices are recorded,
and strange fire in a box awaits.

What truth comes next?

Blue and white, black and white,
yellowed pages of art and verse,
image after image after image.
And that box.

I sit in the very space,
standing where I stood,
moving where once I couldn’t.
Heart still stopped.
Staring at that box.
That box.
That. Box.

My breath won’t come.
I move closer.
To the box.
Feeling time disappear.

Suddenly it is Then.
The eternal return.
That box.

I’m in that box.

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Sometimes, it isn't about nuance.
Sometimes it just comes down to facing the storm,
calling God out,
standing at the center of a whirlwind
holding your ground.

No cathedral is immune to agony,
no soul impervious to life itself no nation purely noble.
If it were any other way,
there would be no need for cathedrals
in the first place.

Kneel,  stand,  sit,  rise up.

To kneel is
to submit  to lower oneself  to step down  to pause.
To kneel is to call attention  to touch the Earth's face to listen to those  whose blood saturates  the very roots of our story.
To kneel is to step aside  to step outside  to invite others to come closer  to remember.
To kneel is not to stand not to stand not to stand idly by.
Speak your truth,
God damn it.

That's what God wants most of all.

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