An interview at Read Write Poem
The God we know (Radical Torah repost)

This week's portion: ear


If a fellow ivri
serves seven years

and won't leave
pierce his ear

let the needle
pin him to the lintel

and keep him
in perpetuity

on Sinai we learned
we serve

the Holy One
Blessed be He

the ear
which failed to hear

deserves the injury
let it bleed

This week's portion, Re'eh, contains instructions about what to do if an Israelite who has been an indentured servant for six years chooses in his seventh year to remain in servitude instead of going free.

I spent part of this week transcribing a recording of a session I had attended at the Rabbis for Human Rights conference back in December -- Rabbi Gordon Tucker on the dignity of work and indignity of slavery -- in which this passage is mentioned. I wrote this week's poem with his teachings reverberating in my ear.

Ivri, which means "boundary-crosser," is the word which we render in English as "Hebrew." I think it's significant that these verses of Torah speak about how one Israelite can choose to remain in servitude to another. These aren't verses about war-captives serving as slaves, but about the choice to subjugate oneself to one's fellow.

This week's Torah poem is also a response to Read Write Poem Prompt #87, which invited us to choose a vowel sound and highlight that sound in our poems this week. Hopefully when you read the poem (or when you listen to the recording) you can guess which vowel I wanted to work with! As always, I welcome responses both to the substance of the poem and to its form.

ETA: You can read other people's responses to the prompt by going to this week's Get Your Poem On post -- many poets have left links to their responses in the comments thread there.


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