“On Rembrandt’s ‘Moses with the Tablets of the Law’”
Canvas, 1659, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin
Looming ahead in the octagonal
And spacious Rembrandt room, a canvas beckons
Suffused with warmths of browns and golds and bearing
Uncanny witness. After he drew near
The Hebrews’ camp and saw the calf, the dancing,
Then shattered the first set of holy tablets,
After the ecstasy of Hitler’s rants
And frenzied Nazi mobs here in Berlin,
Moses ascended Sinai once again.
We are given a second chance. His face aglow
From facing God, compassionate though wary,
Moses descends the mountain, arms held high,
Displaying the two tablets he has hewn.
Radiant blocks of Hebrew letters etched
In stone this time by a human hand command us:
“Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not bear false witness
Against your fellow” – faint words aglow in the dark.