Shavuot: anniversary of a cosmic marriage
A benediction for my travels

This week's poem: Shine (B'ha-alot'kha)


The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and say to him, "When you mount the lamps, let the seven lamps give light at the front of the lampstand." -- Numbers 8:1-2

One for each day of creation
and a seventh for Shabbat,
the pearl in the crown
the flowering apple tree
the culmination.

One for each blessing
your children will recite
beneath the chuppah
marveling at what they find
in one another's eyes.

Each representing one
of the sefirot or chakras,
colors of the rainbow
musical tones in a scale
we've never imagined.

Even now, with our portable
dwelling-place for God
long vanished irretrievably
into the attic of memory,
these lamps still shine.

There's a ton of good stuff in this week's Torah portion, B'ha-alot'kha: instructions for how to offer the Pesach sacrifice belatedly, the words Moses used to say when the ark went forth (which we still recite in many synagogues when the Torah is brought out of the ark), a story about quail and a plague, and Moses' siblings' distress upon his marriage to a Cushite woman (and their plaintive "doesn't God speak through us, too?") which result in Miriam being stricken with tzara'at and Moses praying, "Please, God, heal her!"

But when I sat down to write this week's Torah poem, it was the very beginning of the portion that leapt out at me. As prose, the first two verses in the portion aren't all that compelling to me -- okay, fine, seven lamps mounted on a lampstand, moving on. But the notion of seven lights resonates for me on a poetic level. The symbolism of seven is all over Jewish tradition; light can represent not only the visible light we receive from sun and moon, stars and fire, but also the spiritual light of insight and wisdom and knowledge.

As usual, if you can't see the audio player at the top of this post or if you'd like a copy of the recorded poem, you can download shine.mp3.

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