Ruh and nafs, ruach and nefesh
Abraham and the idols in midrash and the Qur'an

This week's portion: postpartum


Postpartum depression caused the Flood.
God was elated when creation was born
every facet unfolding a reflection
light and darkness, as above so below

But God ached all over, God felt hollow
God walked in the empty garden disconsolate
already nothing was the way God planned it
and Abel's blood cried out from the soil

Could the whole project be a wash?
In God's heart, regret bloomed hot
and a tempest of sorrow rained down on earth

Still, some simple sweetness in us
roused divine compassion like milk
found favor in God's tired eyes.

Maria, from The Sound of Music, would no doubt be pleased: we're starting at the very beginning (a very good place to start!) This week's portion is Bereshit, the first chapters in the book called (in English) Genesis. There's so much good stuff here, it was hard to choose where to hang a poem: on one or both of the creation stories? On the mystical resonance of the days of creation? On the fruit of the tree and the exile from Eden? On the generations of humanity multiplying on earth, or the mysterious Nephilim?

This week's poem arose out of the very last lines of the parsha. God sees how wicked humanity had already become, and regrets creation, and vows to wipe everything off the face of the earth...but that plan is tempered, because Noah finds favor with the Lord. (For more on that, tune in next week! It's a great place to end the portion -- which serves to highlight, for me, how artificial the chapter divisions often are. But that's another story.)

I like imagining God as a new mother, at once overjoyed at the reality of creation (something that's never existed before in quite this way) and also grieving, a little bit, the new distance between God's-self and us.



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


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