Chagigah Sonnets


Yosey ben Durmaskeet went out one day
To greet sage Rabbi Elazar in Lode
“What novelty was taught?” the teacher’d say
“Amone and Moav’s pauper tithes are owed.”

“Yosey!” cried Elazar as if aghast.
“Hold out your hands and let your eyes fall in.”
The teacher wept for teachings of the past
For that which, billed as new, had long since been.

When Yosey’s eyes fell out, the sage exlained:
“The slaves who fled from Egypt conquered land.
On Sinai, we learned holiness was gained
Then lost, so poor could reap – that was God’s plan.”

“Now may it be God’s will that your eyes go
Back to your head, dear pupil.” It was so.


Rav Bay-vee bar Abaye sat beside
Death Angel, who said, “Mir-yam who braids hair
Please bring to me.” And later still he cried:
“Mir-yam the teacher! What’s she doing there?!”

The messenger had goofed – he’d seen the wrong
One standing by the stove, to tend the flame
She dropped a coal, and did not live for long
The messenger had not first learned her name.

Rav Bay-vee gasped, “That’s quite a grave faux pas!”
“Death without justice,” Death replied, “can be.”
“But does it not say “Dor holech, dor ba?”
Said Death: “Yes, but I store their years, you see.”

“I do kill people much before their prime
Then add to Torah scholars extra time.”

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