The House at the Center of the World

Poetic Midrash on Sacred Space

by Abe Mezrich

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About this book

“According to the mystics, the Torah was engraved with black fire on white fire. These poetic midrash too.” – Jay Michaelson, author of The Gate of Tears: Sadness and the Spiritual Path

In his piercing debut collection, The House at the Center of the World, poet and scholar Abe Mezrich offers a series of beautifully composed short insights on some of the most elusive passages of the Torah: the second half of Exodus, the entirety of Leviticus, and the beginning of Numbers. At once powerful close readings of the text and deeply spiritual literature, these roughly seventy short pieces “carry ethical implications all the way from the ancient era right to the present day” (Dan Friedman, Managing Editor of The Forward). “Direct and accessible,” these poems “remind us that our Creator is forgiving, that the spiritual and physical can inform one another, and that the supernatural can be carried into the everyday.” (Yehoshua November, author of God’s Optimism)

Excerpt: What we do with holiness in surprising places

What we do with holiness in surprising places

We cover the outside of God’s Tent with cloth.
On this cloth,
a whole flap
will run beyond the Tent;
that flap
must be folded back
and on to the Tent again.
*
Much of life is made of this:
finding the holiness
that has gone beyond its borders
and grasping it
and letting it guide you
all the way back to God’s Tent.

Exodus 26:1-9

Excerpt: When does money become holy?

When does money become holy?

i.

God says: When you come to the land, every seventh year

you must renounce ownership of the land

and share that year’s produce with your servant of every kind

and with your animals that labor with you

and with the animals of nature.

*

And God says: If you follow My Laws…

I will grant your rains in their season;

and the Land shall give forth its yield.

*

Then God tells the Laws

of how a person may donate money

value

to God’s Temple.

ii

We think of our wealth

as our own.

But if you share your wealth

with the community around you,

and if you know your wealth comes

only through God’s rain

then your wealth can truly hold value,

then your money can be made holy to God.

Leviticus 25:2,6; 26:3-4; 27:3

Reviews

“According to the mystics, the Torah was engraved with black fire on white fire. These poetic midrash too. Read them slowly. Spend time in the white spaces. Let the foreignness of the text resonate in silence, and find yourself rewarded.”
Jay Michaelson, author of The Gate of Tears: Sadness and the Spiritual Path

“Each installment of Abe’s still small voice is a miniature jewel, poetically illuminating with its delicate facets otherwise hidden elements of each parsha.”
Dan Friedman, managing editor, The Forward

“Abe Mezrich cuts straight back to the roots of the Midrashic tradition, sermonizing as a poet, rather than idealogue. Best of all, Abe knows how to ask questions and avoid the obvious answers.”
Jake Marmer, poet and performer

“Direct and accessible, Mezrich’s midrashic poems often tease profound meaning out of his chosen Torah texts. These poems remind us that our Creator is forgiving, that the spiritual and physical can inform one another, and that the supernatural can be carried into the everyday.”
Yehoshua November, author of
God’s Optimism

“Abe’s voice is a blend of humanist spirituality. Its poetic form, continuing the midrashic tradition, accentuates its diverse traditional and modern origins. The style is lucid and the embedded gems engaging. Reading this book is like strolling upon a calm and breathtaking seaside with a very learned friend. But this friend has a message – inherited and acquired, ancient and relevant – and his art allows this message to weave into life. Life will be richer for this meeting.”
Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Dov Rosen, Rabbi, Yakar Jerusalem