I Sing the Body: Ha’azinu

The golem Israel teetered on the Eastern bank of the Jordan River, looking neither right nor left, staring straight ahead, murmuring incoherently. The golem’s limbs and torso, twitching with life, had been organized around the seven energy centers installed at each of the seven Sabbaths of consolation, the union of the Celestial Maiden with her Six-bodied Youth. Moshe and the people had wandered the wilderness together for 40 years, turning over every cell in the body politic with the sole exceptions of Moshe and Joshua. Now Moshe’s replacement was imminent. Moshe and the golem were soothing each other before their big separation.

Only last week had the Celestial Mother, the eighth energy center, associated with the left cerebral hemisphere of the golem, implanted her gift of receptivity, the capacity for conceptualization. The time was ripe for the Celestial Father, the ninth energy center dancing over the right cerebral hemisphere, to provide the spark, the seed. Rav Ram Nissan ben Krishna HaKohen Tzedek Gadol had no idea what this installation would look like. Moshe, looking across the Jordan from the resurrected Temple Mount, said to Rav Ram Nissan, “You know, I really have to hand it to that Shakespeare guy. Almost 3000 years after the big hubbub and he really got it. The personal disappointment thing. I gotta tell you, The Tempest is one great play. Prospero and Caliban, just perfect. So hard to grasp—it’s all personal and none of it’s personal. Like the part I just transcribed to store in the Ark. Total Caliban, just listen.” And Moses belted out, in his best high and lonesome voice, an excerpt from the song that he and Joshua would sing to the people, “He found them in a desert land, and in a desolate, howling wasteland. He encompassed them and bestowed understanding upon them; He protected them as the pupil of His eye./ He made them ride upon the high places of the earth, that they would eat the produce of the field. He let them suck honey from a rock, and oil from the mighty part of the crag. The cream of cattle and the milk of sheep, with the fat of lambs and rams of Bashan and he goats, with kidneys of wheat, and it would drink the blood of grapes as the finest wine./ They provoked His zeal with alien worship; they made Him angry with abominations, deeds. They sacrificed to demons, which have no power, deities they did not know, new things that only recently came, which your forefathers did not fear./ They will sprout hair from famine, attacked by demons, excised by Meriri. I will incite the teeth of livestock upon them, with the venom of creatures that slither in the dust.” Moshe nodded and trailed off.

Ram Nissan turned white as a sheet. “So Rav Moshe,” he began rather tentatively, “pretty harsh, nu?” He could barely meet the prophet’s eyes. Moshe the great teacher clucked and shook his head, “You never saw the play, did you? I’ve been around longer than you, saw it the first year it was performed, 1611. I was hooked. Seen every version performed since. Got a direct feed in the Cloud, channels for anything you can imagine. Anyway, the audience ate it up. The Caliban clown got poked and pricked and tormented, after acting the beast, and the audience howled. It is kind of funny from that point of view, but you see, they didn’t know it was them. The playwright’s got the crowd whipped up on the side of the vengeful magician Prospero in spite of how harsh the language is. Brilliant! I hate to think what would’ve happened if Shakespeare tried to start his own religion.” Ram Nissan pondered this a bit. A last objection, “Speaking of new religions, who’s the Meriri dude? Really out of left field.” Moshe responded immediately, “Bitterness! You know, the wormwood and gall thing. The whole song is one big bitter pill. Tonic for the heart. You weren’t out there in the wilderness trying to whip these sorry creatures into shape. Just like the song says, they were a ‘no-people’, falling down on the job every chance they got. The lessons just didn’t seem to stick. So we went with the 40 year plan. Brutal. But I think they’re finally ready. Have to be, really, ‘cause I’m checking out, hitting the heavenly highway, adios muchachos.” Moshe turned away from the Rav, but not fast enough to hide from the Rav the flood of tears that escaped the great teacher’s eyes. It was the Rav’s turn to put his hand on Moshe’s shoulder to comfort the old dude. That’s what the young hackers used to call the Rav, old dude, during their mission to restore the Temple and save the planet. A forty day journey, not forty years, but still a kind of epic voyage. He waxed nostalgic for his old pals. Maybe he and Moshe could both do with a little diversion.

