Tzur Yisrael-Rock of Israel
Updated: Sep 15, 2021
Each week after I have read the Parsha for the following week l am in the habit of listening to a few podcasts to help me find the way to a topic for a poem. My favorite podcast is called ParshaNut* with Rabbi David Kasher. He treats the text with great respect and his choices of subject are always thoughtful and articulated so well. I would highly recommend it.
Last week, in a podcast from a few years ago, Rabbi Kasher spoke about Parshat Ha'azinu.
He mentioned that the word Rock is repeated seven times in the parsha. God is the Rock of the Jewish people. As someone who delights in nature, I wondered what "Rock of Israel" could mean. There are so many types of rocks, and they are all so different.
In this little poem, no, I think that this is a little prayer, I have thought about different rocks and their properties. If nothing else, writing this gave me the opportunity to review the basics of geology and the definition of metamorphic,, sedimentary and igneous rocks. Not a bad way to spend a day.
I am not sure how I like this little poem/prayer. Not sure if it says what I want but I knew that this is what I wanted to write about this on this almost-final parshah. A prayer to a God who is strong and hard, but hopefully not too hard. A prayer to God who is angry, but hopefully has the space for forgiveness. A prayer to a God who is known for the attributes of both gevurah (strength) and chesed (lovingkindness). A good parsha for the week of Yom Kippur.
Then and now. Now and then.
Rock of Israel,
are You like the granite of the mountains,
which rise above us like giants,
bearing the weight of Your people?
Backbone of Judah
are You like obsidian,
as black as night
mysterious and unknowable?
Bedrock of humanity,
are You like sandstone,
the unlimited grains of sand
promised to Avraham and Sarah
gathered and smoothed with age and time?
Cornerstone of Yaakov,
of Rachel and Leah,
are You steadfast as basalt,
which holds up the mighty oceans,
as You hold up Your people?
Pillar of strength,
are You as marble, shining and smooth,
awaiting sculpting and definition?
Giver of life
are You like coal, dense and heavy
a vessel of history,
of life that once was?
Or are you as pumice, light and airy
a vessel to be filled with the hopes of humanity?
Foundation of life,
Creator of rocks of all kinds,
pebbles to continents
earth to the solar system,
my prayer for You
to be strong enough to carry the prayers
of the many,
to shoulder their hopes.
May their tears soften You,
may their cries and whispers temper
Your stone walls.
the Rock of Israel.
* * *
The Rock!—His deeds are perfect,
Yea, all His ways are just;
A faithful God, never false,
True and upright is He. Deuteronomy 32:4
*To read Rabbi Kasher's ParshaNUT podcast and website go to https://parshanut.com/