Chabadniks – Spencer Szwalbenest

I’m not really sure
___Where everyone got the big ideas
___That angels appear in white clothes;
___At this time of day, it’s pretty light out.
And with all of the heat, what would it be
___To see them walking in pairs,
___Black clothes jutting out of the afternoon
___Like a single Zippo lighter at a sad rock concert.
“Have you put on tefillin today?” they ask me,
___And so a great wind swept me up
___From the grass where I was writing
___And I floated down to the wooden floor.
And there, with Mendel on my right, Yehoshua on my left,
___I wrapped tefillin in a public square,
___While everyone hustled from one library
___To the next, last Friday afternoon.
After I said Shema, and we exchanged our “Gut Shabbes”’s,
___I made my way back up to the grass
___To finish some writing, looking down for a minute;
___And when I looked up again, they were nowhere to be found.
Just then, the thought crossed my mind,
___Of how I could have just been making motions
___Of wrapping tefillin straps on my arm
___While holding nothing, surrounded by confused peers.
Are Chabadniks even real?
___As long as there are good Jewish boys
___In need of wrapping tefillin, I think
___We should all believe in Chabadniks.
If not, who else would there be
___To make us appear moderate for our friends between the libraries.
If not, who else would there be
___To say “Gut Shabbes” to us
___In all of the heat of New York’s Friday afternoon.


Spencer Szwalbenest is a senior at the Joint Program with Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. They have published poetry and aphorisms in Surgam and The Current: A Journal of Contemporary Politics, Culture, and Jewish Affairs at Columbia University.

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