from The Hasidic Sequences

Szilárd Borbély


Reb Taub once said: "Memory would
not be possible were we not to perish
every single day. At midnight the Angel of Death
takes our spirit to the Sheol, expunges

the I, and then brings it back. In the morning
when we arise, Shekinah once again
inscribes the Aleph onto our foreheads,
which is the emblem of the number one." "If Shekinah

forgets our name, she can no longer inscribe
the Aleph," said Reb Teitelbaum, "because the Aleph
is a part of the Self." Reb Hershele then added

that when Shekinah weeps over the
eradicated I, her tears inadvertently
wash away the Aleph—on the Sabbath of Memory.


On that day the Sabbath just wouldn't
arrive. But all the same, the village
awaited its approach. The tin candlesticks
were burnished. And the candles

placed carefully on the windowsills. Until then,
every Sabbath, the fading ashes of the waning light
sparked the candle-wicks into flame.
But this did not happen now. The villagers

intently observed the withdrawal of the Realm
of Light. By the side of the road, underneath
the leaves of the burdock trees, the elder
bushes, the first shadows appeared.

The color of the ziziphus bush
turned completely red, as if
the Sun's dying light had spilled
across its leaves. The temple attendant

walked twice to the end of the village
to look at the lower heavens, veiled by
the row of poplar trees. But evening didn't
want to arrive. The cholent had been

baked in vain. The glasses sparkled
on the table all for naught, the aromatic
wine in the bottles like trapped blood.
Only the Fool knew why.


When the Chassidim of Kálló had
for days been crowding in the wagons,
and they were no longer even angry,

and they didn't lament, only
prayed and then, exhausted, just
mumbled, their rabbi, in the middle

of a prayer at once cried out.
And fainted. When he came back
to consciousness he said that a thin

bearded figure had appeared to him.
Who grabbed him firmly by the throat and
whispered into his ear that this was hallowed ground,

and that he would return later on.
One day the train stopped. Everyone
proceeded down a long ramp, and amidst

the contingent, weary unto death, the Elder,
who had seen the Holy Man, slowly trudged, and
the Chassidim of Kálló knew that

He walked there beside them. Unterscharführer
Eckardt spoke to them in Hungarian,
as if they were still back

at home. Then, in front of the officer in charge
of the Selektion, walking off to the left
with his own people was Isaac Taub, the Saint.

The Sanctification of the Name

On that evening when the Righteous One
was betrayed—was born,

died and laid to rest, when
in the grave the body trembled and

the eyelid swelled up as if
it were a potato, or rather

it became like a piece of rotting
fruit, weighing heavily down

upon the eyeball, from which then
the Sage of Worms could hardly see the bearers of

the cross, when his torturers grew weary,
and the rabbi's head drooped to one side,

on that evening when the Lamb
was betrayed and all his children under the age of sixteen

condemned to death were processed
as mere waste material, as were

the elderly, the sick, the defective,
and the name of God, who has no

congregation, was not pronounced, on that evening when
the righteous were scorned and the

Three became one, the spirit of the Father
the Son and the Mother in the fire

and turned into smoke in the chimneys, when Otto
Moll perfected the technique of using

ditch-cremation for the separation
of the crackling, reusable fat.

translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet

'The Sanctification of the Name' first appeared in I Lived on this Earth . . . Hungarian Poets on the Holocaust. Selected and edited by George and Mari Gömöri. Alba Press: London, 2012.

Click here to read László Bedecs's interview with Szilárd Borbély, also from this issue.