Bosches del Apache
We read in
Exodus 25:20 of the ark of the Covenant. It is to be made of acacia wood
overlaid with gold and carried by two long poles. And on top of this box
containing the tables of the law are to be placed two gold cherubim whose
...wings are spread out above, shielding the cover [of the ark] with their
wings. These winged angels come up again in Ezekiel 1:24 and 10:14.
The prophet has a psychedelic vision of God on a chariot thats borne
by an eagle, a cherub, a lion and a human being. Each creature had four wings.
Ezekiel says: ...[it was] like the noise of great waters, I heard the noise of
their wings, like the voice of the Almighty...
I am standing in the middle of the New Mexico desert last winter. It is
thirty degrees and a half-hour before dawn. We are in the Bosches del Apache, the forest of the
Apache, a bird sanctuary.
I am not a big time naturalist but my wife is an avid birder. And so,
like spouses do, I tag along.
one, teeth chattering, while sipping coffee from the thermos, I whisper, I
want extra points.
In the distance, the horizon is becoming visible now as dark ribbon of
deep red in the winter chill. And dawn comes. The whole sky explodes into
And then, within the next fifteen minutes, we watch in awe-struck
silence, as 25,000 snow geese, cranes, great blue herons and God only knows who
else, awake from their sleeping on the water and fly off for the next leg of
They are so close and there are so many of them, I can literally feel
the flapping wing-flung wind on my face. The park rangers call it, the
flyaway. Last evening they warned: Youre never the same after the flyaway. And
I understand: Somehow, simply being present to experience this event changes
your perception of what it means to be a creature.
And heres the thing chastens and humbles me: The birds do this all the
time. Whether were there to watch them or not, they land in the waters of the
Bosches and come first light, they flyaway into the dawns early light, a
skyfull of wings and beaks and feathers on their way to somewhere else. And
they do it year after year after year. Just like the great whales do it through
the waters of the sea and mitochondria do it through the fluid within our
cells. Great flowing streams of life, currents of protoplasm - flying, swimming,
running, moving, flowing, praying - doing what they know how to do - doing the only
thing they know to do - doing what they were meant to be doing, doing what
they're supposed to do. While I, in my ignorance - obsessed with completing
some writing assignment - am doing what I'm supposed to be doing, what I am meant
to do. All these creatures, moving on their ways, going about their business,
like traffic on an expressway interchange at rush hour, one orchestrated flow
of life. My God, I can still feel the wind of their wings on my face.
Probably the holiest ritual moment in ancient Judaism was on the Day of
Atonement, Yom Kippur, when the high priest entered the holy of holies in the
temple in Jerusalem. He only had one thing to do. He had rehearsed it for
months. He had to pronounce one word: The ineffable Name of God. The Name made
only of vowel letters. The Name made from the root letters of the Hebrew verb
to be. A Name that probably initially meant something like, The One who brings
into being all that is.
And the room in which he would speak this Name was so sacred that if,
God forbid, he should drop dead of a heart attack once inside, no one else
would be able to go back in there to retrieve his corpse!
Rabbi Isaac explained in the Zohar,that they solved the problem by simply tying a rope abound his leg. Rabbi Judah further said that when the
priest entered, even he closed
his eyes - so as not to gaze where it was forbidden to gaze. But, as they sang
their praises, he was able to hear the sound of the cherubims wings...
Contributed by: Rabbi Lawrence Kushner