Two live birds, a cedar stick, a strip of crimson, and hyssop.
(I’ll give you a minute to look up “hyssop”…still here? OK
it’s a plant.) Sounds like Better Homes and Gardens gone wild.
Parents: you may want to send the children into the other room.
Not indoors? Have them commingle in the hyssop shrubbery.
(Once you use a word twice, you own it.)
Let’s cut to the chase: One of the birds isn’t going to make it,
and after all the slaughtering and the dipping and, I’m really
not sure what’s happening with the cedar plank, but
all of this is leading to you being purified. Did I mention
you’re going to have to shave off all your hair? My Adonai!
If that happened to me, we’d be here ’til the end of Deuteronomy.
The priestly class would be growing entire beards while I
painstakingly shaved mine off. Please don’t picture this.
Please don’t picture any of this. If you’re the children,
why on Earth are you reading this and not frolicking
amongst the hyssop? For the love of Yud Hey Vav Hey
don’t, under any circumstances, read chapters fifteen on.
There are certain things you don’t need to know about.
Not yet anyway. But take comfort knowing the Torah
covers every possible circumstance. Every bit of knowledge
you will need is in there. You’ll know what to do when
lesions appear on your house. You’ll know what to do
when they migrate to your clothes. You’ll know what to do
when it reaches your skin. The birds, the stick, the crimson,
the hyssop. Now’s a good time to put in a ritual jacuzzi.
You’ve got immersing to do. But don’t forget what
got you here. A slip of the tongue. A mistranslated word.
An evil sentiment voiced against another. This is the
kind of thing that can get your house purified out
of existence. This is why the gas leaks come. This is why
the pipes sometimes break. This is why every person you meet,
despite their appearance, should be treated like a goldmine
of possibility. You are the living bird. You are the spring water.
You are the fields of hyssop along the Mediterranean coast.
If you can use the word hyssop seven times in a single poem
you can do anything.