Maseḥet Yoma, Pereq Shemini


the man woke up a golem
and muttered something about emunah
and lost his fingertips in the negel vaser
and a strange light shone down upon its water

i had to, he thought, because of Shibtah
and today is the day i must feed my child
still flesh
one day may he grow into mud
mixed in the ash of a red heiffer

you will forgive that i won’t bathe or anoint
this Yom Kippur
you will accept my din
else i would lose the life given to me
and your life might then soon be forfeit as well

for you dared stare at that rainbow
let your transgression endear you to the plain of ash and salt
i trust you to never look up
and to stare at the road instead
or into my eyes, like endless cups filled with wine

you will ignore this miasma
it is the perfume of the world before t’shuva
follow me in my ways
or see your world turn to clay
i will teach you the meaning of affliction
you and all your Asherot


what’s this? a twig? but i abhor your seed
i will break it and twist it off
my luster is that of gleaming fingernail
caught in the flame of twisted wick
no outside ideas will germinate in me

for i am Truth, he thought
i am Gabriel and Adam Qadmon
i am the answer to your weakness
in my palace every table is set perfectly

so i place two crowns on my head
that reflect no color
and set myself upon the Way
taking in and setting straight all those who linger to the side
of the road
endangering themselves in ruins
and in the myriad wandering spirits that dwell there

sometimes when i pass, i feel them too
but i ignore their temptation and ground them out
while saying a blessing with the proper devotion
that they look like me
that all is nullified and undistinguished

This is a poem written as a follow-up to a poem composed by Yonah Lavery-Yisraeli, here. It is inspired by material I’ve learned in the eighth chapter of the Talmud Bavli, Maseḥet Yoma, at Yeshivat Hadar, where I am studying on a year-long fellowship. Please let it be a prompt for your own interpretation and imagination. I can only say that for myself, this poem was channeling frustration and anger, mainly directed at certain adherents of a particular flavor of neo-ḥaredism who express all manner of violent, ignorant, and dangerous beliefs under the guise of their righteousness. (One, in particular, was at this time married and refusing to divorce my sister.)

About Aharon N. Varady

Aharon's Omphalos is the hobbit hole of Aharon Varady, founding director of the Open Siddur Project. He is a community planner and environmental educator working to improve stewardship of the Public Domain, be it the physical and natural commons of urban park systems or the creative and cultural commons of libraries and museums. His advocacy for open-source strategies in the Jewish community has been written about in the Atlantic Magazine, the Yiddish Forverts, Tablet, and Haaretz. He is particularly interested in pedagogies for advancing ecological wisdom, developing creative and emotional intelligence, and realizing effective theurgical praxes . He welcomes your comments, personal messages, and kind words. If you find his work helpful to your own or you'd simply like to support him, please consider donating via his Patreon account.

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