New year's wishes

This week's portion: secrets


Concealed acts concern the Lord our God; but with overt acts, it is for us and our children ever to apply all the provisions of this Teaching. (Deut. 29:28)

God inhabits our secrets,
nestles in our fantasies

like a cat curling up for a nap
in a pile of warm laundry

God hides in plain sight
veiled by the textures of creation

as Elul dwindles to a fingernail-paring
God sorts the stories we don’t tell

some God keeps in confidence
some ask us shyly to be spoken aloud

on Yom Kippur
when we knock on our hearts

we don't have to be afraid
to throw our screen doors wide

This week's portion, Nitzavim, contains one of my favorite passages in Torah, Deuteronomy 30:11-14, which talks about how the Torah is not baffling or beyond reach. It is not in heaven, that we should argue we need someone to ascend to bring it down; nor is it across the sea, that we should claim we need someone to make a long journey to retrieve it. Rather, it is in our mouths and in our hearts, always, already.

I initially thought I would write this week's poem about that, but after a while it became clear to me that the passage is already poetry -- it doesn't need to be transformed. (Or, at least, this year I don't need to transform it in that way.) This year I was drawn to chapter 29, verse 28, which mentions God's concern with what is concealed. The Hebrew word is ha-nistarot, "the hidden things" or "the things which are concealed." The word nistar is sometimes used to refer to God, especially in the mystical tradition which sees God "hiding in plain sight," disguised as creation.

As we approach the Days of Awe, and especially Yom Kippur, I love the idea that God can be found in that which is concealed -- even in the things we conceal from others, or from ourselves, if we're only ready and able to look.


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