A palm tree stands in the middle of Rusafa,
Born in the West, far from the land of palms.
I said to it: How like me you are, far away and in exile,
In long separation from family and friends.
You have sprung from soil in which you are a stranger,
And I, like you, am far from home.
In old age, aware that he would die far from his native land, Abd al-Rahman wrote a lovely, heartbreaking little poem, an ode to a palm tree. He had been a daredevil young man and a vigorous and powerful sovereign, a man who had survived the vicious rout of his family and spent three decades turning a once wild outpost, rife with internecine violence, into a prosperous and civilized world capital.
He had triumphed as a warrior and a pioneer, and in his final years his greatness as a builder was every day more visible, as a mosque to rival all others, past and present, grew in Cordoba, row after row of red and white.
But at the end of the day, Abd al-Rahman shared with his Arab ancestors an unembarrassed and manly love of poetry. Although he was not himself a brilliant writer, Abd al-Rahman’s legacy is as crucial as the Great Mosque itself, his poetic tradition a palace that houses the memories of the oldest ancestors.
The Children of Israel after the death of Miriam, complaining about water, Moshe’s disastrous mistake, Aaron’s death, and fiery serpents, composed a poem. It is not as famous as the Song of the Sea, but is filled with essential messages about Torah study and service of God. (Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh)
“Then Israel sang this song:
“Come up, O well! Call out to it!
Well that the princes dug, that the nobles of the people excavated, through a lawgiver, with their dtaffs. A gift from the Wilderness –
the gift went to the valley, and from the valley to the heights,
and from the heights to the valley in the field of Moab, at the top of the peak, overlooking the srface of the wilderness.” (Numbers 21:17-20)
They sang without Moshe leading them as he did after crossing the Yam Suf. (Michtav MeEliyahu)They sang despite the tragedies and their failures. They sang even as they confronted that they had failed to achieve the spiritual heights that were their fathers’ when they sang.
They left us a legacy of “Singing Despite,” singing despite their failures, singing despite their limitations, singing despite the fact their song would never be as famous as others. They sang because the were so moved. They sang because they were able to celebrate all the good they saw amidst their troubles.
Their legacy is not the song as much as “Singing Despite.”
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