Who has ears to hear

“D nt d uttrth spch; nght nt nght shwth knwldg.” Wht ds t mn tht th Hbrw Bbl ws wrttn sll wth cnsnnts? Wrld wtht vwls – r wrld ncmmnsrbl wth th txt? “Hr, Srl!” Mr thn mr pzzl. Th lgnc f t. Th (nvtbl wrd!) grc.

Hv th vwls trl gn mssng, r wr th cnscsl xcldd? Nd f xcldd, cld t b bcs th prtk f th thr-ntr f wmn? Mss t Sn: “B rd gnst th thrd d: cm nt t yr wvs.” Bcs th dvn prsns – th Shkhnh – cnnt tlrt cmpttn? Fr th Wrd tslf s rrdmbl fml.

T prnnc s t sprt; t sprt s t nsprt nd t dsprt. Yhwh tslf prhs rgnll nmtp: tk dp brth, Yh. Nw lt t t – slwl. Wh. Wht th dctr ss, cl nstrmnt prssd gnst r rbs.

“Day unto day uttereth speech; night unto night showeth knowledge.” What does it mean that the Hebrew Bible was written solely with consonants? World without vowels – or world incommensurable with the text? “Hear, O Israel!” More than mere puzzle. The elegance of it. The (inevitable word!) grace.

Have the vowels truly gone missing, or were they consciously excluded? And if excluded, could it be because they partake in some way of the other-nature of women? Moses at Sinai: “Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives.” Because the divine presence – the Shekhinah – cannot tolerate competition? For the Word itself is irredeemably female.

To pronounce is to aspirate; to aspirate is to inspirit and to dispirit. Yahweh itself originally onomatopoeia: take a deep breath, Yah. Now let it out – slowly. Weh. What the doctor says, cool instrument pressed against the ribs.


[from the vault]

Heeding the Call
. . . And after the fire a still small voice.
1 Kings 19:11-12

Sure–the ordinarily pious,
perhaps even the faint of heart
could’ve withstood the windstorm
& the earthquake & fire but
a voice of such utter thinness?
Like a circle of knives
unsheathed with
the barest
what a dodge to call it conscience
as if a smoothly functioning
digestive system were the whole
aim of religion (thus spoke
Nietzsche for example).
And as if such peptic talk would’ve
been proof against that great
movement of liquid vowels
that made the old partisan
of flint & brimstone
bury his face in his cloak.

Note: In the popular homiletic tradition of mainstream Protestantism, the “still, small voice” of Yahweh is attributed, instead, to Jimminy Cricket. (Awkward question: where was that voice of the modern conscience when, in the previous chapter of I Kings, Elijah directed the public slaughter of “450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah” with God’s blessing?)

“Faith is not a product of our will. It occurs without intention, without will. Words expire when uttered, and faith is like the silence that draws lovers near, like a breath that shares in the wind. . . .

“Polytheists are blind to the unity that transcends a world of multiplicity, while monists overlook the multiplicity of a world, the abundance and discord of which encounter us wherever we turn. Monism is a loom for weaving an illusion. Life is tangled, fierce, fickle. We cannot remain in agreement with all goals. We are constantly compelled to make a choice, and the choice of one goal means the forsaking of another. . . . God is one, but one is not God. . . . God means: Togetherness of all beings in holy otherness.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion (Noonday Press/FSG, 1951)

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