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  • Shana Ritter

Chava's Remembrance

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a passage from In the Time of Leaving-


I was twelve the first time I fasted for Yom Kippur. It was the thirst I most remember. The way my lips went dry. As much as I tried to lick them wet again, they became drier. The more I tried not to think about it, the more I became aware of it. I thought more of water than remorse. I thought more of water than repentance. I wished the dark would descend and the stars would rise so that I could drink from the botijo, the clay jar where the water had been sitting all day waiting, to take away the parched feeling in my throat, waiting for my lips to fit on the mouth of the jug and drink.

It was not the hunger that bothered me. I could wish away hunger but not the want for water. I asked Papa about it after we had broken our fast. He said I had gone into the desert and found the yearning of our people. Yearning cannot be quenched with thought or logic, it can only be satiated with immersion. I must have revealed my confusion in the way I looked at him. He put his hand on my head and promised we would talk more about it in the morning.

That night I dreamt of stars rising in threes, light enough to drown the moon. I dreamt their light turned to water and sparkled in the night. In the morning I went to our library and searched the shelves hoping to find a book or a poem that would explain it to me. Instead I found my father who looked up from the text he was reading and bade me to come sit by him. He stroked my hair back from my face. I had come down in my nightgown without washing my face or combing my hair. He said nothing of this.

"Words will ease you thirst daughter, when there is no water, this is what you should drink." And then he recited a poem to me, I believe it was one he had written.

I have always remembered the last lines, which were as if in answer to my dream. “The light was like a breeze made from wings, as thin as a butterfly's/ for what are prayers but wings that lift us and turn us into light.”

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