Ner Tamid

December 2018
Daniella Mikanovsky


In every synagogue you visit across the country 
There is a light, fixed in the front above the ark where all eyes can meet it.

Ner tamid: The everlasting light.
The flame, the bulb, which never ceases to glow.
A light to represent the presence of God in this place. 

Even in power failure—Ner Tamid has its own source.
the eternal flame never goes dark, even when darkness enters this place. 
Bullets ricochet past men, women and children, 
backs turned as they face the Lord.
Who dare bring this darkness?
Who dare attack these souls in prayer? 
In Charleston, Quebec City, and now Pittsburgh. 
Who dare disturb these souls in prayer?
Blind, misunderstanding,
Breeding in the darkest corners of our society
Feeding on the distances between us, conspiracies, and lies as old as time.
This hatred 
Armed with an AR15
Shouting words nearly as painful as his bullets 
Brought darkness to this holy place.
But in this darkness, 
Ner Tamid, the eternal light 
Flickers through. 
Barely tearing through smoke and screams…
Ner Tamid stays alive.
Just as we, brothers and sisters — regardless of who you worship in your holy space 
We stay alive.
Our eternal flame will not be extinguished 
Our fight will never falter.
Our Ner Tamid cannot go dark until we have banished the darkness 
Keep the light burning. 
Keep the flame alive.
As bullets of rain hit our fiery souls
We’ll hiss and sputter but never, ever die.
If we stand together 
As we are here tonight
Not just in times of mourning 
But always, forever
The combined light of our souls

Will finally be enough. 

Daniella Mikanovsky, a second year student at McMaster University, recited her poem, "Ner Tamid" at the multi-faith vigil held at Temple Anshe Sholom on October 30 to honour the victims of the Pittsburgh massacre. An  active member of McMaster Hillel and frequent contributer to spoken word poetry events,  Mikanovsky  told the HJN that visualizing her own synagogue with all the power cut off but for the glow of the eternal light helped set the scene from which she developed her poem. "I was reminded of the attacks in Charleston and Quebec City," she wrote, "but I never understood the pain of those communities until today. That’s why I wanted to spread a message of unity in my poem."