The Bible and Literature: A Reverie
Reuven entered the conference room on the second day of the event and found an aisle seat near the front, on the left side of the small auditorium. The student reading was in progress, and he listened attentively to the poet who stood at the lectern, declaiming clever verses based on biblical passages. The reader concluded his performance, and the audience rewarded him with appreciative applause. He then made way for a slender woman in her 20s, whom the moderator, their professor, introduced in an avuncular tone.
The wall on Reuven’s left was decorated with smoothly-textured wallpaper that featured lightly contrasting horizontal lines. Large sections of both walls were framed by identical wooden quadrangles, curved and re-curved at their corners, each one like an oversized cartouche, but with a flat rather than a convex center. An electric socket protruded slightly from the wall a foot or so above the floor. He tried to follow the new reader’s recitation, but found her projection weak, and her text, what he could hear of it, undistinguished.
Reuven turned again to look at the wall socket, three holes bored through its white plastic cover to the wall’s interior, where copper wires transmitted 220 volts of chashmal, suitable only for Israeli appliances, whose three-prong plugs, angled and flat-planed, or straight and tubular, could receive and utilize the current efficiently.
And it occurred to him that there might be alien beings with whom it would be impossible to copulate. Not only might their anatomical features be incompatible, but their respective charges might be too divergent for mating to safely occur. One party to the conjugal act might even be killed by the abrupt charge—like the sons of Aaron who impulsively entered the Sanctuary, fire pans extended, and had their insides burned out in a flash, or like Uzzah, the Israelite who was struck dead when he touched the wobbling Ark to right it as it was being towed toward Jerusalem, or like Reuven’s iOmega Disk Drive, destroyed when his wife used an adapter, not a converter, to plug it into a socket in their office.
Reuven wondered whether the potential partners didn’t need to be of different species to effect the destruction of one by the other. He remembered how his and his girlfriend Jane’s first mating was also their last, and that when his poetic response to their coitus reached her, the relationship foundered forever.
He concluded that sometimes one union was all the partners needed to realize how unsuited they were to each other. He knew that often the act served to drive them apart, either like two magnets’ negative poles, or like a rocket launched from its base, never to return.
Writer, teacher, and rabbinic deputy, Reuven Goldfarb has published Divrei Torah, poetry, essays, and stories in numerous periodicals and anthologies and won several awards. He and his wife Yehudit host a weekly Chug TaNaKH in their home in Tzfat. He co-founded and edited AGADA, the illustrated Jewish literary magazine (1981-88).