Burning Psalms

Confronting Adonai after Auschwitz

by Menachem Rosensaft

$19.95

This item will be released on January 27, 2025.
Jewish Poetry Month sale! Save 25% when you buy 2 or more poetry titles.

About this book

My brother was only five years old // Adonai
our mother taught him // to love You
that You // would not let him stumble //
would not let him fall

Out of the horror of the abyss, the narrow places of his family’s history, Menachem Rosensaft has written a Book of Psalms that laments, accuses, rages, weeps and yet, somehow, still addresses God. The son of two Auschwitz survivors, Rosensaft imagines the voice of his older brother, Benjamin, who perished in the gas chambers before Menachem was born. His 150 psalms are masterful recreations of the original texts, turning praise into dirges, festivals into mourning – until subtly suggesting a hint of comfort through the mere fact of their existence.

“Like the Book of Psalms of the Bible, Menachem Rosensaft’s psalms speak for our souls. With a gift for expressing even the most hidden thoughts and feelings, his psalms give voice to the horrors and trauma that haunt children of Holocaust victims and survivors. Burning Psalms is one of the most powerful Jewish expressions of our day.”
Susannah Heschel, Eli M. Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College

Advance Praise

“Like the Book of Psalms of the Bible, Menachem Rosensaft’s psalms speak for our souls. With a gift for expressing even the most hidden thoughts and feelings, his psalms give voice to the horrors and trauma that haunt children of Holocaust victims and survivors. Burning Psalms is one of the most powerful Jewish expressions of our day.”
Susannah Heschel, Eli M. Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College

“Menachem Rosensaft’s evocative, heartfelt work is among of the most informed and gut-wrenching attempts to understand belief and comfort in the Divine in the shadow of the Holocaust. More than that, it is a strong and compelling reminder that understanding the Shoah and its legacies requires knowledge of the history and openness to the psychological and emotional resonance of such immense loss. Rosensaft accomplishes both with remarkable skill, helping us all to understand and to speak the ‘unvarnished painful truth’ (Burning Psalm 78) of the Shoah and its relevance to our lives today.”
Robert J. Williams, Finci-Viterbi Executive Director of the USC Shoah Foundation; UNESCO Chair on Antisemitism and Holocaust Research

“In every generation, the Biblical Psalms have provided humanity with a theological lexicon for the challenges and opportunities that come with standing in God’s presence. In this extraordinary volume, Menachem Rosensaft – poet, advocate for humanity and child of Holocaust survivors – has recast the sacred poetry of the past into a vade mecum for those presently seeking meaning in the extended shadow of the Shoah. Faithful both to the text and the burning questions that sit on our broken hearts, Rosensaft has elegantly and audaciously provided his readers a pathway to pursue justice, find comfort and continue to seek beauty in this world.”
Rabbi Elliot J. Cosgrove, Senior Rabbi, Park Avenue Synagogue; editor, Jewish Theology in Our Time: A New Generation Explores the Foundations and Future of Jewish Belief

 

About the Author

Born in 1948 in the Displaced Persons camp of Bergen-Belsen in Germany, the son of two survivors of the Nazi death and concentration camps of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, Menachem Z. Rosensaft is adjunct professor of law at Cornell Law School, lecturer-in-law at Columbia Law School, general counsel emeritus of the World Jewish Congress, and a past president of Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City. He is the author of Poems Born in Bergen-Belsen (Kelsay Books, 2021) and editor of God, Faith & Identity from the Ashes: Reflections of Children and Grandchildren of Holocaust Survivors (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2015) and Life Reborn, Jewish Displaced Persons 1945-1951 (U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2001). In July 2023, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Tuzla in Bosnia and Herzegovina for his “contribution to raising awareness of the genocide against Bosnians in Srebrenica and the Holocaust, through the fight against the denial of crimes and the falsification of historical facts, and for contributing to peace building and the development of a culture of remembrance.”