Zelda: "When I Spoke The Blessing" (From Hebrew)

For this poem, I will forgo the usual apparatus of pointing out allusions to religious texts, since it just seems...somehow...wrong for this poem. All I'll say is that for many Jews, the Sabbath ceremony is intertwined with memories of now-dead close relatives blessing the Sabbath-candles, or presiding over the Sabbath table.

When I Spoke The Blessing
By Zelda
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original in Hebrew

"Blessed Art Thou, Lord Our God..."

When I spoke the blessing over the Sabbath candles
My longing cried out loud:
Shabbat shalom to you all, my darlings.
Ah, but they had passed out of the lands of the living
And did not answer that warmth.

My quavering holy day spoke: my roots are on high.
And I whispered:
Shalom to you, Shabbat to you,
My darling, my soul.

And through my tears: a wandering flow of flames.
And all the wall was glistening gold.
So much the light surrounding me,
And so much the pain,
My own dear soul is about to pass out.


The Original:

כאשר ברכתי על הנרות
זלדה

כאשר ברכתי על הנרות
קראו כיסופי בקול:
שבת שלום, יקיריי–
אך המה נטשו את ארצות החיים
ולא ענו לרוך.

אמר חגי הרועד: שורשיי למעלה:
לחשתי:
שלום לך, שבת לך, נשמתי.

מבעד לדימעותיי שוטטו שלהבות
והקיר כולו זהב מנצנץ,
כל–כך אור מסביבי
וכל–כך הכאב–
עוד רגע ותצה נשמתי.

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