Chana Bloch

The Messiah of Harvard Square

Every year some student would claim to be the Messiah.      		 
It was the rabbi who had to deal with them.   		  	 
He had jumped, years ago, from a moving boxcar 			 
on the way to a death camp. That leap 
left him ready for anything.   

This year at Pesach, a Jewish student proclaimed
Armageddon. “Burn the books! Burn the textbooks!”
he shouted to a cheerful crowd, 
sang Hebrew songs to confuse the Gentiles,
dressed for the end like Belshazzar.
People stopped to whisper and laugh. 						 
"I have a noble task," the boy explained. 
"I must prepare myself to endure 					 
the laughter of fools."  

The rabbi was a skeptic.  
Years ago he'd been taught, If you're planting a tree 			 
and someone cries out, The Messiah has come! 	          		 
finish planting the tree. Then
go see if it's true. 

Still, he took the boy into his study					 
and questioned him meticulously,		 	 
as if the poor soul before him might be,	 
God help us, the Messiah.