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Jewish Journal

Poem: In the same key (Chayyei Sarah)

by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

October 23, 2013 | 11:32 am

They come together to bury their father
in the cave where Sarah’s body lies.

(No one imagines the vaulted church
-turned-mosque with painted ceilings

or the synagogue, or metal detectors
to keep armed men from getting through.)

Isaac and Ishmael wash him with water
and sprinkle earth on his eyelids

so his visions in the world to come
will derive from the land he loved.

Isaac’s memories of having a brother
and then losing him without explanation

Ishmael’s memories of aching thirst
before his mother saw the spring

go unmentioned, the bones of their past
buried beneath the drifting sands.

Outside the cave the women wail
two families grieving in the same key

not yet the ancestors of enemies
Abraham’s dark eyes in every face.


Rabbi Rachel Barenblat is author of “70 Faces,” a collection of Torah poems (Phoenicia Publishing, 2011).

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