Matters of Life and Death + Sunday School – Catherine Wald

Matters of Life and Death

This day I call the heavens and the earth
as witnesses against you, that I have set before you life
and death, blessings and curses. Therefore choose life,
so that you and your children may live.
–Deuteronomy 30:19

It’s clear we are commanded, then, to live —
accept life’s struggles, nausea and mistakes,
its cruel deceptions, wounds and throbbing aches,
the way it cleaves us open like a shiv.
Our Hebrew God insists that we say yes
and promise to accept our lot as is.
(As if the last word wasn’t really His;
as if there’s joy in cleaning up His Mess.)
It’s clear we are instructed to shun death
for our sakes and those of our progeny;
to claim our fate as friend, not enemy,
as long as we are granted air and breath.
The choice is simple but the living’s not.
Those who would argue are all full of rot.


Sunday School

After a few years of reasonably digestible Bible stories we delved headfirst into the death camps. Third-grade curricula relied heavily on body-burning ovens; gas-spurting showers; stacks of suitcases, spectacles and gold fillings; conversation occasionally leavened by the pathetic wise-guy antics from the boys at the back of the room. The teacher never knew why God left his People in the lurch, but I did learn how to count to six million, locate the exact spot in my gut where horror takes hold; embrace ambiguity (as in being Chosen is not necessarily good thing).
At home, my family celebrated our tribe’s survival with Kaiser rolls, deli meats and custard-filled donuts. I ate too fast, dreading the dreams the night was bound to bring.


1 thought on “Matters of Life and Death + Sunday School – Catherine Wald

  1. Robin

    Wow! Powerful words, so well written. The juxtaposition of bible verse, poem, and diary snippet is brilliant—interesting to read each passage separately and then consider how they relate to each other.


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