Shamefully Late

They wondered, what was the delay
that kept the man so long away;
they asked themselves: was he a man?
He had been when he first began
his mission, liberating slaves.
They now were puzzled. “He behaves
more like a god and knows God’s name
and speaks with Him. Would he feel shame
by coming down the mountain to us?
We’re not sure that he ever knew us.
He’s half-Egyptian; in the palace
he drank from Pharaoh’s personal chalice.
When all alone with him God spoke,
erupting fire through the smoke,
he understood, his wits are nimble––
we’ll never understand, we’re simple.
Let him return to Midian!
The Tablets of obsidian
are meant for him, they do not speak
to us, because our flesh is weak.
So let’s be reasonable and laugh.”
That’s why they built the Golden Calf,
and tried to find a way to sport
in ways this prophet never taught,
but practiced now, it seemed on high,
in ways no mortal could descry.

They found a real man, far more caring,
his older brother, priestly Aaron,
who spoke their language, touched their hearts.
His popularity in charts,
assessing the most loving souls,
showed he was higher in the polls
than was his brother who was late––
about these data no debate

They counted people, with expenses
of half a shekel each, the census
enabling them to build a tab-
ernacle which was truly fab.
But once they had a census they
could poll the Hebrews every day
to find out what they thought of Moses.
Democracy blew through their noses
enabling them to state opinions
as Jews still do when in their minyans
they gather not just for their prayers,
but after they’ve discussed their shares
and stocks and bonds, comparing cantors––
it’s Jew eats Jew, like praying mantis,
for rabbis whom quite often they
demolish while they ought to pray.

If women had not shown such class––
they kept their gold and silver, brass,
refusing to make contribution
towards the Golden Calf pollution––
they’d all have ended in the sewer,
not reconciled by one brass ewer
that Moses made from all their mirrors
that helped correct their shameful errors,
a sign, each time their hands were washed,
that God's displeasure had been quashed.

He was not late and knew no shame
until he understood their aim,
that led them to their fateful revel––
to bring him down to their own level,
because a prophet cannot lead
if he is going at a speed
that people can’t keep up with, He
had failed them never shamefully,
but only by appearing late
because of an important date
with God whom they could never know,
because they stood so far below.
This is the fate that we, as readers,
should know befalls a lot of leaders,
whose numbers may go down in polls
before they can achieve their goals
because democracy’s monopoly
is broadcast loudly by vox populi.


by gershon hepner

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