Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mishpatim: Pierce Me

I am trying to make sense of the Torah's mandate of slavery and how it leads off this week's Torah portion. Judaism is obsessed with freedom. Our liturgy seems to mention yetsi'at mitzraim (the exodus) as the eternal paradigm that we must constantly remember and be aware of. The exodus is not only a historical leave-taking, not only the intervention of G-d into history, not only the quintessential moment in the trajectory of the Jewish people, it is also the mythic symbol of our own weaning away from the metzarim or boundaries (read: objects, desires, ego) that inhibit us spiritually.

Why then does Parshat Mishpatim begin with the laws of bondage of another Jew? There are many explanations of this including that slavery was a given in that society and the Torah simply legislates the most ethical way of doing this. Although this appeals to me on the spectrum of morality and with the argument of historical development, my inclination to try and see the spiritual meaning in all pesukim led me to this poetic treatment of the law of retz'ia or marking the ear, as treated in masechet kiddushin 16b and 21a. . Thank you for reading and Shabbat Shalom!

Pierce me

Pierce me
with shards of mountain air
with clouds of fire.

Pierce me like a shriek
Through the still, sleeping tents.
Like the truth to a liar.

Pierce me through the ear,
And I will be your servant
Even after six years
Of bondage.

Pierce me,
so I may better hear
the sound of freedom.

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