Weaving parashat Terumah into our lives (Radical Torah repost)
The place we build for God (Radical Torah repost)

This week's portion: the gifts


These are the gifts
leather and linen
silver and gold

each who was moved
returned these riches
to the place

every yearning heart
following the blueprint
these are the gifts

parchment scraped fine
and iron gall ink
commentaries in the margins

words intertwined
so that the tabernacle
becomes one whole

these are the gifts
that make the sanctuary
the presence dwells in us

This week's portion, T'rumah, begins the long and loving series of descriptions of how the mishkan (portable tabernacle) was built. (As an aside: the word "tabernacle" just doesn't do it for me; the Hebrew word mishkan is related to Shekhinah, the immanent and indwelling Presence of God. The mishkan a place where God can dwell. The English word just doesn't have that same resonance!)

I wanted this poem to evoke both the gifts which Torah tells us the Israelites brought for the construction of the mishkan, and the gifts I think we are still bringing today: our words of Torah, and our responses to one another's words, woven together as the pieces of the mishkan were once woven together. This is what constitutes our community.

There are two bits of bilingual wordplay here. I refer to "the place" in part because "the place" (ha-makom) is one of the names we use for God. And the last line of the poem is a shout-out to a line from the portion itself: ".וְעָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּשׁ; וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכָם" It's usually translated as  "And they shall make for me a sanctuary; and I will dwell among them," but the Hebrew is deliciously ambiguous. It could as easily say "and I will dwell within them."

This poem is also my response to this week's prompt at Totally Optional Prompts; it's an anaphora, a form which makes use of repeated words or lines as a kind of recurring refrain. (You can read other folks' submissions to the prompt here.)


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