91. Lions and snakes. Trouble. Lots of trouble. Mice and cockroaches in a Brooklyn apartment is bad enough. Lions and snakes is fairly threatening, no? One, with a bite, can fell you with its venom. The other, with its jaws, can rip you limb from limb. This is the root of the fear--the quick and quiet devastation; or the imperfect, asymmetrical radical violence of it all. Take your pick? No thanks. The mystery of the potential terror--whether in the ancient world or our own, is a disorientation. Today, while buying the NBA preview and a diet coke at the Amtrak station, I saw the President speaking about steps he is taking to improve the economy, while on the split screen, the news showed federal agents investigating a potential terrorist attack. What--the economy and national hysteria isn't bad enough? We have to remember that invisible forces seek to destroy us? "Oh, thou that dwellest in the covert of the Most High, and abidest in the shadow of the Almighty, I will say of the Eternal who is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust, that He will deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence." And you know what that trust will get you? "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and the asp."
God performs in this psalm, expressing the Divine love for those who trust. One imagines him off stage, as I did today, near the cappuccino stand at Penn Station, singing: "Because he hath set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him; I will set him on high, because he hath known My name...With long life will I satisfy him, and make him to behold My salvation." He's singing to me--I'm sure of it. Amidst so much pushing and shoving; no eye contact or civic warmth with my fellow travelers; this cold, cold city; and terror lurking. But God and I stand in the station, singing to one another of salvation--if not now, in the future. Selah.
And down the electrical staircase I descend, into a train, that moves through tunnels of darkness to light.
92. "What an ignoramus." And, "He's really a brutish guy." That's from Dad. His disdain for certain types was unrestrained. He had little tact or discipline, at least later in life, when I knew him, for foolishness. Maybe he was more tolerant when he was younger. But by the time he was a father, he seemed to have had fires of disappointment burning deep within and to be honest, they destroyed him. I put those fires out in my mourning and was received into the warm embrace of a Jewish community on campus at UW, whose Hillel director, Irv Saposnik, of blessed memory, taught me to turn my mourning into prayer. I remember the first time I sat in the Conservative Minyan at Hillel on Langdon Street, holding the Silverman Siddur in my hands, and reading the English translation of Psalm 92.6-7, thinking of fools and dullards and brutes and ignoramuses. And crying that Dad had died too young--why the quick jump to the Eternal rest, Pop, when a measure of relaxation in Shul each week could get you an extra breath and even some empathy from King David himself. He didn't suffer fools gladly, either: "How great are Thy works, O Lord! Thy thoughts are very deep. A brutish man knoweth not, neither doth a fool understand this: when the wicked spring up as the grass and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish, it is that they may be destroyed forever."
You never had any patience.
Hesed in the morning--so much love when the sun is bright. It's Emunah in the nights that we reach out for help in the darkness. Faith comes when you are in your darkest places. "The wicked bloom like grass." But the righteous bloom like a palm tree, growing old like a cedar in Lebanon. In old age, bringing forth fruit. Grass struggles to grow in the desert; but the righteous are tried there, and with grace, emerge to see another generation.
אבא עכשו אני אבא ויש לי שלוש בנות
93. God reigns, clothed in pride. Here the English falls flat. Unless Sir Patrick Stewart says it; but he just made a video for Ruth so that's enough charitable work for the Jews for one week. So stick to the Hebrew for now. It's generally a good policy in this context. Again, another song. An anthem for sure. Because they'd be so good at it, I can definitely see Arcade Fire having a go at it. Floods lift up; floods lift up their voices; floods lift up their roaring. But it's still not enough noise: "Above the voices of the water, the mighty breakers of the sea, the Eternal on high is mighty."
I love that. I think that's so true. This summer I only got two days at the ocean--work was busy, the holy days were early. But I watched the sunrise both mornings and thought about this line. That as deafening as the crash of waves can be, there's always something louder, greater, stronger.