Burnt Offerings  (Vayikra-Lev: 1:1-5:26)

        Prologue: The destruction of the 2nd Temple in Jerusalem ended the ancient Priestly sacrificial system which was central to the Israelites’ ability to commune with God, live in community with one another, and seek forgiveness for their sins.  “On one occasion when [Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai and his disciple Rabbi Yehoshua] were leaving Jerusalem, the latter gazed upon the destroyed Temple and cried out, ‘Woe to us! The place where Israel obtained atonement for sins is in ruins!’ Rabbi Yochanan said to him, ‘My son, be not distressed. We still have an atonement equally efficacious, and that is the practice of benevolence.’” (Avot d’Rabbi Natan 4) https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/sacrifices-are-alive-and-well/

I yearn for words to make blessings
come to life in my lungs
fly from my throat into the air.
So I pretend all the leaves, burnished
golden orange, wind-blown to earth
from all the trees are burnt offerings—
earth to sky, darkness to light.

I wash cups, return a spoon to its drawer,
dig compost—last year’s weeds
and food scraps become soil again.
Spread it over the low spot
in the lawn, where we dug out
the deer ravaged Japanese maple.
I whisper, Ah…darkness to light
order to disorder to order again,
burnt offerings!

Our smiles.  Our greetings.
Our private tears.  This sudden
involuntary memory—washing
the blood of the one who ended
his own life off the entryway floor.
Oh woe, indeed!  Death to life
to death again.  Burnt offering.

Or this child in the cart ahead of me
on the grocery checkout line
who nuzzles his head into the crook
of my arm, then gazes up at me
with startled mother-searching eyes. 
Both of us, he in his round-mouthed
dismay, I in smiling delight
at his cuddling trust…Yes,
aren’t we all on fire?  Burnt offerings?
            10/17/1996-3/8/2022

2 comments

  1. Yes, I think we are all on fire. Thank you, Sue.

    On Tue, Mar 8, 2022 at 2:06 PM Singing Frog Press wrote:

    > SingingFrogPress posted: ” Prologue: The destruction of the 2nd > Temple in Jerusalem ended the ancient Priestly sacrificial system which was > central to the Israelites’ ability to commune with God, live in community > with one another, and seek forgiveness for their sins. “On” >

    Liked by 1 person

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