A poem for #blogElul 19: Ask
New essay on midrash and fanworks

A poem for #blogElul 20: Judge


My name is four-dimensional.
You couldn't say it if you tried.

Call me the true judge, the one
who sees through your obfuscations.

Further out than Pluto,
deeper than Earth's core

the one who enwombs the world
and shines like a supernova.

The one who extends a hand
and forgives. Don't say otherwise.

Name me unforgiving,
call me the oncoming storm

and you'll pin that face on me.
Don't reinscribe those old grooves.

Call me author of every story,
life of all the worlds.

Call me by the face
you want to see.

One of the dominant metaphors for God in the high holiday liturgy is God-as-judge. We also refer to God as a judge upon hearing of a death, when we say the words "baruch dayan emet." I follow my teacher Rabbi Marcia Prager in interpreting those words as "blessed is the judge of beginnings, middles, and endings."

One of the passages we recite repeatedly during the Days of Awe is the "thirteen attributes," which comes from Torah and which some people regard as a single long name of God: "Adonai, Adonai, merciful and compassionate..." In Torah, this passage first indicates that God forgives, but then cautions us about cases where God does not forgive. In our liturgy, the passage has been intentionally truncated, so that we call only on divine mercy and not on retribution.

This poem draws on the thirteen attributes, on the phrase baruch dayan emet, and on kabbalistic ideas about divine partzufim, the faces or masks through which we see God's infinity.

I'm participating again this year in #blogElul, an internet-wide carnival of themed posts aimed at waking the heart and soul before the Days of Awe. (Organized by Ima Bima.) You can read last year's and this year's #blogElul posts via the Elul tag; last year's posts are also available, lightly revised, in the print chapbook Elul Reflections.