Bassam Aramin in Zeek
Rabbinic conference call with Senator Obama

This week's portion: beat


You must be wholehearted with the Lord your God. (Deut. 18:13)

Look, here in my hands:
my heart beats

like a bullfrog breathing.
I want to give you

all that I am, even the parts
I've been afraid to show

everything predictable in me
everything unoriginal

and in another chamber
everything strange,

longings and proclivities
I don't know the words for.

How gently you ask me
to peel back my ribs

and reveal what's inside.
To really believe

I'm a reflection of the one
who will never cast me away.

This week we're in parashat Ki Tavo. A couple of weeks ago I got my dates scrambled, and posted my poem for Ki Tavo -- Blessed -- during the wrong week. So this week, I'm going to post the poem I should have posted two weeks ago, a poem for parashat Shoftim. (With me so far? If you want the poem that goes with this week's portion, re-read "Blessed." If you want a full set of Torah poems and have been waiting eagerly for me to make up the week that I missed, this week's poem fills that gap.)

There's a lot of great material in parashat Shoftim. "Justice, justice shall you pursue" is there. So is a surprising and beautiful teaching about how, on the eve of battle, anyone who has built a new house but not lived in it; planted a vineyard but never harvested it; prepared to marry, but not yet experienced the marriage should be sent home rather than called to fight. (I wrote about that two years ago for Radical Torah.)

But the line that really spoke to me this time through was chapter 18, verse 3, an injunction to be wholehearted with God. What does it mean to be wholehearted? This week's poem is one possible way of answering that question. I'd love to know your answers, too.

As usual, if you can't see the audio player at the top of this post or if you want a copy of the recorded poem, help yourself to beat.mp3


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