Ritualwell

Tradition & Innovation

Mazel Tov

By Jessica Jacobs
silhouette of girl with dog giving a kiss sun setting in the background
Circular breather, our dog can whine
without ceasing, his tail thumping the wall
beside the bed to call me up and out to the yard
instead. In moonlight, the hydrangeas’
 
white blossoms are a zodiac of branch-bound
constellations. Once, God called Abraham
out from his tent to the open field to count
the uncountable lights in the sky, promising
 
offspring bountiful as dust, numerous
as the stars. Like Abraham, I too left
my land, my birthplace, my father’s house.
But the closest I have to an offspring
 
is lifting his leg at the azalea, nose busy
with the news the night air brings.
Mazel tov! we say at births and other
joyous occasions, the Jewish go-to
 
for Congratulations! Yet tov means good
and mazel, constellation or destiny,
and sometimes, like Abraham, you must
leave the place that grew you to grow
 
toward better stars. In the house, my wife
is sleeping. Along the fence-top, a procession
of possums reminds that even in darkness
there are those who can see. Above,
 
trees, thick with summer, frame a porthole
of sky. Maybe, though, it’s not always the stars
that matter but the space between them,
the lines we draw to shape the absence,
 
the lives we forge around what goes missing.
From the deck, the cool breeze makes a festival
of the silver-lit leaves. Under my palm,
there’s the warmth of his fur, the rise
 
of his ribs. He doesn’t know his kidneys
are failing, that his muzzle is white
as the winter our vet has said he will
not live to see. Like all of us, he is
 
dying; like most of us, he doesn’t
know it. His chin on my leg, he trusts me
with the weight of his head. So, if I wish
you, mazel tov, know what I mean is,
 
May you find a reason to open
your door to the dark. I’ll mean,
May you live beneath good stars,
and take the time to notice.

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