23 January 2010


The second of 19 brief meditations on the 19 blessings of the Amidah.


You, Eternal, are mighty forever, you revive the dead, you have the power to save. [From the end of Sukkot until the eve of Passover, insert: You cause the wind to blow and the rain to fall.] You sustain the living with lovingkindness, you revive the dead with great mercy, you support the falling, heal the sick, set free the bound and keep faith with those who sleep in the dust. Who is like you, Author of mighty acts? Who resembles you, a Sovereign Who is the Source of death and restorer to life, and Who causes salvation to flourish? And you are certain to revive the dead. Blessed are you, Eternal, who revives the dead.

Death is with us from the moment of our birth. As a mother's body gives life, she loses the blood and fluid that gave life in the womb and once the child has emerged into the world, the natural transformation from life to life includes a recognition, in giving a name to the child, of the dead who preceded them in the world.

Death is with us at an early age, in the anal stage and during toilet training, where Freud is correct in asserting that a great fear overwhelms us as we confront our own mortality and the developing reality that waste represents a kind of death. Less scatalogical, death is with us at an early age the first time we are conscious of the seasons changing, the ripening of fruit and leaves on a tree, their falling and their decomposition on the ground.

Robert Frost could even make it all sound beautiful:

There sure enough was an appletree
That had eased itself of its summer load,
And of all but its trivial foliage free,
Now breathed as light as a lady's fan.

And death is even with us at an early age when we see, for the first time, that those we love can die. For all ages but for children especially, the trauma of experiencing death shatters reality and demands, therefore, a rebuilding.

The second blessing of the Amidah prayer is the material for rebuilding. Embedded in its words are the promises of continuity, on the unrestrainable power of life to continue no matter what, when we are it can't or we can't--but it never stops. And its fuel is love, mercy, kindness, faith and restoration.

Love, mercy, kindness, faith and restoration: they cannot stop death. But they provide for the ability to survive it, even when we are no longer here.

Again, Frost:

Better to go down dignified
With boughten friendship at your side
Than none at all. Provide, provide!

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