by Michael A. Ross
I'm living in Babylonian Vilnius Brooklyn NY -
Filled with streimels, black hats, and kipot,
Filled with shuls, minyanim, and shiurim,
Filled with yeshivot, talmudim Torah, and kolellim,
In 40 square blocks of Boro Park,
In 40 square blocks of Williamsburg and Crown Heights,
In 40 square blocks of Midwood,
In 40 square blocks of Sheephead Bay,
In Mill Basin, in Marine Park, in Gravesend Neck.
Here, it seems, black profuses with colors
Of lev and metiv - the heart and goodness,
Of chochma, bina, and da-at - knowledge, analysis, commonsense,
Of mitzvot and kiddush haShem,
Of simcha and kaddish,
Of Shabbat and kashrut,
Of challah and yayin,
Of candles and shirim,
Of family and chaverim.
In kosher markets, bakeries, delis, dairies, and butcher shops,
Between shacharit and mincha-maarev,
Zitzsis hang from the pants tops of many men,
Sheitels and pleated skirts often stand
Next to stylish coiffured modern dressed women,
Next to them both stand prams filled with just born,
Clung to by six or eight additional small hands,
All await being served rotisserie chickens,
Or honey cakes, rugalach, corned beef, falafel, flanken.
While in the funeral parlors, at long tables, men curl over tehillim,
Slightly mouthing and shockling the prayers for a nifter.
And in the clothing stores, the retailers present kosher clothing,
Carefully scrutinized by potential buyers.
Bookstores include many of the Hebrew texts,
Siddurim, humashim, midrashim,
As well as samplers for yiladim,
Talesim and tephilim,
And shalom simsum.
Each week here as Shabbat settles rush into quietude,
Metal gates close almost every storefront.
Candles are lit and blessed.
Challahs and Rashi appear on tables.
Mothers stand proud as husbands chant eshet chayil.
Lines form for ritual hand washing.
Guests and family sit, bless bread, and eat dinner,
A melamed shares words of Torah before dessert,
Until everyone feels the warmth of birkat hamazon.
In Brooklyn, the Jewish calendar lives daily, weekly, and yearly.
Nu, after Yom Kippur, shouldn't sukkot fill almost every back yard,
And lulov and estrog sell on every corner?
Nu, on Pesach, shouldn't families bring picnic baskets
To walk along and break matzot on Coney Island's boardwalk?
Nu, shouldn't Purim costuming be a spectacle,
With as much schnaps imbibed as hamantashen eaten?
Brooklyn says yes. Every day is for learning and celebrating.
Go feed the pushka with a little tzedakah. Thank G-d.