This past Shabbat we just read of the vast and varied details of the making of the priesly garments. One of my favorite themes found here is in the fact that the hems of the tunic are to be decorated with an alternating pattern of pomegranates and golden bells. The Beit Yaakov shares that these dangling ornaments symbolize the tension between the emptiness and fullness of our lives. The bells symbolize emptiness – where the hollow crown allows for the sounding of “kolot”, the voices that are born out of the encounter with the void. And then there are the pomegranates – bursting with brilliant red seeds - the archetypal Jewish symbol of fullness and fertility. Indeed, this alternation between fullness and emptiness dangles from the hems of all of our lives. The poem below is written in the voice of the wife of the soon-to-be-suited priest. It hints at the hidden vascillations between her personal sense of fullness and of lack. She relishes in a fullness of pride and support for her priestly husband...as well as wonders over the nagging sense of emptiness around her own personal calling and service in the world.
The Wife of the PriestLet me stitch the priestly suit for you, my husband.After all, didn''t you always fashionme a seamstress crafty and homeymaternal, amid materialsalways wished I''d knit you keepasand wooly sleepers for our little ones.All the while I was too busyorganizing the women,singing praises or staging protests- but never mind...
I''m ready now, my service to sit, to sew, to stew, pensive and grounded at the quiet vortex of me and needle and fabric.
My fingers will fumble, I assure you.I will sop the fabric with sobs of frustration the blue will seep through to my skirt my nails, dyed burgundy with the blood of clumsy punctures.But I want to paint my hands for this for you, for us...to weave-in your becomingto believe-in your callingto suit and suture you strong in sacred yarns of service
Our five year plan – suddenly a five-thousand year plan...
And I fight off my resistancein the face of the eons
Though in all honesty, sometimes I''m impatientand my faith well-tested- after all, what kind of a living does a priest make?
And what fate for our descendantsgenerations of shekle-sparse priests righteous pauperswith a wealth of spirit, but meager means?
Our lineage for all timewill live -- off of what?- donations? - the generosity of a stingy clan?
What''s the gematria of “501c3” anyway?destitution? depravity?- Or is it grace?So here I stand,ready to thrust our stability straight into thesweaty palms of another person''s spiritual impulseto trust in a sense of abundanceto count on the communal will to give and to growand to gown ourselves in nothing but this hope...So, let me at the garmentI want to pray over every stitchAnd maybe with my needle-workI will work out my own needless doubtsI will knit the vision togetherand My service will be toseamstress-in Your serviceto materialize the earthy expressionof our otherwise etherial faith
*And in the final hours as I finish the garmentin the candle-light and the silenceof the sleeping childrenI will step curious to the mirrorand slip on the sounding tunicof bells and pomegranateswith a wistful mirror-gaze
And wonder why you were chosen to be the priestand not Moses...or deeper still, why you were chosenand not me?
And in the silent roll of the scrollI will breathe deep disrobeand lay down next to you to sleep
Accepting that the commandmentwas meant for you, not for meand robe myself insteadin garments of yearningwith pomegranates and bells- the empty and the filled
As the tunic lay folded, waitingfor the waking of your feetmy hands dyed tehelet- painted in honor of the priest