If you were cast away on an island with just one Jewish text for company, which would you choose?
This week Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein, president of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, selects the poetry of Hannah Sennesh
“There are stars up above, so far away we only see their light long, long after the star itself is gone. And so it is with people we loved – their memories keep shining ever brightly though their time with us is done. But the stars that light up the darkest night, these are the lights that guide us. As we live our days, these are the ways we remember.”
We recently marked the 70th anniversary of the execution, by the Nazis, of Hannah Senesh, who wrote these words.
They appear in the newly published A Jewish Book of Comfort (Canterbury Press, 2014), which I have co-edited with Rabbi Charles Middleburgh.
An anthology of hundreds of Jewish thoughts from all ages, we hope it will give comfort at various difficult times in life.
Sometimes it can be heroic lives themselves that bring comfort and encouragement, the realisation that life, even in the darkest of times, can still be worthwhile and have purpose and hope. Hannah Senesh’s short life itself was an inspiration and her poetry inspires and comforts us long after she was done to death for trying to save her people in the Shoah.
An enthusiastic Zionist, Hannah had escaped to the relative safety of British Palestine and could have gone on to enjoy the land that had been in her dreams – the land and the sea – new inspiration for her poetry but, instead, she volunteered to do what she could to save her people about to be deported to their deaths in Auschwitz.
Shortly before being parachuted back to her native Hungary, and walking along the beach at Caesarea, she wrote another of her famous poems: “Eli, Eli… my God, my God, may these never end; the sand and the sea, the rush of the waters, the crash of the heavens, the prayer of the human heart.” Hannah’s life was cruelly ended, but her inspiration lives on.