79. This psalm is read on Tisha B'Av. Most Jews in the diaspora don't commemorate Tisha B'Av, the date on the calendar commemorating the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC and 70 AD. Most don't but they should, not because they should want the Temple and animal sacrifice (synagogue membership they say is one thing; can you imagine taxation in the form of sheep, goats, calves and doves?) but because we ought to know and care about history. Our history. In Israel Tisha B'Av grips the imagination more readily. For the religious who yearn for a Third Temple and for many Israelis who have tasted the threat to national sovereignty. It's what we used to feel on national holidays here in the U.S. before they were slowly but surely commercialized into gaudy expressions of cheap patriotism. When no citizen is any longer required to serve, how is it that we define citizenship? By voting and voting alone? What percentage of the electorate will care enough to vote next week? Oh, I digress. Do I ever!
There were other destructions of Jerusalem, of course. My favorite moyel in New York City was born in the Old City and then was evacuated before the Jordanians conquered the Old City and expelled the Jews in 1948. I keep close at hand John Phillips stirring photographs of this time period, to remind myself how fragile the present really is. For Jews and Palestinians. For all who love Jerusalem. Every nation has known death and destruction. Its lessons ought to last; but they tragically don't. How do you read about holy places defiled, dead bodies left to birds of prey, decaying flesh remaindered for beasts to feast upon, blood flowing in the streets like water. Shouldn't water flow like water? Blood should be more modest. Unseen. The world would be better.
"Pour out your wrath among the nations that know thee not!" Pour out wrath, even like water. But don't pour out blood. Keep the blood here, inside, circulating tightly, giving life, knowing replenishment, like verdant fields feeding flocks. "We are your people, the flock of your pasture." A pasture, green, nourished by falling water, not blood.
80. God's smokey face. "How long will you hide your face?" the psalmist asks but the language connotes a face obscured by smoke. Is this grief that darkens God's countenance? Or the smokey toxicity of anger and self-abuse? Power's inherent self-destructiveness. Hunger, thirst and deprivation--the denialized manifestation of a punishing persona. Yours, mine, even God's. "Don't be so hard on yourself!" I once exclaimed to one of my kids. "Why?" she countered. "You're hard on yourself!" She spoke in italics. I hate that. Oh, how I wished I had shown myself more kindness and mercy in front of them, if only to save them from their own hypercritical selves. Those demanding, commanding impulses. And then I thought back down the generations. This habit keeps getting passed on. You really gotta be careful with kids.
Shine your face, God. Pick a vine. Plant it. Clear a place. Take root. Fill the land. I dream of a house. And a garden. And a place to do these things: Create mercies. Oxygen producing mercies. Mercies to drive away the carbon dioxide. And the smoke.
81. Over and over and over and over again. The same story. Over and over again. Jew: Can you answer this for yourself? What is the importance of reciting the same texts, at the same time, each year, for the last 3000 years, over and over again? What does it do to you as a people and as a nation? What does it do to you as a man or woman? How long have we been hearing the shofar blasts? Had it had its effect? Is its effect definitive or progressive? Since we've been reciting the text and hearing the blast for 3000 years, what does it mean that we're not there yet? *There* meaning the perfection of the world as we know it. "Thou didst call in trouble and I rescued thee; I answered thee in the secret place of thunder." Who ever said thunder was a secret? Unless the Truth is not fully discernible by all. Which is a distinct possibility. Look around you: it's dark out there. And noisy. The secret places of thunder wait. To explode in truth.