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Torah Commentary
Va-eira (January 21, 2012)

The River Flows

Sherry Nehmer,

The river flows, broad and calm and slow,
Bringer of life, the Nile!
Fertile and rich, the soil damp in our fingers,
Loamy, heady, dark with nature’s promise.
Fattened cattle graze, and lush crops flourish.
We tend the land beside the flowing water.

The river flows on, quickening, uneasy,
Bringer of change, the Nile.
The waters carrying a miracle child,
A child a barren lady loved and nurtured.
We didn’t know; how could we, what was coming?
As the fattened cattle grazed and lowed,
And the crops grew lush and green and flourished,
We tended them beside the flowing water.

The river flows, roiling, overflowing.
Bringer of Prophets, the Nile.
See him on its shores, he, that one,
The reed-borne son, the one who stands before us,
The one who threatens, standing by our river;
Proclaiming, warning, staff striking the water.

The river flows, foaming now, and roaring,
Bringer of death, the Nile!
Brimming with blood, a teeming infestation.
Keening cattle, gaunt and ill, are dying,
Infested crops are withering to ashes.
The heavens crash; we beg our gods, “Please, save us!”
There is no answer as the darkness finds us
Dying by the pestilential water.

The river flows, bearing bloated corpses,
River of pain, the Nile!
Rolling through a land despoiled, diseased,
Torn by wild beasts, plagued by lice and locusts.
Mothers wail and clutch their first-born sons
As death rolls through the land like flowing water.

And those of us remaining ask but this:
What did we do, what did we fail in doing?
Was there another offering forgotten?
Was there another prayer our gods required?
Or was it not our fault, but someone else’s,
And was it not our gods, but someone else’s?
Could there be One far greater than our pharaoh,
And greater than our gods, who made it happen?

The river flows, and never brings an answer,
And we bury our dead and wonder if an offering
Will make our crops grow green or bring us children.
Here we remain, but know a page is turning,
And feel the story surge away without us,
Left behind, beside the flowing water.


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