This week's portion: offering
January 27, 2009
[A]nd we shall not know with what we are to worship the Lord until we arrive there. -- Exodus 10:26
Maybe God wants goats
scruffy and bleating.
The richest colors we know.
The taste of coffee, dark and smooth.
Maybe God wants smoke
from the trees our children will fell.
The songs we sing
when it's late and no one can hear.
The Holy One will tell us
what sacrifices are required,
blood or water poured on the altar
sluicing down to the earth below.
Does God want our grief?
Hopes raised, then dashed
like pears against a rock.
Maybe God wants us not to give up.
We must bring all that we are
so when that Voice speaks
we can open our chests
and pull out what's inside.
In this week's portion, Bo, we read about the plagues of locusts, and darkness. And then there's an intriguing interlude: Pharaoh summons Moshe and says, "fine, go worship your God; you can even take your children with you, but leave your flocks and herds behind." Moshe refuses, saying that the Israelites must take their livestock with them. "We shall not know with what we are to worship the Lord until we arrive there," Moshe says.
That's the line which sparked this week's Torah poem. I love the notion that we can't know with what we will be called to worship until we're in the moment of worship itself.
Avodah means both "service" in the sense of "going to services," and in the sense of "serving a higher power." Our avodah she-ba-lev, the service/offering of our hearts, can never entirely be planned. We have to bring our whole selves to prayer in order to find out what is asked of us today, and who we might aspire to become.