To Love What Death Can Touch: Poem for 2.25.16

 

To Love What Death Can Touch

‘Tis a fearful thing
to love what death can touch.To Love What Death Can Touch
A fearful thing
to love, to hope, to dream, to be –
to be,
And oh, to lose.
A thing for fools, this,
And a holy thing,
a holy thing
to love.
For your life has lived in me,
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.
To remember this brings painful joy.
‘Tis a human thing, love,
a holy thing, to love
what death has touched.

by Yehuda HaLevi (1075 – 1141)

9 comments on “To Love What Death Can Touch: Poem for 2.25.16

  1. Dear Larry,

    Yehuda’s thoughts are a personal favorite of mine. The bereaved mothers in my group “Mothers Finding Meaning Again” have read these beautiful and true sentiments several times and posted them on our FB page.

    Be well and thank you for your devotion to the broken-hearted.

    Kindly,
    Mary Jane

  2. Hello Larry,

    This is one of my favorite poems as well. The Yehudah Halevi attribution that is all over the internet, though, is wrong. This is a modern poem, written in English, by Rabbi Chaim Stern, a great Reform Jewish liturgist who died in 2001. Just trying to spread the word, since the Halevi attribution is nearly ubiquitous!

    Irwin Keller

    • Irwin:
      As you mentioned, this spurious attribution is all over the Internet, especially as it was recently read on the Netflix “Godless” series and attributed to Yehuda HaLevi. However if it indeed was original to Rabbi Chaim Stern, why hasn’t the correction been made? An example of “fake attribution”?
      BTW:
      Can it be found under Stern’s name in the Mishkan T’filah for Gatherings? Inquiring minds would like to know.

      Kenneth Gutwein
      Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Literature
      SUNY Old Westbury

      • https://images.shulcloud.com/992/uploads/Sermons/Yizkor-Yom-Kippur-5778—Meah-vEsrim-To-120—Rabbi-Richard-S.-Rheins.pdf

        Page 4…

        “My late colleague, Rabbi Chaim Stern, who hired me from Rabbinic
        school to be his Assistant and then Associate almost 29 years ago, wrote a
        most beautiful, but pained poem about mourning:
        It is a fearful thing to love
        What death can touch.
        A fearful thing to love, hope, dream: to be—
        To be, and oh, to lose.
        A thing for fools this, and
        A holy thing,
        A holy thing to love.
        For your life has lived in me,
        Your laugh once lifted me,
        Your word was gift to me.
        To remember this brings a painful joy.
        ‘Tis a human thing, love,
        A holy thing,
        To love what death has touched.
        He wrote this bittersweet lament in recognition of the complexity of
        our human emotions, our human psyche, and our heroic but vain longing to
        fully comprehend that which is beyond us. In the end, we are left with the
        ongoing love: to love what death has touched.”

  3. What a beautiful poem. I just heard it read on NETFLIX at the end of a program called Godless. It was so beautiful that I felt the need to research it, and find it’s origin. Thank you for your message I just wrote it in my journal for safe keeping. Just simply “Beautiful”.

    Valerie

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