From the Valley of Baca (2016)

Texts from the poems of Emma Lazarus and the 84th psalm of the Hebrew Bible, verses 2­—13 (KJV English translation)



Not while the snow-shroud


Not while the snow-shroud round dead earth is rolled,

And naked branches point to frozen skies.—

When orchards burn their lamps of fiery gold,

The grape glows like a jewel, and the corn

A sea of beauty and abundance lies,

Then the new year is born.


Blow, Israel, the sacred cornet! Call

Back to thy courts whatever faint heart throb

With thine ancestral blood, thy need craves all.

The red, dark year is dead, the year just born

Leads on from anguish wrought by priest and mob,

To what undreamed-of morn?


High above flood and fire ye held the scroll,

Out of the depths ye published still the Word.

No bodily pang had power to swerve your soul:

Ye, in a cynic age of crumbling faiths,

Lived to bear witness to the living Lord,

Or died a thousand deaths.


Kindle the silver candle’s seven rays,

Offer the first fruits of the clustered bowers,

The garnered spoil of bees. With prayer and praise

Rejoice that once more tried, once more we prove

How strength of supreme suffering still is ours

For Truth and Law and Love.


(“The New Year”)



Ma yididot mishk’notecha Adonai tsivaot


2. Ma yididot mishk’notecha Adonai tsivaot.


3. Nichs’fa v’gam kal’ta nafshi l’chatsrot Adonai libi uv’sari y’ran’nu el ël chai.


4. Gam tsipor mat’sah vait u’d’ror ken la asher shata efrocheya et mizb’ chotecha Adonai tsivaot malki velohai.


5. Ashrei yoshvei veitecha od y’hal’lucha sela.



How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts!


My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.


Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God.


Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah.



Across the Eastern sky


Across the Eastern sky has glowed

The flicker of a blood-red dawn,

Once more the clarion cock has crowed,

Once more the sword of Christ is drawn.

A million burning rooftrees light

The world-wide path of Israel’s flight.


Where is the Hebrew’s fatherland?

The folk of Christ is sore bestead;

The Son of Man is bruised and banned,

Nor finds whereon to lay his head.

His cup is gall, his meat is tears,

His passion lasts a thousand years.


Each crime that wakes in man the beast,

Is visited upon his kind.

The lust of mobs, the greed of priest,

The tyranny of kings, combined

To root his seed from earth again,

His record is one cry of pain.


When the long roll of Christian guilt

Against his sires and kin is known,

The flood of tears, the life-blood spilt,

The agony of ages shown,

What oceans can the stain remove,

From Christian law and Christian love?


Nay, close the book; not now, not here,

The hideous tale of sin narrate,

Reëchoing in the martyr’s ear,

Even he might nurse revengeful hate,

Even he might turn in wrath sublime,

With blood for blood and crime for crime.


(“The Crowing of the Red Cock”)



Ashrei adam oz lo bach m’silot bilvavam


6. Ashrei adam oz lo bach m’silot bilvavam.


7. Ovrei b’emek habacha mayan y’shituhu gam b’rachot yateh moreh.


8. Yel’chu mechayil el chayil yeraeh el elohim b’tsiyon.



Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.


Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.


They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.



I saw a youth pass down that vale of tears


I saw a youth pass down that vale of tears;

His head was circled with a crown of thorn,

His form was bowed as by the weight of years,

His wayworn feet by stones were cut and torn.

His eyes were such as have beheld the sword

Of terror of the angel of the Lord.

He passed, and clouds and shadows and thick haze

Fell and encompassed him. I might not see

What hand upheld him in those dismal ways,

Wherethrough he staggered with his misery.

The creeping mists that trooped and spread around,

The smitten head and writhing form enwound.

I looked at him in dread lest I should see,

The anguish of the struggle in his eyes;

And lo, great peace was there! Triumphantly

The sunshine crowned him from the sacred skies.

“From strength to strength he goes,” he leaves beneath

The valley of the shadow and of death.

“Thrice blest who passing through that vale of Tears,

Makes it a well,”— and draws life-nourishment

From those death-bitter drops. No grief, no fears

Assail him further, he may scorn the event.

For naught hath power to swerve the steadfast soul

Within that valley broken and made whole.


(“The Valley of Baca”)



Adonai elohim tsivaot


9. Adonai elohim tsivaot shim’a t’filati haazina elohei yaakov sela.


10. Maginenu r’e elohim v’habet p’nei m’shichechah.



O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah.


Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.



What, can these dead bones live


What, can these dead bones live, whose sap is dried

By twenty scorching centuries of wrong?

Is this the House of Israel, whose pride

Is as a tale that’s told, an ancient song?

Are these ignoble relics all that live

Of psalmist, priest, and prophet? Can the breath

Of very heaven bid these bones revive,

Open the graves and clothe the ribs of death?


Yea, Prophesy, the Lord hath said. Again

Say to the wind, Come forth and breathe afresh,

Even that they may live upon these slain,

And bone to bone shall leap, and flesh to flesh.

The Spirit is not dead, proclaim the word,

Where lay dead bones, a host of armed men stand!

I ope your graves, my people, saith the Lord,

And I shall place you living in your land.


(“The New Ezekiel”)



Ki tov yom bachatserecha mealef


11. Ki tov yom bachatserecha mealef bacharti his’tofef b’vet elohai midur b’ahalei resha.


12. Ki shemesh umagen adonai elohim chen v’chavod yiten adonai lo yim’na tov lahol’chim b’tamim.


13. Adonai tsivaot ashrei adam boteach bach.



For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.


For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.


O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.



I saw in dream


I saw in dream the spirits unbegot,

Veiled, floating phantoms, lost in twilight space;

For one the hour had struck, he paused; the place

Rang with an awful Voice:

“Soul, choose thy lot!

Two paths are offered; that, in velvet-flower,

Slopes easily to every earthly prize.

Follow the multitude and bind thine eyes,

Thou and thy sons shall have peace with power.

This narrow track skirts the abysmal verge,

Here shalt thou stumble, totter, weep and bleed,

All men shall hate and hound thee and thy seed,

Thy portion be the wound, the stripe, the scourge.

But in thy hand I place my lamp for light,

Thy blood shall be the witness of my Law,

Choose now for all the ages!”

Then I saw

The unveiled spirit, grown divinely bright,

Choose the grim path. He turned, I knew full well

The pale, great martyr-forehead shadowy-curled,

The glowing eyes that had renounced the world,

Disgraced, despised, immortal Israel.


(“The Choice”)





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