The shape of the spiritual year
Two very different conferences

This week's portion: blameless


Noah walked with God.
He was a righteous man.
He was blameless in his age.
Noah begot three sons.

He was a righteous man
though his era was lawless.
Noah begot three sons
and the earth became corrupt.

Though his era was lawless
he found love in Na'amah.
The earth became corrupt
but she sang so sweetly.

He found love in Na'amah
they hunkered down together
and she sang so sweetly
it drowned out what was outside.

They hunkered down together
and God spoke to him, saying
(it drowned out what was outside)
I've given up on creation.

God spoke to him, saying
build an ark of gopher-wood
I've given up on creation:
watch the waters rising

build an ark of gopher-wood!
As God commanded, Noah did
watch the waters rising
did he weep for what was lost?

As God commanded, Noah did
he was blameless in his age
did he weep for what was lost?
Noah walked with God.

This week we're in parashat Noach, which tells the story of the Flood. Rereading the portion this year, I was struck by the short declarative sentences at its beginning. I copied those out and realized that they could be interwoven in interesting ways. That was the spark of this week's Torah poem, which takes the form of a pantoum.

Five times in this Torah portion the text mentions ishto, "his wife," but the wife of Noah is never named. Rabbinic legend holds that Noah's wife was named Na'amah. Two midrashim from Bereshit Rabbah reflect on Na'amah, suggesting that she was a "singer of sweet songs." (For more on this, I recommend the Noah essay in The Women's Torah Commentary, ed. R' Elyse Goldstein.)

This year, the question which resonates for me most strongly is the one I articulate in the two last stanzas: did he weep for what was lost? What would it be like to watch all of creation, everything you'd known and everything you never had a chance to know, be washed away?

This week's ReadWritePoem prompt relates to cut-up poetry -- a fascinating and fun way to work, and I'm sorry I didn't manage to combine it with my Torah poem practice! I'll edit this post on Thursday to include a link to the weekly Get Your Poem On post, in case you'd like to read the poems that people post in response to that prompt.