The Amen Stone
TRANSLATED BY CHANA BLOCH
On my desk there is a stone with the word “Amen” on it,
a triangular fragment of stone from a Jewish graveyard destroyed
many generations ago. The other fragments, hundreds upon hundreds,
were scattered helter-skelter, and a great yearning,
a longing without end, fills them all:
first name in search of family name, date of death seeks
dead man’s birthplace, son’s name wishes to locate
name of father, date of birth seeks reunion with soul
that wishes to rest in peace. And until they have found
one another, they will not find a perfect rest.
Only this stone lies calmly on my desk and says “Amen.”
But now the fragments are gathered up in lovingkindness
by a sad good man. He cleanses them of every blemish,
photographs them one by one, arranges them on the floor
in the great hall, makes each gravestone whole again,
one again: fragment to fragment,
like the resurrection of the dead, a mosaic,
a jigsaw puzzle. Child’s play.
I want to offer this sacred text as a prophetic accompaniment for this Shabbat between Yom Hashoah יום השואה, Yom Hazikaron יום הזכרון (Israel’s Memorial Day), and Yom Haatzma’ut יום העצמאות (Israeli Independence Day). These holy days are soaked in memory. And there is a sense of desolation — the helter-skelter tombstones could easily be the Valley of the Dry Bones.
Amichai’s sad good man is Ezekiel’s Son of Man בן אדם. The pieces — fragments of words, markers of human bonds, markers of time — yearn to join each other. In place of the other-worldly joining of sinew, bone and flesh, the fragmented House of Eternity is mended one modest human gesture at a time. Desolation slowly yields to love and to hope. Amen. אמן May it be so.