Deep in a corner of Prague’s magic and mystery
lies a jagged scar like so many in Eastern Europe.
It seems so far away.
It seems covered up by monitors and iPods, sausages in sour cabbage and broken statues of Stalin.
It waits. Elegance personified like a great, grey lady once raped
but now sitting tall at the rapist’s funeral
which brings with it no healing.
An amputation does not heal. It scars over.
There were 100,000 of us in this city
at the beginning of the war.
Some escaped to America, ending their lives
in the squalor of Orchard Street. But alive in a place
where work set one free to survive.
By the end of the war 15,000 returned to Prague.
The children, gay men, artists and some old women
went to Terezin,the gateway to the death camps.
Like Auschwitz, the door read
“work will set you free”
and perhaps there was a freedom
in the exhaustion and death.
The irony is perhaps the great care with which
we take on the death of our own.
We ritually comb their hair with silver combs.
We ritually dig out the grime from under the fingernails
of beloved rabbi and unknown pauper with gold, pointed
tools which betray our love of cleanliness in death.
We wash the body on a board and dress it is white.
We wrap the body in white linen and say the prayers,
say the psalms
say the blessings.
Was it pride which did this? A proud nation? A proud race? A proud man with an arguably silly mustache?
Pride is a sin; but rarely the source of evil and manipulation.
Insecurity. That is the molten source of evil.
A man’s weakness.
A man’s awareness of failure no one else can see.
A man’s smallness where being small is laughed at.
A man’s awareness of rejection and ridicule.
It is these things which make a tyrant.
It is these things which made many then.
It is these things which make many now.
They are the Golums of the planet –
evil forms of clay into which whispers of hate are whispered.
And then soon, there is only a pile of 50 pound corpses
with messy hair and dirty fingernails and
no one to say the Mourner’s Kaddish…
God, filled with mercy, dwelling in the heavens’ heights, bring proper rest beneath the wings of your Shechinah, amid the ranks of the holy and the pure, illuminating like the brilliance of the skies the souls of our beloved and our blameless who went to their eternal place of rest. May You who are the source of mercy shelter them beneath Your wings eternally, and bind their souls among the living, that they may rest in peace. And let us say: Amen.