Holy garments (Radical Torah repost)
Eternal light (Radical Torah repost)

This week's portion: high priest


braid golden chains
to hold Aaron together
to wrap him tight

he carries the names
of the children of Israel
over his heart

make his robe like the sky
over Sinai
on a clear day

and on its hem
a bell and a pomegranate
a bell and a pomegranate

everyone will hear
him coming
everyone will know

and on his forehead
a third eye
"Holy to Adonai"

don't let him forget
he bears our wellbeing
in his bloodied hands

This week's portion, Tetzaveh, centers around instructions for preparing the first high priest, Aaron (brother of Moshe), for leadership along with his sons. We read about the garments prepared for him to wear, and about the breastplate adorned with twelve precious stones, one for each of the tribes of Israel.

Some of the details of the Torah portion found their way into the poem: the sky-blue robe, the alternating bells and pomegranates adorning the hem. The breastplate and the headdress. The description of the high priest's costume strikes me as a great jumping-off point for poetry. I'm fascinated by the symbolism of the colors of his garments, the stones, the gold plate hanging over his forehead bearing the words kadosh l'Adonai, holy unto God. Where Aaron wore the gold frontlet, we now wear tefillin; did his headdress feel anything to him like the tefillin does to me?

What didn't make it into the poem was anything from the latter part of the portion, which describes the process of anointing Aaron and his son as priests. Maybe that will be in next year's poem.

The priesthood is long gone, but these texts remain. What do they suggest to you this year?


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