Sunday, January 26, 2020

The Red Heifer

The following poem was inspired
by a message given by Joel Chernoff
at Beth Israel Worship Center,
Northern New Jersey, in 2002...

The Red Heifer


Numbers, Chapter 19 

One isolated evil
One momentary
blast of terrorism
in the land of Israel
…a solitary explosion
into the life of a child
I'll call that child Sarah

Sarah, about six
is of an Orthodox family
(likely a devout family)
I can't say if shrapnel
tore into her tender flesh
don't know if it killed her parents
or blew their home to smithereens
Can't say if a suicide bomber
pulled the pin on a bus
or in the marketplace
I do know Sarah was terrorized
traumatized, hospitalized
and could not keep
from soiling her bedclothes

It happened over
and over and over
night after night
her childhood
from inside out

Kindhearted people
seeking to console
terrorism's youngest victims
sent toys to the hospital…
baby dolls, trucks
all kinds of plush animals
Sarah's nurse invited her
to select a toy for her very own
Reluctantly, Sarah reached
into the big cardboard box
and pulled out a bright red bull

Sarah hugged the red bull
nestled her nose, playfully
into its velvety softness
clutched it close to her chest
kept it right beside her

Sarah talked to her little bull
told it whispery secrets
She loved her bull
and took it to bed

In the morning
Sarah's crisp white sheets
were clean and dry
and the next morning
the sheets were clean and dry
and the next
and the next
and next

so the nurse asked Sarah
what made her stop
soiling the bedclothes

Sarah looked up sweetly
with big dark eyes
and simply told Nurse
of course, she could not dirty
her bed any longer…
the Red Heifer
was with her

Sarah certainly was too young
to comprehend the ordinance
the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron
of the Rite of the Red Heifer
too young to understand
about its ashes
in the "water of cleansing"
that washed away defilement
too young to recognize the Red Heifer
as a foreshadow of Messiah

Neither can I explain
what occurred or how
but I do know
Sarah took her little red bull to bed
and doesn't soil her bedclothes
any longer

Maude Carolan

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