by Haim Sabato (Translated by Hillel Halkin)
The Toby Press, 2003
“It was hard to say goodbye to my wife Malka on that night after Yom Kippur. I could see how worried she war. I too had a bad feeling. While we were packing my things, I talked to her about faith and trust in God’s Providence. I quoted some verses from the Bible and from the rabbis. I knew that Providence is for the Jewish People as a whole and not for any individual. Even Jacob, though he was promised that God would always be with him, was frightened when Esau marched against him with four hundred men. But I managed to calm Malka down. We were still packing when Yoel dropped by to say goodbye and surprised me by saying that the verse the Lord will not cast off His people, neither will He forsake His inheritance doesn’t apply to any single one of us, so what we all have to pray for our own lives to be spared. Either he had read my thoughts or we were all thinking the same thing. I hoped Malka didn’t hear him. I don’t think she did. Or else she pretended that she didn’t. We put Daniel to bed. He lay there smiling at me. I kissed him, trying not to cry. Malka came with me to the assembly point. She stood watching the bus pull out.” (98)
I looked at the moon and saw Dov. We had sanctified the moon of Tishrei together, the two of us, in Bayit ve-Gan with the Rabbi of Amshinov.
It was true, I thought. Sometimes God had mercy on the undeserving and shone His light on them. That mercy and that light stayed with you forever. They were a debt you had to repay. There was no getting around it. I thought of the vow I had made while dodging bullets in the wadi. I knew the world would never be the same.
Yes, sometimes God has mercy on the undeserving. And sometimes He descends to His garden, to the beds of spices to gather lilies – Sariel and Shmuel and Shaya and Avihu. And Dov. Though we left for war together.
What was it Rabbi Akiva once said? The Owner of the fig tree knows when it is time to father His figs.
Who can aim his thoughts as high as those of the Creator of men? In the month of Elul we said penitential prayers in my yeshiva. Now they echoed in my ears.
Who holds in His hand the souls of all that live
And the spirit of each mortal man.
The soul is Yours and the body is Your handiwork.
Spare the work of Your hands.
Lord of all souls, the soul is Yours.
But the body is also Your handiwork.
For this it was made, to sanctify Your name in this world.
Master of all worlds, spare the work of Your hands! (143)
– Haim Sabato