The following verses, which I once wrote on the mourning day of the Ninth of Av, described my despair as a Jew:
The Prayer-House is eerily shrouded in gloom,
The wise with their mournful lament fill the room,
For the splendor of Judah, of Zion, has gone;
From the darkness of night, to their cries, none respond.
The flock that has gathered to worship is thin,
Naught but a reminder of what once had been.
In nameless pain they sit on the ground,
For temple and heart alike suffer wound.
Only the oldest of men come to pray;
Their features are furrowed; their heads are all gray.
Their grandchildren run to them, hug them, and cry,
“Zayda, what happened? You’re crying—but why?”
In a distant, far corner of the temple hall
There is a young man who sits separate from all;
On his face, now, a flash of unspeakable pain—
What woe, O youth, has your heart fought in vain?
“And should I not cry, and should I not wail,
And does not the night cause my people travail?
And can you not see, to the grave we are thrown,
Lacking all hope of resurrection?
“You see how the daughter of Zion, high-born,
Is now covered with muck, derision and scorn.
The children—look now—into their mother’s chest
Are thrusting the dagger with laughter and jest.
“You must see them kneel before foreign gods
As foreigners trample the Temple faÃ§ades.
With ruthless abandon, a firebrand they throw
At the old holy building, and set it aglow!
“My brethren, the ancients, are all gone—save I;
My heart may grow cold, but ‘til then, I stand by.
This house saw companions not so long ago;
Although it is gray, and no pleasure it knows.
“In just a few years I will sit here alone,
When what’s left of these old men is nothing but bones,
And then, as a ruin myself, I’ll lament
On account of these ruins, until I am spent.
“And as foreigners’ hands undertake me to bury,
And lower me into my grave, making merry,
They’ll point to the last Jewish corpse and they’ll say,
‘I’m sure now he’ll meet his Messiah one day!’”
The Temple is empty, the worshipers gone;
A sinister shadow has settled thereon.
All that’s left is one ray of one desolate lamp
To shine in the house, through the dark and the damp.
The shtenders, now prone, and enveloped in gloom,
Lie like corpses which met, on the battlefield, doom,
And behind these old lecterns appear in a line
The worshipers who have all been lost to time.
The young man is still there, in that lonely place;
He fervently prays, and an answer awaits,
Just as Jeremiah sat so long ago
On the ruin of Zion, in the moon’s eerie glow.
- On the night of the anniversary of the burning of the Temple, one lays the shtender (lectern) down, and sits on it.