Holocaust Poem: "On The Slaughter"
by Chaim Nachman Bialik
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Merciful heavens, have pity on me!
If there is a God approachable by men
as yet I have not found him—
Pray for me!
For my heart is dead,
prayers languish upon my tongue;
my right hand has lost its strength
and my hope has wilted, undone.
How long? Oh, when will this nightmare end?
How long? Hangman, traitor,
here’s my neck—
rise up now, rise and slaughter!
Behead me like a dog—your arm controls the axe
and the whole world is a scaffold to me
although we—the chosen few—
were once recipients of the Pacts.
Executioner, my blood’s a paltry prize—
strike my skull and the blood of innocents will rain
drenching your pristine uniform again and again,
staining your raiment forever.
If there is Justice—quick, let her appear!
But after I’ve been blotted out, should she reveal her face,
let her false scales be overturned forever
and the heavens reek with the stench of her disgrace.
You too arrogant men, with your brutal injustice,
suckled on blood, unweaned of violence:
cursed be the warrior who cries "Vengeance!" on a maiden;
such cruelty was never contemplated, even by Satan.
Let innocents’ blood drench the abyss!
Let innocents’ blood seep down into the congealing darkness,
eat it away and undermine
earth's rotting foundations.
Al Hashechita ("On the Slaughter") was written by Chaim Nachman Bialik in response to the ****** Kishniev pogrom of 1903, which was instigated by agents of the Czar who wanted to divert social unrest and political anger from the Czar to the Jewish minority. The Hebrew word schechita (also transliterated shechita, shechitah, shekhitah, shehita) denotes the ritual kosher slaughtering of animals for food. The juxtapositioning of kosher slaughter with the slaughter of Jews makes the poem all the more powerful and ghastly. Such anti-Semitic incidents prompted a massive wave of Eastern European emigration that brought millions of Jews to the West. Unfortunately, there have been many similar slaughters in human history and the poem remains chillingly relevant to the more recent ones in Israel/Palestine, Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo. Keywords/Tags: Holocaust, poem, Bialik, translation, slaughter, massacre, God, prayer, executioner, hangman, blood, innocents, justice, false, scales, injustice