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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Poetic Midrash on Parashat Be'haalotekha

This week's parashah is Be'haalotekha (Numbers/Be'midbar 8:1-12:16). At the
end of the last parashah God spoke to Moses from between the wings of the
cherubim that hovered over the Ark. This occured immediatel following the
completion of the building of the Mishkan/sanctuary. In the opening line of
Be'haalotekha, Moses is told to instruct Aaron concerning his ascent to kindle
the lights of the seven-branch menorah.

Many rabbis have commented on the symbolism of the menorah as the light of the
Divine. In addition, the Kabbalists/mystics imagined that the seven branches of
the menorah represented the seven lower sefirot/divine emanations that human
beings could experience in this world.

Light as representing God's presence is also found in the parashah in the image
of the fire enshrouded in the cloud that hovered over the Mishkan signifying
God's presence. According to the text, the fire/presence of God would be seen
within a cloud over the Mishkan by day and as fire by night (the same time when
the menorah was lit). When the cloud/fire would lift that was the signal to the
people that it was time for the community to move on. When the cloud would
again descend the people would stop and set up camp.

I see the role of the cloud/fire, as well as Aaron's responsibility to light the
lamps of the menorah, as indicative of the divine-human partnership of which we
are all a part. Moses may have been able to "hear" God's voice directly, we are
told, but we,who all have "priestly potential (see last week's commentary), are
the ones who can bring God's light into the world for all to see.


The Ascent


I ascend
To light
God's lamps
Awesome
Responsibility

Moses
My brother
Hears
God's voice
From between
The wings of the cherubim
God speaks
To him
Not to me


Still
I ascend
I see
I light
God's lamps
Illuminating
The sanctuary
God's house
My house
My soul

Moses
My brother
Hears
Or does he
God's voice
Only he knows

I know
I see
God's light
I enable
Others
To see it

The lamps glow
Illuminating
My soul
Their warmth
Penetrates my heart

Each night
Fear descends
Among the people
I ascend
To light
For them
And me

Everyone
Sees feels
The light
Surrounded
Love Strength
Glory
Majesty Endurance
Righteousness
Her Presence
Shekhinah
Glorious Divine Light



Outside the tent
All can see
God's presence
Cloud by day
Fire by night
We stand still
Stay
Where we are
Trembling
With fear
Opening
To love compassion mercy

Daytime
God's light enshrouded
But we know
She
He
Is there

Nighttime
God's fire burns
Searing itself into soulmindheart
Reminding us of
The Presence

Fire
More readily seen
Feared
Honored
Than cloud
Blurring vision
Fogging the mind
Blocking the way
Fire
Burns it away
So we can see
Truth


The trick is
To see
The fire
In the cloud
The Presence
In the confusion
The not-quite-darkness-not-quite-light
Cloud

Remember
The soul
Is the lamp of God
The lamp
Is at the heart of the cloud
The cloud
Is God's Glory
God's Presence
Unknowable illumination

Inside the Tent
Our sanctuary home
The lamp is lit
By me
By you
By us
God's partners

We all ascend
As One
To light the lamps
While Moses
Stands there
Listening
To the Voice
Between the cherubim

I act
We act
We light the lamps
We bring God's light
Into the tent
The world
I We
Create the fire in the cloud
Bring the Presence into the world
Lending clarity to a clouded world
Bringing mindfulness of the Presence
Into our lives

Now
We have seen felt
The cloud the fire
The Presence
Can ascend
Now
We can move on
Knowing
That it he she
Will return
When
We least expect it
But when it does
Will we
Be
Ready

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