Shekhinah: Tefillin (Opening)

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Shekhinah: the Presence
Shekhinah: the Presence

Section 1 of “Shekhinah: The Presence” by Joseph Zitt
This is an unedited scan of the text, courtesy of Josh Ronsen
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HERE at the start of the day
we who can tell
  the black thread from the blue
  the blue from the white
  the black from the white
now (when consensus takes
  the place of agreement)
stand and prepare.

We who have entered this sacred room
  (although, indeed, any room
  can be sanctified
  by this purpose)
have paused by the doorpost,
  touched the box of memories
  that waits there,
  whether for us
  or for Elijah
    who will pass through all the portals
    and join the scrolls
    upon the doorposts of all out houses
    into one,
have kissed our hands,
as if to kiss,
  by indirection,
  the welcoming scrolls
  posted by the doors
then entered the room,
  greeted by the faint rays
  of the new morning’s sun
  that cast fresh, elongated shadows
  of the Ark,
  of our books of learning,
  of our lives.
We turn to the East,
  to welcome the sun,
  and see the words
  (now hard to read
  in their contrast with
  sharp morning rays)
  inscribed here on the Ark:

Before Whom
You Stand.

Each of us,
  for the moment,
reaches for the Talit bag
  (for some, velvet,
    the deep blue of the
    roof of the sky
    in the dying of the night
    just before the sun
    returns to welcome us,
  for the adventurous or whimsical,
    other fabrics,
    other colors,
    other joys or memories)
withdraws the thin shawl
  with its stipes of black or blue
  and the fringes at its corners,
    each carefully prepared,
    each with eight threads,
      one twisted seven times
        around the other seven
        and tied
      then eight times
        and tied
      then eleven times
        and tied
      and thirteen
    all these numbers
      merging with the alphabet
      in permutation
      and computations
    so every sum and product
      can somehow praise
      the Holy Name)
whispers the prayer inscribed on its margins,
wraps it around himself
over his head
  (enclosing the wearer; for the moment,
  in a womb of wool or silk
  in a white filtered shroud of light
    like the one seen by the soul,
    then forgotten
    in the instant before birth
    when the angels kissed it
    to seal away for a time,
    its knowledge of heaven),
then lets it drift down to his shoulders,
  his back encased in white,
  the fringes
  resting like guardians
  about his thighs.

And from another bag,
  echoing in design the larger,
  as a student might deduce a principle
    in deriving similarities
    from the general
    to the particular)
small boxes, leather,
each small box containing smaller skins,
  cousins to the watchman scroll
  greeted and kissed by the door,
each attached to leather straps.
One at a time,
  With care,
  With blessings,
we bind them to ourselves,
the first sliding up the left arm
to rest by the heart,
then its straps, winding,
  as if echoing outside our bodies
  the blood that rushes life
  within our hands,
    seven turns down the forearm
    then thee time around
      the middle finger
      betrothing us
        to the Holy Presence
        for righteousness
        for the faith in
          the faithfulness
          of the patterns
    and around the hand
    its patterns forming letters
      of yet another version
      of another Holy Name,
the second resting between our eyes,
suspended from a loop
  that rests upon our heads
  like a crown of duty
with twin descendants
  draping from behind
  over our shoulders
  across the shawl,
then draping down our chests
  echoing the poise of the fringes
  that rest below.

Thus garbed,
thus prepared,
we concentrate out attention,
  open our books to the proper pages,
turn to the East
  to the Ark
  to the sun
  to the silent walls of Jerusalem,
and, somewhat together
  somewhat alone
  each, in his separate intent,
    by the others gathered there,

we begin

in hushes close to silence
to pray.