September 17, 2019

Dancing with the scroll

To turn the page in a book
All you need is one hand,
A motion like a tiny rainbow.

On a screen, kal v’chomer,
A single finger-swipe
Will suffice.

But a Torah scroll
Is heavy, its
Wooden handles
Remember the tree they
Came from, its parchment
Still marked with the patches
Of a once-living animal. 

And when you stand
To chant from the scroll,
Your body curved at the top
Like the letter vav,
You feel the tree, the animal;
You feel the hours of love
Some forgotten scribe poured
Into this small patch of the world,
Marking it with letters
To make it infinite, from the
Simple meanings to the
Secret ones, from the first
Stirrings of creation to the mountain
Where Moses saw, but did not enter,
The Holy Land. 

In fall, the time comes
To rewind back to the first bet
Of beginning, that letter open
Only to the future. We open
The ark, we gather;
You cannot turn a scroll alone.

Each year we perform this dance,
Holding the stories God gave us
With the bodies God gave us.

We wrap the scrolls like babies
And carry them into the streets.

Then our feet begin to move, too.
With a story this heavy, this beloved, 

Who can read without dancing?

Alicia Jo Rabins is a writer, musician and Torah teacher. Her most recent book of poetry is “Fruit Geode” (Augury Books).