America’s Covenant

in Obituaries by

In the aftermath, what’s left? A few stains on the floor, an echo of voices (yitgadal v’yitkadash sh’mei raba) and bullets (clap-clap-clap), a vanishing sense of peace (shalom). Sabbath (Shabbat), we are taught, is a covenant, a curvature in space-time subject to gravitational deceleration (Einstein’s general relativity). We convene. We burrow. A bris is a commandment (mitzvah), a contract, a wax seal on our relationship with God. The Sabbath on the seventh day of the week, a bris on the eighth day of life, one a summation, the other a gate toward, a promise of a future, a liminal existence of one with the other (the present).

A thunderclap of doors thrown open, a rush to receive a stranger with hollow eyes and a soul filled with death. Was there time to blink, to kiss the Torah, to cover their heads with prayer shawls (tallitot)? Did the old ones recognize the madness even they had believed would never again be a part of the vocabulary of the species? (Never Again.) Was God present in the wedge between the arms reaching to embrace and the sprays of crimson and lead, grief once again soaking the earth in response to a reach for some psychotic divine, America’s covenant bleeding?

We sing. We praise. We cry. We rejoice. Our mouths caress the names of our dead. We pack them in our suitcases, just in case. We keep them by the door, touch them like the sacred scroll (mezuzah), kiss the air where their breath lingers. Because “never” and “always” are luxuries we cannot yet afford. Because history never ends. Because peace (shalom) is “a thing with feathers.”



Pittsburgh shooting: First of 11 funerals held for victims [BBC]
A 70-year-old nurse and hospital chaplain is in critical condition after surviving the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting [Insider]
Trump to visit Pittsburgh Tuesday despite pleas from mayor, residents that he stay away [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

With the help of HIAS, Marya Zilberberg came to the US as a teen from what was then the Soviet Union. She lives and works in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains in Western Massachusetts. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Tablet Magazine, Cleaver, and Vox Poetica, among others.

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