Friday, May 25, 2007

Prayer Mosaic (Naso)

Welcome to The Watering Hole's official launch. Glad to have you with us. We intended to start at the beginning of Numbers, but someone (me) dropped the ball, and we're kicking things off with the book's second portion, Naso. My poem (below) focuses on the identical offerings given by the 12 chieftans of Israel prior to the first use of the Tabernacle in the wilderness (Num 7:1-89). Today's other commentaries will explore the priestly blessing (Num 6:22-27, Tar Heeb) and provide a broad overview of the Torah's longest portion (Num 4:21-7:89, Casseopia). Enjoy it, kids.

I face East, and pray;
6,000 years of tradition
escaping on autopilot
but uttered anew every time
as these fumbled phrases
are finding fresh pauses
and the focus is fading
from coordinated community baselines
to the syncopated search for harmonies
that my mind strives to wind
into a heartsong

that I've been unable to express.

We'll stand and sit together
united by every letter
identical measures masking individual aims;
no matching prayer the same -
passing through the vessel they change
until they couldn't be uttered
by any other wonder that God made.

Just like in Naso,
before the Hebrews could go
any further they needed to show
respect to the Tabernacle.
First, from Nahshon,
the incense would crackle:
10-shekel gold ladle burnt
bull, ram and lamb;
200 shekel silver
oil and flour rep land;
purfication goat;
then five more and five lambs,
two oxen, five rams
for well-being was planned;
11 chieftans followed,
offering it over and over and over again
'til God descended from heaven
and the portion comes to an end.

So I'm lost in my head
as I face east and pray,
traveling back to each of the days
when words wouldn't say
anything of substance
or just get in the way
at camp, at college,
at home or at shul;
those summer nights
by lake or by pool;
Subway Series, snow days
or kissed lips so cool.

And I find 6,000 years
always stays new.


Valerie said...

Powerful - especially the last line! Yashar Koach, Brooklyn Boy!

The Brooklyn Boy said...

valerie - Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed the piece.