Multiplication and Division – Sara O’Donnell Adler

In the yeshiva my study partner grates words of Talmud the way my grandmother grated potatoes. He pulses back and forth on the edge of his chair twisting the fringes at the corners of his clothing, reciting the divisions and multiplications of evening while Rashi and his grandsons whisper in the margins of the page. The light shifts to late afternoon, drawing shadows on the Aramaic letters, pointing East towards prayer. I gather with ten more in the room next door and open another book. Through the window, the Dome of the Rock rises above the rain like a golden moon. The muezzin’s call bounces across the stony walls and divides their day into five, ours into three. My head on my lap during King David’s supplication, tears cloud the eye, for holy is a lonely place. The ground shifts below. A blast through the heart sends us out into winter rain, ears fill with the churning of sirens. There, the scattering of souls, bombs and busses blown apart. Red rivulets on the street: a finger, blood-soaked wallet, a tooth. A rainbow arcs in the parting of clouds. “God of Distinction,” a mother wails, “Will you have the world be as it is?” The Holy One on High, again divides the day, indoors from outdoors, male from female, us from them, the living from the dead.



Sara O’Donnell Adler is a rabbi and serves as a hospital chaplain at The University of Michigan. Her poetry has appeared in The Bear River Review, Poetica Magazine, Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, and in The Broadkill Review. She lives with her family in Ann Arbor, MI.

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