Thursday, February 4, 2010

Yitro: Yitro's Epiphany

As a convert to Judaism, I am often confronted by traditional paradigms of the righteous convert. Although Ruth is often listed as the ger tzeddik (righteous proselyte) par excellence, the Ruth narrative never personally moved me as a powerful vision of what joining the most spiritual of nations could mean. I have always been more attracted to spiritual seekers such as Avraham Avinu, traditionally known as the first convert, or Yitro, Moses' father-in-law whom some sources hold converted to Judaism.

Yitro is known as a Midianite priest, and our tradition (via Rashi) holds that he worshipped every form of idolatry or dabbled in every foreign spiritual practice before finally embracing Judaism. As someone who was born into a culturally-Christian environment (my father is Catholic, my mother protestant; I was raised as a Unitarian-Universalist) who came to embrace Zen Buddhist practices before seeking a theology and more theistic tradition and converting to Judaism, I can relate to exploring spiritual traditions.

This week, I have written about Yitro's epiphany that Ha--Shem is greater than any of the other gods (that is to say, Ha---Shem Is the ONLY G-d). How can one characterize a ailing moment but by paradox and the beauty of sounds? This poem utilizes a number of images and palindromes to some effect. I hope you enjoy.

Yitro's Epiphany

Through this
t r e s s e d d e s e r t,

Your people are a sand dance
that parts strips of hungry straps

and
ease
the
sea.

I beg you!

S t r i p


this priest
who has knocked on wood,
and revered rivers.

Sold I idols!

But

Now I know,

the Highest of all G-ds
Sits in stillness--
like a shadow
wed to dew.

Wow. Now I know.

No one;

only

ONE.

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