Departure and arrival
Returning to the Old City

This week's portion: bloom


It's easy for women
to identify with Korach.
Why should all the power
reside in one set of hands?

Why shouldn't we
be able to speak to God
on our own time, lighting
our own smudge-stick hearts?

Why should our bodies
need concealment, like
faces of the Holy Blessed One
hidden from creation?

Sometimes when we say this
the earth swallows us whole
like Persephone, eater
of pomegranate seeds.

Sometimes we emerge
like spring itself,
overflowing with the stories
we learned underground

and the plain walking-sticks
of everyone around us
burst into improbable bloom.

This week's portion, Korach, contains the story of the rebel Korach who demanded a share of priestly power. He and his people were swallowed up by the earth. After that, we read that God resolved the dispute by asking for the staffs of every chieftain, and causing Aaron's to bloom -- a sign of divine favor on his priesthood. Imagery from both of those stories made it into this week's poem.

The idea of being swallowed by the earth reminded me of the story of Persephone. Persephone made me think of pomegranate seeds. Last night as we gazed into the windows of stores on Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall I saw more pomegranates than I could count: glazed ceramic ones, silver ones, embroidered ones, woven ones. A symbol of abundance and fertility; and also a symbol that used to adorn the High Priest's garb...

I've recorded the poem in raw form, but can't convert it to mp3 without a particular library which, it turns out, is no longer on my rebuilt machine. I'll download that library when I can, and upload the poem when I am able. Meanwhile, you'll have to just read it to yourself this week, and imagine that your voice is mine.

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