Legends of Wandering and Return


By Shira Twersky-Cassel

93 pages
Cover and art Work by Zev Labinger
Printed in 2014

The Hebrew word for both Wandering and Migration is "nedida." The Jewish people, conquered and driven out of their ancient Jewish Kingdom, wandered for thousands of years over the globe. The Almighty's promise of return fulfilled, we have come home rich in cultures and colors of all the nations of the world and bringing with us amazing tales.
Birds carry sacred meaning in the ancient Jewish texts. The Messiah is said to reside in the nest among young fledglings. Born of the winged cherubs that guard the Gates of Eden and are the source of prophecy, the voice of holiness emerges from them. Wings outspread, they were carved on each side of the Holy Temple ark.
Today through the process of ringing we follow the extraordinary lives of migrating birds. We share their histories of migration with our own. About 540 species, 500 million birds, pass over the land bridge of Israel twice annually.
In the Torah portion read on Shabbat Shira, Moses and the Children of Israel sing their gratitude, "By strength of hand the Lord brought us out of bondage." On that Sabbath morning, the Almighty chose my spark of soul to join with a girl infant to be born. My birth was a traumatic memory of a spirit reluctant to enter the material world, but my father's eye penetrated the veil of time and blessed me with the Hebrew name Shira, granting me a remedy - the lucidity of lyrical purpose that would guide me through life's upheavals.
Shira is both poem and song. What is their significance in Jewish tradition? Our sages write that these are the deepest and most powerful expressions of joy of the spirit. The Hassidic masters speak of the soul, when caged in the temporal body, engaging in unceasing prayer and poetic song in longing for the all-embracing source of celestial radiance.
With the Torah, which holds the key to the secrets of our existence, the Almighty wove a bridge of sacred Hebrew letters and words over the deep chasm between man's mortal limitations and the Almighty's celestial radiance. "And Moses spoke in the ears of the congregation the words of this poem." This Torah bridge is called Poem, the root of all poetry and the true genius of the Jewish people, unlocking the maze of our minds and opening up vistas of uncharted human experience.
I experience the words of Maimonides, the great Jewish philosopher and scholar, "The poet is visited again and again by flashes of lightning." I plumb the inner layers of my soul, striving to put words to this song.


Zev Labingers paintings share the poems' bird-flight and spiritual sense of self and family.

"This is a beautiful and deeply moving work and I hope and pray it will find its way into the hearts of readers."
- Esther Cameron, author, poet, translator and founding editor of The Deronda Review.

The book is available at shiratk@gmail.com at the cost of 60 Shekels plus postage or relevant foreign currency equivalent.

Distributor: Rubin-Mass Ltd.
Office: 7 HaAin-Chet, Jerusalem
Mail: POB 990, Jerusalem 91009, Israel
Telephone: 02-6277863
Facsimile: 02-6277864
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Cross-cross, Mountain Swift dark winged
silent-swift descending in sacred Sabbath-eve twilight
to rend transparent firmament.

You soar over the city weaving
rainbow filament of wounded rose covered hills
of bougainvillea bush and flowering caper
and fired-tongued Moses fern.

Enter and depart the haloed ring of light
that is Jerusalem, with longing hearts
raise great hallelujah screams and shouts.

For you have not chosen lyrical song, it is stout stamina
for which you long and the ecstasy of endless flight
learned in clamorous delight
of the great and open skies.

Threaded on air, a Swift-pair join
in sudden drop to my rooftop.

We meet - splintered in time -
to part and part again.

Feeding Frenzy, pencil and charcoal on paper, 70 X 100 cm

I write of my mother's family. Exiled from the Land of Israel after the fall of the Jewish kingdom and the destruction of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem, they settled in Spain and, together with a large Jewish community of philosophers, poets and artisans, created what has been called The Golden Age. After several hundred years they were forced to flee the Inquisition to Portugal and then to Venice where they resided for a century. Unending hatred and violent oppression brought them to Poland where for 200 years they were leaders of the large Jewish community. But always, the dream of return home to the Land of Israel and Jerusalem was in their daily prayers. This dream was realized in the 1920's.

I write of my father's family, direct descendents of King David and the founder of the 18th century Hassidic movement, Rabbi Israel Ba'al Shem Tov, they represent a great dynasty of the Twersky-Chernoblyl Hassidic leaders. For more than 250 years the saintly Grand Rabbis of this dynasty brought their spiritual teachings to uplift the downtrodden Jewish communities of Russia, the Ukraine and Eastern Europe.

They, who offered only peace and blessing, together with the Jews of the Ukraine suffered violent pogroms and oppression for centuries. Following the Bolshevik revolution and the Petlyura massacres great numbers fled to the Western countries, United States and Israel.

Maternal Grandmother - Gitelle Samet Provizor


After seven days of stormy grey Atlantic
of rise and fall against the wind, each wave crashing worlds,
after I broke my father's heart in New York Port
his bright face blessing me on,

I found Gibraltar, at the portal of the ancient lands
Spain and Rome and Babylon,
transparent turquoise waters reflecting Temple gems
and Solomon's copper sea.

There I fell in love with sea blue eyes
set in sunny brow creased to the sky
illuminating a sailor's windward soul.

Days we leaned at the copper rail on ship's deck
gloss-polished by his hand,
bringing down the sun, our faces on fire.

At midnight watch, we measured the azure crescent line where ocean meets air
at our backs the ship lights silent cutting down the dark
the mast, the bridge, awash in serene moon glow.

After seven days in smooth green waters
I broke my heart and brought it together.

In the flood of morning light I found harbor,
a terraced hill city in white embracing blue breakwater basin.
Seamen in pilot boats slapping up alongside the great hull
sent up their voices, laughter, Ahoy!

called up to the captain in our ancient tongue made new
boisterous Hebrew slang for 'steady as you go' and 'drop anchor.'

There in Haifa port, my heart did break
and I brought it together, again and again.

Dad, oil on canvas 70 x 50 cm