A mishkan in time (Radical Torah repost)
Miscarriage poems: "Through"

This week's portion: re-entry


Coming down the mountain --
understand, being up there
was the best thing ever

I glowed with awareness
I practically levitated
and what I was bringing back...!

Torah you can't imagine
so transparent, so pure
divine mind, open to us

but the people I'd led
from enslavement
to the edge of revelation

forgot me, went whoring
after the gaudy creation
of their own wretched hands

what shattered on the earth
were my heart and God's
broken beyond repair

This week's portion, Ki Tisa, contains the story of the egal ha-zahav, the golden calf. The Israelites, worried when Moshe does not come down from the mountain for forty days and nights, panic and demand of Aaron that he make them a god to go before them. Aaron asks them for the gold they've been wearing, and forms it into a calf, cast in gold. The people dance and sing around their new idol, and when Moshe comes down the mountain he is furious: he shatters the tablets of the covenant on the ground.

This poem arose out of my wondering what it might have been like to be Moshe. I wrote last year about how Moshe might have felt, returning from the spiritual high of being in communion with God to find his people behaving in such a manner. This poem arises out of some of those same thoughts.

The tradition tells us that two sets of tablets were carried in the ark of the covenant: the whole second set of tablets Moshe brings down from the mountain, and also the first set of tablets which he breaks upon seeing the Israelites worshipping the golden calf. As the end of this poem suggests, the broken tablets seem to me very evocative of a broken heart. I think there's meaning to be found in the notion that we saved the broken ones along with the whole ones. What is broken still has meaning, still has value. When we ourselves are broken-hearted, we need to be cradled and carried by our community no less than when we are whole.

I imagine that Moshe brought down a different facet of Torah, the second time he went up the mountain. He was changed, and as a result, the Torah he internalized was a different one, shaped by his brokenness in ways we may never fully know. 



Edited to add: this poem is now available, in revised form, in 70 faces, my collection of Torah poems, published by Phoenicia Publishing, 2011.


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