What We Talk About When We Talk About God

In the inaugural conversion class,
Introduction to Judaism,
we talked about God.
Mostly, the rabbi said,
you can’t really talk about God
since God is ultimately ineffable.
Then for the next hour and a half
he talked about God.

Monotheism, the names of God—
Adonai, I am who I am,
Lord of Hosts, Yahweh,
The Eternal One, Rock and Redeemer,
Merciful, Bountiful, Compassionate One—
God the lawgiver, God the Judge and Jury.

Peppering his lecture with references
to Star Trek, The Simpsons, novels and films,
sugaring and spicing it with Vaudevillian shtick—
one-liners, familiar jokes
(“Two Jews, three opinions,” he shrugged,
comical clown, to say
there were ultimately no answers.)—
the rabbi kept us engaged
until the metaphorical final bell.

Most of us there were there
because we were marrying
or were already married to
a Jewish person with strong convictions
about living a Jewish life,
but others, like sage-goateed Antonio,
felt a sort of spiritual mission
to confirm a secret essential identity.
Antonio nodded wisely all night
when we talked about God,
as if confirming rumors
about an old friend of his.

Charles Rammelkamp’s new poetry collection, Mata Hari: Eye of the Day, will be published in 2015 by Apprentice House. A chapbook of poems, Mixed Signals, was recently published by Finishing Line Press. Charles is the Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books and edits The Potomac, an online literary journal. He lives in Baltimore, MD.