it might be dusk. if it’s dusk, the world, bright and round and still awake, rocks my dreams between white hands and memories and distant music. then the hour has arrived, and i, a seven-year-old boy whose name i’d rather postpone, rise from my chair facing the purple sky, and go down the steps one by one until i come to a corridor where my mother, father and brothers await me with lanterns that move in every direction.
the hunt of the chametz begins as a ritual that is almost imperceptible, a concert of glances and tacit agreements. my brothers and i cannot stop laughing.
in Pesach, we were once told, we eat only matzah, unleavened bread. “there was no time,” my grandfather said, “when they left and took only that which they could keep.” then they spoke of exile and need. of long wandering and hunger. of adoration and blunder.
i am seven years old. my name is Ezekiel. when i look at the stars i feel like a fragile rock that is filled with plenitude. then i believe i am the sea, i am
my grandfather speaks slowly. in the Seder we sing and recite. we eat various vegetables, we evoke fragments of a world that is both here and far away.
my mother speaks with my grandmother, reviews readings, enumerates words. my brothers run around the table. i am the eldest. the first-born. the oval table, the lit candles; the magical glow of prayer, repetition, litany.
i bite on a bitter herb, i chew the matzah in silence and i hear a voice, many voices that take turns and return to the same meaning, the same evocation.
i close my eyes, the bitter taste still in my mouth. i say amen.
the sequence begins as in a different dream, told by a secret writer:
“He has brought us out of Egypt, and carried out judgments against them, and against their idols, and smote their first-born, and gave us their wealth, and split the sea for us, and took us through it on dry land, and drowned our oppressors in it, and supplied our needs in the desert for forty years, and fed us the manna, and gave us the Shabbat, and brought us before Mount Sinai, and gave us the Torah, and brought us into the land of Israel and built for us the Beit Habechirah.”
outside of me the wind blows. time blows, indestructible; and sadness and joy blow as well, and the clouds and their minute fingers, on the verge of an imminent truth. the dream is truth; and the night is light, song, teaching.
we reflect intensity in our hearts. we harbor a sense of honest gratitude. my little sister pulls from my shoe under the table. my other brother plays and laughs with crooked teeth.
i am seven years old; my name is imprinted in the house of memory. many birds like people, many solitary worlds sleep and dream there.
but in the holidays i am the wave of the sea, always ready to live and die in an instant, in a precise second.
the memory of Moses survives, tireless. in the palm of my hand i have his name, his humble and peerless patriarchal calling.
what will become of us today?
yesterday, when i played at hunting the chametz in wardrobes and corners, i believed in the yellow lands of the Orient, in the arid building of Jerusalem.
today i live them as an inherent condition, a music that returns me to my seven years of age; an awakening that has no beginning.
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