Rav Ram Nissan ben Krishna HaKohen Tzedek Gadol sighed, “How ‘bout we have another go at my ‘whosis’, as you called it. Let’s see what else the great expanse of time has to offer us in the way of illumination of our tribal narrative.” Moshe smiled and allowed his student to lead him once more across the courtyard to the Altar of the holoFlame. There, a little more slowly and a little more deliberately, the Rav lifted the holoShawl over their two heads, the better to discern in the flame the glowing body of Adam CADMan, arms and legs akimbo doing slow cartwheels in his hoop of fire. The architect of the post-Redemption world stared back at the two old dudes and saw that all was good. Ram Nissan turned to Moshe and said, “You wanna do your two-hand mojo thing like you did last time? So cool!” Moshe smiled at Ram Nissan, “You know, old dude,” he gave a mischievous smile, “you could learn to do the same. It’s pretty basic. And you’ve got the high priest jazz on top of it. Just hold in your mind the bundle of sinews in Man-O-Light over there that you want to access, breathe in real deep, and blow out nice and slow as you send your intention out your palms.” He smiled and gestured to the Rav to begin. The Rav took a deep breath and did exactly as he was told when suddenly the bundle of sinews that corresponded to this week in all epochs of history began to unfurl its news banner under the winking eye of the CADMan himself.

Ram Nissan and Moshe saw that it was the week of some major journeys of exploration—Magellan embarks from Spain to circumnavigate the world; the Mayflower sets sail; Voyager I takes the first photo of Earth and the Moon together; and the first hot-air balloon is sent aloft in Versailles with animal passengers including a sheep, a rooster, and a duck. Charles Lindbergh takes off on a 10,000 mile air tour of South America; a Douglas C-54 Skymaster makes the first automatic pilot flight over the Atlantic; the X-15 rocket plane makes its first flight; the Space Shuttle is unveiled; two Soviet cosmonauts set a space endurance record; and the Galileo space mission ends as the probe is sent on a crash course into Jupiter’s atmosphere. Human communication was featured in four disparate events—the discovery of Otzi the Iceman, the naturally preserved mummy of a man from about 3,300 BC; the Dead Sea Scrolls are made available to the public for the first time; ICANN is formed to coordinate unique identifying addresses for the worldwide web; and the first documented emoticons, 🙂 and :-(, are released. Weird representations of the human imprint over thousands of years, still evolving.

Ram Nissan felt he had to take off the holoShawl for a minute and figure something out. Moshe waited for him to formulate a question. “Well,” Ram Nissan began, “it’s all very exciting, these flights into air and space, but I’m not sure if I get what it has to do with the weekly narrative, yet alone the fact that Yom Kippur was right in the middle of the week. Scourging penitential readings and flying off the face of the planet? What’s the connection?” Moshe shrugged, “So you know, boychik, that we are just about to launch the golem Israel into vast unknown territory, right?” Ram Nissan nodded. Moshe continued, “Make no mistake, there’s a lotta prep to be done here, not a lot of room for error, if you catch my drift. But in the final analysis it’s the endpoint that makes it so exciting. You know where I’m going with this, right?” Ram Nissan squinched one eye and raised the corner of his mouth while pursing his lips, “I, well, I guess so.” Moshe was pumped to continue, “Let’s keep looking at the CADMan’s magic lantern show, nu?” Ram Nissan nodded in assent and pulled the holoShawl back over them. Immediately they are besieged by visions of decisive battles, terror and betrayal. Themistocles defeats the Persian navy at Salamis; Valentinian III murders his supreme army commander, Aetius, prompting the observation that his right hand has cut off his left; Edward II is murdered on his wife’s orders; 29 years later Edward the Black Prince defeats the French at Poitiers; Mexico begins its fight for independence; U.S. troops invade Panama to keep train lines open during the Panamanian struggle for independence from Colombia; 89 years later the drug-trafficking trial of Manuel Noriega begins in the US; a tsarist premier dies four days after being shot by a socialist lawyer; the Wall Street Bombing guts the J.P. Morgan building; the kidnapper and murderer of the Lindbergh baby is arrested; Juan Peron is overthrown by rebels; Patty Hearst is kidnapped; the Iran-Iraq War begins; George W. Bush declares a “war on terror”; and mercenaries employed by Blackwater kill 17 Iraqis. Ram Nissan sees that human armed struggle, though at times ennobling, is more often depraved.

The world of law and diplomacy offers a slightly more hopeful picture that week in history. The US Constitution is approved; six years later George Washington lays the foundation stone for the U.S. Capitol; three years after that Washington delivers his “Farewell Address” warning against partisanship and entangling alliances; the National Negro Convention meets in Philadelphia to abolish slavery; 20 years later Congress passes the second pro-slavery Fugitive Slave Bill the same year as the slave trade is abolished in the District of Columbia; 12 years after that Lincoln calls for all slaves within the rebel states to be freed; 100 years after Lincoln’s order, the US government files its first suit as a plaintiff against neighboring Prince George’s County to end segregation in the public schools; Exiled Nez Perce leader Chief Joseph dies of a “broken heart”; Congress passes the Selective Service Act; Kennedy establishes the Peace Corps; and the US military ends its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” homosexuality policy. The whole world is on board—New Zealand is the first nation to grant women the right to vote; the President of France pardons Jewish army captain Alfred Dreyfus, twice court-martialed and wrongly convicted; the Irish Home Rule Bill becomes law; The League of Nations admits the Soviet Union; Fidel Castro arrives at the UN; the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is admitted to the United Nations; Egypt and Israel sign the Camp David Accords; and a Russian constitutional crisis begins when Russian President Boris Yeltsin suspends parliament and invalidates the existing constitution.

