Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Particulars of Rapture

I'm only fifty pages in, but already I can tell that The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus is going to be one of those books that stays with me for life.  Let's just start with the title.
Two things of opposite natures seem to depend

On one another, as a man depends

On a woman, day on night, the imagined

On the real.  This is the origin of change.

Winter and spring, cold copulars, embrace

And forth the particulars of rapture come. 

(Wallace Stevens)
So Avivah Zornberg calls our attention to the ways the Exodus text works deeply in our minds. It has hidden elements on which the meaning of the whole depends: for instance, the deeply important role of women in a narrative that on its surface is about Moses, Aaron, Pharaoh, and a masculine God.  Our job as readers (and as Jews) is to pay attention to both, the revealed and the hidden, to make meaning come forth like new life in the growing season.

I could quibble about the metaphysics of this.  Instead, let me appreciate the poetics.  "Embrace" is just what I have done with Torah over the year, and "rapture" (which is always particular) is just what I have felt when I have felt that, for the moment, I understood.  The passion of these words is true to life.  As Arthur Waskow has written, reading Torah is wrestling with the text, and with God's own self, and "wrestling feels a lot like making love."

For my friends who ask why I would spend so much time with an ancient text, here's an answer.  It's erotic.  It's the life force of the universe breaking out in words.  Why wouldn't I embrace it?

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