Entering Adar א

This week's portion: Home (Terumah)






Palm the hammer's handle
worn soft by callused hands

run a thumbnail along your blade
and don't let it stutter

let saws whine
against the darkening of day

let sandpaper grind pine
into dust, fragrant as incense

cabinetmaker, rotate
every joint and hinge

float the angled panels
of these heavy doors

put what you treasure inside
this house of gold and thorn

make a safe place
where I may dwell in you

This week's prompt at Big Tent Poetry is a wordle word cloud, from which I borrowed the words handle, blade, rotate, grind, cabinet, float, darkening, angle.

In the cycle of the Jewish lectionary, we're in parashat Terumah, and as I looked over the words in the word cloud, I knew that I wanted to write a Torah poem this week. (If you're curious, here's the Torah poem I wrote for this parsha back in 2009: The gifts. That poem can be found in 70 faces, my new collection of Torah poems...)

The Torah portion speaks about building the mishkan, the portable Tabernacle. The root of the word "mishkan" is the same as the root of the word "Shekhinah," the indwelling divine Presence of God. Probably my favorite verse in the parsha is Exodus 25:8 -- "And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them." (Or: "that I may dwell in them.") That verse has found its way into both of the Torah poems I've written for this parsha over the years.

The poem is also inspired by the experience of slowly watching a house be built -- over the last year, two of our close friends have built their own house from the ground up. I wasn't able to help out much, thanks to the baby (I spent one afternoon painting interior walls, and that was it) but I dropped by the site pretty often, and have distinct memories of how it felt to visit the construction site. I like laying those memories over my imagining of how building a portable tabernacle might have been.

Here's a link to this week's "Come One, Come All" post so you can see what others wrote in response to this prompt.