Have you ever spent an hour on the phone with someone without saying anything, basically just saying back and forth, “there are no words?”
There are no words.
There are no words to talk about the past 3.5 days in my motherland. No words can capture what so many of us are feeling. No words can adequately describe the depth of despair so many of us are experiencing. No words can comfort our family and friends, those who sat for hours locked in shelters, those whose children and spouses and parents are gone off to war without the ability to communicate back home, those who watched their children carried away by real-life monsters as hostages, and those who have come to learn of the unspeakable tragedy of the slaughter of a daughter, son, brother, sister, mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle, wife, husband, partner, dear friend. No words.
Yesterday morning I finally was able to speak with my Israeli family; between the time difference and the red alerts, we had messaged but had not actually spoken. And though we were looking at one another, face to face, פנים אל פנים, we had no actual words. Because what can one say at a time like this? There are so many questions and no answers anyway and besides, none of that matters right now. All that mattered was to see and hear them breathing. Not everyone has had that opportunity and our collective hearts are shattered in the East with all of them; our collective peoplehood and destiny bound up together as עם ישראל.
And as a parent to teenagers who I am filled with nachas to say are also proud of who they are, who all had the privilege of spending 3.5 weeks in their motherland with me and their Saba last year, who also have the privilege of two passports, there are no good words. Teenagers, perhaps more than at any other stage in life, want to be accepted, want to be liked, want to not stand out. Mine – and maybe yours too – have found themselves at so many moments these last few days as outsiders. Their classmates and some friends share social media posts that aim to justify the merciless murder and capture of now 900 of our distant relatives. The only support they are receiving is from inside our own community. Thank God for (and the people in this community who make possible) Jewish camp and youth group and the Jewish club at school, and the bonds they created in Jewish preschool because they need those now. These kids feel so alone in their public schools and at their jobs and they also do not have the words in those spaces. And the silence from those thought to be friends is deafening. Perhaps those friends or acquaintances also have no words? I am bereft that they cannot come up with something to bring my kids some measure of comfort. Parenting my own three through this leaves me speechless. Ein milim.
When I’m upset, I often turn to writing to soothe my soul. And yet, there are no words. Ein milim. Terror. Horror. Shock. Grief. Tragedy. Nightmare. Hell.
And when there are no words that I can offer, I turn to words written long ago that still mean something.
קֹטֶר הַפְּצָצָה הָיָה שְׁלֹשִׁים סֶנְטִימֶטְרִים
וְקֹטֶר תְּחוּם פְּגִיעָתָהּ כְּשִׁבְעָה מֶטְרִים
וּבוֹ אַרְבָּעָה הֲרוּגִים וְאַחַד עָשָׂר פְּצוּעִים.
וּמִסָּבִיב לָאֵלֶּה, בְּמַעְגָּל גָּדוֹל יוֹתֵר
שֶׁל כְּאֵב וּזְמַן, פְּזוֹרִים שְׁנֵי בָּתֵּי חוֹלִים
וּבֵית קְבָרוֹת אֶחָד. אֲבָל הָאִשָּׁה
הַצְּעִירָה, שֶׁנִּקְבְּרָה בַּמָּקוֹם שֶׁמִּמֶּנּוֹ בָּאָה,
בְּמֶרְחַק לְמַעְלָה מִמֵּאָה קִילוֹמֶטְרִים,
מַגְדִּילָה אֶת הַמַּעְגָּל מְאֹד מְאֹד,
וְהָאִישׁ הַבּוֹדֵד הַבּוֹכֶה עַל מוֹתָהּ
בְּיַרְכְּתֵי אַחַת מִמְּדִינוֹת הַיָּם הָרְחוֹקוֹת,
מַכְלִיל בַּמַּעְגָּל אֶת כָּל הָעוֹלָם.
וְלֹא אֲדַבֵּר כְּלָל עַל זַעֲקַת יְתוֹמִים
הַמַּגִּיעָה עַד לְכִסֵּא הָאֱלֹהִים
וּמִשָּׁם וָהָלְאָה וְעוֹשָׂה אֶת הַמַּעְגָּל לְאֵין סוֹף וְאֵין אֱלֹהִים
The Diameter Of The Bomb (Yehuda Amichai)
The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters
and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,
with four dead and eleven wounded.
And around these, in a larger circle
of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
and one graveyard. But the young woman
who was buried in the city she came from,
at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,
enlarges the circle considerably,
and the solitary man mourning her death
at the distant shores of a country far across the sea
includes the entire world in the circle.
And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans
that reaches up to the throne of God and
beyond, making a circle with no end and no God