Divrei ben Abuya

In the Babylonian Talmud, Elisha ben Abuya was a great sage who lost his faith in God. So great was he that his and subsequent generations continued learning from him - to the extent that the authors of the Talmud needed to create a story that would serve to legitimise his teachings despite his apostasy. His lesson is a lesson for us all: that great stature is not contingent upon blind faith, nor high learning upon the observation of Torah precepts.

July 12, 2006

The Eleventh Stanza

Another poem from Yehuda Amihai - this one requiring a brief prefatory explanation. The following is an example taken from the synagogue liturgy, read towards the end of certain services:

אין כאלהינו, אין כאדוננו
מי כאלהינו, מי כאדוננו
אתה הוא אלהינו, אתה הוא אדוננו
אתה הוא שהקריבו אבותינו לפניך את קטרת הסמים

There are none like our God, there are none like our Lord.
Who is like our God? Who is like our Lord?
You are our God! You are our Lord!
You are the one who drew our fathers close to you with the sacrificial burning of the incense.

Stanza eleven of "אלים מתחלפים, התפלות נשארות לעד":
אין כאלהינו, אין כאדוננו כך מתפללים
אין כאלהינו, אין כאדוננו שרים בקול גדול
והוא לא מגיב. ואנו מגבירים את קולנו ושרים
מי כאלהינו, מי כאדוננו והוא לא זז
ולא פונה אלינו. ואנו מוסיפים עוד בכח תחנונים
אתה הוא אלהינו, אתה הוא אדוננו. אולי יזכר
אותנו עכשו? אבל הוא נשאר אדיש, אפילו
פונה אלינו בעינים זרות וקרות
והפסקנו לשיר ולצעק ואומרים לו בלחישה
ומזכירים לו משהו פרטי, משהו קטן
אתה הוא שהקריבו אבותינו לפניך
את קטרת הסמים אולי יזכר עכשו
(כמו איש שמזכיר לאשה אהבה ישנה
את לא זוכרת איך קנינו נעלים
בחנות הקטנה בפנה וירד הרבה גשם בחוץ וצחקנו הרבה)
ונדמה שמשהו מתעורר בו ואולי זכר
אבל העם היהודי כבר נגמר

"There are none like our God, there are none like our Lord": so we pray.
"There are none like our God, there are none like our Lord": singing with voices raised.
But He does not respond, so we strengthen our voices and sing:
"Who is like our God? Who is like our Lord?" Yet He does not move
And He will not face us. So we increase the strength of our supplications:
"You are our God! You are our Lord!". Perhaps He will recall
Us now? But He remains indifferent, even
Turning to us with a cold stranger's eyes.
So we stop singing and crying out, and we speak to Him in a whisper
And we remind Him of something specific, something small.
"You are the one who drew our fathers close to you
With the sacrificial burning of the incense". Perhaps He will remember now?
(Like a man who reminds a woman of old love:
'Do you not remember when we purchased shoes
In the little store on the corner, and the rain poured down
Outside? How we laughed!')
And it seems that something has stirred within Him and He now turns around...
But the Jewish people can no longer be found.

2 Comments:

At 1:29 AM , Blogger Daniel said...

Was your English version meant to be a literal translation? If so, there are a few deviations from the Hebrew. If not, and it was meant to be a poetic translation, then I will bow my head and slink away in shame.

 
At 10:16 AM , Blogger Simon Holloway said...

Thoroughly poetic. As with the first one (although I didn't indicate so here), I took a lot of liberty with it and sacrificed a certain degree of both content and form. Probably the biggest alteration was in the final two lines where I felt that the force of the original was made stronger by the fact that it rhymed.

Hold your head high! You noticed the discrepancies between my translation and the original. (That is why this post needs more Israelis reading it) =P

 

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