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Two Worlds Exist

ISSUE:  Spring 2012


If I wear an ice suit, I can fly beneath the sunset
and not burn,
my son said
from the back of the van, as we drove over the bridge
beneath the pink sky.
And if I wear an ice suit, I thought,
perhaps I will finish my days without roasting
in the oven of what one human does to another
or the furnace of what G-d does to man.

once, in shul, I sat across from a rabbi
who spoke of his suffering. He said,
I don’t have feet to stand on to complain, but
I remember standing in a room, thirty years
ago, the Rebbe raising his voice to call G-d
to task.

A week earlier, at the ritual bath,
the rabbi realized he had forgotten
his white Sabbath shirt.
In the sanctuary, I watched him stand up
to pray the silent prayer
in his undershirt and long black coat.
What role do these moments of minor embarrassment play
in a life of greater miseries?
Could the rabbi concentrate on his prayers?
And if so, what did he ask G-d for
at that moment?


If I had worn a cage of ice around my heart,
it would not have cracked
as I stood in the Cheder’s narrow hallway
and heard the principal’s matter of fact voice say,
We cannot help your eldest daughter.
She should go to another school.

If I wear a band of silence around my head,
I will hear nothing,
which is what my youngest daughter hears.

I would like to rise up
and lodge a complaint before G-d,
but each morning I wake late for prayers
and rush to catch up with the other worshipers.

Once, my wife turned to me and asked,
Do you think this happened because G-d wanted
to show us what innocence looks like?
Isn’t our youngest daughter happier than the others?

Then she turned her face back to her closet
and cried into her blouses.


Two worlds exist:
The higher hidden one
and our earthly realm.
Everything that occurs in this life
flows down from the hidden world.
That which appears good
descends through an infinite series of contractions
until it fits within the finite vessels of this world.
That which appears tragic
slides down, unmitigated,
from the hidden realm—
a higher, unlimited good
this world cannot hold.
So the mystics explain suffering
if all comes from above,
from where no evil descends.
Is this something one tells another
who is suffering?

This is something one does not speak
but tries to believe,
with all his being,
when life no longer seems possible.

When I was younger,
I believed the mystical teachings
could erase sorrow. The mystical teachings
do not erase sorrow.
They say, here is your life.
What will you do with it?


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