03. 17. 2010. 08:17

Hassidic Sequences (excerpts)

Why is this night different from any other night? / Otto Moll, Oberscharführer, asked / himself, and in the meantime searched for / the answer. From the south a breeze arose/ upon the Polish plain, and drifted into / the rose colours of twilight / above the chimneys

The Song of Three Youths
 
Once long ago there were three youths,
My song tells of their fates,
Who set off on a journey one by one
across the earth’s dark places.
              Three seraphs did follow in their wake:
              the angels of Dawn, Evening and Day.
 
On the path of Light, in the Ancient World,
they traveled, searching far and wide
and all in vain, for naught did
they find, only an oven before their eyes.
             Obediently they all stepped in,
             and thus does their song begin.
 
These three shall children still be
when by their very own decree
their names shall be known as
Israel. Of course by necessity.
             They awaited the morning fair,
             but dark Night still lurked there.
 
By the Lord of the Earth’s command,
they traveled far into Nighttime’s realm,
hungry and thirsty, in wagons they stand,
taken to the Protectorate’s land.
             For the fire never sleeps,
             the night illuminated gleams.
 
It was winter and silent, snow covered
the earth, where angels on high
swayed above, so begrimed,
but the youths’ hearts still in splendour shine.
             Into the Evening they cry,
             into the smoke they rise.
 
And the three youths enter into the Light,
and their souls there radiant shine,
like the small round loaf in the oven laid,
like the glow of the wheat’s Eye.
             They sing, they sing in the fire,
             as their souls grow ever brighter.
 
And across the Night, a Voice towards them
soared, a voice like the sound of weeping:
“Come hither, Ananais, Azarias,
and Mizael!” – thus it is written.
             In the dark of the Night they rest,
             they recline in the shadow of Death.
 
Zemirot
 
There, where the sun does rest,
while our bodies lie prostrate
as we await the train of Death
and we look upon the West.
            Come, good friend, let us receive
                 The radiant bride, the Sabbath Queen.
 
There from where She shall appear
her glory, writ upon the clouds
the flashing golden confine
a mere illusion, as was I.
           Come, good friend, let us greet
                 The radiant bride, the Sabbath Queen.
 
Buried within the smoke we lie
as to the East and South we rise,
everywhere the breeze shall go
Messiah, wait for us above!
          Come, good friend, escort with me
               The radiant bride, the Sabbath Queen.
 
The soul resides within the fire
though with the body I’m burning there,
for the Lord’s word gentle is:
upon the Scripture strewn ashes.
          Come, good friend, let us weep,
               The radiant bride, the Sabbath Queen.
 
She too arrives. The lamplight’s gleam
trembles on the oven’s rim,
air drawn through the chimney:
there where God has ceased to be.
         Come, good friend, let her proceed,
              The radiant bride, the Sabbath Queen.
 
 
The Sequence of Isaac Taub
 
When the rabbi of Kálló
     strolled upon the field
There came to him the Messiah
     in the form of a bird.
 
A more wondrous thing you never saw:
     that golden beak, that eye of pearl!
He walked on atop the grass
     his foot untouched by loamy earth.
 
With him a little shepherd boy
     who sang to him a song.
He looked as if he could be Anyone
     come to hunt him down,
 
However, it was David,
     the king of Jerusalem
He sang a song about the bird,
     who is Christ’s Absence.
 
“When will it be, when shall the bird
     upon his death rise up again,
who never walks within our midst
     but with the break of dawn ascends?
 
“In the forest green, on meadows smooth
     you are alone, oh Rabbi!
If you buy from me this song
     You shall never need to die!”
 
Then the Saint of Kálló,
     the miracle-rabbi stood still.
With coins he bought from David
     that of which the melody sings.
 
If the rabbi did not sing,
    the bird sank into gloom.
His leg yellow, his wing now green.
     He stopped, wept. And was mute.
 
“When will it be? When will it be?”
     Somewhere the rooster cries
Never shall that bird ascend,
     only he who of it sings.
 

XVIII
 
Why is this night different from any other night? –
Otto Moll, Oberscharführer, asked
himself, and in the meantime searched for
 
the answer. From the south a breeze arose
upon the Polish plain, and drifted into
the rose colours of twilight
 
above the chimneys, and the fragrance of
fresh springtime earth, one knew not
from where, ascended, blotting out the chimneys’
 
choking stench. But why is this night
different from any other night, asked
Otto Moll within himself for the second
 
time, as he watched filing before him rows of
people, here sent to the right and there
to the left. Why do I feel that
 
God is here, even if I know that is simply
impossible? But then why is this night so
different? If the succession of cause and
 
effect would be within the history of Israel,
then who am I, Otto Moll,
in it? But if this is Egypt, then
 
emancipation can only be reached through the sky, he
thought. In the meantime the lower depths stood
in fire, and from the light of the setting sun
 
turned crimson, like that Sea
which swallowed up the Pharaoh’s soldiers
and his chariots of war. “A billy goat,
 
a billy goat,” mumbled a small
child, and squeezed the hand of his
Mammele as they walked towards the ovens.
 
 
The Sequence of Places
 
When the Angel of the Lord,
     Descending with the breeze of Dawn
And from the skies the dew may fall,
     And may Heaven come upon the earth;
 
When the breeze again shall rise
     And in the dawn’s obscurity
In the wake of evening chill
     Azael comes forth, and no one else;
 
When the bird, if it would sing,
     And the mist, like a shawl
Flutters above, and on the song’s word
     Death alights upon the earth;
 
When the ground, as in the spring,
     Lies in repose yet too is parched,
And no one speaks words of complaint
     And the Dawn sets to depart;
 
When the Night to Brightness turns,
      And from behind it yet
Allegory’s light still burns:
     And there are no other words.
 
VII
 
Reb Teitelbaum listened to Reb
Taub. And when he retold the parable,
the teaching went like this:
“When God created the first human
 
being, he created only a shadow
for it. The Shadow, however, was
itself that Light which can be seen in the world.
There was no day and no night,
 
and the human being only stood there. And God
could not understand why it was simply standing
around. So he came up with a body to go with it,
 
so the human being could at least have a rest. And when
the Shadow grew tired, it met up with the Body.
And that is how the material world came into being.”
 
 

Translated by: Ottilie Mulzet

Tags: Szilárd Borbély