Moses misunderstood in the cleft of the rock.
He was trapped in the essentialist fallacy.
Up on the mountain, on top of the world,
after forty days suspended over the clear, crisp desert vistas,
of leaning into Your muscular arms, penetrated by Your words,
imbibing the call to sacred leadership,
he yearned, like every lover, for all-consuming union.
Having surrendered to You,
he asked You to reciprocate,
and when he beheld You, still unconsumable,
he thought You were holding back. You weren’t.
Like every lover, every human being,
who self-discloses through an endless stream of masks,
You, too, reign in garbs majestic and humble,
strong and broken, compassionate and judgmental.
He had already seen Your face, Your infinite faces.
You had kissed him with the kisses of Your mouth,
caressed him, transported him on Your wings.
He had seen what could be seen.
He heard You saying that he could not live,
when what You meant was that in this life,
there are only manifestations
of that which is ever changing.
Wherever You are described as majestic, the rabbis taught,
You are also described as humble
because you are neither.
This is the ultimate Purim Torah.
Elijah on that same mountaintop,
saw you in the raging gales and quaking earth
and in the deafening silence that pierced his heart
opening him to what cannot be seen or touched.
You face us when You turn aside.
You face us when You fill us up to overflowing.
You face us when You contract to be filled by us.
Just like You, we mask ourselves
to disclose what is hidden,.
We cannot see Your face, as we cannot see the face of any other.
Neither You nor we have a single face to see.
Originally published in Brother Keepers: New Perspectives on Jewish Masculinity, edited by Harry Brod and Shawn Zevit (Men’s Studies Press, 2010), pp. 279.
This poem won an Honorable Mention in the 2005 Presence Poetry Contest.