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The Science Student

-Yakov Azriel

March 24, 2012


"And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you, but to have awe of the Lord your God…" (Deuteronomy 10:12)


The science student sits in the university library,

Studying research papers of paleontologists and paleobotanists

Trying to uncover

The origin of life.


The library is quiet,

Almost empty,


As the student summarizes articles in journals

On primitive marine bacteria from the Lower Pre-Cambrian.


At lunchtime, the student sits in a small park

And eats a chicken sandwich.

Removing a bone from the sandwich,

He stoops to bury it.

“A future fossil,” he whispers to himself, smiling.


The student notices a torn piece of paper under his bench

And picks it up:

“In the wilderness of Sinai,

How many hundreds of worn out wanderers

Passed by a bush that burned but was not consumed,

Never bothering to take a closer look?

Until one shepherd, a Jewish refugee from Egypt,



The student removes his thick eyeglasses

And observes the leaves of the tree next to the bench.

The leaves,

Blobs of green light from an impressionist painting,

Shine and shadow, shine and shadow, shine and shadow,

Relaying him a Message

In visual morse code

Which he alone can decipher,

He alone can uncover.


The student stands and stares at the leaves,

Receiving their Message

On the origin of life

As they spell out before him

Thousands of variations and permutations

On the letters of the unpronounceable Name of God.


He touches leaf after leaf;

Stroking them delicately

Like letters in a thick braille prayer-book,

He reads their blessings


And listens intently, hearing the leaves

Articulate in a still small voice

The unutterable Name of God.


He bends down

And removes his shoes;

For on sacred ground,

Under a canopy of green leaves that shadow and shine,

Overwhelmed by the polyphonics of divine voices

And the mosaics of divine lights,

A man


In the science of God.




Yakov Azriel was born in New York (as Gerald Rosenkrantz) and came to live in Israel after finishing his BA in English literature in Brooklyn College.  He later completed an MA in Judaica, and in May 2004 he received his doctorate (on the stories of Rabbi Nachman of Braslav).He has published four full-length books of poetry: Threads From A Coat Of Many Colors: Poems on Genesis (2005), In The Shadow Of A Burning Bush: Poems on Exodus (2008), Beads For The Messiah's Bride: Poems on Leviticus (2009), and Swimming In Moses' Well: Poems of Numbers (2011), all published by Time Being Books.  His new books of poetry based on the Books of Deuteronomy and the Psalms will be published over the next few years. Over 180 of his poems have been published in journals and magazines in the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel, and his poems have won fifteen different awards in international poetry competitions.  In addition, Yakov has twice been awarded fellowships from the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture for his poetry.


Welcome to the New Vilna Review

*A Note From the Publisher - February 8, 2012*


Dear readers and contributors,

The New Vilna Review has been going through some changes the past few

months, and our focus has shifted to offering an expanded selection of

poetry, fiction and arts writing. We are once again accepting submissions,

and look forward to continuing to publish some of the most interesting and

thought provoking work in the world of Jewish arts and letters.

-Daniel E. Levenson

Publisher and Editor-in-Chief

The New Vilna Review



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