Marc Chagall’s “The Fallen Angel” (1947)
I am the Angel of Death, the angel who does not feel and does not cry.
I am the angel who inhales the scent of goodbye and short glimpses of hello.
But once, only once, did I feel and only once did I cry: Akiva.
When I came for his soul I saw his flaming body, the combs of fire scraping at his skin,
And the sparks, sparks everywhere. Sparks of burning embers and heaven and holiness.
When I came for his soul I saw the light flowing from his lips and the flying aleph bet letters,
And I felt the core of my being twisting upside down.
The heavens trembled with teardrops and dark heavy storm clouds and cries of
“This is Torah and this is its reward?”
And I, the Angel of Death, I fell before the Master of the Universe, raised my embittered voice