Inspiration Chukkat

O holy Shabbes Inspiration Chukkat
Four Mysteries Five
Maqam Hoseini
D E flat F G

There are four great mysteries
five
in our holy Torah
one we are reading on Shabbat Chukkat
the little red cow.
About the little red cow
it’s a mystery
how do the ashes purify
when the touch of the dead cow corrupts?
How can what corrupts purify?
Well, I get that one.
The ashes do not purify
death does not corrupt
this from the Talmud.
And this:
what you think corrupts
may purify
what you think purifies
may corrupt.
That’s the mystery,
it’s the mystery of discernment.

The second mystery is shatnez
the prohibition of mixing linen and wool
in the same garment.
I get that.
There are certain prohibited mixtures
certain things you must keep pure
they are corruptible
— don’t mix,
that is,
Protect the delicate
some purity that must be guarded.
I get that.

The third mystery is —
if your brother dies, God forbid
you are supposed to marry
your brother’s widow.
I get this.
You keep the family
if you can
you are bonded in some mystery way
to the wife of your brother
because you are family
remote by blood
but by history
you belong together
even when death separates.

The fourth mystery is the goat we sent into the wilderness
the sins of the community on its back.
I get this.
It’s about forgiveness
give me your burdens
the animal says
I am a load-bearing animal
a yoked animal
I submit to the yoke of your burdens
and carry them gladly into the Wilderness.
So I take my burdens
my self consciousness
my separation
isolation
fear
especially my fear
everything that separates me from God
and all I love the most
I put them on the shoulders of this animal
on the back of this beautiful yoked beast
I give up my separation
and I watch as the animal disappears into the wilderness.

I get this.
I get these four mysteries.
Tonight anyway,
when we are reading the portion of the little red cow,
the Shabbes of Chukkat
during which the mystery of the little red cow clarified.

Oh, the fifth mystery.
It rests deep in the secret of this preoccupation
with ideas images symbols
the oracular incantatory expression
of words and pictures
they obsess us
until they clarify
that one moment of clarity
tonight for example as the four mysteries
might open up and we unpack them
in a way that will never quite
happen again.

jsg, usa