The First Bath of Ablution

A poem by Morris Rosenfeld

The wind is keen, the frost is dread,
Toward the icy water,
By aunt and mother forth is led
The fisher's lovely daughter.

"Dive in, dive in, my child, with haste!
There's naught whereon to ponder,
The time, dear heart, we must not waste:
The sun has set out yonder.

"God's mercy, child, is great and sure:
Fear not but He will show it!
Leap in,--leap out! and you are pure,--
'Tis over ere you know it!"

The frost and cold with cruel knife
The tender form assail.
Ah, would you be a Jewish wife,
You must not weep and quail!

And in--and out,--she leaps. Once more!
Poor girl, it has not served you.
No purer are you than before:
A Gentile has observed you!

And into th' icy flood again,
In terror wild she leaps!
The white limbs shudder... all in vain!
The Christian still he peeps.

The frost and cold, they burn and bite,
The women rub their fingers,
The lovely child grows white and white,
As on the bank she lingers.

"The Law, my child, we must fulfill,
The scoundrel see depart!
Yet once! 'tis but a moment's chill,
'Tis but a trifling smart!"

The white-faced child the Law has kept,
The covenant unstained,
For in the waters deep she leapt,
And there below remained.

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