“Build Me a tabernacle, ” said the Lord,
“so that amongst you I shall be allowed
to dwell.” This order was the Lord’s award
to Israel who had dwelt beneath His cloud
until through Moses this command was given,
to architect Bezalel, striking proof,
some think, that Man would been forgiven,
the moment God came underneath its roof,
for worshipping a Golden Calf, though I
believe the tabernacle truly was God’s home,
a landing spot for Him beneath the sky,
where He could dwell while Israelites would roam
for forty years before they all could enter
the Promised Land when they instead would build
a Temple in Jerusalem, the center
of all the earth, for glory not for guilt.

They made the wooden building out of trees
called shittim in the Bible, our acacia,
its centerpiece an Ark, which had a frieze
of figures quite fantastic, a fantasia
composed of creatures made of solid gold,
winged cherubs that were virtual charioteers
and drove God’s Presence no one could behold
except the angels, of the cherubs peers.
Like pedestals of bulls the Hittites made
for gods that they adored, like Baal-Hadad,
the cherubs had a shape no law forbade,
for idols only make Jehovah mad
if they are not of Him. He cannot bear
to see the images of false gods being served,
but does not mind if His is worshipped where
the laws He’s given here may be observed.
A lot of people still are in a fog
about this, thinking that the cherubs violated
a prohibition of the Decalogue,
which simply isn’t true, as I have stated.

The cherubs occupied a special seat
which they both shared with God, the gold kapporet,
approached on Yom Kippur by the élite,
the High Priest, who with incense would adore it.
Inside the Ark a covenant, the Pact
which testified that God was Israel’s Lord––
a treaty that the Lord has always backed,
despite behavior often untoward,
of which the first example was the Golden Calf.
Since in the tabernacle Israelites
presumed, as Pope would put it, “God to scan, ”
they fashioned cherubs for the sacred rites
thus bringing God’s high image down to Man.

Before the tabernacle could be built
the Israelites composed an epitaph:
“These are our golden gods, ” and tried to jilt
the Lord. The Pact survived though Moses smashed
the tablets on which God Himself had written
the Ten Commandments that they nearly trashed.
The Pact could not protect them, they were smitten,
until their leader could recall a previous
agreement God had made with patriarchs,
protecting even people who were devious,
as do the rainbows with their colored arcs
for all descendants of old Noah who
was saved by God from drowning in Flood tides;
the sign of circumcision for a Jew
is made by rainbows for the Noahides.

The tabernacle also held a table
on which they used to lay the loaves of bread,
with candlestick whose seven arms were able
to cause as from a jewel light to spread,
echoing the precious stone in Noah’s Ark
that used to keep miraculously lit
while all world outside was damp and dark,
menorah virtual antique retrofit.
In many other ways the tabernacle
recalls the Ark that Noah had to build,
comparison Bezalel used to tackle
with help from an old architecture guild.
There were two altars, one of burnished gold
on which the holy incense always burned,
and one brass laver which, so we are told,
was made from women’s mirrors Aaron spurned
but Moses said he gladly would accept,
this gift to him the sweetest of them all.
For women Moses always had respect,
and now they gave what helped them to enthrall
their husbands who in Egypt were so tired
they did not wish for comfort in a bed.
The brass from all the mirrors Moses fired
made them more holy than the loaves of bread
the priests lay on the table once a week,
before the lampstand and the Holy Ark,
a proof that though some think that flesh is weak,
it may inspire spirits with a spark.
The loaves of bread were that of God’s own Presence
and therefore thought to be extremely holy,
these women’s very willing acquiescence
proved them far holier, though they seemed more lowly.

Within the holy tabernacle’s place
no work was done on Sabbath, holy time
far more important than was holy space,
a point with which I shall conclude my rhyme;
for though the tabernacle is no more,
each week our lives with Sabbath can be filled….
once every seven days we have rapport
with God when by the Sabbath we are thrilled.


by gershon hepner

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