The Song of Names

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It was chanted for five Sabbaths in a row

in the small synagogue with the charred bimah,

ashes staining the tzitzits of the rebbe’s tallit,

as he raised his arms above his head, closed his eyes

and sang the first alaf of seven thousand dabars,

the oral memory passed down six generations,

a psalm for a hundred sabas and savtas,

abbas and eemas, nursery rhymes for ben and bat,

stopping, receding, picking up again, one by one

from cantor to congregant in a low moan

until all nine hundred thousand silenced voices

of Treblinka sang in the knesset’s bright light.

 

 

bimah-  lectern from which the Torah is unscrolled on

tzitzit- the knotted fringes of a Hebrew prayer shawl

tallit- a Hebrew prayer shawl worn by rabbis

alaf- the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet

dabar- Hebrew for word

saba- grandfather

savta- grandmother

abba- father

eema- mother

ben- son

bat- daughter

knesset- the members of a synagogue

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