Introduction to an Evening of Tanakh
by Yitzkhok Katzenelson
The first evening of Tanakh–
remember the date!
You have come tired and worn,
with tears in your eyes and woe in your heart–
Apparently we can’t escape these
wherever you come, your pain comes too!
Today, you my brothers, sisters so close and dear
today you’ll be rid of troubles,
today at the evening for Tanakh–
It is our ancient fortress!
The greatest and the strongest of all fortresses!
Observe, listen well and recognize
The sky is her roof —
the world’s four ends – her walls
the earth is her foundation —
And though one cannot see her sovereign,
her ruler —
in every corner there, in every crevice
you will detect and sense —
The first evening of Tanakh!
Come lonely brothers, lonely sisters
we will hide ourselves for an hour
in our old, old
castle, in our fortress
in the Tanakh —
Great thunder and sharp lightning – his speech,
stone cliffs and mountains his hardened cries…
the rustle of winds, his singing,
and the brightness of sun his main theme,
his leit motif,
the shining moon – his tender song
(and) the golden stars – his rhymes,
the ideas are broad and full and deep–
his are all the seas!
The same in any tongue,
whether Yiddish – or Hebrew —
It’s ours in its core, ours in ideas.
Whether perfect or in error —
ours is the spirit speaking out of him!
Whether he is bad or good —
It is our marrow in him and our blood —
What is it this Tanakh?
An otherworldliness on earth, a wondrous castle
a brightness without end,
and so much sorrow, so much…
Come, lonely ones, come Jews and recognize,
the eternal light, the humanity, the anguish–
and call out to yourselves, though with restraint:
Mine! Mine! Mine!
the great light and great suffering–
Mine, mine, mine!
the sorrow and the shine!
You’ve come for an evening of Tanakh
in dark mood —
with your grievous bitterness…
He knows it well!
He, the Tanakh, he knows it —
for it is your spirit that aches in him,
your blood that roils in him,
the voice that thunders there is your voice —
Be comforted !
Come, come embittered ones,
lost and gone astray
on all the roads of the world,
Come, come trembling ones
frozen with cold
come with your own wells,
come dear ones,
come closeto your source —
to his waters like wine,
to the Tanakh!
He slumbers not nor sleeps — ever awake,
he sees, he listens and (knows) all,
Cast all your aches away therein,
spit out the bitter greeness of your gall,
from your suffering he becomes more sweet!
As sweet as did Alisha’s well
when in it he poured salt —
the light of your shadow falls onto the Tanakh!
The Tanakh —
he is your father and your child
your past and your future
No the prophet’s voice has not gone with the wind!
And not silenced yet
will be in him your genius until now !
The Tanakh —
The book of eternal suffering and eternal life !
Yours is the life and yours the suffering!
Everything he owns –
you gave to him!
The suffering and the joys!
In him you woke to dawn,
In him you spent your nights !
Your unfathomable agonies,
when joined with a chapter of Tanakh
become better understood!
Come dear Jews
pour together with the old tears your fresh ones-
your new laments,
the torments of the last day —
they will not run out of the Tanakh!
they will remain forever!
(and eternal pain)
is joy (!)
and eternal suffering–
is light !
Come you Jews non-believers, come and become
here, near your Tanakh, believers!
Believe: those who create eternities on earth –
remain on earth forever!
(Translated by Sarah Traister Moskovitz