Coming soon to Temple Sinai
Responding to fear with prayer and hope


I want to gaze at you
    not through lowered lashes
       protecting my tender places, but

heart splayed wide
    to everything I learn
       when I let myself be seen.

I want to gaze at you
    without flinching, knowing
       what you'll find in my eyes:

my aches and imperfections,
    the cracks in my clay heart,
       the tarnish clouding my silver.

I want to see all of you
    even if your pure light
       would burn out my circuits,

even if all I can glimpse
    is your shadowed silhouette
       through my sheerest tallit.

If I bring my whole self
    to yearning for you, if I seek
       to see and to be seen wholly

can I call forth
    the you who would be
       in relationship with me?




[C]racks in my clay heart. Jewish tradition describes the broken-open heart as a clay vessel; see Vessel (2008) and A crack in everything (2016).

[E]verything I learn / when I let myself be seen. Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the rabbi of the Warsaw Ghetto, teaches that when we relate to God as a "you," with willingness to bring our full selves to the experience, we receive revelation -- though it's not entirely clear whether it's revelation of God's self, or revelation of our own deepest self.

[E]ven if your pure light / would burn out my circuits. See parashat Ki Tisa. No one can look upon God and live; even Moshe only gets to see God's afterimage.

[T]he you who would be/ in relationship with me[.] This draws on another teaching from Kalonymus Kalman Shapira: when we stand in real relationship to God in prayer, we call forth the "Thou" with Whom we yearn to be in relationship. 

This is another poem in my ongoing Texts to the Holy series, a collection of love poems to the Beloved / beloved (capital-B or lowercase-b, whatever resonates most for you.)


Offered with thanks to Rabbi Brent Chaim Spodek of Beacon Hebrew Alliance for introducing me to this text from Aish Kodesh by Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, also known as the Piaseczyner Rebbe, this past Shabbat afternoon.