In a back room off the Yeshiva’s large study hall—
fading wooden floors, a rabbi asleep and dreaming
at the next table—
I learn a Chassidic discourse with my cousin’s son
on how Jews’ commitment is greater now
than in temple times. For, now,
so many questions, such a long exile,
and still a Jew goes on.
Soon, my cousin’s son will earn his rabbinic degree, get engaged,
and then drown in a terrible scuba diving accident.
Leading the repetition of the Amida,
at the Shiva house,
my cousin will pause for what will seem like forever
at the end of the prayer,
Blessed is the God who resuscitates the dead.
The other worshippers won’t know what to do.
I will be standing next to the bookshelf
where his son’s teffilin lie unused in their case,
his name, Yosef, stitched into the cloth.
Finally, he will conclude the blessing.
Two years later, I will hold
my sister and brother-in-law’s son
in a synagogue
at the top of a great hill.
He’s just had his bris and has been named
after my brother-in-law’s father, who died
before he reached forty.
The Mohel is my cousin, who lost his son. The men dance
around me and the baby. I am looking down,
see my cousin’s black shoes stomping the floor,
going around in a circle.