Friends, I am going to try and break a land-sea blog posting record and say what I have to say in under 15 minutes (for me, not you). Why? Because I’m writing at the dining room table of my dear friends Julie & Rich (while they watch So You Think You Can Dance) due to climate change causing day after day of crazy-ass storms and said storms causing significant power outages in Bloomington, including at my humble abode. I want to be done by 10 p.m. (it’s now 9:48) so they can throw me out in a timely fashion.
Anyhow, I’m feeling a bit in the wilderness — though admittedly a fairly comfortable wilderness — running from coffee shop to friend’s house, looking for a place to plug in my laptop and charge my iPhone and get a little work done. And not coincidentally, this week we move into the 4th book of Torah, B’midbar / In The Desert.
You may know this book as “Numbers,” which is a direct result of later translations and a focus on the census that takes up the first part of the text, a census that is about counting up the warriors about to take on the inhabitants of the land of milk & honey promised to our intrepid Israelites.
My friend & teacher Rachel Barenblat has a lovely teaching on her blog concerning the unique “count” of each individual. I urge you to read it.
I offer, instead, this poem written many years ago on a visit to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. Getting ready for war is no small thing; would that we take it as seriously as we do the raw numbers.
NUMBERSTake up the head-count Kenneth Lloyd Cody of the entire community of Israel Corporal HMM-165 by their families United States Marine Corps by their fathers’ houses of Griffith, Indiana by the number of names of every male born early August 1953 by their per capita. last seen July 11, 1972 From twenty years old and up when his CH-53 helicopter everyone going out to the army… was struck by an SA-7 missile You shall take account of them by their army units outside Quang Tri City, as declared by lineage a universe away from State Road 67. as numbered by name He is forever set in stone and counted for battle in the wilderness. polished and still As declared by their lineage Panel 01W Line 055 by their fathers’ names near Gene Edmond Davis by their records Philip Ducat by their families and Thomas Clem everyone going out to the army for Israel. young men going out to the wilderness.