Moses and God’s Tears – A Poetic Midrash for Vayikra

So often God called Moses / Three times they met / at the flaming bush / on Sinai amidst rock and stone / and before the Tent of Meeting / that Moses might intuit God’s mind / and soothe God’s heart / as a lover comforts a beloved.

Since creation / God yearned to bridge the chasm / when the Creator pulled away / and opened space / to share the universe.

Yet the Almighty remained alone / exiled within the Divine Self / when the vessels shattered / and matter was flung / to the universe’s far reaches.

The upper spheres were divorced from the lower, / male from female, / the primal Father from the primal Mother, / Tiferet from Malchut, / Hakadosh Baruch Hu from Shechinah, /  Adonai from Knesset Yisrael.

Before time and speech / God appointed the Shepherd-Prince Moses’ soul / to be prophet / and endowed him with hearing-sight / wide-ranging wisdom / and intuitive knowledge.

No one but Moses / had ever been so chosen / or come so near to God.

Moses saw with his ears / heard with his eyes / tasted with his mind / and remained whole in the Light.

The prophet descended the mountain aglow / the primordial Light shielding him behind a veil / bearing on his forehead divine ink-drops / radiating and illuminating the earth’s four corners.

Moses descended upon angel’s wings / weightless and cradling the lettered-stone / inside the eye of raging winds.

Though a Prince in Egypt / Moses’ destiny was as a lonely shepherd / gathering sheep / and drawing to God the children of Israel.

God needed much from Moses / to bring the plagues / and show there is no God but God / and liberate the people / and bring them to Sinai / and inspire with the Word / and create God’s house / that light might abide within the heart / and restore wholeness in the world.

After God’s expectations and demands / we might expect a depletion of Moses’ strength / exhausted to the bone / Ready to say / “Enough Redeemer – find a new prophet / I can not bear the burden / and be Your voice and create bridges / You are Almighty God / I am flesh / My strength is gone / My time expired”

“Nonsense” proclaimed the Eternal / “I am not ready for your retirement / My world remains shattered / My light obscured / My heart broken and aching / I need for you to teach My people / and all people / and instill in their hearts / a love that heals / for I cannot do this alone.”

The Creator-Redeemer’s needs were clear / to be close to Moses and the people / that the prophet and Israel / might wipe away God’s tears / and restore wholeness to God’s heart / and heal God’s Name / and bring peace.

Poem composed by Rabbi John L. Rosove

Notes about this poetic Midrash:

The first word in this week’s Torah portion Vayikra (vav – yud – kuf – resh – aleph – “And God called Moses…”) ends with an unusually small aleph. This anomaly in the k’tiv (written text) gave rise to much rabbinic interpretation over the centuries.

Rashi explained that the small aleph teaches Moses’ humility. Others said that the aleph is an introduction to the Levitical laws of sacrifice, which requires humility. A Midrash suggests that when Moses descended from Mount Sinai carrying the tablets of the law, he emitted keren or (“a ray of light”) compelling Moses to shield his face with a veil because the people could not look upon him in such a state. The source of that ray of light was divine ink left over when Moses wrote a small aleph instead of one of normal size. The Midrash explains that Moses had sought to lessen his own stature by using a small aleph, but God restored the extra drops of divine ink by placing them upon Moses’ forehead.

The Midrashic literature comments at length about Moses’ experience meeting God panim el panim (“face to face” –  “soul to soul”). Moses was first among God’s prophets. Though each prophet spoke God’s words, never was there another prophet like Moses nor a more humble human on earth than Moses.

For those wishing insight into Biblical prophecy, I recommend Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s The Prophets (New York: Jewish Publication Society, 1962)

Shabbat shalom. 

About the Author
A native of Los Angeles, Rabbi John L. Rosove assumed the position of Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood in 1988 and will become Emeritus Rabbi in July, 2019. Before coming to Temple Israel he served large congregations in San Francisco (1979-86) and Washington, D.C. (1986-88). He is the immediate past National Chair of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) and served on the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), the Vaad HaPoel of the World Zionist Organization, and the Executive Committee of ARZENU (the International Reform Zionist movement). He is a national co-Chair of the Rabbinic and Cantorial Cabinet of J Street. John is the author of "Why Judaism Matters – Letters of a Liberal Rabbi to his Children and the Millennial Generation with an Afterword by Daniel and David Rosove" (Nashville: Jewish Lights, 2017) and his forth-coming book "Why Israel and its Future Matter - Letters of a Liberal Rabbi to his Children and the Millennial Generation" (Ben Yehuda Press, New Jersey. Spring 2020). John is married to Barbara and is the father of two sons and the grandfather of one.
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