Seven weeks
Interview with Rodger Kamenetz, now online at Zeek

This week's Torah poem: Voice (Naso)


When Moses went into the Tent
to converse with God

he would hear the Voice
coming from atop the ark

in the space between
the two cherubs (not babies

with round cheeks but angels
whose wings made a canopy)

sometimes they embraced
sometimes rested back-to-back

like an old married couple
fighting in their sleep

when the people were kind
the cherubs gazed

into one another's eyes
and God's voice issued forth, saying

in case of jealousy, eat my words
let me tell you how to bless

but Moses didn't take notes
and we've been playing telephone

we've lost the part that said
for My sake and yours

have a little fun out there
I know whether or not it's true

that you only live once
but I'm not telling

This week's portion, Naso, includes the bizarrely magical Sotah ritual (which I wrote about two years ago), the priestly blessing, and instructions for prospective nazirites, among a bunch of other things. It's the longest Torah portion of them all, weighing in at 176 verses.

This week's poem arose out of the final verse of the portion, Numbers 6:89, which describes how Moses would go into the tent and hear God's voice speaking to him from between the two keruvim. I've always liked the teaching that God's voice arises in the place of interaction between the two figures -- in their I-Thou stance, as it were. The notion that the cherubs could either face each other or give each other the cold shoulder, reflecting the community's behavior, is midrashic.

As usual, if you can't see the audio player embedded at the top of this post, or if you would like to have a copy of the recording, you can download voice.mp3.

Poem cross-posted to The Best American Poetry blog, with different commentary. For reasons we can't fathom, my posts there won't accept comments, though the blog as a whole does. So if you have a comment, please leave it here!

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