And God said to Moses
When you reap the harvest of your land
you shall take choice flour, clear oil of beaten olives
they shall be holy
you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger
No man of your offspring throughout the ages
may eat of the food of his God
he shall not enter behind the curtain
None shall defile himself,
it will not be accepted in your favor
You shall not leave any of it until morning
You shall count off seven weeks,
you shall celebrate each in its appointed time,
you shall observe this
I am the Lord
This week's Torah poem is a cento, a kind of patchwork poem composed entirely of found lines. Some centos draw from multiple sources; others draw from a single source, but the lines wind up (ideally) recontextualized in their juxtaposition. Mary E. Moore has written a lovely cento which draws on Emily Dickinson, and this one from the SemiCento project draws on sources from Dante and Shakespeare to Thich Nhat Hanh and Old Norse eddas.
As you've probably guessed, the lines in this cento are from this week's parsha, Emor (JPS translation.)There's much in this portion which evokes an intellectual response in me, from the injunction against priests coming in contact with death to the various laws having to do with blemishes (forbidden both in priests and in sacrifices -- as though blemished creatures were improper transformers, incapable of stepping-down God's high voltage into the gentle form with which we can interact.)
But when I went into the portion with an eye toward finding lines for this cento, the verses and half-verses that leapt out at me weren't necessarily the same ones that make me want to respond in prose. That's part of the joy of this practice: in digging my fingers through the portion, I find gems I didn't realize were there.
As usual, those unable to see the audio player embedded at the top of the post, or those who want a copy of the recording, can download shall.mp3.