Thursday, March 4, 2010

Tetzaveh: Costumed Man

During this week in which our parshah is in direct dialogue with the Megillah narrative, an image that stands out for me is that of the ornate robes worn by the kohanim and those that are worn by Achashverosh and later Mordechai in the Purim narrative.
Do clothes make the man? The 19th century transcendentalist, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote "I have heard with admiring submission the experience of the lady who declared that the sense of being perfectly well-dressed gives a feeling of inward tranquility which religion is powerless to bestow," and the combination of the Megillah and the parshah seem to further this view even in a religious context. Indeed, clothes are donned to create a sense of propriety, and the Kohen must get his assemblage in perfect order, lest he die.

As a former fashion addict, I was taken by this idea. And what better way of expressing religious obligation through fashion than by invoking one of my favorite French poets, Mallarmé. Mallarmé, that most obscure and musical of 19th century symbolist poets was the editor for a time of a Paris fashion magazine. His approach to poetry let the images speak for themselves in a highly musical context. This is the approach that I have chosen to espouse for this week's poem. Thanks for reading and Shabbat Shalom!
--
Costumed Man

Costumed man--
blue, silver, gold,
ringéd Promethean petals
glow.

Through a curtain,
stems twitch where
dew withers--
in a frontlet,
in an ephod,
in a wave that crashes to earth--

like a royal scepter.

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