Monday, April 12, 2010

Yom HaShoah Poem 2010

Vhi Sh'amda: Egypt and Eastern Europe

A poem for Yom HaShoah 2010 by Matt Rutta

Delivered at American Jewish University, April 12, 2010

Last week we celebrated our escape from Egypt

    Today we mourn our inability to get out of Eastern Europe in time

In Egypt Pharaoh killed our newborn baby boys and let our girls live

In Eastern Europe the Nazis and their collaborators shot and gassed men, women, and children with no mercy

From Egypt marched 600,000 men of the Army of God

    In Eastern Europe Six Million were left behind

We marched triumphantly with our heads held high from Egypt

    We were lead from the concentration camps on Death Marches

In Egypt we built the Treasure Cities of Pitom and Raamses to hold the spoil of Pharaoh's wars

In Eastern Europe we built the gas chambers and crematoria of Buchenwald and Treblinka where we would meet our own demise

In Egypt Pharaoh set Egyptian taskmasters over us

In Auschwitz the Sonderkommando were Jews forced to turn against their own people for the chance to survive a little bit longer

When we disobeyed in Egypt, we were forced to glean our own straw to make our tally of bricks

    When we disobeyed in Sobibor the SS would shoot every third Jew

In Egypt we were like an appliance

    In Eastern Europe we

In Egypt we were forced to build the pyramids, the glorious tombs of the Pharaohs in Giza

    In Eastern Europe we were forced to dig our own mass graves in Babi Yar

Of Egypt we joyously proclaimed "In every generation people rise up to utterly destroy us but but the Holy One Blessed be He saves us from their hand?

    Where was the Holy one in Eastern Europe?

When we were liberated from Egypt we left so quickly that our matzah had no time to rise

When we were liberated from the Concentration Camp we were so malnourished that even eating the Bread of Affliction would overwhelm our distended bellies, killing us.

In Egypt we went from sorrow to great joy

    In Eastern Europe we went from sorrow to more sorrow.

In Egypt we joyously sang "Who is like you God among the mighty?" as we marched across the split sea.

In Eastern Europe we joyously sang "I believe in perfect faith that the Messiah will come" as we marched into the gas chambers.

In Egypt the slaves' greatest worry was when they would be fed

    In Eastern Europe it was not "when" but "if"

They missed the fleshpots of Egypt, with the leeks, the onions, and garlic that they ate free in Egypt

In the Concentration Camp it was a small bowl of rotten onion floating in polluted water

In 210 years we increased from 70 to 600,000 men

In 6 years we were reduced from 14 million to 8 million humans

Our experiences in Egypt three millennia ago are believed by many religions and most of the world's population

Our experiences 65 years ago continue to be denied by those who seek to destroy us again, devour Jacob, and finish the job

In Egypt we cried out to God and He heard our cry and saved us with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm

    In Eastern Europe we cried out to You! Where were You?!

You who guided us through the desert and protected us with a pillar of fire

    Our flame was almost extinguished

You are our Shepherd and we are Your sheep,

    And we were sheep to the slaughter

Had they only stripped us of our citizenship and expelled us from their land,

    Dayenu, it would have been enough

Had they only destroyed our stores forbidding us to sell to gentiles

    Dayenu, it would have been enough

Had they only stolen our property to take as their spoils

    Dayenu, it would have been enough

Had they only burnt our Torah scrolls

    Dayenu, it would have been enough

Had they only forbidden the observance of Shabbat by punishment of death

    Dayenu, it would have been enough

Dayenu! Mir Hoybn Shoyn genug! We've had enough!

Protector of Israel, protect the remnant of Israel, don't let Israel be destroyed, we who proclaim "Hear O Israel!"

You have heard our outcry too late, but You have returned us to the land you Promised us, the Holy Land flowing with milk and honey,

Now fulfill your promise, save us from the hand of those who every generation wish to destroy us and let us fulfill our battle cry of "Never Again!"

Redeem us and save us and let us dwell in peace!

Oseh Shalom Bimromav, Hu Yaaseh Shalom Aleinu V'Al Kol Yisrael, V'imeru… AMEN!

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