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Letter to My Rabbi

By Alan Feldman From Issue No. 1

If you’ve missed me at Sabbath-morning study sessions,

wrestling with the six-hundred-and-thirteen commandments,

and how to ask forgiveness when we break them,

that’s because I’ve been in Turkey, an ineffectual being,

a tourist. While waiting for buses, or while Nan shops for rugs,

I’ve been reading Daniel Deronda.  Unlike Daniel

I’ve done few good deeds. There aren’t many beggars.

And bread is cheap, subsidized by the government.

I did visit my sister in Marmaris, where she lives

at a seaside hotel. Does this make me a holy messenger

carrying out what I take to be the wishes of the dead?

My mother, I mean.  Out of touch with my sister,

I greet her as a wanderer who might still return.

We have a good visit. On the last day we walk miles.

She’s certainly not coming back. Not for my sake.

What hard-to-obey commandment am I breaking

that should be worth tons of extra credit? The one

to be her friend—selfless, like Daniel—my only desire

to do her good, someone I can’t change?

And what if there are thousands more?

I give up.   Don’t even try to answer.

We’re pretty remote already, heading inland

towards Mount Ararat, the first dry land

after the flood, where the roads are wild.

Lots of honking. Not bad-spirited. Just a way

to signal I’m here—as all creatures probably need to

since the ark ran aground, and everyone scattered.

About Alan Feldman More From Issue No. 1