Poetry: Thirteen Principles of Faith
THIRTEEN PRINCIPLES OF FAITH
by Rose Lemberg
(originally published at Apex Magazine)
(1) Exalted be the Living G-d and praised, He exists – unbounded by time is His existence.
time has collapsed into a pearl
six million lifetimes pressed into my heart –
and ground to ashes there, where time
does not exist
in which to grieve for G-d
(2) He is One – and there is no unity like His Oneness. Inscrutable and infinite is His Oneness.
This world was a mistake. When the divine
made space for us, he poured Himself
into ten vessels. When the vessels broke,
the shards of light made stained-glass in the windows of our bodies
Exhausted by G-d-given blindness, we have sailed
across the ocean, searching for replacement glass -
and finding cars, and banks, and better schools
(3) He has no semblance of a body nor is He corporeal; nor has His holiness any comparison.
G-d sent the Daughter of the Voice
from heavens down to sinful earth
to speak His secrets to the children of the wise
those clothed in righteousness -
but bent over their books
they turned away from where she hid behind the candles
inside night’s tenderness, before the rooster makes
our world anew with unabashed red.
In predawn darkness, Daughter of the Voice has waited
until her soul has shed its feathered face
and shed its daughterness,
and flown away.
(4) He preceded every being that was created – the First, and nothing preceded His precedence.
Tell me my fate in seven syllables, oh sun,
for light was first named out of G-d,
as out of G-d arose all names of great things: salt and air,
and grass, and levitating fish, and even I.
You say my greatest sin is pride – but G-d
forced it upon me when I named the animals – you see illuminated
(bent over birds and snails) my form inside the manuscripts
foxed by the sun, dog-eared by sunlight -
with syllables of clay, I named myself anew
and cloaked G-d in sounds of gold and river
and lastly, silence. Decked out in my pride
like rainbow trout in singing skin – and overcome with greed
I swore to name the Nameless First
and touched the edge of the Abyss.
It cried to me with my own voice
I am still falling
(5) Behold! He is Master of the universe to every creature, He demonstrates His greatness and His sovereignty.
When from His sleeve the serpent stuck its tongue
onto the garden of eternal blossom
it did not smell the smell of death
that comforted inside His sleeve.
And so the serpent bit the arm
of moody G-d, and sucked the blood for planting
under the newborn sun:
the apple tree.
(6) He granted His flow of prophecy to His treasured splendrous people.
That music lived once;
unless my little grandfather returns in his fedora
with the old violin that laughing cries
inside its polished maple body
He was a lamed-vovnik – one of thirty six
righteous men that walk unnoticed
sometimes eating pork
(7) In Yisrael none like Moses arose again – a prophet who perceived His vision clearly.
When Moses climbed Mt. Sinai, G-d
gave him a violin of stone
and a translucent bow of moonlight, and a book of psalms to charm the rain
to steal the children home from battlefields, to fiddle
the mountain’s greatness into hearts of men.
Descending, he made strings out of his soul and played
not knowing what awaited him
(8) G-d gave His people a Torah of truth, by means of His prophet, the most trusted of His household.
My father lifted me upon his narrow shoulders
and carried me, wrapped in his prayer shawl,
into an empty synagogue.
Beneath its rafters,
the sparrows prayed in Hebrew. Bird Rabbi
scratched Torah for me – in the dirt, upon the faces
of painted patriarchs,
upon my father’s peeling hands,
upon my heart.
(9) G-d will never amend nor exchange His law for any other one, for all eternity.
The apple doesn’t fall up. Isaac Newton
Not being Jewish, knew as much, and thus
he didnt argue. G-d, however, hoped
for argument : that in relation
to His own eye
the apple plummets up -
a weightless thought that hurls itself to Eden
to plant its seed
and fall again
A debate worthy of a talmudist,
it had to wait a while
(10) He scrutinizes and knows our hiddenmost secrets; He perceives a matter’s outcome at its inception.
My ribcage is a birdcage for a bird
That beats within,
that burns within,
the flame concedes its lordship to the tide,
the waters overflow to quench my light.
I am the voiceless Daughter of the Voice
that chokes upon its truth and lives again
inside this aging Ark, this roaring sea.
When dove by dove, my silences depart
to settle on Mt. Ararat,
upon the shores unreachable by men,
they steal themselves from me.
(11) He recompenses man with kindness according to his deed; He places evil on the wicked according to his wickedness.
On Yom Kippur, some twenty years ago,
the cantor died inside our synagogue
and G-d, confused without his guiding melody, sat drooling ink
over the book of life,
the book of dying.
Old cantor, looking back from gates of Paradise, took pity
and seized a youth, and sang with a hoarse voice
out of the young man’s mouth, guiding G-d.
They say he’s doomed, and tormented between
the earth and heaven now for his sin;
I know a different ending: on a winter night,
while waiting out a storm inside the synagogue, a lamed-vovnik
piped on his clarinet,
and cleansed the cantor’s ghost from its demonic stench
and lifted it
upon the wings of melody
(12) By the End of Days He will send our Messiah, to redeem those longing for His final salvation.
When David first met the king he played a harp,
melting the bitterness out of Saul’s heart,
chasing away demons, sitting at Saul’s feet,
asking for nothing,
carrying only G-d.
When David first met the king he threw a stone,
killing an enemy, ogling the throne,
spilling fresh blood and wielding a sword,
asking for nothing
but to worship G-d.
Both stories are true. When David returns,
will he choose one?
Or will he still be torn?
(13) G-d will revive the dead in His abundant kindness – Blessed forever is His praised Name.
He shall give back, in his abundant kindness
my childhood with its matsoh ball soup
made out of love and overflowing snow that mellows
all words to violins
In His abundant kindness
my memory brings back that music. Mazl
du shaynst amol far yedem –
- luck, you shine
for everyone you shine,
but not for me.