it is not the jewish people who carry the ark,
but the ark that carries the jewish people.
— bamidbar rabbah 4:20
beyond the gates of faith we wandered,
infinite horizon before us,
the taste of unleavened dreams
on our lips; our lives mishkan.*
we bear more than tales of pharaohs and prophets,
absolution granted at the altar of sacrifice.
the sight of ash falling like snowflakes
the stench of hatred carved into our skin
the miracle of faith is not contained in structures.
the times of man find us nearly spent. we tear
at the veil of injustice, find our way past reason
discover imperfection is our salvation.
keepers of the sacred scrolls, our history is our future.
we gather in sorrow or celebration, temples built,
destroyed and built again; inner chambers of our forebears,
holy thresholds we prepare, we swear tikkun olam.*
our prayers seed this valley, resound from the mountains
we answer the call to build a new home — not from ruins,
but promise, our many hands one hand of God,
the sacred breathed into each stone, beam, window and tile.
the beauty of this place is the beauty of our hearts;
how far we have come.
in our shoes grains of sand remain
lest we forget.
hear, O Israel, we have found makom.*
• • • •
*mishkan: temporary structure
*tikkun olam: repair of the world
Commissioned by Temple Emek Shalom, Ashland, Oregon, 2002
Read more about the poet’s experience with this commission.
Featured photo at the top of this page:
framed installation of the public art poem “makom”