Wednesday, February 13, 2013



Transmissions flow from your heart to Mine,
trading, twining my pain with yours.
Am I not — you? Are you not — I?

My nerves are clustered with Yours.
Your dreams have met with mine.
Are we not in the bodies of millions?

Often I glimpse Myself in everyone's form,
hear My own speech — a distant, quiet voice — in people's weeping,
as if under millions of masks My face would be hidden

I live in Me and in you.
Through your lips goes a word from Me to Me,
from your eye drips a tear — its source is Me.

When a need pains You, alarm me!
When You miss a human being
tear open my door!
You live in Yourself, You live in me.


People's eyes wait for me
like candle wicks for a light

Shames brothers beg my help,
deceived sisters dream of consolation.

And I, with stubborn boldness, have promised
that I will increase tenderness in this world —

and it seems to me that I will, in time
move on through this earth
with the brightness of all the stars
in my eyes!


Give me no gift of weapons
nor feelings of victory.
I want no triumph.
Let me fight, but lose!

Give me heroic stubbornness in love,
unending heart,
to give friendship without measure,
to forgive without end.

Only grant me strong bright senses
to bring happiness, to help, to hear the needs
of even a pulse-beat,
the call of any person!


Today the city belongs not to people —
only to trees.
Citizens of a proud land have come
and taken over all the streets.

Standing with torches in their hand,
gathering luster for every eye;
holding plates outstretched
while the sun distributes bits of dazzle.

Today the city belongs not to its citizens
but to us who have remained in it.
Those who've gone touring
left the town to the most lonely
and locked her up with stillness.

And we with torches in our eyes,
with cool-fire loneliness —
forgotten bt everyone —
we love you — you, the deserted for a day and night!

for my sister Esther


When I wash myself with water I shudder, thinking:
"This is the sweat of millions of laborers."

Street-walkers are my bastard sisters,
and sinister criminals — souls perhaps transmigrated from me.

Concerning those murdered, I think
that I encouraged the assassin.

Perhaps I insulted
the disgraced people in my town.

Something in me confesses
"I'm guilty a thousand times for your distress."


I want to give you — world,
The inner lattice of my limbs;

My word, my hands,
the wonder in my eyes.

Take me for service to you,
And use me for your ends!

Place me
in alien railroad depots

like a greeting-statue
for forlorn guests . . .

with joy, and throat filled with words

with a bright face
and sunny hands.

Send me to exiled brothers,
prisoners in jails.

Send me with good news
and consolation to mourners.

With help to the poor,
with rescue for the sick.

Take me for a friend!
Take me for a slave!

I want to throw my head at your doorsteps —
prisons, hospitals — and beg forgiveness.


Abraham Joshua Heschel
The Ineffable Name of God: Man
translated from the Yiddish by Morton M. Leifman
(Continuum 2004)