(return to Shekhinah: the Presence)
Click on the image to your right >>
to purchase Shekhinah: the Presence. >>
Section 8 of “Shekhinah: The Presence” by Joseph Zitt
This is an unedited scan of the text, courtesy of Josh Ronsen
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Time no time dark in here I now cant sense myself I am wood solid my clothing my lining velvet panels shreds of memory fall away fade away leaving wood stained by the tears of Rachel blackened, streaked by the soot of the Eternal Flame that burns above its doors echoing the shards of God that burn, buried, hidden in husks of darkness in the crevices of our souls. Here the many worlds in which we simultaneously live are blending, blurring, running, realities washed away in a slurry of promises and minimal fulfillments, Jerusalem if I forget -- already the stones of the Wall have receded from memory blurring with the dull grey penciled letters of the wishes pressed between them. The world to come (which has come? which was already here? Suddenly sequence shatters, lies in fragments, caught in cracked obeisance to the whims of omniscience of omnipotence of eternity) has drawn away, and its waters which had flowed with life, richer than blood, sweeter, more nourishing, than earthly milk or honey, seem no longer to be the mother flow of rivers that ran at the heart of Eden, but are now a barrier, the rush of the currents now a distant clash of hurtling rocks and suspended fire. This prayer hall, this room sanctified by the sacred Presence now seems to be -- a room, and the people here are fading and their prayers sound muffled, hidden, behind a wall of wood and velvet silk and leather. The scroll, which had filled our senses with its love and passion, its touch, its writing, and the sound of its words, is now simply a scroll, a careful but material assemblage of skins, inks, bindings and coverings, of tailored cloth and etched and hammered metals The doors are closed; the majesty, the magic has faded. The people outside this cabinet this casket I have become cannot see the scroll, cannot feel it (in this chill of silent solitude I cannot even think of it as "her"). Without the blessings the observers grant to the observed it is--- a scroll inert weight pressing down on my shoulders, bending my back, pushing on my arms. This temporary flesh is weaker still than that of those who are always mortal. We who came here, beckoned by song, summoned by prayer, we who guided the Ark of the Presence by the waters of the world of dreams -- I want to go back. I have no portion here. In the distance, I can hear the people chant: "A redeemer will come to Zion, and to those of Jacob who turn from willful sin." will come to Zion, again summoned to this world of flesh and stone but only when ready when the redeemer is ready when the people are ready at the time the one time that all times will become. Further away the people spin as webs form, fray, fall from the congregants to the leader to the scroll to me "Holy, holy, holy..." (the words dim and echo as the leader drifts away) "...is the Lord, Master of Legions..." and as the murmur of the congregants grows quiet their words spread, blur, expand into larger images, into stranger tongues: "Holy in the most exalted heavens, the abode of his Presence; Holy on earth, product of his strength; Holy forever, to all eternity, is the Lord, Master of Legions." The heavens -- abode of his Presence? She lives here, was just here, belongs among us. The leader, almost gone, almost disappeared, speaks again, in a voice of faded vapor: "Blessed be the Lord from his place." Again, the maddening recursiveness, again, the leader blesses the Blessed, again I wonder why the cycle? the reinforcement? And again the response of the barely present congregants, in voices softer than the silence: "Blessed be the honor of the Lord from the abode of his Presence." And as dreams feed on dreams, doubt feeds on doubt and darkness feeds on darkness and I am alone and the Presence hides, sequestered, elsewhere and I look outside myself and I see only darkness and I look around myself and everyone is gone and I look within myself within this temporary shell and farther in, within my soul. I know that what I sense is not darkness, not an absence of light, but chaos emptiness, the murk that preceded creation, not silence, but how sound sounds before it is sounded, not vacuum, but the feeling, the lack of feeling in the lungs between breaths as the animal mind decides whether the next breath is to go in or out. And in this suspension this time beyond time this shadow of eternity that is all times that time has failed that is -- no time I now have no framework of continuity no fabric to lead me along its weave no signposts but the prayer. If I can tell time by the liturgy, tell time not to stand still... I call up the pages within my mind, Turn to the next prayer I can remember. We must stand but I cannot feel my