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June 05, 2008

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hi rachel -- what do you make of the incident of moses striking the rock (the second such incident) and his exclusion from entering the promised land? i'm fascinated by that passage and i want to devote as much time as possible to interpreting it. thanks for your contributions to this blog and i wish you the best in jerusalem!do you think you will go to safed?
mitch sisskind

Hi Mitch -- It's a fascinating incident, and much rabbinic commentary has been devoted to it. One interpretation suggests that Moses' error was in striking the rock rather than speaking gently to it...which says to me that the real misdeed was the unnecessary violence, and the stance which presumed violence was necessary.

And thanks for the good wishes! I hope I'll make it to Safed (I was there once about ten years ago, but very briefly) -- then again, my academic schedule might keep me in Jerusalem, it's hard to know...

I love the sestina, dear Rachel. And like Mitch I am fascinated by the incident of Moses striking the rock instead of speaking to it. My father felt it was the ultimate lesson in humility and proved the sinful nature of man: not even Moses was without blemish. But I always asked: What is a rock, or what does this particular rock stand for, that one should treat it so gently? I have imagined this episode as a dream and wondered where a Freudian analysis of such a dream would lead.

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I left it
on when I
left the house
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of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
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from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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