A few odd punctuation points from the world of money—General Motors files papers of incorporation; the Occupy Wall Street movement begins; and Stonehenge is sold by auction for 6,600 pounds sterling to a Mr. Chubb, who buys it as a present for his wife. Extreme events in nature suggest something wild is brewing. Hurricane Irene becomes the first hurricane known to cross from the Atlantic to the Pacific, where it is renamed Hurricane Olivia; and Alaska’s Fourpeaked Mountain erupts for the first time in at least 10,000 years. Both old dudes took down the holoShawl together, rubbing their beards with looks of deep concentration on their faces, before they both burst out laughing. Moshe launched in, “Boy can you just imagine that dude, Mr. Chubb! What a guy won’t do to impress his wife. Now my Tzippy, she’d just tell me to pack it back up and exchange it for something practical, you know, like an Ark for the Covenant.” He cracked himself up. “I do miss her,” he said, a little ruefully. Ram Nissan piped up, “Have you ever seen one of Rube Goldberg’s machines? Chaotic and complicated devices for doing something boneheadedly simple. I think that’s what we’ve got with this golem you’re about to launch. The people Israel is made up of as many disparate parts as humanity as a whole, the right hand rarely knowing or agreeing with what the left is doing. It would be comical if it weren’t so serious. I mean really, what’s the plan Reb Moshe?” Moshe smiled and nodded vigorously in agreement, “Yes, Rube Goldberg, exactly! Come, look with me across the Jordan and see what spirit Joshua and I sing into the people Israel.” The night sky churned and storm clouds rolled in under a nearly full moon. It was nigh unto the year’s midnight in the week of absolute atonement with the divine plan. The eleventh hour, the Sabbath of Sabbaths. Suddenly Ram Nissan was transported as he saw Moshe and Yehoshua, the two leaders, begin their fierce song of admonition. The two mountains, Gerizim and Ebal, lit up with torches that coalesced into two columns of letters, one on each mountain, momentarily illuminating the words as they appeared on the scroll. Then all was chaos and fury as the lights rearranged themselves into the form of a pair of ferocious creatures, male and female, a sword in his hand, a quiver of arrows in the hers, poisonous serpents coiling at their feet, cobras hovering at either side. The heavens let loose a volley of lightning bolts that could have riven the two mountains into four. But as the crash of thunder subsided, the light of the torches disassembled into their two separate multitudes glowing and undulating on the mountain sides, now a hint of the furious creatures, now a random blinking of lights. Moses was at Ram Nissan’s side once more, “So what do you think?” Ram Nissan, still enraptured by the spectacle, spoke quietly in response, “I saw it. I saw the spark enter the golem, the flash in the eyes, the fire coursing through the veins. I saw it, Reb Moshe.” And up above they both saw the constellation of the Celestial Father, the personification of Hochma, divine wisdom, turning cartwheels in the sky.

About the Author
Michael Diamond’s day job is as a psychiatrist and doctor of medical qigong in the Washington, DC area. He has published occasional verse, fiction and translation in Andrei Codrescu’s journal, The Exquisite Corpse; in the journal Shirim courtesy of Dryad Press; in the online journal for Akashic Press; and in The Journal of the American Medical Association. He lives in the suburbs with his wife, an artist and illuminator of Hebrew manuscripts, their dog, one cat, a cockatiel named Peaches and a tank of hyperactive fish. He has had a strong interest in Torah since first exposed to traditional stories as a child. Over the course of his life he has run the gamut of spiritual exploration of many world traditions of meditation and mythology. For the last several decades he has landed squarely in the traditional Jewish world. His writing is informed by all of this experience, by his curiosity about today's world and by his desire to mine the Jewish experience for its hidden and revealed wisdom. Torah Obscura, as in camera obscura, from Latin, meaning "dark room", also referred to as pinhole image, the optical phenomenon that occurs when an image of a scene at the other side of a screen is projected through a small hole in that screen into the chamber provided. A glimpse of an otherwise invisible world afforded by a small aperture for light. All materials herein copyright © 2018 Michael S. Diamond. All rights reserved.
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