body, cannot find my feet, my balance, my will, just the writing on the waves of the current of words that begins to travel through my parched soul: "It is our duty to praise the Master of all..." again blessing the Blessed, who can never be seen, whose Presence I now cannot sense "...to give greatness to the Shaper of Creation..." again the paradox as I now begin to flow with the words "...for he has not made us like the nations of the world, and not planted us like the families of the earth..." Not just the earth, no; there is a bright time, too, dressed as eternity, that time which is space which is the energy which is all that matters "...for he has not designed our destiny to be like theirs nor our lot to be like the multitudes..." and we will find that time in that future beyond the future far from the past within the Presence. "...We bend our knees and bow and acknowledge our thanks..." I cannot bow cannot bend my knees for I am silent wood. Still I try still I try and bow still I try and I am falling falling down away from heaven down toward the earth Its solid warming Its cool dark loam down and I am of the lowest of creatures of the creatures that crawl on the face of the earth. I have arms but do not reach I have legs but do not walk I must crawl crawl forward wherever forward leads. I must continue. I know that I can crawl and speak but in this darkness this void I have no words of my own. Still I must continue. And the words of the liturgy still flow on proceeding through my mind my soul like beckoning candles leading me forward if not to a destination at least to a future time And my heart reaches forward upward outward and grasps onto the flow of words and pulls my mind, my soul, my life onward in their path and I imagine God and imagine the Presence and praise them who blessed me who cursed me who brought me here who planted me in temporary flesh then subtracted the world and whose images though they may or may not exist pull me through this mire of the absence of night and I speak in desperation in pleading in proclamation in prayer to "...the King who reigns over kings, the Holy One, who is blessed, who stretched out the heavens, and founded the earth, whose seat of glory is in the heavens above, and whose powerful Presence is in the loftiest heights..." and I crawl onward, forward and the darkness is no longer quite so deep and the silence is no longer quite so deafening and the Presence seems no longer quite so far away and I continue to bless the Blessed one that his love may yet reappear and I pray for the touch of the Presence and I continue blessing the Blessed and I crawl on crawl under crawl through the heart of the paradox blessing blessing the Blessed and I enter the circuit the path of the process the oscillations between Creator and Created and I pray as if I am the last person left in this world who knows how to pray who cares to pray as if my prayer is the last strand binding me to our people our people to the Presence the Presence to the Lord, the Blessed One, who is Blessed as words of ancient incantations spring back up into my soul "for the sake of the unification of the Holy One, who is Blessed, and his Presence, in fear and love, to unify the Name in perfect unity in the name of all Israel" and I reach forward, my arms becoming arms again, my legs becoming legs, my heart beginning once again to beat in human rhythms to join the pulse, the meter of the overtones of the heart of God and I grasp onto the words, the words that form a healing chain a never-ending ring of blessing and they draw me upward that I might stand and fulfill my mission here in this prison this sudden uniform this celebrant solidity this human flesh and that I may return to the land where I belong that I might wait in that time beyond time. And in the silence that is now merely silence in the darkness that promises the light the still voices return the congregants infinitely distant yet still here the leader voice transmuted to tones purer than music the Presence still unseen, still unsensed yet comforting, warming as if she and I were nestled in each others hearts in each others arms and the silence whispers: "Do not fear the sudden terror or the storm that strikes the wicked... For God is with us. Through your old age, I will remain the same; when you turn grey, I will endure. I created you, and I will carry you; I will sustain you and save you." And I stand I stand and speak the ancient words of praise the words of prayer that brought us to this world the mystic words in a near-forgotten language in the voice of our teachers in the voice of our leaders in the voice of our martyrs in the voice of our mourners in the voice of those who may or may not believe but yet, if they can speak no other prayer, have somehow learned to say these words blessing the Blessed who (in the mystery of wisdom if not the law of logic) is, indeed, to be blessed.
(return to Shekhinah: the Presence)