Kaddish De Rabbanan
by Marjorie Stamm Rosenfeld
three-minute egg each morning.
Looking like a guest just come in
his hat on,
blessed the bread,
blessed the egg,
the giver of eggs--God.
Something always eluded him.
egg dripped and caught,
viscous and yellow in the bristles of his beard,
bauble for children;
rabbis of every principal city in Russia--
Rabbi of Minsk and the Rabbi of Pinsk, for instance--
the wall like handwriting.
Grandfather walked down the hall
in his white underwear (with his head well covered)
or wore black broadcloth.
Sometimes he performed the penny-bestowing ceremony.
This was private and confidential.
Produced mysteriously from his pocket,
the gift of dull, thumbed copper
gleamed, winked at us from between fat fingers,
left off being common coin,
became a thing of value.
grandfather was a rabbi at sixteen,
had read Spinoza and discovered what was the matter with his mind,
had written a book on Genesis,
every Friday afternoon spent two hours in the bathroom
tearing paper for the whole family
so that the work of hands
might not sully the Sabbath.
stayed on the porch late,
watching the stars light up one by one
it was finally night.
heard the breath of the house behind us,
how, when he went in,
closed around him.
are all gone:
shtetls of Minsk and Pinsk, the Vilna yeshiva,
Chelm with its fools.
is no place now for old Jews.
Grandfather, my childhood lives
that fragile, broken shell in front of you.
De Rabbanan" was first
published in Southwest Review.
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