21 October 2010

150 (76-78)

76.  "There he broke the fiery shafts of the bow, the shield and the sword and the battle.  Selah."  Where?  In Shalem, which is another word for Jerusalem.  Selah.  Of course one profound tension beneath the surface (when it is peaceful there) or otherwise out in the open, is the battle for Jerusalem's "wholeness" and peace.  Whose wholeness?  Whose peace?  How do you bring about this wholeness for two people--Israelis and Palestinians?  Wholeness might mean negotiations and sharing and peace--"sharing" being the key counter-intuitive idea connected to wholeness; and wholeness might mean the maximalist position of both sides--continues expansions of settlements and apartment complexes in East Jerusalem or the slow burn of obstructionist negotiation tactics to eventually lead to the bi-national one state solution, yielding a demographic majority of Palestinians within a generation.  Both maximalist positions have only created more conflict.  That's undeniable.  The question, as smart folks like to point out, is that the maximalist positions are dangerous.  Of course, when Oslo and Camp David blew up, the maximalist side said, "Compromise is dangerous, too."  And so we remain, a month or so after President Obama brought everyone together, right back where we started.

"The stout-hearted are bereft of sense, they sleep their sleep; and none of the men of might have found their hands."  And "Thou didst cause sentence to be heard from heaven; the earth feared, and was still.  When God arose to judgment, to save all the humble of earth.  Selah."

Give voice to the humble. What will they say of peace and compromise.  It's their turn to give this a try.  Selah.

77.  The irony, the paradox, of having to shout in order to be listened to.  Not shouting to be heard--in a noisy city, we do that every day.  I'm saying--actually, the psalmist is saying--shouting to be listened to.  It's different.  "I will lift up my voice unto God and cry; I will lift up my voice unto God that He may give ear unto me."  That God will listen.  Activating listening is no easy task, especially when one is operating on the assumption that it's possible that God doesn't listen, or hasn't listened, in a very long time.  Which is to say: when teaching prayer or Jewish spirituality to a community that doesn't really believe that the prayers are heard, why do we say them?  And is there not a better way to say what we're trying to say when we're sitting together on Saturday mornings?  But if we said what we were thinking, we would lose the language of Jewish prayer, we'd be the generation cut off, cast out into the wilderness, with no map back home.  Is that even a metaphor that sticks any longer?  Do people want to go home?  Do they want to go to a Jewish home?  Is the Reform rabbi's task to teach the Jew that there IS a Jewish home and if they knew that and learned about then they'd want to go there?

"In the day of my trouble, I seek the Eternal.  With my hand uplifted, I cry all night long with no end; my soul refuses to be comforted.  When I think about it, O God, I must moan; when I muse thereon my spirit faints.  Selah.  You hold my eyelids open, I am troubled, I cannot speak."  Like, in the words of Madeline Kahn's character Lily Von Schtupp in Blazing Saddles, "Goddamnit I'm exhausted!"

But then I speak, and teach, and read and do, and pray, and speak, and teach, and read and do and pray and this goes on over and over again until we can see, maybe after a year, maybe two, maybe five, maybe ten, that there are more Jews behaving as Jews and we feel we've been heard and we've been heard, God has been heard.  And God hears this.  And listens.  Selah.

78.  Curriculum Project.  Read this psalm.  It has 72 verses.  It explains that there are Jews and that Jews have a special relationship with God and that we were slaves in Egypt but God freed us and we marched through the wilderness complaining and generally being ungrateful pains in the arse and eventually, in His mercy, God settled us in the land promised to Abraham--the Land of Israel--and there established a kingdom--that of David, who is credited with authoring these psalms.  But read it as an object lesson of our history.  We have known exile and we know exile again.  We were arrogant once, we will likely be arrogant again.  We have returned once, twice, three times, we are likely to return again.  Like a shepherd herding sheep.  They stray every day, only to return.  "From following the ewes that give suck He brought him to be a shepherd over Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance.  So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart; and led them by the skillfulness of his hands."  This is all of Jewish history in this psalm.  I'm going to try teaching this to some people.  I'll get back to you.

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