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Ḳinah (lamentation) for Yitzḥak Rabin, by Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Cohen (2004)

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On the day after Yitzhak Rabin was killed
Moshe remonstrated with God
as he does every day
Is this Torah and this its reward?
and he again felt faint sitting
in the back of Akiva’s study hall
looking over nine empty rows
benches bereft of students whose
master was martyred whose
flesh was parcelled
out in the market.

and God said they are turning
back the clock they are forcing
my hand they are running toward
an end that I didn’t intend to write

the benches are filled with those
whose texts are filled with dirt and
rocks. and Moshe, faint with the
hunger of unfulfilled desire
asks: is this the love of
Solomon, the holy of holies?

and Elishah saw the angel sitting
and Elishah saw the son dying
and Elishah turned on Rabbi Meir
“go find your Akiva now
maybe he will teach you now.”

On the day after Yitzhak Rabin was killed
a young girl with innocent
hatred stared from behind
the fence around Daheishe
and I shuddered at her innocence
and shuddered at her hatred

and when the Temple burnt the
stones fell
and now
we worship stones and cannot
see tears and so moshe still asks
is this torah and this its reward.


On the day after Yitzhak Rabin was killed
three men gathered in a clearing
with a fresh parchment
prepared and scored
and dipped a quill
in ancient ink
made of ash
and dirt
stones ground to a
powder by time

On the day after Yitzhak Rabin was killed
three men gathered in a clearing
and wrote woe and mourning
sensing the dread that was
God sat on the side
in sackloth and smile
wondering what had changed
and in the central square in Gaza
a man took his bandages off one at
a time so that he wouldn’t miss the call.
no one, of course, noticed him at all.


On the day after Yitzhak Rabin was killed
I stood in the cool dark Lebanese night
shouting names of friends, acquaintances
comrades, study partners
and waited—as during the days between
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
when the whole world’s fate rests
on the weight of one deed good
or evil—for the decree
from on high, from below
from before creation
from the barrel of a gun
from the barrel of a tank.

A harried officer with tattered
forms and a memory
that would probably
give him no rest
as best he could

On the day after Yitzhak Rabin was killed
we planted a vineyard, got drunk
and were raped by our eldest son
we woke with no memory
just the mark on our forehead
from the man in the flaxen robe
whose hired quill was in the
service of God.


On the day after Yitzhak Rabin was killed,
having bathed in the mikvah in
preparation, I, pure, walked
the sandy smooth steps
of the Moslem Quarter
turning left then sharply right. i, pure
entered the Temple Mount through the gate
of the Chain. Turning right again
I, Pure, paced off the area of the
Holy of Holies.
the perfect Temple of the holy
books now forced upon the cold
stones of the Herodian plaza
as the Dome of the Rock faded into
invisibility i, pure, donned the vestments and
prepared the sacrifice to GodManofWar
slaughtering the ram catching the blood
sprinkling it on the altar as if without
intent, skinning the ram son of Isaac
removing the innards and the legs
bringing it near on to the altar
burning it so that the pleasant smell
might satiate the One of this Place
and then removing the vestments
and gathering the sins I rode off
on a goat to die on the rocky cliffs of Azazel.
On the day after Yitzhak Rabin was killed.

A qinah (lamentation) for Israeli Prime Minister Yitzḥak Rabin, assassinated on 4 November 1995, the yahrzeit of which is י״א בְּמַרחֶשְׁוָן ‎(11 Marḥeshvan).


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