The Chernobyler on the power of speech
Perceiving God (Radical Torah repost)

This week's portion: instruction


How often I wish
for such clear instruction.
Build a structure
to house what you long for

inserting golden post
in golden socket
as though you understood
the grand design.

Anoint the dinner dishes
with Joy. Wash hands
and feet every time you enter.
Rest when the work is done.

And when the presence lingers
in your neighborhood
you'll know to sit still
and watch your breath

and when the cloud lifts
have your bags packed
be ready to leap
without fear.

This week we're in a double Torah portion, Vayekhel-Pekudei. (During leap years, the double Torah portions are each expanded into two portions; since this is not a leap year, the double portions are condensed into single longer readings, like this one.)

Last year I wrote my first Torah poem for parashat Vayekhel. That poem was called Collaboration, and I so enjoyed writing it that I decided to try my hand at writing a Torah poem each week. (Kind of my own spin on Jonathan Coulton's Thing-a-Week project, only instead of writing quirky and fabulous songs each week, I committed myself to writing divrei Torah in poem form.) This week's poem brings me all the way around the wheel of the year; I've written and posted one poem for each portion in the year, including the ones which didn't get their own weekly reading in the year now ending. Now my task is to revise a year's worth of Torah poems into a manuscript I hope will someday see print.

Anyway -- this week's poem riffs off of the instructions from God which make up this section of the book of Exodus. How do these elaborate instructions resonate for us today? In the absence of the jeweled priestly garments, or the golden implements which the Torah speaks so lovingly of anointing, how can we relate to what this week's portion describes?

The fourth stanza contains a tiny bit of wordplay which may not be immediately obvious: in Hebrew, the name most commonly used for the presence of God (Shekhinah) shares a root with the word for neighborhood (shekhunah / שְׁכוּנָה). The last stanza draws on the final lines of the week's portion, which explain that when the cloud of divine presence rested over the mishkan, the Israelites stayed put; and when it moved, they moved with it. In this I see a hint of the tension between waiting and leaping, which is an apt theme as we move into the season of Pesach -- stay tuned...

[ Instruction.mp3]

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