“Whosoever toucheth the dead, even the body of any man that is dead,
and purifieth not himself—he hath defiled the tabernacle of the Lord—
that soul shall be cut off from Israel;
because the water of sprinkling was not dashed against him,
he shall be unclean; his uncleanliness is yet upon him.”
And if the parent cares for a child who is passing, or child for the parent,
or a friend for another friend,
or even a stranger who happens upon another who is mortally sick
and puts a damp cloth on the feverish forehead
and becomes the last human face to be seen
as the darkness that too soon will settle on everyone
falls over the eyes of that child, friend or sick stranger,
while the tightly held hands of comforter and comforted at last release each other
and the body heat of the one just dead dies down,
then at what point do the neatly inscribed letters of the law
decree the comforter to be a leper who would defile the tabernacle.
Or does the damp cloth yet hold enough moisture
or the hands that tried to comfort have enough dexterity
to cleanse away any stain.
Or if a mourner wants to hold on till all warmth leaves the departed
or if he wants his lips to taste that last kiss for just a little longer
would the comforter’s flesh be made unkosher by skin now turned eternally cold
or does that final loving rite of parting by itself wash all impurity away.
If strict rules are broken during sorrowful days
are the curves and swirls of the letters of the law
wide enough to allow a keyhole
for ministering hands and loving lips to become
the keys that open the door back into the house of Israel.