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  • Looking for Lamed Vovs
  • Lois Roisman (bio)

According to the Talmud, the peace of the world reposes upon thirty-six Just Sages, the Lamed Vovs, indistinguishable from simple mortals, often unaware of their station. These thirty-six hidden ones have the potential to save the world; they appear when they are needed. Because they can, and because we need them. Analogous legends appear in Muslim folklore.

When I view the news photo of the farmer held by soldiers while his olive trees are uprooted, I look in the field for the Lamed Vov who has tied himself to an ancient tree.

When I see settlers shoot into their neighbor's olive groves, I look more closely and find another Lamed Vov shielding the olive pickers and helping with the harvest.

When, on the front page, I see a bulldozer flatten a home, I look for my Lamed Vov on the ground, blocking the driver's way to the door.

When the women from Jerusalem and Ramallah sew as sisters, I find a Lamed Vov in the circle, stitching, stitching with the women who sew a quilt of peace.

When a bus explodes, I strain to see if one of my Lamed Vovs has been dispatched. One of the children perhaps, who didn't yet know what her honored task would be. [End Page 45]

When I see a photo of a young soldier chiding elders at a checkpoint, I know my Lamed Vov is just outside the frame, gazing through the lines of print, reaching his hand to the soldier's arm, unreachable sorrow in his palms.

When I see the prime minister declaiming ponderously, heavily, about land and birthright and retribution, I can always find my Lamed Vov standing outside the Knesset in silent vigil, dressed in black. She is holding a sign that says Zachor, Remember.

When I see the wall, it stops my breath. I look around to find another Lamed Vov standing tiptoe on a rise, straining to glimpse beyond. Raising his arms, he sends his spirit as a bird to soar the wall and find its mate.

When I see the Jewish and the Muslim fathers clutching one another in their grieving stupors, I know that I am watching two Lamed Vovs whose sorrows have made them One.

The Spirit must transcend the wall.

Lois Roisman

Lois Roisman's plays on Jewish themes have appeared nationally and in Canada. Her play, Nobody's Gilgul, may be found in Making a Scene, Voices of Jewish Women (Syracuse University Press). Her poetry has or will soon appear in the Litchfield Review, Poetica, Light, and other publications. The founding executive director of the Jewish Fund for Justice, she lives with her husband, Tony, in Lyme, New Hampshire.



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p. 45
Launched on MUSE
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Archived 2012
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