Guest poem sent in by Dale Rosenberg
(Poem #1783) Moses' Poem
Give ear, O heavens, let me speak; Let the earth hear the words I utter! May my discourse come down as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, Like showers on young growth, Like droplets on the grass. For the name of the Lord I proclaim; Give glory to our God! The Rock! -- His deeds are perfect, Yea, all His ways are just; A faithful God, never false, True and upright is He. Children unworthy of Him -- That crooked, perverse generation -- Their baseness has played Him false. Do you thus requite the Lord, O dull and witless people? Is not He the Father who created you, Fashioned you and made you endure! Remember the days of old, Consider the years of ages past; Ask your father, he will inform you, Your elders, they will tell you: When the Most High gave nations their homes And set the divisions of man, He fixed the boundaries of peoples In relation to Israel's numbers. For the Lord's portion is His people, Jacob His own allotment. He found him in a desert region, In an empty howling waste. He engirded him, watched over him, Guarded him as the pupil of His eye. Like an eagle who rouses his nestlings, Gliding down to his young, So did He spread His wings and take him, Bear him along on His pinions; The Lord alone did guide him, No alien god at His side. He set him atop the highlands, To feast on the yield of the earth; He fed him honey from the crag, And oil from the flinty rock, Curd of kine and milk of flocks; With the best of lambs, And rams of Bashan, and he-goats; With the very finest wheat -- And foaming grape-blood was your drink. So Jeshurun grew fat and kicked -- You grew fat and gross and coarse -- He forsook the God who made him And spurned the Rock of his support. They incensed Him with alien things, Vexed Him with abominations. They sacrificed to demons, no-gods, Gods they had never known, New ones, who came but lately, Who stirred not your fathers' fears. You neglected the Rock that begot you, Forgot the God who brought you forth. The Lord saw and was vexed And spurned His sons and His daughters. He said: I will hide My countenance from them, And see how they fare in the end. For they are a treacherous breed, Children with no loyalty in them. They incensed Me with no-gods, Vexed Me with their futilities; I'll incense them with a no-folk, Vex them with a nation of fools. For a fire has flared in My wrath And burned to the bottom of Sheol, Has consumed the earth and its increase, Eaten down to the base of the hills. I will sweep misfortunes on them, Use up My arrows on them: Wasting famine, ravaging plague, Dedly pestilence, nd fanged beasts Will I let loose against them, With venomous creepers in dust. The sword shall deal death without, As shall the terror within, To youth and maiden alike, The suckling as well as the aged. I might have reduced them to naught, Made their memory cease among men, But for fear of the taunts of the foe, Their enemies who might misjudge And say, "Our own hand has prevailed; None of this was wrought by the Lord!" For they are a folk void of sense, Lacking in all discernment. Were they wise, they would think upon this, Gain insight into their future: "How could one have routed a thousand, Or two put ten thousand to flight, Unless their Rock had sold them, The Lord had given them up?" For their rock is not like our Rock, In our enemies' own estimation. Ah! The vine for them is from Sodom, From the vineyards of Gomorrah; The grapes for them are poison, A bitter growth their clusters. Their wine is the venom of asps, The pitiless poison of vipers. Lo, I have it all put away, Sealed up in My storehouses, To be My vengeance and recompense, At the time that their foot falters. Yea, their day of disaster is near, And destiny rushes upon them. For the Lord will vindicate His people And take revenge for His servants, When He sees that their might is gone, And neither bond nor free is left. He will say: Where are their gods, The rock in whom they sought refuge, Who ate the fat of their offerings And drank their libation wine? Let them rise up to your help, And let them be a shield unto you! See, then, that I, I am He; There is no god beside Me. I deal death and give life; I wounded and I will heal: None can deliver from My hand. Lo, I raise My hand to heaven And say: As I live forever, When I whet My flashing blade And My hand lays hold on judgment, Vengeance will I wreak on My foes, Will I deal to those who reject Me. I will make My arrows drunk with blood -- As My sword devours flesh -- Blood of the slain and the captive From the long-haired enemy chiefs. O nations, acclaim His people! For He'll avenge the blood of His servants, Wreak vengeance on His foes, And cleanse the land of His people.
(translation provided by the Jewish Theological Seminary) Much of the Torah (Jewish bible) is poetic, but very little is explicitly identified as poetry and laid out on the page or scroll as such. Moses' poem is one of those exceptions. I love the vividness of the imagery, even as I cringe at the vindictiveness of this view of G-d. G-d is often portrayed as a parent, but the kind of parenting shown in the middle of the poem is what I and I believe most loving parents try never to fall into. The poem does, at least, end with some hope. I'm fifty years old and will be leyning (chanting in Hebrew directly from the Torah) for the first time on this coming Saturday on the occasion of my daughter's bat mitzvah. It's not easy to do, since the Torah scroll has no vowels, no punctuation and no musical notes in it, and you're not allowed to use cheat sheets. Kendra, my daughter, has been studying for a long time for her bat mitzvah. She will also be leyning for the first time this Saturday, as well as chanting haftarah, leading a service and giving a Dvar Torah (speech about Torah). When I was Kendra's age girls were not allowed to leyn, so I never learned, but I always wanted to. I decided I'd learn to leyn in time to be part of her celebration. I love that my first time I got poetry to read! I also luckily got the first 6 verses of the poem, with the beautiful words but before the vindictiveness. Dale