תפילה לפני הגניזה | Prayer for the Interment of Sacred Writing in a Genizah, by Morah Yehudis Fishman

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I come today
to say goodbye
to words
that used to speak to me.

Or that spoke to G-d
through me,
or that spoke to me
through G-d.

However, at this moment,
you lie cold
and silent
and so I too now lack words.

Still, I believe you continue to breathe
from your mass grave.
My bones whisper
that your pages and your inks
will return to the trees and the plants
from where they once came.
They say that someday
they will even come back to life
with words never yet heard.

But what of me,
how can I now even begin to call out
or listen to sounds from other domains,
when the present airwaves are so domaim,
so mute as to be dead?

Yes, we all have secular words,
words that serve us
in ordinary discourse
as well as when
we express motions
and notions
of daily connection
and disconnection.

On the other hand,
words that are holy–
that’s a very different story.
Like the Ḥassidic Rebbe who said,
“before you speak,
ask yourself this question:
‘Will your words improve the silence?’”[1]A New England adage of unknown origin. But also note the tradition of appreciating silence among the Ḥasidim of Worke, as described by Elie Wiesel in Somewhere a Master: Further Hasidic Portraits and Legends (New York: Summit Books, 1982), pp.175

If these pages of Tefillah and Torah,
of prayer and teachings,
have been washed away
from our homes and shuls,
where DO we find the words
to improve the silence?
I doubt it will come
through mere ego driven words.

Perhaps you claim
that sacred words actually reside
in the depths of our own souls?
That prayer
and study
are more about listening
than speaking?

In that case, like the words of King Solomon,[2]Cf. 1 Kings 3:9 
we ask that G-d grant us ‘Lev Shomei’a,’
a heart that hears through the silence,
a heart that hears behind the cry of each dying letter,
your insistence on an emergent reality
beyond the borders of our sensory world.

Therefore, I call out to you,
sweet pages,
and sadly tattered sheets,
you who lie forlorn
but not forgotten
in the dark, dank, depths
of your now subterranean library.
I send back to you
the luminous angels
that we together birthed
from our most intimate moments–
when, as Rebbe Nachman put it,
we formed bouquets
from each hallowed letter,
each blessed phrase.

May your words never expire, but rather —
arise and inspire from their hidden tombs
to enter a realm where they await
a baal hasadeh,
a master of the field,
a Mashiach, —
a shining doula of speech,
a conductor with a baton
that can again blow life,
hope
and healing
back into pages and souls,
back into an earth
where trees and plants
will once again rejoice
with a new song
in a rejuvenated creation.

Notes   [ + ]

  1. A New England adage of unknown origin. But also note the tradition of appreciating silence among the Ḥasidim of Worke, as described by Elie Wiesel in Somewhere a Master: Further Hasidic Portraits and Legends (New York: Summit Books, 1982), pp.175
  2. Cf. 1 Kings 3:9

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