Ma'asei V'raisheet — The Works of Creation

By Reuven Goldfarb
[This is a poem about Creation — and it’s based on a mispronunciation of the first word of B’raisheet (or B’raishis), which, in his haste and in a rush of enthusiasm, my friend Marc ben Shabbat, who certainly knew better, pronounced “voracious.” I took that word and invented alternate readings for all the words in the primal verse and then continued, with fewer distortions, to interpret the remainder of Ma’aseh V’raisheet — the Works of Creation. -- RG ]


B’raishis bara Elokim et haShamayim v'et haAretz… (Genesis I:1)

Voracious Bard acclaimed ate Heaven and ate Earth,
and Earth was all confused and dark,
and Spirit exclaimed what deep waters there were.
And Spirit proclaimed Light was Light.
And Spirit knew the Light for its goodness
and made a boundary to it, assigning names
to either side, Day and Night, eve and morn.

And Spirit expanded the waters, stretching them
higher and lower, ripping their bond
and leaving them calling each to each, another evening and day.

And Spirit collected the lower waters into basins carved for them,
pools and ponds, springs and streams, rivers, lakes,
and mighty ocean, rippled with currents and tides,
ruffled by wind, calm and turbulent, abundant with life,
and heaving and spreading itself upon the dry land
in spasmodic episodes of hurricane fury,
or storm-drenched seasons, until the earth began to breed
and exhale the vapors that it received again
in torrential rains, the whole fecund world
responding to this outpouring of love divine
in blissful, paradisiacal joy.

And then fresh vegetation choked the place provided for it,
running rampant in a ceaseless grab for nourishment,
then died and left its cellular shells and fibrous skeletons
to be subsumed in mothering earth, which, newly fertilized,
remained sure harbor for the flowering species,
their roots plunged deep and their branches and petals
loftily arrayed, sucking moisture and air,
transforming every elemental substance into seed.
Spirit did what Spirit does best. It breathed
and weaved a quietus to episode three,
another cycle of days and nights.

Spirit blessed the luminaries to give light to the earth
and warmth to stoke the profligate species,
tropical heat, and heat to bake the sands,
with cooling winds to dry and moist winds to fructify,
shimmering waves of heat and light to penetrate
the soil and awaken the dormant buds,
to activate the roots and cause the twigs to sprout;
and vision became possible because the land shone in splendor,
every active branch of life quivering with delight,
and all was done, prepared and bespoken,
as the fourth diurnal circle came to a close.

And finally the locomotive creatures appeared,
ready, like juveniles, to outpace the heavens,
to soar and flutter and teem and roam,
to coo and caw and cry, to screech, to twitter,
a dizzy spiral of abundant dance and song,
meeting heaven and kissing earth,
embracing the sward and burrowing deep
for refuge and food, to fight and to die,
to struggle and live, to celebrate
with ceaseless motion the grandeur of creation,
to hover at twilight and to rest,
to keep watch and to guard,
to resemble statues, to move quicker than the eye,
to rear its young in secret, to gambol openly
upon the plains, to hide in the forest,
to exult in young strength, in plumage,
fur, and scales, diversely hued and frocked,
excellently garmented for heat or cold.
And the sun shone over half the world,
its shifting parameters leaving room for moon
to glow and dim, while the earth took naps
in shade or slumbered through the half-world's night
and awoke in vivid day, miraculously arrayed and populated.

A hush fell over creation as Spirit drew forth
from its treasure trove creation's crown,
that being nearest to the angels yet founded upon earth,
a link between the two, the conscious transformer
of all life forms — the human species, brandishing,
in its padded bony fist, the flower and spear, axe and hammer,
to build and to destroy, to lay waste and to replant,
to nurture, sing, dance, praise, even excel beyond
its own imaginings; a humble worm, a clever fool,
a genius, a tyrant, a wonder beyond wonders;
a shame and a disgrace; a moral being,
straining to control its wayward impulses;
a curious being, desiring to know its Creator.

Beyond this sixth cycle loomed God's day,
the Creator's own repose, that one-seventh splinter of time
for which man learned to simplify, reduce his cravings
and restless wanderings, to provide and prepare
ahead of Time, forbidding and anticipating joys,
celebrating the final Redemption still to come,
the reunion of all life forms and all inanimate substance
with the Source of Life, awareness of all-embracing,
fundamental harmony, whose ceaseless thrumming web
extols the primal energy, the heart of every star and atom,
and all is sanctified.
Va-y’he erev, va-y’he voker, yom ha-shishi….
And it was evening and it was morning, the sixth day.

Composed by Reuven Goldfarb, in the Holy City of Tzfat, Spring 2005

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