28 January 2010


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


Look upon our affliction and plead our cause,and redeem us speedily for your name's sake, for you are a mighty redeemer. Blessed are you, Eternal, the redeemer of Israel.

This blessing raises questions of Theodicy. Theodicy is the human attempt to come to terms with notions of a God of justice and love in the light of suffering and evil. It's a Greek term--containing in it words for "God" and "Justice." Look upon our affliction is a plea of recognition, a fervent demand to be seen, to be counted, to be known. It is our call for relationship, Buber might have said. Of interest to us here is that we root relationship in God's name, the same name for God that Moses faced at the Burning Bush in the Sinai desert. "I am that I am," God told Moses. When people ask what My name is, tell them "I am."

This is Torah's most radical definition of Divine Presence and in this prayer, we are reminded, perhaps, that we humans are called upon to mirror the Divine Presence by being present ourselves in the suffering of others. As beings made in the Divine image, it makes sense that we would "look upon affliction" and testify on behalf of its alleviation, and work toward an imminent redemption.

In a hospital room of a suffering patient; in the quiet, dark room of a depressed mind; in the tortured, personal pain of one in mourning, going through divorce, or job loss; in the outstretched arm of the hungry and the homeless; and in the traumatized look of a victim of war or natural disaster.

Look upon our affliction. You, me and God. Plead our cause. Heal the pain. Bring the Redemption. No one alone. Everyone together.

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