Friday, August 18, 2006

Poem for Friday

Back Stairwell
By Mark Rudman

I've chosen to take the stairs.
It's harder, but quicker

than waiting for the elevator
which seems eternally stuck on R-Roof.

And I'm late, the last of the parents
who don't send a stand-in.

I'm running, propelled by a kind of demon
-and embarrassed by my lateness-

up the back stairs of the synagogue,
when a window appears in the shaft,

on the wall of the stairwell;
a real window, like a painting on a wall

through which you can see the sky.
The shattered blue leans in, breaks

through the wall; it leaves
an opening, a sudden shudder, a frisson

like a rustle of eternity
shattered in the vista of receding

clouds, antennae, water towers...
and I think we are not far from ecstasy

even in the interior.
I can't get my son to hold the banister

as we descend the stairs;
a look of sheer defiance clouds his face,

the same boy who, the other night
I watched shuffle and backpedal and nearly fall,

down the escalator, over
the rapids of the raw-toothed

edges of the blades;
his hands, his attention, occupied

by a rabbit samurai Ninja turtle
and Krang, the bodiless brain.

I gauged the dive I would need
to catch him if he fell:

a flat out floating horizontal grab
I couldn't even have managed in my youth.


Older son had his first rehearsal in the temple for his Bar Mitzvah, with all of us present -- it was just us, the girl whose Bat Mitzvah is also that morning and her mother and the rabbi. We have the synagogue's newest, youngest rabbi and thus far he's by far my favorite; he grew up in an interfaith household, will marry Jews to non-Jews and argued with the head rabbi for 's right to do the blessings during the service. He spent a lot of time tonight introducing the kids to the Torah from which they will be reading, so we all got very up close and personal with it, the most time I've spent with a Torah since my own Bat Mitzvah -- this one was completed in Poland in 1931, meaning it was probably rescued and brought to the US during the Holocaust, though this rabbi didn't know how it had come to be at Washington Hebrew Congregation.

There are seven Torahs in the ark there, arranged like the candles in a menorah, and I don't know what the lettering in the others is like, but this one was written by an excellent scribe who put beautifully balanced crowns on the letters and began every column with a vav, which only really good scribes can do without having to squash and stretch other letters out of all recognizable proportion (I remember reading that the central letter of the Torah is also a vav and there's a whole mystical belief about how because the first vav in the Torah connects the heavens and the earth, the letter vav is supposed to work to connect each column to the parchment on which the Torah is written). The rabbi got the kids comfortable with the Torah, talking about the laws concerning how the ink is made and what makes a scroll kosher, then had them read from it; these two are both super-prepared and the girl has a beautiful singing voice, so it ought to be a lovely service. And since my mother has been giving me the silent treatment all week, I am not even stressed out about it at the moment!

Stained glass and sculpture in the entryway of Washington Hebrew. (All photos taken with the little bitty camera, sorry for the quality!)

A better view of the glass.

Hanukkiah sculpture in the hallway by the rabbi's study, entitled "Hanukkah."

The ark, closed. The seven Torahs are behind these marble slabs, which slide apart electronically from a button on the podium to reveal what's inside.

The main sanctuary, which holds a ridiculous number of people -- nearly 3000 I think? You can't even see the balcony in this photo, nor one entire side. SO not my kind of place! But that's Rock Creek Park out the windows, so pretty. It's neat for the kids to stand on the bimah because presidents of the US and Israeli prime ministers and various other important figures have done so.

Most of the rest of the day involved having too many boys in the house as the rambunctious neighbor was here while I was trying to write Trek articles and news bullets and later watch "The Paradise Syndrome" -- which I must think of nice things to say about by Friday, other than "the scenery is lovely, the guy who plays Kirk's Native American rival is hot and "I AM KIROK!" remains one of the most unintentionally funny moments all series. Rambunctious neighbor somehow got Silly Putty all over son's comforter -- not the nice new one my mother got him that he wouldn't care if it got ruined, but the one he has had as long as he has had a bed and drags all over the house with him when he's cold, and son sat on the comforter which is how he discovered the Silly Putty was there and got it on his shorts with the little holes in them, and now we are hoping the rubbing alcohol and WD-40 loosen the Silly Putty up enough to get it off of both of them like Hints from Heloise recommends. Graaar.

And I don't know how I didn't know this before, because I usually read news about astronomy and get geekishly excited, but somehow it escaped my attention that along with Sedna and various other Kuiper belt objects whose status is now being debated along with that of Pluto, as The Washington Post notes, there is a pluton called Xena with a moon called Gabrielle!

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