Skip to content

Keywords

Articles tagged "Judaism"

The Toad Prince

I am standing in front of the mirror, afraid that I am bad. I am ugly because I am bad. I am a toad because the wicked witch has cast a spell on me. That’s why my head is like a toad. Jewish. Squash it! There are clean people: peasants, Germans, soldiers. They wear boots so they won’t touch a toad. They will squash me with their boots. Even the girls. The little princesses will turn me away in neat succession. I am not a human being. What a malheur. They won’t...

from “Soul Mate”

My father-in-law, Feibush, arrived unannounced at my doorstep in the middle of the week. I was writing out a mezuzah and so, fortunately, my cabinet of secular books was closed. Feibush’s eyes brightened when he saw the parchment, the quill in my hand, and the large yarmulke upon my head. Only when his gaze rested upon the closed book cabinet did a kind of cloud descend over his face. I suspected that he knew full well what trials and tribulations hid upon those shelves. And though...

How Old is the Queen of England?

The old dog lumbers beside me, exhaling and inhaling laboriously and tracking my steps with her bowed head turned white with old age. Owls perch on the branches canopying the path, against the indigo background of the darkening sky. They give us sideways glances and emit long whistles like rubber toys. Their eyes are open in wonderment. It's a familiar route. It begins at the breach in the concrete fence, shortly before sunset, and ends at the exact same place half an hour later. A...

The First Love

Once I happened to visit a fishing village in the Andaman Sea, west of the Malay Peninsula in the Indian Ocean. Unlike typical fishing villages, this one was not situated on shore, but floated in the sea. Its houses were built on rafts that were anchored side by side and connected with ropes and wooden walkways. The village rocked tranquilly upon the waves, up and down, creating a strange sensation. In general, when you go from a boat to a dock, you feel at once the reassuring solidity of...

Parting, a scene

"Parting," first published in Hebrew in 1914, revolves around the biblical injunction (and the Jewish custom) that a man must marry and support his brother's widow. However, in later times, as bigamy was outlawed, wives were made to divorce their dying husbands. . . . then the sun began to set. And it sent its last rays to the window of the terminally ill man. The rays shone through the latticed curtain, and flecks of light collected on the wall near the bed. . . . The room was...

Käte Frankenthal, an Activist Physician

Image description

Mynheer

It is bitter, each Passover, to read, in the luxury and voluptuousness of being The solitude of the four boards from the palm slapped over the cheek the morning tear urged against the abandonment of oneself and the shoe of the clown inside your brain -this is how he began each of his holidays, my friend, Mynheer. They say that in olden days bitter herbs saved him while his own skin was his tent and the vinegar from the clay burned the entrails severed from the psalms....

A Friend of the Archangel

When Gabriel left his country for the first time he was 55 years old. At first he thought he was lucky to have escaped the communist hell. In his own city of Sighet it had become impossible for him to practice his watch-repair trade. His shop, like many other private enterprises, was confiscated by the state and he was forced to work for many years as a night watchman. His wife Lea-who had been deported to Transnistria in her youth-insisted they emigrate to Israel, but when they finally...

A Song

In the Jewish parliament The walls are burning. People are learning Talmud, arguing over commentaries. Suddenly--quiet, please! A gentile comes in And says in gentile-ese: Gentlemen, That's the kind of world this is. The learners split into equal parties Forbidding, permitting, and deriving. What did the gentile mean when he said "The kind of world it is"? They grab their heads. Oh, dearest God, the kind of world this is! The right says: It may not suit the...

The Happiness of Also Refusing Happiness

The happiness of refusing happiness The joy of refusing joy Passionately keeping passion back Proudly breaking pride in ecstasy. Night in the forest on trouble's path All rustling has become one tree One secret calling cry for help One star glowing, a small eye. What's sense here? I don't know why-- Still walking, now I'm at the door Chaos behind. The door's a lamp Inside the cry of help before. The mussar house inside of me Murmurs, mirage of...

Seclusion (from the poem “Kotzk”)

When the decadent genius of Chasidus Comprehended what the secret of the Jew is, He lived by himself for many years. The Jew is loneliness. His sole belovèd is The world's alone one, the Creator. Who Can comprehend their twin aloneness? Chasidus: Chasidism. The Kotzker Rebbe, Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (1787-1859), secluded himself in his chambers for twenty years, refusing all contact. The Kotzker (as he was known) was famous for his strict judgment and as a...

This Year

This year I bore no fruit only leaves that give no shade I'm afraid, Rabbi, I'm afraid, Lord, that a hungry weary man curses me on the endless road to Jerusalem

A Dove in the Distance

A dove in the distance fluttered, flitting through the forest—— unable to recover she flew up, flustered, hovering circling round her lover; having thought the thousand years to the Time of the End about to come, she was confounded in her designs, and tormented by her lover, over the years was parted from Him——her soul descending bared to the world below. She vowed never again to mention His name, but deep within her heart it held, as though a fire...

Gold

Why is my beloved so haughty, and why is he so angry with me? Before Him why do I shake like a reed? He's forgotten how long I walked in the wilderness after Him--and doesn't respond, though I plead. If He kills me still I'll trust in Him. If He hides His face, to His goodness I'll turn. The Lord's favor to his servant will not alter; for how could the finest gold go dim? Translation copyright 2004 by Peter Cole. All rights reserved.

It’s Not Time For . . .

It's not time for a change. As long as I can remember it's never been time for a change. Like cars that screech to a halt houses stand poised in their old breeding ground of rotten acacia leaves.From ribs that bulge like knots on a bundle of wet ropes a faint voice arises, crying, "choose!" Choose between memory and that peculiar stench. . . . Choose between clouds and earth. I tremble like a tree in a winter storm. I wait. I don't understand but I...

from Outcast

Dreams don't come to us without being provoked externally, which is what happened to me yesterday when I woke up at five in the morning, precisely the hour I had intended to get up. I found myself on someone's trail and soon I saw Kassem and said something as I approached him, even though I was astonished that I would be able to talk to him while he was no longer among the living; then I realized that it wasn't Kassem but my faithful servant Sha'aban and that I wanted him to...

At Home in Exile: An Interview with Shimon Ballas

This interview appeared in slightly different form in Keys to the Garden: New Israeli Writing, edited and translated by Ammiel Alcalay (San Francisco: City Lights, 1996). Ammiel Alcalay: Starting with education, practically and in a wider sense, how were you formed as a writer? Shimon Ballas: One has to go very far back, to early childhood. I was always attracted to writing. I connected it to stories told at home and I used to try and write them down for myself. I was always a little...
Like what you read? Help WWB bring you the best new writing from around the world.