- Remembering Beit Elisheva (Elisheva's House), Jerusalem
The park Beit Elisheva fills with children using up daylight. In the sound of their play is the hollow rumble of time. It is the world deafly taking shape.
It is Elisheva's house—I call it by its name and it begins to live—again full of rejoicing: the Tabernacle newly raised and Moses, her brother-in-law, Aaron, her husband, her son and grandson, even her brother exalted before it.
But she mourns her two sons who died, carries their silence in her own mouth.
And her sorrow is meant as a reminder (for us) of all that we left back in Egypt, or in the wilderness, neither fully behind us, no one admonishing us, no one threatening to turn us into pillars of salt. We look freely over our shoulders.
But Elisheva will not look up. She will not meet our gaze.
Perhaps she writes to Miriam from her silence, as one who is startled by butterflies, (anticipating Clarice Lispector so many centuries and miles away): I want to write you as one who is learning, [End Page 51] though writing is only giving me this measure of silence. I want to delve into words as if painting not just an object but its shadow and my shadow spilling (around me), overflowing its source.
And Miriam writes back in the same vein: With the flow of the centuries I have lost the secret of Egypt, and the identity of the world within me. No prophetess now, not since Moses was born. Now you must ask the questions.
* * *
So Elisheva asks, and we along with her: But will I be able to deliver myself over to the expectant silence that comes after an answerless question?
Weeks pass like centuries and Miriam does not respond.
And the park fills and empties. And the light continues to change.
Lisa Yanover is a secular Jew, like her parents and grandparents before her. Like them, she has sought a way to identify as a Jew outside of the confines of religious observance. This pursuit has led her to seek a dialogue with other Jewish thinkers, and writing and reading Jewish texts, in a form of commentary, has become that dialogue. She has published several other of these essay-poems in Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion. She lives in Northern California and teaches English at Napa Valley College.
Except for "But she mourns her two sons who died then," which comes from Yishai Chasidah's Encyclopedia of Biblical Personalities, the italicized lines are taken from Clarice Lispector's The Stream of Life. [End Page 52]