The bonfire of the expansive heart
The importance of tending the earth (Radical Torah repost)

This week's portion: borrowed


You are a stranger
resident with God

even the body you wear
is borrowed

a temporary sublet
from the Holy One

when the rent comes due
out you go, whether

or not you feel
ready, whether or not

you were enjoying
where you were

hush, says the messenger
pressing one finger

to your philtrum
and just like that

everything you knew
is forgotten,

all you can do
is wail.

This week we're in parashat Behar- Behukkotai, a double portion which contains all kinds of great stuff, including material on the Jubilee Year and the need to let our land rest.

The verse that leapt out at me this week is Leviticus 25:23, "But the land must not be sold beyond reclaim, for the land is Mine; you are but strangers resident with Me." What does it mean that we are strangers resident with God? That idea mixed, in my mind, with a conversation we had in my Hashpa'ah (spiritual direction) class last week about people who work as midwives for the dying, helping them through the physical and emotional processes of letting go of this life, and from the intersection of those two notions this poem arose.

If the reference to a messenger is baffling, remember that this is the language Torah uses for what we might call angels. There's a story which holds that in the womb, we know all the Torah there is to know -- but at the moment of birth, an angel presses a fingertip to our mouths and we forget everything in order to re-learn.

Is this a poem about death, or about birth? If you have an answer, feel free to weigh in; I'd love to know how the poem reads to you.


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