Poem for Parshat Shemot (Exodus)

This week we begin the book of Shemot, where the Children of Israel are oppressed in Egypt. 

Out of the River I drew him

All has turned black
The decree has been passed:
“Every new-born Hebrew boy
To the River must be Cast!”
Such a goodly child, wept his mother, for the thousandth time
Was it her imagination, or did his face seem to shine?
Or do all Hebrew children’s faces shine?
I can not submit, I shall never agree!
Over my dead body shall they take my child from me!
But to what avail her death, if he was killed too?
Master of the World! Where do I turn? What can I do?
For three months, since his birth, she keeps him hid.
Soon Pharaoh’s officers will return, his will, to bid.
Better to fall into the hands of God, than into the hands of Man –
Suddenly she knew! – I will build him a basket: That’s all that I can!
So lovingly she places him in his basket, by the River
The rest – must be left – to God – May He Deliver!
There, among the reeds, rides the basket, on small waves
When Behold – to the River, the tyrant’s daughter, comes to bathe!
She takes him, names him, raises him as her own
And so, from the very Tyrant’s palace, a redeemer did come.
All is black
The decree has been passed
Every Jew in the Reich shall be taken and gassed
And in Palestine a White Paper holds sway
Declaring: a Jewish State will never see the light of day.
Where to turn? What to do? All seems lost. Hope is gone.
I lift my eyes to the Hills – from Whence shall my Help Come?
Somewhere, deep in Russia, on a river, floats a prison ship
From work camp to work camp the boat makes its transit trip
Hundreds of men, on plank shelves, in the hold, lie prostrate
Most are Urkis – criminals, with other “enemies of the State”.
Some Jews, there are too, even some Zionists among them.
And the young leader from Poland, whose name is Menachem.
Suddenly, comes the warden, and shouts a list of names
Prisoner Begin! – front and center – no we are not playing games!
Sikorski has signed his pact, Marshal Stalin has released all Poles.
But he’s a Jew, not a Pole! cries an Urki, but what does he know?
And so, drawn forth from that River in Russia so distant,
He sets out – joining the Polish Exiles and their army of resistance.
And the British call for their help – where? – in the Middle East!
There too looms the threat from the Nazi Beast.
Southward, ever southward, does their journey take
over mountains, plains, and white-capped lakes
Through Babylon, Baghdad, every day drawing nearer
Till finally, in Palestine, appears the young dreamer.
With dear wife reunited; she escaped months before,
Soon he leads a Revolt, making the Exile no more.
About the Author
Jerusalem resident.
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