Rosh Hashanah: God, Creation, and the Bible
God, I speak to You of the Bible
The Bible is not God.
That is true of all creation
From fair to foul to aberration.
All owe their being to Your will
Including numbers infinity to nil.
Therein resides their common edge
With catalpa leaf and privet hedge
With berry bloom and calyx
With catkins of the Salix.
When saplings sprouted from the soil
Our species had yet to uncoil;
Hence they had no grubby hand in
Spread of sea space or welkin.
Things they deign to manufacture
For domestic use or agriculture -
Sculpt assemble or revamp
The concoctions bear their human stamp.
Wagon or widget, their proximate cause
Raw matter trails by a permanent pause;
Templates bridged at one remove
Nature’s spinoffs, not stuck in a groove;
Substances kneaded alchemized hacked
Umbilically uncut from the creative act.
Songs sacred said the temple was built
By Your numinous hands fashioned and gilt;
Did they suppose You descended in overalls
With spades and shovels planes and awls?
Perhaps that was the songsters’ thought
Though they seldom shy of metaphor fought.
The metaphoric mason of the temple fixtures
Also perchance composed the Scriptures.
So when averring You wrote the Torah
Did they mean the input of Your aura?
Confidence and credulity dwell combined
Only in prattling humankind.
Are they susceptible to bow and surrender?
Is the Bible too a mind bender?
Yet un-bible us not; that would be bleak
For the Scriptures are all hide and seek;
As we through their pages fumble
In unlikely places upon Your voice we stumble.
Lava encodes its molten past
Of seismic tumults incendiary and vast
Dormant words may encrypt salvation
Subversive startling innovation.
Teach us then the Bible to cherish
Not as an idol doomed to perish
Nor as a repository of incantation
But parallel to the rest of Your creation:
Bracken bison bees and barnacles
Molecules atoms and subatomic particles.
Their innate harmonies tick unwatched
Let not their rhythms by us be botched;
Nor let us harness the Canon for strife,
O ultimate source and lover of life.
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Dr. Hacham Isaac S. D. Sassoon is a rabbi and educator and a founding member of the ITJ. He studied under his father, Rabbi Solomon Sassoon, Hacham Yosef Doury, Gateshead Yeshivah and received his semicha from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. He holds a Ph.D. in literature from the University of Lisbon. He is the author of The Status of Women in Jewish Tradition (Cambridge University Press 2011), a commentary on chumash called Destination Torah (Ktav 2001), and most recently the co-editor with Rabbi Steven H. Golden of the Siddur 'Alats Libbi (Ktav 2020).