Bezalel

My name is Bezalel – son of Uri son of Hur, tribe of Judah – and the man Moses marched me before God to see how he singled me out.

Until then I had been timid about my talents, embarrassed to have only built wastefully for men, and wastefully for their whims;

carving wood and cutting stones for every craft, I favored the smell and smoke of the smith’s work, I preferred the dirt of that disguise to any distinction.

But I could not refuse what God asked:

I could not refuse the Tabernacle and its tent and covering, the Ark and its cover and its poles for carrying, all the furnishings and oils and incense and aroma,

(for a man who had only built for other men, and that by force, I was freed to do God’s work)

I could not refuse the Tabernacle and its tent and its panels and strips of cloth and twisted linen and yarn for the curtains, all joined to one whole,

I could not refuse the goat’s hair and copper clasps and the reddened ram skins for the tent and its covering, the dolphin skin,

I could not refuse the acacia wood for the wall of the Tabernacle and its tent and the silver sockets there, and I could not refuse to overlay it all in gold,

I could not refuse the curtains for the Tabernacle and its tent, curtains of blue and purple and crimson and twisted linen, and the embroidered designs there of cherubim,

(I could not withdraw my hands from such work, my hands and eyes and body chanting with work and sweating in sacred effort)

I could not refuse the Ark of acacia wood, its rings and poles for carrying and its overlaid gold inside and out,

I could not refuse the Ark’s covering and the hammered cherubim I made of gold, two cherubim carved atop the Ark and facing each other,

I could not refuse to carve these cherubim, spreading their shielding wings over the Ark and protecting it from the like of all that we had left in Egypt,

(I could not keep from profusion and enthusiasm for the pinpoint of embroidery or the harmony and heave of the entire structure, I could not keep from joy and fatigue and accumulation – I could not keep from the happiest laughter at this labor)

I could not refuse the table of acacia wood, its rim and molding and rings, its bowls and ladles and jugs and jars to offer libations,

I could not refuse the lampstand, its hammered cups and calyxes and petals, all of gold, this lamp of God covered in the shapes of almond blossoms and branches,

I could not refuse the altar for incense offerings, an altar of acacia wood with four horns placed at its corners and overlaid in gold – and the holy anointing oil I also saw to, the aromatic work of perfumers,

I could not refuse the altar for burnt offerings, an altar of acacia wood with four horns placed at its corners and overlaid in bronze,

I could not refuse its scrapers and basins and flesh-hooks and fire-pans and all its copper utensils,

and I could not refuse the enclosure, the hangings and hooks and embroidery and its screen, all made to enclose the house of God, the Holy of Holies enclosed and enclosed,

a place for God to linger and for God’s things to live and a place for our worship wherever we were.

I could not refuse to construct our own mountain of God as Sinai receded and became a place in our minds,

I could not refuse to set up a shadow of God on the earth, a place where God’s semblance might be supposed and glimpsed by all who are deserving,

I could not, after a lifetime of wasted skill and ability and knowledge, done anything else.

If the man Moses was said to glow after meeting with God, and if he covered his head and humbled his strange appearance for the sake of those who might be frightened,

I also glowed and I also loved, Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, body bared to sun and fire and to steaming water, and with hands and mind finding their source finally, their only work and their only rest.

Tim Miller‘s poetry and essays have appeared in Parabola, The Wisdom Daily, Jewish Literary Journal, Crannog, Southword, Londongrip, Poethead, and others across the US and UK. Two recent books include Bone Antler Stone (poetry, The High Window Press) and the long narrative poem To the House of the Sun (S4N Books). 

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