These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Rocks of Treblinka

Posted on January 17, 2023 by Yitzi Gittelsohn


In reflection to his experiences on the Pardes Jewish Heritage Journey to Poland guided by Pardes Dean Emeritus David Bernstein.

Day 2 – Rocks of Treblinka

The rocks were really heavy:

They must have been really heavy to move,

All those rocks,


For the monument.

The lives must have been even heavier,

They must have been really heavy to move,

All those lives,


To kill.


I don’t think that they didn’t care

About us:

I think that they cared so much,

I think we were really heavy for them,

Too heavy,

And they wanted to cut us out

Like a tumor.


They didn’t hate us:

They loved us,

And they couldn’t handle the heaviness of their own love,

They couldn’t handle the heaviness of their own life,

Of the world,

So they tried to lighten it, lighten it, lighten it

By burning the heaviness away.


But they were wrong:

They made the world so much heavier,

Because the lives that were lost too soon,

The millions of lives,

Sit on the ground like heavy rocks,


And now the world has to hold them,


So the world is heavier,

And so are their hearts,

And so are our hearts.


But standing amidst the heavy rocks,

In the center of them,

With a friend,

And my people,

I felt the lives that had been lost there

All sitting around me,

Deeply rooted in the earth,

And I felt a lightness

Ascending upward,

For coming together

In our heaviness,

We somehow become light.


When we cut away the heaviness,

And try to burn it to the heavens,

We only become heavier.


When we come together in our heaviness,

We become lighter,

And rise naturally, with those who came before 

and after us

To our rightful place

In the world to come.


Now every moment is a gift,

Every moment they don’t take from us,

In the fear that it will make their lives intolerable,

And we get to live now,

A heavy life.


No need to cut things out of it,

No need to cut it down,

No need to kill,

The earth that holds so many boulders

Can hold so many lives.


And we can just let go,

A little bit in each moment,

With each exhale,

Each connection,

We become 

Just a little



All those people killed,

All our ancestors,

Should not just be remembered for being killed,

They should be remembered

For the moments they didn’t take life

Or each other

For granted,

For the moments when they recognized 

How heavy this life was,

For it could be snatched away,


At any moment.


The moments

When they didn’t wait to hug a loved one,

The moments when they didn’t hesitate to sing a song,

Or jump in a pond,

Or smile at a dragonfly.


The moments

When they really felt

How delicious fresh bread was,

How beautiful the sunset was,

How beautiful your face was

When you felt something deeply.


The moments 

That are special because they are light,

Strung together become a heavy life.

Those lives that are special because they are heavy,

Brought together become a light,

Shining out,


Our lives now:

How heavy they are,

How light.

Yitzi Gittelsohn, currently in the Pardes Year Program, is a singer-songwriter, poet, and budding spiritual leader from Vermont.