Toldot Yitzhak Rabin

at the end of the day
we gently tuck
a child in bed
with sheets and blankets

at the end of a person’s life
we gently cover
their grave
with the dust of the earth

both deeds of lovingkindness
and yitzchak and yishmael buried
their father abraham

sometime during the night
we return
to the child’s room
and make sure that everything
is in order
as we rearrange their blankets and sheets

thirty days after someone dies
we return
to their grave
and make sure that everything
is in order
as we set their gravestone in place

over her grave ya’acov set up a pillar

at the end of end of a tractate of talmud
we read hadran elecha
we shall return to you

we shall return to you
yitzhak the son of nehemiah and rosa

as we bring stones to
place on your grave
stones of a silver platter
from the four corners of the earth

and from those stones
let us build a tower of peace
that will be a beacon to us
pillar of fire in front of the camp
an eternal light
to show the way

to you yitzhak rabin we shall return
as we complete the chronicle
ve ele toldot yitzhack

* * *

This poem was written 25 years ago as part of the official North American Jewish delegation to the “shloshim” observances for Yitzchak Rabin in Jerusalem. I attended as president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association at the time. The poem was also delivered on Kibbutz Ketura a year later, in Hebrew, during the first yahrzeit observance for Rabin. Kibbutz Ketura is the home of The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies that brings together Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, American and other international college-age students. The work of the Arava Institute is a direct legacy of the work and life of Rabin.

About the Author
Rabbi Michael M. Cohen teaches at Bennington College's Center for the Advancement of Public Action, as well as the Arava Institute on Kibbutz Ketura.
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