The Past Is Never Far Away
FROM THE ROSENBERG HOLOCAUST SIDDUR. RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG
"These bitter herbs which we eat, what is their meaning? They are eaten to recall that the Egyptians embittered the lives of our forefathers in Egypt."
The past is never far away; it comes back uninvited, is unexpected and unwanted. In sleep and in wakefulness my yesterdays come back again, they morph into today. My nightmares become daymares.
Sometimes a vision calls it up: someone dressed in unifor, leading a dog on a leash.The uniform color matters not, my eyes see it as black, add black, brightly polished, leather boots. The sniffing, friendly dog transforms into a slavering, growling monster. Sometimes a smell provokes it: the reek of dirty, sweating bodies, the pungent odor of unwashed clothes, or worse: a hint of gas inside the room, especially while a Yahrtzeit candle * calls forth memories with its open flame: an explosion waiting to happen. At other times, it is a sound: an ambulance howls alarm, fire trucks or police cars shriek by with blaring sirens. My ears hear all three without distinction; a noise which sends me instantly into my past where I hear again the air raid siren on the corner house of my apartment block, in the street where I lived. Taste can be disorienting: hash browned potatoes incompletely fried, so raw still in their center, bring back the rankness of the food from yesteryear. Thin soup refuses to be swallowed, no matter what flavor it has. My throat closes against it, remembering “soup” from long ago. Anything grating between my teeth, reminds my tongue of sawdust: the main ingredient in our “bread” in Terezin, so long ago, yet only yesterday. Touch is perhaps the worst: vegetables putrefied in my refrigerator because of power failure. Their slimy texture in my fingers revives yesterday’s reality, so long ago. Ashes drifting through the air, from fires burning in the neighboring town, conjure up the line of children working in Terezin’s crematorium to dispose of those ashes. Soot on my wet driveway evokes dusty, moist, wooden floors, water-besprinkled so they could be swept. Those floors were never clean.The past is never far away; it is a s close as a conjoined twin. It does not really “come back again”, since it is always with me, cannot ever leave me. I walk hand in hand with it. When my yesterdays become today, I can only endure. R. Gabriele S. Silten Pomona, CA